Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

Bill's BlogWe really appreciate you taking the time to check us out when there are so many options competing for your attention.

We started back in September, 1998 as a two page church newsletter. We recently hit a mini-milestone, crossing the 500 subscriber point. We are thankful for each one of you, and hope that we will offer content from a Christian worldview that will be a blessing to you.

Here’s what you expect from us each week:

Monday – Faith and Work – Connecting Sunday to Monday

Tuesday –This & That and Favorite Quotes of the Week

Wednesday – Book Reviews and News

Thursday – Music Reviews and News

Weekends – Movie Reviews

We’ll also occasionally have articles that I’ll write along with our guest bloggers Tammy and Teri.

We’d love to hear from you and how we can serve you better.

Blessings!

Bill

 This and ThatCURRENT EVENTS:

As seen in World Magazine

As seen in World Magazine

  • 40 Questions for Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags. Kevin DeYoung writes “If you consider yourself a Bible-believing Christian, a follower of Jesus whose chief aim is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, there are important questions I hope you will consider before picking up your flag and cheering on the sexual revolution. These questions aren’t meant to be snarky or merely rhetorical. They are sincere, if pointed, questions that I hope will cause my brothers and sisters with the new rainbow themed avatars to slow down and think about the flag you’re flying.”
  • Doug Wilson’s Response to Matthew Vines. Doug Wilson writes “So in response to Kevin DeYoung’s very pertinent questions to rainbow-affirming Christians, Matthew Vines has responded with 40 questions of his own, these directed at Christians who are, as he puts it, “non-affirming.” Being as I am found in that latter category, let me have a shot at it. What I want to do is either answer Matthew’s questions, or explain why I will not take the bait of answering a particular question. Put another way, I will answer the questions, but not the loaded questions.”
  • 50 Resources for Equipping the Church on Homosexuality and Same-Sex Marriage. Joe Carter of the Gospel Coalition shares these 50 resources to share with people in your church in order to better equip them to discuss homosexuality, same-sex attraction, same-sex marriage, or the biblical view of sexuality.
  • Chick Fil-A Favorite Restaurant in New Rankings. Chick Fil-A may be the organization that I most admire in the business world. I’ve read a lot about their culture in leadership books over the years. They have stayed true to their Christian values in a culture that is increasingly hostile to them. It appears I’m not the only one that appreciates the Chick. Mary Bowerman of USA Today writes “In its first year on the list, Chick-fil-A took the lead as the most popular fast-food restaurant in the rankings. The chain scored 86 in customer service, the highest the survey has ever recorded for a fast-food restaurant.”
As seen in World Magazine

As seen in World Magazine

CHRISTIAN LIVING:

  • You Will Be Persecuted with Words. Thomas Schreiner writes “No one knows what the future holds for believers in the United States, but Peter exhorts us in his first letter to be ready for fiery trials, to follow the pattern of our Lord and Savior, and to live by a faith that knows with certainty that eternal glory comes after this moment of suffering.”
  • Celebrating Distinction. Creator and creation. Male and female. Distinctions are important. In this four-minute excerpt from the teaching series Only Two Religions, Dr. Peter Jones explains why these biblical distinctions are under attack.
  • Hope and Help for the Porn Addict. In less than three minutes, Trip Lee offers three truths to any Christian struggling with porn. He reminds viewers of God’s good news, the seriousness of pornography, and the benefit of involving other believers to help us fight it.
  • Why God Makes You Wait. I hate to wait – in line, in traffic, for medical test results, etc. Tim Challies writes “If your circumstances continue unabated you may be tempted to think that your prayers have been useless and that you are without hope in the world. You may even go so far as to conclude that God is angry with you and has closed his ears to your prayers. But the God who has saved you will never turn his back on you. Instead of believing such lies, consider these 6 things.”
  • How to Distinguish the Holy Spirit from the Serpent. Sinclair Ferguson shares fours ways that John Owen suggests in which the Spirit and the serpent are to be distinguished.
  • A Prayer for Rejoicing in Christ’s Righteousness. Here’s a wonderful prayer from our friend Scotty Smith.

WORSHIP, THEOLOGY AND LEARNING:

  • Good Motives Gone Bad. R.C. Sproul writes “When we look at the revolution of worship in America today, I see a dangerous road that is built with such intentions.”
  • The Poverty of the Prosperity Gospel. Vaneetha Rendall writes, “The prosperity gospel teaches that we live for God’s blessing. Job teaches that we live for God’s glory. At the heart of the prosperity gospel is our value. At the heart of Job, and all of Scripture, is God’s value.”
  • Michael Card’s Biblical Imagination Conference on the Gospel of John. If you are in the Midwest, try to get over to Chesterfield, Ohio to attend my good friend Michael Card’s Biblical Imagination Conference/Concert September 18-20.
  • 3 Things That Have Become More Central in Piper’s Preaching. Reflecting on Jonathan Edward’s sermon “Approaching the End of God’s Grand Design”, John Piper shares three emphases that have become clearer and more central to his preaching over the years.

MISCELLANEOUS:

  • Bubba WatsonGod’s Not Dead Sequel. God’s Not Dead was a surprise hit, one of the highest grossing independent films of 2014. Pure Flix Entertainment announced last fall a second installment would be soon to follow. Now Sadie Robertson from Duck Dynasty has disclosed that she will be joining this sequel.
  • Congratulations to Bubba Watson on winning the Traveler’s Championship! Watson won on the second playoff hole
  • Airplane Turbulence. I enjoy the convenience of flying, but certainly don’t like turbulence, or “rough air” as one airline refers to it. I found this article about turbulence interesting and comforting.

JUST FOR FUN:

Doug Michael’s Cartoon of the Week

Doug Michael’s Cartoon of the Week

Favorite QuotesFavorite Quotes of the Week 7.5.2015

CURRENT THEOLOGIANS:

Pray this for our President. “When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes.” 2 Kings 22:11.  John Piper

We talk so much about rights, but we talk so little about what is actually right. Ravi Zacharias

  • Public faith means going public with what’s in your heart, with humility and respect for others, as we speak of the truth of the gospel. Tim Keller
  • Jesus says, “I want you to follow me so fully, so intensely, so enduringly that all other attachments in your life look weak by comparison.” Tim Keller
  •  Everyone says they want community and deep friendship. However, because it takes accountability and commitment we run the other way. Tim Keller
  • Confession should be a daily activity for the Christian, whose entire pilgrimage is characterized by the spirit of repentance. R.C. Sproul
  • The one place where the Christian can be naked without fear is in the presence of Christ. R.C. Sproul
  • God’s grace is so powerful that it has the capacity to overcome our natural resistance to it. R.C. Sproul
  • Regeneration is the cause of faith, not faith the cause of regeneration. R.C. Sproul Jr.
  • Remember, when you’re sinned against its tempting to respond sinfully. Don’t give in, talk to your heart and seek the grace of Jesus. Paul David Tripp
  • Pressure’s off. You are not called to be awesome. Only humble and faithful. Scott Sauls
  • Jesus, forgive us for valuing our freedoms and comforts more than we value your presence and promises. Scott Sauls
  • As Christians living in changing times, we must keep three things open: our heads, our hearts, and our Bibles. Kevin DeYoung
  • We preach the gospel to others not knowing if they’re the elect bride of Christ but knowing they’re all sinners in need of Christ. Burk Parsons
  • If you can trust God to save you for eternity, you can trust him to lead you for a lifetime. David Platt
  • Why is it that we believe God’s promises of blessing but not his promises of punishment? Francis Chan
  • There will be people who will teach for the sake of greed or for the sake of ego. So watch their lives. Do they look and act like Jesus? Francis Chan
  • Until we acknowledge our sin and guilt, we will never come to discover that it can be forgiven. Sinclair Ferguson
  •  People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought – which they seldom use. Dan Doriani
  • Mark it down—your progress in holiness will never exceed your relationship with the holy Word of God. Nancy Leigh DeMoss

THEOLOGIANS FROM THE PAST:

  • Only what God has commanded in his word should be regarded as binding; in all else there may be liberty of actions. John Owen
  • There are three stages in every great work of God: first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done. Hudson Taylor 
  • Let us…once and forever put an end to that lie which says that Calvinism and an interest in evangelism are not comparable. George Whitefield
  • To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Jonathan Edwards
  • The gospel is not something partial or piecemeal: it takes in the whole life, the whole of history, the whole world. It tells us about creation and the final judgment and everything in between. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  • People are often unhappy in the Christian life because they have thought of Christianity, and the whole message of the gospel, in inadequate terms. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  • The gospel is meant to control and govern everything in our lives. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  • Don’t let your hopes or fears come between you and Jesus; follow hard after Him. He will never fail you. Charles Spurgeon
  • To receive the Word in the ear is one thing, and to receive Jesus into your very soul is quite another. Charles Spurgeon
  • If you don’t listen to theology, that won’t mean you have no ideas about God, it will mean you have a lot of wrong ones. CS Lewis
  • Every week I preach justification by faith to my people, because every week they forget it. Martin Luther
  • If you see yourself as a “little sinner” you will inevitably see Jesus as a “little savior”. Martin Luther

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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Links to Interesting Articles about Faith and Work:

connecting faith and workGod Will Use Even You. Steven Lee writes “If your résumé is sparse, your intellect feeble, your skills unimpressive, and your wisdom just average, fret not. God can use even you — even me. God wants to use those who look away from their self-sufficiency to his all-sufficiency. God uses all those who humble themselves before the cross, boasting only in him — his strength, his wisdom, his righteousness, his accomplishment.”

  • 4 Tips for Dealing with Procrastination. Tim Challies offers 2 big-picture tips on how to deal with procrastination and then follows them with 2 very practical ones.
  • God is Silent – Why? C. Patton shares five reasons that might explain why God is silent in response to some of your prayers.
  • 5 Qualities Every Employee Wants in a Boss. Here are five common sense qualities every employee wants in their boss.
  • 4 Ways to Take Back Your Life. Mark Miller writes “I don’t fully understand it, but I believe excessive, sustained busyness leads to a heart burdened by hurry. Following are four potential root causes and specific actions to help you take back your life.
  • Making Beautiful Places for the Glory of God. Read Inc. magazine’s story about Walker Mowers of Colorado and this video with Bob and Dean Walker.
  • Intention. In this “Minute with Maxwell”, John Maxwell discusses the word intention.
  • What’s Your Mid-Term Grade for Growth? John Maxwell writes “Today, at almost the mid-point of 2015, it’s a natural time to evaluate your progress in personal growth so far. So here are some questions to ask yourself to see how well you’ve been growing this year.”
  • Why Invest in Being Nice? Relationships matter. Clearly, we can­not always drop what we’re doing at a moment’s notice and attend to relationships. But no matter what our task, relationships are our business. Tasks are important. Relationships are important.
  • You’re Not a Leader if You Never Say You’re Sorry. Eric Geiger writes “There are a myriad of issues in the heart of a leader who never apologizes. If you never apologize, at least one of the following four is also true.”
  • 7 Ways to Keep a Leader on Your Team. Ron Edmondson writes “One of the biggest challenges for any organization is to attract and retain leaders.” He shares a few suggestions to encourage leaders to stay.”

 The Conviction to Lead by Albert MohlerThe Conviction to Lead Book Club – Won’t you read along with us?

The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters by Albert Mohler

We’re reading this excellent book on leadership principles from a renowned agent of change, Albert Mohler. It is one of the best that I’ve read on leadership and is broken down into 25 relatively short chapters. This week we look at:

Chapter 21 – The Digital Leader

  • If the leader is not leading in the digital world, his leadership is, by definition, limited to those who also ignore or neglect that world. That population is shrinking every minute.
  • If you are satisfied to lead from the past, stay out of the digital world. If you want to influence the future, brace yourself and get in the fast lane.
  • By now, just about every church, corporation, business, school, or organization has a presence on the Internet. If not, realize that you just do not exist, as far as untold millions of people are concerned. If you are a leader, you are responsible to see that your organization’s Internet presence is useful, attractive, inviting, and well designed.
  • The first impression you make on the web is often the only impression you’ll get to make at all, so make sure it counts.
  • People come to your website because they are looking for information. Make sure they can find it, and make certain it is worth finding.
  • As leader, consider establishing your own Internet presence as a part of your organization’s site.
  • The blogosphere, as it is now called, offers history’s most cost-efficient way of communicating big ideas and solid content. If you are not writing a blog, you should be.
  • Leaders should let their blogs play to their strengths, but always make it clear, interesting, and serve the mission of your organization. In other words, blog with conviction.
  • Social media will soon dominate all other forms of digital communication. That fact is reason enough for leaders to be engaged in social media.
  • Twitter is fast becoming the leading edge of social communication. I let Twitter feed my Facebook page, and I work hard to inform my constituencies and Twitter followers day by day. Twitter is now my first source for news. Tweets announce headlines, and I follow the links to the news stories. It is a huge time-saver and alert system.
  • If you are not on Twitter, and if you are not working and following it regularly, you are missing a massive leadership opportunity. Twitter, used wisely, can drive enormous traffic to your content, your organization, and your convictions. How can you justify leaving all that behind?
  • The digital world opens the opportunity for you and your organization to become a producer of video and audio content without the massive investment. Podcasts and streaming media allow you to do this, but they must be done well.
  • Creating a podcast is a powerful opportunity for a leader, but you can start small. If it works for you, develop it.
  • The use of streaming media allows content to be shared, and this is a good investment of institutional time and funds. Share the content with others, as long as it’s worth sharing.
  • I am also a bold advocate for digital reading devices, such as the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook. I own both and use both, and I also have their apps on my iPad.
  • Leaders are readers, whether in print or on a screen. And leaders belong in the digital world, leading with conviction. Leaders have a message, and should be ready to use every appropriate platform and technology to get it out to others.

Faith and Work Quotes:four_steps_to_hearing_your_call

  • Calling is the truth that God calls us to Himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to His summons and service. Os Guinness
  • Nothing short of God’s call can ground and fulfill the truest human desire for purpose. Os Guinness
  • A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus. Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Are you busy or in a hurry? To put it simply, busy is about your calendar, hurry is about your heart. Mark Miller
  • You don’t have to worry about burning out if you were never on fire. Dave Ramsey
  • Vision should be big and inspiring enough to MOTIVATE, while specific and tactical enough to MATTER, to each person on the team. Brad Lomenick
  • Leaders should always exceed expectations. Under promise and over deliver. You can never take enough off the plate of your boss. Brad Lomenick
  • Be most interested in finding the best way, not in having your own way.  John Wooden
  • Mission includes our secular vocations, not just church ministry. Tim Keller
  • The worst thing you can do for someone is to do something for them they can and should do for themselves. Coach K
  • Every single day you should wake up and commit yourself to becoming a better person. Coach
  • The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. Coach K
  • If you make a mistake in business, no one is interested in excuses & explanations. All they care about is what you’re going to do about it. Dr. Alan Zimmerman
  • Everyone makes a difference. The question is what kind of difference you are you going to make. Andy Andrews
  • Love is patient. Love is kind. Lead with love and you will never fail. Ken Blanchard


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Music Reviews and News

Concert Review:  U2 iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour at the United Center in Chicago – June 25, 2015

U2The first U2 album I bought was 1983’s War. I was a relatively new Christian at the time and had read about this mainstream band in Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine in which some of the members were Christians. (Note: Bono mentioned in 2005’s Bono in Conversation with Michka Assayas that all were now believers, with bassist Adam Clayton being the last to come to faith). Among the songs on War was “40”, which contains the words of Psalm 40, and is a song that the band has closed their shows with often over the years. I’ve been a fan of U2 ever since, especially enjoying the spiritual aspects of their music.

Thursday’s concert at Chicago’s United Center was the second of five at the venue on their iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour, featuring seven songs from their latest album Songs of Innocence, which Rolling Stone magazine named as the top album of 2014. The album, their first since 2009’s No Line on the Horizon, was also my top album of 2014, narrowly edging out Lecrae’s excellent Anomaly. This was the seventh time I’ve seen my favorite band in concert and the first in an arena setting since the 2005 Vertigo tour, with outdoor stadium shows at Chicago’s Soldier Field and St. Louis’ Busch Stadium since that time.

U2 often does unique things with their stage. This time, the stage had two large locations at each end of the arena, with a long walkway across the United Center floor connecting them, where just a few nights before the Chicago Blackhawks had won the Stanley Cup Championship. Our seats were supposed to be in the lower section at the end of the main stage. Due to a mix-up (either the wrong floor map was posted when we purchased tickets through the band’s fan club, or the stage was flipped) our seats were actually behind the stage. Those sitting around us were all very disappointed with this, but as it turned out there were some benefits to sitting only about 25 feet from drummer Larry Mullen. It was amazing to watch him working (behind the scenes) throughout the show. The close proximity to the band was a stark contrast to my last U2 concert, when we were more than three hundred feet away from the U2 360 stage placed in center field at Busch Stadium.

The two and a half hour concert started with Bono in his trademark black leather jacket and sunglasses appearing alone on the far end of the arena. As he walked toward the main stage he began singing “Oh, Oh, Oh…” from “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” as the rest of the band (Edge, guitar and keyboards; Adam Clayton, bass; and Larry Mullen) took their places on stage. The concert did not include an opening act and had only a short intermission of Johnny Cash singing “The Wanderer” from Zooropa on the video screen; it featured twenty four songs, including three during the encore. Here is the complete setlist, which changes a bit each night as the band plays multiple dates in each city on the tour.

Although the concert featured seven songs from Songs of Innocence – which sounded even better in concert than on the too perfectly produced album – the band did a nice job of playing songs from throughout their thirty-five year career. Here are the albums that the songs originally appeared on:

Boy (1980) – Out of Control, I Will Follow

War (1983) – Sunday Bloody Sunday

Unforgettable Fire (1984) – Pride (In the Name of Love), Bad

The Joshua Tree (1987) – With or Without You, Bullet the Blue Sky, Where the Streets Have No Name

Rattle and Hum (1988) – Angel of Harlem

Achtung Baby (1991) – Even Better Than the Real Thing, One, Until the End of the World, Mysterious Ways

All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2000) – Beautiful Day

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004) – Vertigo, City of Blinding Lights

No Line on the Horizon (2009) – Moment of Surrender (portions performed before and after “Bad”).

Invisible 2014 single (not available on an album)

Songs of Innocence (2014) – The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone); Iris (Hold Me Close), Cedarwood Road, Song for Someone, Raised by Wolves, Every Breaking Wave, Volcano

The band’s main stage was directly in front of us at one end of the United Center. A long catwalk/walkway with a huge see-through video screen above it, added much to the experience, but also created some challenges as only those on the sides of the arena could fully see the band when they were inside the screen. That’s right, the band would enter the screen and be part of the video experience. The screen would move up and down throughout the concert. However, when it was down, it made it difficult for people seated at the ends of the arena to see the band.

The band also set up at the far end of the arena for a few songs. By moving around and playing at a number of different places on their stage they added variety and gave everyone unique views of the band.

The show featured a few themes. The first half of the show featured many of the new songs from Songs of Innocence, so growing up was a theme – much as it was with Lecrae on his recent Anomaly tour – as Bono sang about his mother Iris (“Iris (Hold Me Close)” and his neighborhood growing up “Cedarwood Road”. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” with Larry playing a sobering snare drum effectively led into “Raised by Wolves”. Later, Bono would say that after grief comes anger as he led the band into “Volcano”. With songs like “Bullet the Blue Sky” and “Pride (In the Name of Love)” there were references to “I can’t breathe”, Ferguson, MO and Charleston SC. Later, the theme of surrender came up with parts of “Moment of Surrender” sung before and after “Bad”.

A few other thoughts:

  • The couple in front of us were from nearby (to Chicago) Grayslake, Illinois. This was her thirteenth U2 concert. When Bono introduced their second song “Out of Control” as their first single, she was completely overcome emotionally, with tears streaming down her face during the entire song. I’ll never forget how the song impacted her.
  • “Every Breaking Wave” is my favorite song on the new album. I actually prefer the alternate version released on the deluxe edition, so Bono performing it with only Edge on piano at the far end of the stage was a highlight.
  • Bono pulled a young woman from Costa Rica out of the crowd to help him film “Mysterious Ways” and “Angel of Harlem” around the world as Twitter comments from literally around the world were projected up on the large video screens above us.
  • My favorite song was “Pride (In the Name of Love)”, which was followed by “Beautiful Day”. The energy in the building during those two songs was incredible.

Though Bono seemed less energetic than past tours (could be due to his recent bike accident, or what the Chicago Tribune referred to as his bout with “nagging bronchitis”), it would not have been noticeable to those who hadn’t seen him on previous tours when he would sprint around the stage.

Thirty-five years after their first album U2 is still relevant and going strong. Incredibly there have been no band member changes during that time. I hope to see them on the next leg of the tour with songs from the rumored Songs of Experience album.

 Song of the Week

Jubilee by Michael Card

Michael’s Card’s ministry (music, books, teaching) has had a profound impact on my life for thirty years. This is one of my favorite songs of his. I particularly enjoy the line:

To be so completely guilty, given over to despair
To look into your Judge’s face and see a Savior there.

Here are the lyrics to the song:
The word provided for a time for the slaves to be set free
For the debts to all be cancelled so His chosen one could see
His deep desire was for forgiveness
He longed to see their liberty
And His yearning was embodied in the year of Jubilee

(Chorus)
Jubilee, Jubilee
Jesus is that Jubilee
Debts forgiven, slaves set free
Jesus is our Jubilee

At the Lord’s appointed time His deep desire to give a man
The heart of all true jubilation and with joy we understand
In His voice we hear a trumpet sound that tells us we are free
He is the incarnation of the year of Jubilee

(Chorus)
Jubilee, Jubilee
Jesus is that Jubilee
Debts forgiven, slaves set free
Jesus is our Jubilee

To be so completely guilty, given over to despair
To look into your Judge’s face and see a Savior there.

Watch Michael perform this wonderful song in concert here.

musicnewsMusic News

  • Angels of Fenway. Watch James Taylor perform this song (about his Red Sox defeating my Cardinals in the 2004 World Series) from his excellent new album Before the World on Late Night with Seth Myers.
  • Charleston Shooting Comes From Deeply Rooted Racism & Injustice. Lecrae writes “We don’t need a cliché and a proof-text for every social issue. We need hands and feet in the cities, institutions, and infrastructures. The same gospel that frees the soul, frees us to live selflessly toward others with genuine compassion.”

4th-Of-July


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Book Reviews and News

You Must ReadBOOK REVIEW ~ You Must Read: Books That Have Shaped Our Lives. Various Authors. Banner of Truth. 304 pages. 2015
****

This book brings together more than thirty well-known Christian leaders and gives them the opportunity to talk about a Banner of Truth book that has made a lasting impact on their lives. The book is dedicated to Iain and Jean Murray, whose vision, dedication, ministry, and encouragement has undergirded the publication of every book selected.

As a book lover, and having read several books published by the Banner of Truth, this was a book that I loved. I was familiar with many of the contributors (R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Derek Thomas, Jerry Bridges, Mark Dever, Sinclair Ferguson, etc.), but many of the contributors were people I was not familiar with. Each shares a book that has made an impact on their lives, tells about the book and why it made such an impact.

The book is broken into 33 chapters. A few that I particularly enjoyed were:

  • What Is an Evangelical? Written by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones – Alistair Begg. Begg writes about reading this book with his elders early in his ministry at Parkside Church in Cleveland.
  • D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Vol. 1: The First Forty Years; Vol. 2: The Fight of Faith by Iain H. Murray – John MacArthur. This was my favorite chapter of the book. MacArthur writes “I had never encountered another pastor whose biblical convictions and philosophy of ministry rang so true with me. No pastor I had ever encountered so closely paralleled my own thinking about the church, the gospel, doctrine, conflict, cooperation, and especially preaching.”
  • The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended by Jonathan Edwards – R.C. Sproul. Sproul writes “I studied his classic work The Freedom of the Will in depth and found his arguments, especially on Romans 9, compelling and irrefutable. I fought him tooth and nail, but in the end, I was convinced that I had been teaching and believing what I wanted the Bible to say rather than what it actually said. To this day, I owe Edwards a huge debt of gratitude.”
  • Tracts and Letters of John Calvin – Ian Hamilton. Hamilton writes “It is in his Tracts and Letters that, perhaps most memorably, we see the heart of Calvin the pastor, and it was a large and capacious heart.” He also states that “No pastor more faithfully laboured to defend the sovereignty of God’s grace—not only for the sake of God’s glory but also for the good and security of his flock.”
  • Revival Year Sermons (1859) by C. H. Spurgeon – Stuart Olyott. Olyott writes “Spurgeon’s opinion was that ‘there is no such thing as preaching Christ and him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else.’”
  • The Glory of Christ by John Owen – Sinclair B. Ferguson. Ferguson writes “It is safe to say that he goes down deeper, stays down longer, and comes up with greater spiritual riches than can be found in the vast bulk of contemporary Christian literature.”

An Epilogue is included which looks at the books from three perspectives – from Latin America, the Philippines and from the Grey House, Edinburgh.

Two key verses for the Banner of Truth are:
Psalm 60:4 (which gave rise to their name): You have given a banner to those who fear you, that it may be displayed because of the truth.
And Psalm 127:1: Unless the Lord build the house, those who build it labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and got several recommendations for future reading.

BOOK NEWS:

  • ChristianAudio.com’s Free Audiobook Download -“Eight Twenty Eight: When Love Didn’t Give Up”.   This is a story about God’s miraculous love of Ian and Larissa Murphy. It’s a story of their relationship, sustained by God’s patient and persistent love, through tragedy and into a Christian marriage. In that way, it’s a miraculous story, because in every sentence, there’s a whisper, then a word, then a celebration shout that always speaks of that persistent love in Jesus Christ.
  • Why You Should Read Moby Dick. R.C. Sproul encourages his readers to “Read Moby Dick, and then read it again.”
  • Bestsellers ≠ Best Books. Matthew Maule writes “The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association has compiled a list of the best-selling Christian books of 2014. If these books are characteristic of the thought and theology most associated with Christianity in America, perhaps it is not surprising that many are leaving and fewer people are joining.”
  • 5 Best Books on Apologetics. Bryan Baise writes “The following are my 5 favorite,not the 5 most seminal works of apologetics.”
  • David Brooks Charts the Road to Character. Collin Hansen interviews David Brooks, author of the new book The Road to Character, which I’m reading now.

Prayer by Tim KellerPrayer Book Club– Won’t you read along with us?

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller

Christians are taught in their churches and schools that prayer is the most powerful way to experience God. But few receive instruction or guidance in how to make prayer genuinely meaningful. In Prayer, renowned pastor Timothy Keller delves into the many facets of this everyday act. Won’t you read along with Tammy and me? This week we look at:

CHAPTER ONE ~ The Necessity of Prayer

  • Kathy’s jolting challenge, along with my own growing conviction that I just didn’t get prayer, led me into a search. I wanted a far better personal prayer life. I began to read widely and experiment in prayer. As I looked around, I quickly came to see that I was not alone.
  • You are with Another, and he is unique. God is the only person from whom you can hide nothing. Before him you will unavoidably come to see yourself in a new, unique light. Prayer, therefore, leads to a self-knowledge that is impossible to achieve any other way.
  • In a sermon on the gospel, Owen gave due diligence to laying the doctrinal foundation of Christian salvation. Then, however, he exhorted his hearers to “get an experience of the power of the gospel . . . in and upon your own hearts, or all your profession is an expiring thing.”24 This heart experience of the gospel’s power can happen only through prayer—both publicly in the gathered Christian assembly and privately in meditation.
  • In my pursuit of a deeper prayer life, I chose a counterintuitive course. I deliberately avoided reading any new books on prayer at all. Instead, I went back to the historical texts of Christian theology that had formed me and began asking questions about prayer and the experience of God—questions.
  • I found guidance on the inward life of prayer and spiritual experience that took me beyond the dangerous currents and eddies of the contemporary spirituality debates and movements.
  • There is an intelligent mysticism in the life of faith . . . of living union and communion with the exalted and ever-present Redeemer. . . . He communes with his people and his people commune with him in conscious reciprocal love.
  • As I pondered that verse, I had to marvel that Peter, in writing to the church, could address all his readers like this. He didn’t say, “Well, some of you with an advanced spirituality have begun to get periods of high joy in prayer. Hope the rest of you catch up.” No, he assumed that an experience of sometimes overwhelming joy in prayer was normal. I was convicted.
  • We are not called to choose between a Christian life based on truth and doctrine or a life filled with spiritual power and experience. They go together.
  • Rather, I was meant to ask the Holy Spirit to help me experience my theology.
  • I made four practical changes to my life of private devotion. First, I took several months to go through the Psalms, summarizing each one.
  • The second thing I did was always to put in a time of meditation as a transitional discipline between my Bible reading and my time of prayer. Third, I did all I could to pray morning and evening rather than only in the morning. Fourth, I began praying with greater expectation.
  • I have found new sweetness in Christ and new bitterness too, because I could now see my heart more clearly in the new light of vital prayer. In other words, there were more restful experiences of love as well as more wrestling to see God triumph over evil, both in my own heart and in the world.
  • Prayer is the only entryway into genuine self-knowledge. It is also the main way we experience deep change—the reordering of our loves.Prayer is simply the key to everything we need to do and be in life. We must learn to pray. We have to.


Leave a comment

Movie Review ~ Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Me and Earl and the Dying GirlMe and Earl and the Dying Girl, rated PG-13
***

This film is based on the 2012 novel by Jesse Andrews (who also wrote the script), and is directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. It was a big hit at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, winning both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award. It is creative, quirky, and never seems to do what you expect it to do, which was refreshing.

The film is primarily about Greg (Thomas Mann) and his senior year of high school. Greg serves as narrator throughout the film. He recognizes different “nations” (groups) of kids in his class, such as jocks, stoners, theatre dorks, etc., something we can all relate to. His plan is to be casually friendly to all, but a part of none of them. He’s there, but not really. He’s just trying to survive his senior year by being off the radar – invisible. He’s insecure and thinks he’s ugly.

The only classmate who really knows him is his only true friend Earl (RJ Cyler), who provides comic relief (as well as much of the profanity) in the film. They have been best friends since kindergarten, though the socially uncomfortable (hard not to be in high school) and self-centered Greg refers to him as his co-worker, unwilling to even call him his friend.

Greg and Earl love old movies and have made forty or so parodies of them with titles like A Sockwork Orange. The parts of the film showing their awful films are funny and creative.

Greg’s mom (Connie Britton) asks, more like tells, Greg to go visit Rachel (Olivia Cooke) a girl from school he is familiar with, but doesn’t really know (because Greg doesn’t really know anyone except Earl). Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia, and he is told to go cheer her up. He doesn’t want to go, but he does to get his mom off his case.

Greg is greeted by Rachel’s mom Denise (Molly Shannon) who lustily hugs him, and has a drink in her hand in almost every scene in the film as she tries to deal with her daughter’s illness. Rachel’s parents are divorced, and her father, who is now deceased, was never a big part of her life. Greg doesn’t really want to be there, and Rachel doesn’t want him there – and thus starts their relationship.

The relationship between Greg and Rachel is awkward at first, to say the least. As her illness progresses and she loses her hair from the chemotherapy they slowly become friends. For perhaps the first time, Greg focuses his attention on someone other than himself.

I found myself emotionally relieved when Greg tells us that Rachel will survive – she won’t die. So will they become boyfriend and girlfriend, get married and live happily ever after? Sorry, I’m not telling. That would be called a spoiler.

Nick Offerman plays Greg’s father. He is a strange character always at home in a robe offering Greg and Earl exotic foods. Katherine C. Hughes plays Madison, the hot girl at school that Greg has a crush on. The film features a creative animation every time she talks to Greg. Jon Bernthal plays Mr. McCarthy, a history teacher that Greg and Earl eat lunch and watch movies with in his office each day.

The film includes a fair amount of adult language and sexual dialogue, and the characters unfortunately abuse God’s and Jesus’ names a significant number of times. Rachel’s family is Jewish, but you don’t see their faith impacting their lives in any way.   Much of the inappropriate language comes from Earl, but I thought he was an excellent example of what a friend should be.

I appreciated the uniqueness of this film. There were many details, such as camera angles that I appreciated. It’s not a perfect film, and parts will be offensive to some, others depressing, but it’s also a film that will impact you, and you’ll want to talk about afterwards with those who have seen it with you.


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Book Reviews and News

You Must ReadBOOK REVIEW ~ You Must Read: Books That Have Shaped Our Lives. Various Authors. Banner of Truth. 304 pages. 2015
****

This book brings together more than thirty well-known Christian leaders and gives them the opportunity to talk about a Banner of Truth book that has made a lasting impact on their lives. The book is dedicated to Iain and Jean Murray, whose vision, dedication, ministry, and encouragement has undergirded the publication of every book selected.

As a book lover, and having read several books published by the Banner of Truth, this was a book that I loved. I was familiar with many of the contributors (R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Derek Thomas, Jerry Bridges, Mark Dever, Sinclair Ferguson, etc.), but many of the contributors were people I was not familiar with. Each shares a book that has made an impact on their lives, tells about the book and why it made such an impact.

The book is broken into 33 chapters. A few that I particularly enjoyed were:

  • What Is an Evangelical? Written by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones – Alistair Begg. Begg writes about reading this book with his elders early in his ministry at Parkside Church in Cleveland.
  • D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Vol. 1: The First Forty Years; Vol. 2: The Fight of Faith by Iain H. Murray – John MacArthur. This was my favorite chapter of the book. MacArthur writes “I had never encountered another pastor whose biblical convictions and philosophy of ministry rang so true with me. No pastor I had ever encountered so closely paralleled my own thinking about the church, the gospel, doctrine, conflict, cooperation, and especially preaching.”
  • The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended by Jonathan Edwards – R.C. Sproul. Sproul writes “I studied his classic work The Freedom of the Will in depth and found his arguments, especially on Romans 9, compelling and irrefutable. I fought him tooth and nail, but in the end, I was convinced that I had been teaching and believing what I wanted the Bible to say rather than what it actually said. To this day, I owe Edwards a huge debt of gratitude.”
  • Tracts and Letters of John Calvin – Ian Hamilton. Hamilton writes “It is in his Tracts and Letters that, perhaps most memorably, we see the heart of Calvin the pastor, and it was a large and capacious heart.” He also states that “No pastor more faithfully laboured to defend the sovereignty of God’s grace—not only for the sake of God’s glory but also for the good and security of his flock.”
  • Revival Year Sermons (1859) by C. H. Spurgeon – Stuart Olyott. Olyott writes “Spurgeon’s opinion was that ‘there is no such thing as preaching Christ and him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else.’”
  • The Glory of Christ by John Owen – Sinclair B. Ferguson. Ferguson writes “It is safe to say that he goes down deeper, stays down longer, and comes up with greater spiritual riches than can be found in the vast bulk of contemporary Christian literature.”

An Epilogue is included which looks at the books from three perspectives – from Latin America, the Philippines and from the Grey House, Edinburgh.

Two key verses for the Banner of Truth are:
Psalm 60:4 (which gave rise to their name): You have given a banner to those who fear you, that it may be displayed because of the truth.
And Psalm 127:1: Unless the Lord build the house, those who build it labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and got several recommendations for future reading.

BOOK NEWS:

  • ChristianAudio.com’s Free Audiobook Download -“Eight Twenty Eight: When Love Didn’t Give Up”.   This is a story about God’s miraculous love of Ian and Larissa Murphy. It’s a story of their relationship, sustained by God’s patient and persistent love, through tragedy and into a Christian marriage. In that way, it’s a miraculous story, because in every sentence, there’s a whisper, then a word, then a celebration shout that always speaks of that persistent love in Jesus Christ.
  • Why You Should Read Moby Dick. R.C. Sproul encourages his readers to “Read Moby Dick, and then read it again.”
  • Bestsellers ≠ Best Books. Matthew Maule writes “The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association has compiled a list of the best-selling Christian books of 2014. If these books are characteristic of the thought and theology most associated with Christianity in America, perhaps it is not surprising that many are leaving and fewer people are joining.”
  • 5 Best Books on Apologetics. Bryan Baise writes “The following are my 5 favorite,not the 5 most seminal works of apologetics.”
  • David Brooks Charts the Road to Character. Collin Hansen interviews David Brooks, author of the new book The Road to Character, which I’m reading now.

Prayer by Tim KellerPrayer Book Club– Won’t you read along with us?

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller

Christians are taught in their churches and schools that prayer is the most powerful way to experience God. But few receive instruction or guidance in how to make prayer genuinely meaningful. In Prayer, renowned pastor Timothy Keller delves into the many facets of this everyday act. Won’t you read along with Tammy and me? This week we look at:

CHAPTER ONE ~ The Necessity of Prayer

  • Kathy’s jolting challenge, along with my own growing conviction that I just didn’t get prayer, led me into a search. I wanted a far better personal prayer life. I began to read widely and experiment in prayer. As I looked around, I quickly came to see that I was not alone.
  • You are with Another, and he is unique. God is the only person from whom you can hide nothing. Before him you will unavoidably come to see yourself in a new, unique light. Prayer, therefore, leads to a self-knowledge that is impossible to achieve any other way.
  • In a sermon on the gospel, Owen gave due diligence to laying the doctrinal foundation of Christian salvation. Then, however, he exhorted his hearers to “get an experience of the power of the gospel . . . in and upon your own hearts, or all your profession is an expiring thing.”24 This heart experience of the gospel’s power can happen only through prayer—both publicly in the gathered Christian assembly and privately in meditation.
  • In my pursuit of a deeper prayer life, I chose a counterintuitive course. I deliberately avoided reading any new books on prayer at all. Instead, I went back to the historical texts of Christian theology that had formed me and began asking questions about prayer and the experience of God—questions.
  • I found guidance on the inward life of prayer and spiritual experience that took me beyond the dangerous currents and eddies of the contemporary spirituality debates and movements.
  • There is an intelligent mysticism in the life of faith . . . of living union and communion with the exalted and ever-present Redeemer. . . . He communes with his people and his people commune with him in conscious reciprocal love.
  • As I pondered that verse, I had to marvel that Peter, in writing to the church, could address all his readers like this. He didn’t say, “Well, some of you with an advanced spirituality have begun to get periods of high joy in prayer. Hope the rest of you catch up.” No, he assumed that an experience of sometimes overwhelming joy in prayer was normal. I was convicted.
  • We are not called to choose between a Christian life based on truth and doctrine or a life filled with spiritual power and experience. They go together.
  • Rather, I was meant to ask the Holy Spirit to help me experience my theology.
  • I made four practical changes to my life of private devotion. First, I took several months to go through the Psalms, summarizing each one.
  • The second thing I did was always to put in a time of meditation as a transitional discipline between my Bible reading and my time of prayer. Third, I did all I could to pray morning and evening rather than only in the morning. Fourth, I began praying with greater expectation.
  • I have found new sweetness in Christ and new bitterness too, because I could now see my heart more clearly in the new light of vital prayer. In other words, there were more restful experiences of love as well as more wrestling to see God triumph over evil, both in my own heart and in the world.
  • Prayer is the only entryway into genuine self-knowledge. It is also the main way we experience deep change—the reordering of our loves.Prayer is simply the key to everything we need to do and be in life. We must learn to pray. We have to.


Leave a comment

This & That and Favorite Quotes of the Week

This and ThatCHRISTIAN LIFE:

CHURCH LIFE:

  • Anatomy of a Sick Church – 10 Symptoms to Watch. Thom S. Rainer writes “While there are many potential symptoms of a sick church, I have found ten to be consistently common. These ten are not listed in any particular order.”
  • An Appeal to Elders. Carl Trueman writes “The task of the elder is to pastor the pastor.  If they do not do it, nobody else will.”
  • When Leaders Fall, All Are Punished. In light of another high profile Reformed pastor’s resignation as a result of moral failure, Marshall Segal writes “The collapse of a leader’s ministry does not signal the collapse of Christ’s church. No, not even hell can prevail against her (Matthew 16:18). Heaven is not thrown into crisis with a scandal, however shocking or hard the fall.”
  • Books to Read in the Ministry. During the 2015 Inerrancy Summit, three Banner Trustees (Ian Hamilton, Iain Murray and Sinclair Ferguson) addressed a gathering of seminary students on the topic of ‘Books to Read in the Ministry’. Steven Lawson, a professor of expository preaching at The Masters’ Seminary, introduced the students to the Trustees present and to the ongoing work of the Banner. Listen to a one-hour audio recording of the address, which includes 20 plus book recommendations and a “Question and Answer” period between the students and the trustees.
  • Workers for Your Joy: Why Christ Gave Us Leaders. David Mathis writes “Christian leadership exists for the joy of the church. Such a vision changes everything, first for pastors and then for their people.”

RESOURCES:

JUST FOR FUN:

  • The Definitive Ranking of Pixar Movies. Kelly Lawler ranks the Pixar films from 15 to 1. Agree?
  • I bet after you eat a camel you are so thirsty. Jim Gaffigan
  • At this point people should announce when they are not running for president.  Jim Gaffigan
  • We can all look at life and agree that there are some parts that have no purpose—like neckties or cats. Matt Chandler
  • If the college you visit has a bookstore filled with t-shirts rather than books, find another college. Albert Mohler
Doug Michael’s Cartoon of the Week

Doug Michael’s Cartoon of the Week

Favorite QuotesFavorite Quotes of the Week 6.28.15

CURRENT THEOLOGIANS:

  • Welcome to the valley of the shadow of death…thank God grace reigns here. Tullian Tchividjian   (after he admitted to committing adultery and resigned as lead pastor at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church).
  • There is a danger that grace can become a topic we discuss rather than a power we experience. Heath Lambert
  • I find that if I pray for the people I’m most angry with, my anger turns into something more redemptive. Jack Miller
  • If God is not at the center of your life, something else is. Tim Keller
  • Faith is not primarily a function of how you feel. Faith is living out, trusting, and believing what truth is despite what you feel. Tim Keller
  • We’ve replaced the proclamation of Christ with an easy-listening legalism of do more and try harder. R. C. Sproul
  • The God of popular religion is not holy. R.C. Sproul
  • Jesus, many of us know what holiness is not; but we need you to show us what holiness IS. Help us to discover the beauty of gospel-holiness. Scotty Smith
  • The Father did not require the death of Christ to persuade Him to love us. Christ died because the Father loves us. Sinclair Ferguson
  • A quiet heart is content with what God gives. It is enough. All is grace. Elisabeth Elliot
  • The greatest work God ever performs was not the creation of the universe out of nothing, but is the new creation of saints out of sinners. Steven Lawson
  • The Bible knows nothing of a healthy Christian who does not or will not pray. Tim Challies
  • Every time you get on your knees and pray to God, ‘Holy’ keeps the respect and reverence while ‘Father’ brings Him close & intimate. Ravi Zacharias
  •  We should be so joyful from God’s grace that others would respond by saying, ‘I wish I had your God. Francis Chan
  • We want awesomeness more than we want faithfulness. Michael Horton
  • Grace has uprooted us from a barren wilderness of sin and transplanted us by streams of living water. Steven Lawson
  • Charleston was where America split apart in 1861. Maybe it’s where America comes together in 2015. Russell Moore
  • Sin claims to free but in fact it kills. Mark Dever
  • Correct division should be preferred over corrupt unity. Mark Dever
  • Prayer is the burden of revival; repentance is the breakthrough of revival; evangelism is the blessing of revival; holiness is the bounty of revival. Steve Camp
  • God’s will is what we would choose if we knew what God knows. Nancy Leigh DeMoss 
  • God is not embarrassed by his wrath or ashamed of his judgment, so we shouldn’t be either. Thabiti Anyabwile
  • True maturity does not mean repenting less. It means repenting more, and repenting more quickly. Scott Sauls 

THEOLOGIANS FROM THE PAST:

  • The eternal everlasting God has become our Father and the moment we realize that, it transforms everything. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  • Spiritual depression or unhappiness in the Christian life is very often due to our failure to realize the greatness of the gospel. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
  • The whole man is involved, the mind, the heart and the will, and a common cause of spiritual depression is the failure to realize that the Christian life is a whole life, a balanced life. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  • The Holy Spirit is the bond by which Christ efficaciously unites us to himself. John Calvin
  • Unless men establish their complete happiness in God, they will never give themselves truly and sincerely to him. John Calvin
  • He makes those just who are unjust, forgives those who deserve to be punished, and favors those who deserve no favor. Charles Spurgeon
  • However little we may be, if we are the Lord’s, we may rejoice that we are preserved in Christ Jesus. Charles Spurgeon
  • The God who has been sufficient until now, should be trusted to the end. Charles Spurgeon
  • To me, Calvinism means the placing of the eternal God at the head of all things. Charles Spurgeon
  • Sin is not so sweet in the committing as it is heavy and bitter in the reckoning. Richard Sibbes
  • We should take our discouragements as means of grace. Andrew Bonar There are many persons that seem to be converted, that are not so really. Don’t rest in any appearance of grace. Jonathan Edwards
  • Free will without God’s grace is not free at all, but is the permanent bondservant of evil, since it cannot turn itself to good. Martin Luther

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