Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


Uncommon Ground: Living Faithfully in a World of Difference, edited by Tim Keller and John Inazu. Thomas Nelson. 237 pages. 2020
***

Books in which a different author writes each chapter can be tricky. You might connect with one author and not another, and that’s just how I found this book. I found myself fully engaged with some chapters, while others were frankly a chore to get through.
I was attracted to the book by the fact that one of the editors, who also wrote a chapter, was Tim Keller, one of my favorite authors, and Lecrae, one of my favorite musical artists, also wrote one of the chapters. Among the contributors, I was also familiar with Sara Groves through her music, and Trillia Newbell through her writing and Tish Harrison Warren, through a book of hers my wife had recently read. The subject of the book caught my attention as we live in a very divided culture, including among those who identify as Christians.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and reviews of
~     The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created by Jane Leavy
~     Ben Hogan: An American Life by James Dodson
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
I’M CURRENTLY READING…. Continue reading


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Paying Tribute to My Heroes

Recently, I was listening to one of R.C. Sproul’s older teaching series Heroes of the Christian Faith. A few weeks later, I read Jeff Robinson’s excellent article “How to have Ministry Heroes without Plagiarizing Them”. That got me to thinking about the heroes in my life.
Growing up, my heroes tended to be sports figures. In baseball it was Mickey Mantle, in football it was O.J. Simpson and in basketball it was Wilt Chamberlain. Although these men achieved great things on the field or court, looking back at them now, their character left much to be desired (though Mantle did come to saving faith very late in his life). In high school my hero was Doug Collins, who played basketball at my hometown Illinois State University and would become an Olympic hero and the number one draft choice in the 1973 National Basketball Association draft.
One of the definitions of “hero” from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “a person admired for achievements and noble qualities”. Robinson in his article states that “Scripture certainly gives warrant to have heroes, to study and emulate men and women of the faith whose lives are so marked by humble, courageous Christ-honoring character and grace-enabled skill in living the Christian life.”
Before looking at my heroes, I want to set some ground rules around people that I am not going to include. First, Jesus would be my top hero (of course). I’m also not going to include my parents, siblings, or my wife Tammy, though they would certainly make the list as well. Given those qualifications, here are people that I consider to be heroes in my life, some of which I know well, and some I don’t: Continue reading


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

  • How to have Ministry Heroes Without Plagiarizing Them. Jeff Robinson writes “Scripture certainly gives warrant to have heroes, to study and emulate men and women of the faith whose lives are so marked by humble, courageous Christ-honoring character and grace-enabled skill in living the Christian life.”
  • Where is God When Your Dog Dies? Robert Yarbrough, who I enjoyed a class on Jeremiah with at Covenant Seminary a few years ago, writes “Yes, God cares when your dog (or cat, or horse, or other dear pet) reaches life’s end. And he cares for you as you grieve.”
  • 4 Things to Remember When Meeting with Jesus. In this short video, David Murray states “I would encourage young people (6-12 years old) to meet with Jesus through reading the Gospels, because that is where Jesus is primarily revealed.”
  • Sisters, You Have Permission to Lead an Ordinary Life. Melissa Kruger writes “When I’m overwhelmed by all the messages coming at me each day, I remind myself of 1 Thessalonians 4:11: “Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands.” The quiet, godly life described here is within our reach. And I’ve seen it lived out firsthand.”
  • When ‘You Are Enough’ Simply Isn’t Enough. Nancy Guthrie writes “I’m convinced that when we survey the Scriptures, we discover we don’t have to be afraid of, ashamed of, or lose hope because of the emptinessin our lives. Instead, we can face the emptiness with confidence that God can and will work in our inadequacy as only he can—filling it with his own divine fullness.”
  • Parenting is Gospel Ministry. In this workshop, Paul Tripp, author of Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family, speaks on how to let the gospel shape what you say and do with the children who have been entrusted to your care.
  • When God Says No to Your Earnest Prayers. Garrett Kell shares four gracious truths that can guard us from despairing when the Lord says no to our earnest prayers.

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    • More interesting article links
    • Favorite Quotes of the Week

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12 Essential Traits of a Good Team Member


A few months back I wrote about how to become a leader that others would want to follow. You can read that article here. I was telling a friend about that article and he challenged me to write about what makes a good follower. I’m adapting his question to reflect what I believe are 12 essential traits of a good team member.

In nearly 38 years as a leader in a Fortune 50 organization I had the opportunity to work with many talented people. As a general rule, they demonstrated the following traits:

Initiative – I always appreciated team members that demonstrated strong initiative. They didn’t wait to be asked to do something, instead they saw what was needed and just took care of it, helping the team in the process. Some may call this person a “self-starter” as well. Continue reading


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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

  • Called to Lead. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace is now available in both a paperback and Kindle edition. Read a free sample (Introduction through Chapter 2).
  • How to Love Our Difficult Neighbors (At Work). Russ Gehrlein writes “Certainly, whether we are supervisors or peers, working from home or back in an office, we can make every effort to provide tools to help our weak and inexperienced neighbors at work by methodically coaching, teaching, and mentoring them.”
  • How Firm a Foundation: Keys to Staying On-Mission Through a Crisis. David Fultz writes “We’d be foolish to expect that we can walk through life without experiencing the storms that often mark this broken world. When those storms come, we need foundational beliefs and direction that allow us to stand firm. We must be grounded and firmly rooted in the words of life.”
  • Transforming Lives Through the Dignity of Work. Sam Brownback writes “Every man, woman and child possesses inherent dignity, and that self-worth is often best realized in a family and through daily interaction with co-workers.”

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  • More links to interesting articles
  • The Top 10 Faith and Work Quotes of the Week
  • My Review of Lead: 12 Gospel Principles for Leadership in the Church by Paul David Tripp
  • Snippets from Os Guinness’ book “The Call: Finding and Fulfilling God’s Purpose For Your Life”

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


Evensong – Hymns and Lullabies at the Close of Day– Keith and Kristyn Getty
****

Evensong is the first new studio album for Keith and Kristyn Getty since 2016’s Facing a Task Unfinished. It is not your usual album of new modern hymns from the Gettys, but rather more of a Kristyn Getty solo project born out of a family tradition. The Gettys close out their days with a time of reflection in thought, song, and prayer. These are lullabies and hymns that they have sung to and for their own children.
The project was recorded in Nashville during the COVID-19 shelter at home season. Ben Shive, who produced the album with Keith and Kristyn, was able to gather recordings from each musical collaborator and create a project fusing the Celtic, folk, bluegrass, classical, and Americana sound the Gettys have become known for. The musical backing is more restrained than a normal Getty album, but no less beautiful. The cover art was specially created by internationally renowned Irish artist Ross Wilson. The album features guest appearances from Vince Gill, Heather Headley, Ellie Holcomb, Sierra Hull, Deborah Kelmme and Sandra McCracken
Below are a few thoughts about each song:

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  • More of this review and a review of Heaven – Sing! The Life Of Christ Quintology
  • Music News
  • Song of the Week Lyrics

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


Epic: An Around-the-World Journey through Christian History by Tim Challies. Zondervan. 175 pages. 2020
****

In this book, Tim Challies shows us a unique way to look at Christian history. Rather than just visiting historical sites, over the course of a year, he chose to focus on objects, key artifacts that had been preserved. His hope in approaching the project in this manner was that by listening to the small stories told by these remnants of Christian history he would begin to understand the larger story and its epic unfolding. In other words, he wanted to “experience” the history of Christianity.
As he planned for the project, which was generously funded for him, he had a few restrictions. First, he wanted to focus on objects rather than locations, buildings, or memorials as we often do when we go to historical sites. Second, he wanted to focus on objects that are available to the general public. In the book, you will read that he found exactly the kind of objects he had wanted to see. He discovered links to the past, historical artifacts he could see and study and sometimes even touch and hold, each telling him (and the reader), a different chapter of a much greater story.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and reviews of The Ten Commandments of Progressive Christianity by Michael Kruger and A Quiet Strength: The Life and Legacy of Jeannette M. Cathy by Trudy Cathy White
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
I’M CURRENTLY READING…. Continue reading


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Dealing with Disappointment

All of us have dreams for how we hope our lives turn out. Some young boys dream of being a major league baseball player and hitting a home run to win game seven of the World Series or sinking the winning putt on the 18th hole to win the Masters. OK, I admit it, those were my dreams. Other children may dream about being the President of the United States. Eventually most of our childhood dreams give way to reality, but we then focus on other dreams as adults. But how are we to respond when those dreams don’t come true?

I got to thinking about this as I was listening to Alistair Begg’s excellent teaching series The Hand of God on the life of Joseph and the providence of God. Specifically, it was his message “Lessons from the Dungeon, Part Two” when Begg was teaching about dealing with disappointment. If you remember the story, Joseph had interpreted the dream of the cup bearer of the king of Egypt, telling him that he would be getting out of the prison in three days and would be restored to his office. In Genesis 40:14-15, Joseph says to the cup bearer “Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house. For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit.” But verse Genesis 40:23 tells us “Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him”. As Joseph sat in the dungeon for more than two years, his dreams of getting out of prison were being dashed each and every day that went by. Continue reading


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

  • The Sin of Racism. Tim Keller writes “Biblically, sin is anything that falls short of God’s will and glory, that violates his law and his character (1 John 3:4; Romans 3:23). There are at least four ways in which what we will be calling racism is a violation of God’s glory and therefore is a sin.”
  • What You Should Know About the 2020 Republican Party Platform. Joe Carter writes “Why should Christians care about a document that few non-politicians will ever read? Because of the influence the two major party platforms have on public policy.”
  • Be Careful What You Put Your Hope in, Including Politics. Randy Alcorn writes “When people put their hope in political parties and beliefs, these can become gods. Christians sometimes view political leaders and their platforms with a degree of faith that should be reserved only for God and his Kingdom. And sometimes they display a degree of hatred and scorn that should be reserved for Satan and his demons.”
  • The State of Theology Survey: 2020 Results. Nathan Bingham writes “What do Americans think about Jesus Christ, the Bible, truth, and ethics? Ligonier Ministries’ State of Theology provides insights. Every two years, we take the theological temperature of the United States to help Christians better understand today’s culture and equip the church with better insights for discipleship.” Read Joe Carter’s article on this survey.
  • What Are We Arguing About? Kevin DeYoung writes that we need to be clearer as Christians about where our disagreements lie.
  • Why Is It Important to Understand Penal Substitutionary Atonement? Unless we understand the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement, we will not understand why Christ died. From one of the Ask Ligonier events, John MacArthur explains why the cross stands at the very heart of the Christian faith.

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  • More interesting article links
  • Favorite Quotes of the Week

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How I Spent the Majority of My Time as a Leader

As a leader, I never bought into the philosophy of treating everyone the same. I tried to treat each person on my teams as an individual, according to their specific needs and personality. I didn’t treat everyone the same, but I did treat all with equity.
On my teams I found that there are some team members who are consistently solid. They aren’t looking for any advancement and just love what they are doing. In fact, if they could, they would stay in their positions for a long time. In my experience, there were two categories of employees that I spent the most time with.

  1. High potential employees who wanted to continue to grow and advance within their role or the organization. The individuals in this category were highly motivated and demonstrated excellent attitudes. Many were interested in advancing to a leadership position, while some were working toward a promotion in their current role. I would help them to find stretch assignments to continue to grow, as well as suggest some mentors for them. Also, in this category were those I was mentoring. I always enjoyed working with mentees, and never turned anyone down who asked to be in a mentoring relationship with me. I always saw it as giving back to others, just as my career mentor did for me.
  2. Those with performance problems. The individuals in this category were struggling with their performance for one reason or another. It could be that they were in a position that was not a good fit for their skills, they may have been struggling with attendance issues and thus not able to consistently produce for their teams, or they were not be fully engaged or had a poor attitude. The goal of working with these team members was always to help restore them to being solid performers. Many times, that was the result, but unfortunately there were some times when that was the not result, and those were some of my most difficult times as a leader.

I love a good redemption story. Someone who fell into this second category turned out to be one of the most pleasant stories in my career. For whatever reason, she had a year in which she did not perform up to expectations. Her leaders knew it and she knew it. Prior to that year she had been a solid performer. When she came to my team, she told me that level of performance wasn’t her, and she would show me just that, which she did. She immediately re-established herself not only as a solid performer, but as a top performer. Within a few years she was in a leadership development assignment, capping off the most significant turnaround I saw in my career.
I would encourage you to treat each person on your team according to their own talents and needs.  As a leader, who did you tend to spend the most time with on your teams?