Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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2021 Mid-Year Favorites


As I have for several years, I’m sharing some of my favorites in a variety of categories for the first half of 2021. As with 2020, this list will look a little different from previous years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as we have not been to any concerts or conferences, and we have seen very few films thus far this year.
Except for books, these are all items that were released in 2021. For books, I include my favorite books that I’ve read this year, regardless of when the book was originally published.
Enjoy, and please let me know what you think of my list, as well as what would be on your list. Continue reading


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

  • 3 Reality Checks for Your Marriage. Paul Tripp shares essential wisdom perspectives that Scripture gives us that enable us to have realistic expectations for our marriage.

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  • More interesting article links
  • Favorite Quotes of the Week

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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

  • 10 Signs Pastors Do Not Respect or Properly Value Their Elders. I’m hoping that these signs from Brian Dodd are not typical of your church leadership team.
  • What Are You Afraid Of? Howard Graham writes “Fearlessness starts with hope in something far greater than ourselves. It starts with an awestruck respect for God.”
  • Where Should I Move After Graduation? Meryl Herr responds to the question “I am finishing up my degree and am looking for job and internship opportunities in different cities. What should I consider when choosing a place to live? Best job opportunity? Closest to family? A place with solid churches? Good friends?”

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  • More links to interesting articles
  • The Top 10 Faith and Work Quotes of the Week
  • My Review of Faithful Leaders: and the Things That Matter Most by Rico Tice
  • Snippets from the book Work and Worship: Reconnecting Our Labor and Liturgy by Matthew Kaemingk and Cory B. Willson

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What are You Doing to Improve?


Awhile back I went to our weekly Friday morning Book Club. This is something some friends and I started a few years ago at work, and have continued now that we are retired. At the time we were reading John Maxwell’s excellent book Leadershift: The 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace.
During one point in our discussion we were talking about moving out of our comfort zones, and we started talking about what is required to improve a particular skill. For example, one person is currently taking both piano and golf lessons to improve their mastery of those skills. Another person is a painter, and talked about getting feedback from his wife on his paintings. At times, when the feedback on a painting has not been positive, he has completely painted over what he has created, and started from scratch, working to improve. I can relate with my writing. I’ll write an article or movie review and then send to my wife (and editor) for review. In both instances, it’s humbling to ask for feedback but it usually results in raising the bar. I have a friend who is writing a book, not only does she ask to meet with me and my wife regarding her progress, but she also puts herself on a timeline in order to accomplish her goals.  Anytime we look to improve a skill or task, we will need to possess and demonstrate personal discipline. Continue reading


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What Are Your Lines?

In Alistair Begg’s new book Brave by Faith: God-Sized Confidence in a Post-Christian World, he takes us through the first seven chapters of the book of Daniel and compares what Daniel was facing to the situation Christians face in America today. In our increasingly secular culture, Christians are in the minority, like Daniel living as an exile in a foreign land.
Albert Mohler in his book The Gathering Storm: Secularism, Culture and the Church writes that historic Christianity is now increasingly either rejected or relegated to having no significance in the culture. Studies show a continual decline in church attendance, especially among younger people. Regular listeners of Mohler’s program The Briefing often hear about churches, entire denominations, Christian colleges and institutions caving to the pressures of the secular culture.
In Brave by Faith, Begg tells us that we are starting to feel that the notion of a persecuted church is coming ever closer. He writes:
“Secularism pushes back again and again against what the Bible says about sexual ethics, about salvation, about education, about the role and reach of the state, or about matters of public welfare. Public opinion has turned against Christians.”
He tells us that suddenly as a minority group within an increasingly secularized nation, we are finding out how it feels to be outsiders. And we don’t like it.
He helpfully asks: Continue reading


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God’s Lessons During Suffering


I have to admit that I was afraid of the COVID-19 virus from the beginning. My wife Tammy and I both have underlying conditions which would have made it hard to recover from the virus, and so we were very careful (wearing a mask, social distancing, not eating in restaurants, watching the live stream of our church services, using Zoom for meetings, etc.). My Dad already had shortness of breath from congestive heart failure and I knew it would be very difficult for him to recover from the virus if he contracted it.
For months, the coronavirus vaccines were in very short supply in our county. Tammy and I got ours in a city about an hour away from our home. When my brother and his wife were ready to get their vaccines there were no appointments available during the entire month of May, so they scheduled an appointment for May 4 in a town about forty minutes away. Unfortunately, a few days before their appointment they contracted the virus. The day after they were to get the vaccine my sister-in-law went into the hospital with pneumonia. Two days later my brother was hospitalized. My sister-in-law recovered quickly, and was able to go home the day my brother was admitted to the ICU. My brother’s condition was much more serious, and he was put on a ventilator on May 8. The nurses were not optimistic about his chances for survival, but the Lord showed mercy to him and our family, and he is now on the long road to recovery.
During this time, the Lord has been teaching and reminding me of many things about myself. Here are a few of the main ones. Continue reading


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Go Into Retirement With Your Eyes Wide Open

I’ve been retired for three years. When I was first retired, I somehow felt I was doing something wrong. After nearly 38 years, I was no longer going to work each morning to the employer I worked at all of those years. My wife Tammy and I had agreed that we would take it easy, and not make any big commitments for a while. So, I spoke at a local church conference, and did a few teaching assignments at church, but didn’t commit to any more than that. What we were doing, though we didn’t know it at the time, was what Jeff Haanen writes about when he states that “the early years of retirement provide the perfect time to take a much-needed sabbatical”, in his excellent book An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God’s Purpose for the Next Season of Life.
Tammy was worried about how I would adapt to retirement.  She knew that I had loved being a leader in a Fortune 50 organization, working with some wonderful people over the years. Would I be left without my identity as a leader? Fortunately, I made a very good transition into retirement, with a new found love of writing and additional time to pour into relationships. But that’s not the case with everyone.  Many people, after enjoying the first months of retirement, and perhaps a few trips, find themselves feeling lost in this new season of life. After looking forward to no longer having to work, having more time to travel and play golf, they find themselves singing the old Peggy Lee song, wondering “Is that all there is?” That’s why I highly recommend that you go into retirement with your eyes wide open. You need to prepare yourself for what God has next for you.
Keep your eyes wide open in these three key areas: Continue reading


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

All That You Can’t Leave Behind – U2 (20th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition)
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I have a long, and complicated, relationship with U2. From the Christian content on War the brilliance of The Joshua Tree and through Achtung Baby, U2 was my favorite band. I saw them in concert for the first time on their Zoo TV tour – a concert that I really looked forward to – and was completely turned off. I skipped their Zooropa and Pop albums, and was pretty much done with them. In October 2000, they released All That You Can’t Leave Behind. Pete, a team member of mine, ran over and bought the album over lunch. I didn’t plan to purchase it, but he let me borrow it that night. The U2 I loved was back.
I saw two shows on their tour supporting the album – one before the 9/11 tragedy and one after, two very different shows. The album would go on to win seven Grammy Awards, including record of the year and best rock album.
U2 has released four studio albums in the past 20 years, all good but not great. This was their last great album. Some of their political views (pro-abortion, for example), of the past few years has again soured me on the band. Like I said, my relationship with the band is complicated.
Twenty years to the day of its original release, the band released a 20th Anniversary Edition of the album in multiple formats. The “Super Deluxe” audio edition includes 51 songs, including the unreleased “The Ground Beneath Her Feet”, a previously released (on video) Boston concert, B-sides, outtakes and remixes. The original album has been remastered and sounds great. I’m generally not a fan of remixes, and four dances remixes of “Elevation” seems excessive. Still, I would recommend this for fans off U2’s music.

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  • Music News
  • Song of the Week Lyrics

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges. 343 pages. NavPress. 1991
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I’ve read most of the books written by Jerry Bridges, who went home to be with the Lord in 2016. I first read this book in a class at Covenant Seminary about eight years ago, and I recently read and discussed it again with a friend.
Bridges writes that the Bible teaches we are not only saved by grace, but we also live by grace every day of our lives. He tells us that it is this important aspect of grace that seems to be so little understood or practiced by Christians. A key point is that many of us tend to base our personal relationship with God on our performance instead of on His grace. That is, if we have performed well (had our “quiet time”, etc.), then we expect God to bless us. If we haven’t done so well, our expectations are reduced accordingly. In this sense, we live by works rather than by grace. Bridges tells us that though we are saved by grace, we are often live by our own performance. The realization that our daily relationship with God is based on the infinite merit of Christ instead of on our own performance is a very freeing and joyous experience.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review…
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ Providence by John Piper
I’M CURRENTLY READING…. Continue reading


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Fear Not

We often deal with fear in our lives.  To be afraid is not a sin, but can be perceived, like worry, as not trusting God for all of our circumstances. Fear comes in all shapes and sizes, and for both rational and irrational reasons. We can be afraid of a lot of things, from severe turbulence on our flight, to our favorite sports team losing a big game. Oftentimes in my life fear has come around health or medical issues. Let me explain.

Early in our marriage, my wife had a brain tumor. After two surgeries and radiation treatment, she has been healthy for 32 years now.  But some recent eye issues led one of her doctors to order an MRI “just to rule everything out”. We knew what that meant, and it really rocked our world. We prayed as much as we had ever prayed, trusting God for His will to be done. Because of another serious medical issue in the family, we decided not to burden an already overly taxed family about the upcoming MRI, which could end up revealing nothing anyway. We grew closer together during the time leading up to the procedure.  However, while impatiently waiting for the MRI results, even as we prayed, fear crept in, especially as we thought about all of the “What if’s”. Continue reading