Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

Living Life Before the Face of God on November 4, 2014

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2015 Oscar Predictions ~ My good friend Jason knows his movies. Each year he puts together his Oscar predictions. I thought you might enjoy seeing his picks this year.

Music News and Reviews – Rise by Trip Lee and Love Ran Red Deluxe Edition by Chris Tomlin

Book Review ~ Ask It: The Question That Will Revolutionize How You Make Decisions by Andy Stanley. Multinomah. 208 pages. 2014 (Revised and updated edition of The Best Question Ever)

~ THIS AND THAT ~A.W. Tozier book


ChrIstianaudio’s free audiobook of the month. Download your copy of the free audiobook for November ~ The Attributes of God, Volume 1 by A.W. Tozier.

Dancing for the DevilDancing for the Devil: One Woman’s Dramatic and Divine Rescue from the Sex Industry, tells the story of Anny Donewald’s transformation and her ministry. Anny was the youngest daughter of good friends of ours in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. After being abused by one of her father’s college basketball players, she fell into a dark life. After God intervened in her life, she founded Eve’s Angels, a ministry to women and girls exploited by the adult entertainment industry. Read the interview with Anny “Hope for Women in Hell”.

Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World. Read this interview with Michael Horton on his new book about the type of Christianity that God loves.

New video for Eric Metaxas’ book Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life. I’m reading the book now and will run a review in the next few weeks.


Oscar Tavares TributeMike Matheny is the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals and has always been open about his Christian faith. His team has just suffered a significant loss, the death of 22 year old right fielder Oscar Taveras in a car accident. I liked this article from Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, indicating that Matheny is the right leader for the Cardinals to have at this difficult time.

Tribute to Oscar Taveras. The St. Louis Cardinals paid tribute to Oscar Taveras, their young right fielder killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic on October 26 by leaving the right field lights on at Busch Stadium Tuesday, the day of his funeral.

Did you see the incredible video of the St. Louis Arch being cleaned? For the first time since the Gateway Arch in St. Louis was completed, crews collected stains from the structure in an attempt to figure out what caused them to form. The National Park Service is hoping to sample the stains and figure out what caused them so they can be removed. How much would you need to be paid to take on this work?

Mars Hill Church to Dissolve. The campuses of multi-site Mars Hill Church in Seattle, the church founded and led by Mark Driscoll up until his recent resignation will dissolve into separate churches.

We Are Not Our Own: On God, Brittany Maynard, and Physician-Assisted Suicide. John Piper writes “We are not our own. We live and we die and we suffer for the glory of Christ, our Lord. And we never forget the truth that makes everything worth it: “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).


What is it about C.S. Lewis that makes such a huge impact on so many? Read Jon Bloom of Desiring God’s article “What is it about C.S. Lewis?”

Why Are So Many Middle-Aged Men Falling Into Sexual Sin? Larry Tomczak writes “In the past few years there seems to be an epidemic of adulterous and sexually inappropriate relationships coming to light on a regular basis.”

What are the marks of a deadly sin? Tim Challies shares the seven marks of a deadly sin in his latest installment of his series on John Owen’s classic book Overcoming Sin and Temptation.

What are the perils facing the Evangelical church today? First of all, what does “Evangelical” mean? Read this article from R.C. Sproul.

What is the state of theology in our country today? A new survey from Ligonier Ministries helps point out common gaps in theological knowledge and awareness so that Christians might be more effective in the proclamation, teaching, and defense of the essential truths of the Christian faith.


“Is the Reformation Over?” by Kevin DeYoung. Are there still critical doctrinal issues which rightly divide Protestants and Catholics? Absolutely. We do neither side any favors by pretending otherwise.

How much do you know about Reformed Theology? Check out this article “10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew about Reformed Theology”.

Reformation Day marks the anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his Ninety-five Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. That act by a passionate monk is often recognized as the flashpoint of the Protestant Reformation. In a special program on “Renewing Your Mind,” John MacArthur sits down with Dr. R.C. Sproul to discuss the importance of Sola Scriptura, the vital work of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other reformers, and how the battle for the sufficiency and inerrancy of Scripture continues to this day. You can listen to their insightful, encouraging discussion here.

“New Poll Finds Evangelicals’ Favorite Heresies”. Most American evangelicals hold views condemned as heretical by some of the most important councils of the early church. That statement, which should, but perhaps doesn’t shock us. Here’s an article on the same survey from Trevin Wax: “Here’s Where Your Neighbors Are Theologically”.


Augustine of Hippo was one of the most influential thinkers in the history of the Church and Western civilization. How much do you know about Augustine? Read Dr. Keith Mathison’s article about Augustine.

Martin Luther defined faith as “Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures.” Read this brief excerpt from his book An Introduction to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans.


Do you have questions about prayer? Tim Keller’s new book is on prayer. Check out this interview with him on ten questions about prayer.

A Prayer for the Gospel to Impact Our Heads, Hearts, and Hands. Here is a wonderful prayer from Scotty Smith asking that the gospel increasingly impact us and our community, the same way it landed on the hearts of the men and women of Thessalonica.


Did you see Daniel Radcliffe (Harry from the Harry Potter films) rap the alphabet on The Tonight Show recently? If not, check it out here:

Beyond the Ark by Doug Michael

Beyond the Ark by Doug Michael

Faith and Work Book Clubs – Won’t you read along with us?

 What’s Best Next Book Club What's Best Next

What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman

We continue with our overview of this new book on productivity from a Christian perspective. This week we look at Chapter 20: Managing Email and Workflow.

 God at WorkGod at Work Book Club

God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life by Gene Edward Veith Jr.

When we recently visited St. Andrews Chapel where R.C. Sproul is one of the pastors, this book was the church’s “Book of the Month”. I’m excited to read it. We’ll look at a chapter each week. Won’t you read along with us? This week we cover Chapter 2: How God Works Through Human Beings.
Faith and Work Integrating Faith and Work: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Leadercast Live speakers for the May 8 event have been announced. They include Andy Stanley, Peyton Manning, Seth Godin, Rudy Giuliani and several others. As the event gets closer we’ll let you know of the local host locations for the simulcast.

Do you want to get paid for doing what you love? How do you take something you love and turn it into a career? Andy Andrews has some suggestions to help you.

How can you glorify God at work? Check out this article for a few ideas from John Piper.

Do you know how to effectively handle criticism that you receive – on the job or off? Here are some helpful suggestions from Dr. Alan Zimmerman in this week’s Tuesday Tip.

Pastors should visit the workplaces of their church members. It’s a suggestion from Greg Forster and I think it’s a great idea.

How to Get Things Done: Information Management. “An information management tool is used to collect, manage and access important information. If you will need to remember or access information in the future, it goes into this tool”, writes Tim Challies in his next installment of his series on productivity.

All of Life is for Jesus – including our work. Jim Mullins writes that for five minutes before his church’s sermons, they interview someone from the church about their vocation to demonstrate just that. Read his article “The Butcher, Baker or Biotech Maker”.

Bringing order out of chaos, one dirty job at a time is how window washer and seminary student Zachary Tarter describes his job. He states “I haven’t always intuitively classified my work as image-bearing, but as I’ve thought about it, I’ve seen that bringing order out of chaos reflects the image of God.” Read this interview with Zachary to hear more about that.

What do you feel the most important leadership characteristic is? Different leadership experts will come up with different characteristics. Eric Geiger writes that in their book The Leadership Challenge, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner state that the most important leadership characteristic is credibility.

Every leader needs wise advisors, says Selma Wilson. To be a healthy leader, we need to seek out others for personal advice as well as counsel on critical decisions. Read her entire article “6 Nuggets of Wisdom for Leaders”.

Martin Luther’s Contribution to the Church’s View of Vocation. Did you know that the reformer Martin Luther helped develop a new doctrine of vocation? Andrew Spencer writes “He pushed back against the notion that certain callings, like his earlier monastic calling, were somehow more holy than working outside the church.”

“7 Performance Characteristics of a Great Team Member” by Ron Edmondson. How does a great team member perform on a team?

The Good Life. Trip Lee writes “To live is not wealth. To live is not worldly success. To live is not sex. To live is not family. To live is Christ.”

How to Recognize a Toxic Leader. Thom Rainer identifies 14 characteristics of a toxic church leader.

 Quotable:  Servant leaders also see themselves as accountable to those they lead. -Matt Permandivider 1

Visions of Vocation Visions of Vocation Book Club

Steven Garber was the speaker at my Covenant Seminary graduation in May. Tammy and I are reading his newest book Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good. Below are passages we discussed last week from our reading of Chapter 6: “Vocation as Implication”.

  • Can we know the world and still love it?
  • Uncle Peach did not deserve to be loved, and there was no indication that he was ever going to change.
  • Knowing what they knew, complicated and complex as it was, they chose to love. To do that with honesty and integrity is the most difficult task in the world.
  • But there are people who make that choice. Not out of grandeur or great ambition, but in the spirit of Berry’s vision: in the relationships and responsibilities of common life, they see themselves as implicated in the way the world is and ought to be. They see themselves as having vocations that call them into life, into the world—into a way of knowing that implicates them, for love’s sake.  And in the unfolding of my life, living where I have lived, working where I have worked, I have met some of those people.

Jonathan Groene—Kansas Born and Bred

  • In a place like Lawrence, it is not possible to say one thing and then do another and still keep your head up the next day.
  • Jonathan has become the words he advertised, living into his promise: a steward of visions and resources.

Todd and Maria Wahrenberger—MDs

  • One book they read was Denis Haack’s The Rest of Success, and his writing gave them reasons to rethink what ambition meant and what a good life might look like. A year later they formed a health clinic on the north side of Pittsburgh, near the stadiums, in a neighborhood that was medically underserved. As a wise friend has persuaded me, most things don’t work out very well. Even with hopes and dreams, the vision of a common practice was not sustainable, and eventually Todd and Maria took more responsibility for the work.
  • The day-by-day work of physicians took them into a community of people who needed doctors who would know them and still love them. All of us are like that, really. We hope that those who serve us will really care about us.
  • Their choice to enter into the complexity of medical care for people who need it but often do not take good care of themselves is reflective of a deeper way of knowing, a deeper vision of responsibility, a deeper kind of loving.
  • To see them in their work is to see people who love what they do and who love the ones they serve.
  • That is the best part of a vocation—to love and serve with gladness and singleness of heart. When we take the wounds of the world into our hearts—not just for a day, but for a life—we long to see the work of our hands as somehow, strangely, part of the work of God in the world, integral to the missio Dei, not incidental to it.
  • J. and Robin Smith—Tearing Corners Off of the Darkness
  • Because her own passions have been for “doing justice, loving mercy, walking humbly with God” for as long as I have known her, her analytical skills are never offered in the abstract, as if the research of the Institute is for ivory-towered policy wonks who live far away from ordinary people in ordinary places. For her, it always has to be worked at on the ground, in life.
  • She is a storyteller, deeply and professionally so. His great delight is to listen well and then help an organization tell its story through the wonders of the web.
  • To choose to step into frailty—or, as Berry describes Uncle Peach, being “poor, hurt, mortal”—is what a vocation is all about. We are called to care, especially about complexity because that is the world we live in.
  • For him there is always a longing that his work address both that which is wrong and that which might be and must be.
  • He wants the work of his hands to matter, to be part of “tearing a corner off of the darkness,” in Bono’s poetic image.

Santiago and Nicole Sedaca—At Work in the World

  • But it is the powerless people who live in villages and cities the world over who are the clients of Santiago, as they are the ones whose lives depend on the healthy social ecosystems that are the focus of his work.
  • It is critical to link the poor to markets, and through that process to help them understand how countries need to change their production and distribution systems in a way that helps create wealth for everyone, not just the powerful.

David Franz—Home Again

  • St. Augustine argued that the question What do you love? is the most important of all questions. While other questions matter, it is the question of our loves that goes to the heart of who we are.
  • Most of life is only understood in retrospect.
  • With an ever-deepening sense of vocation, he began taking up the questions that have become his, the interdisciplinary nexus of sociology and economics, but with a great interest in what the questions in those disciplines mean for ordinary people in ordinary places.
  • His work there is focused on the renewal of education in the local schools, bringing the years of his study about people and places through the lenses of his disciplines and making that insight useful to the people and place of Shafter.
  • There is an echo of Berry himself in David’s story, if we have ears to hear.
  • “I am from somewhere and from some people that my relationships to that place and those people give me a responsibility to and for them, and therefore my vocation will be found with them and among them.”
  • He wants honest coherence between his education and his vocation, so that what he has learned will be for the sake of where he has lived.

Kwang Kim—A Global Citizen

  • If there is a question at the heart of his life, it is this: What should the world be like?
  • Is captivated by the question, What ought we to be doing? Are there norms for development? Do we have any access to what it is supposed to be? Can we ever know what development should be? Are there any oughts and shoulds in this whatever world? Or are we only left with culturally relative “maybes” and “perhapses”?
  • Watching as I do, I am intrigued when someone sees seamlessly, when someone’s instincts are to find the connections between ideas, when someone assumes that there is a coherence to the cosmos—and that our task is to understand it. From my earliest conversations with Kwang, that was true. In the questions he asked and the visions he pursued there was a thread that ran through everything he took up. In a word, it was integrity. Not only for his life as a human being, an Asian/Latino/American, but as someone with a calling into the socio-political economies of the world, with their almost unfathomable complexity. Even in the midst of that work, Kwang wrestles his way to coherence.
  • For years now he has given time and energy to the renewal of North Korean culture, meeting monthly to pray with other Korean Americans in Washington, each one autobiographically implicated in the hopes of their homeland. The Washington group is only one of many like this all over the United States and Canada, each one full of eager, bright, motivated men and women who yearn together for a new day in Korea, where social and political and economic and artistic flourishing will become reality—because that is the way it is supposed to be, for everyone everywhere.
  • What should the world be like? is the animating question at the heart of Kwang’s life, making sense of his days and his nights. That is what a vocation is, and does.

Christopher Ditzenberger—Recasting the Paradigm of Pastor

  • Chris entered into the ministry with passions for people to understand the world and their place in it.
  • The credo for the Washington Institute is that “vocation is integral, not incidental, to the missio Dei.” Most of the time, all over the world, the church teaches otherwise, that vocation is incidental, not integral, to the missio Dei. It is always a compartmentalizing of faith from life, of worship from work, and it has tragic consequences for the church and the world.
  • He has also entered into a year-long learning community with folk from across the country, all focused on the same vision: Could we recast the paradigm? What would it look like in my congregation to rethink the relationship of worship to work, of liturgy to life and labor?
  • To see what we do as woven into the fabric of who God is and what the world is meant to be is the vision that has captured Chris’s heart. He longs to so understand his work that he is able to pastor people in their work, praying and preaching in such a way that ordinary people doing ordinary things see the sacramental meaning of their labor, a common grace for the common good.

Claudius and Deirdre Modesti—A Life for Others

  • After the Enron scandal that rocked the nation, with the complicity of major accounting firms fudging the numbers and creating a chasm of confidence in investment, Claudius was asked to give leadership to an effort that would bring more order to public accounting, and so for years now he has used his legal skill to oversee the financial records of major corporations.
  • Some of it is her family, some is her personality, some is her gift, some is her education, some is her community, but taken together she has eyes to see who people are and why they are. And over time she has become a trusted counselor, taking people seriously as she listens carefully.
  • People who keep at their callings for a lifetime are always people who suffer. The world is too hard and life is too broken for it to be otherwise.
  • Their life for others is a window into the meaning of common grace for the common good. From the hospitality of their table to the way they live in their neighborhood to the work that is theirs in the worlds of law and psychology, they have chosen vocations that give coherence, making sense of what they believe about God and the human condition, and have unfolded habits of heart that are a grace to the watching world.

George Sanker—Educating for Character and Competence

  • “Occasions [circumstances] do not make a man frail. Rather they show who he is.”
  • We make our way through the occupations of life, hoping and hoping that as we do our vocation becomes clearer to us, that over time we will come to know more and more about who we are and what matters to us, and who God is and what matters to him.
  • What was sorely lacking were “chests,” the mediating center where mind and passions could become alive together so that the student would become a whole human being.
  • A half-century later, Lewis’s critique forms the contours of George’s calling. He lives so that children will become men and women with chests, understanding that the way we educate the next generation will affect the way the world turns out. That is the telos that shapes his pedagogical praxis.

Gideon Strauss—Living with Hope

  • Often the longer we live, the more hardened we become. But sometimes some people still choose to enter in, knowing what they know of the world. Not naive, not innocents, but time-tested and able to step in again.
  • Still committed to thinking through the hardest questions, his work is now focused on developing leaders for vocations within the social structures of the church and the world. Never a romantic, Gideon lives with hope, understanding that to try and try again is the heart of a good life, living between what is and what someday will be.

Susan Den Herder—A Mother and More

  • Coherence, where what they believed about the world was more and more the way that they lived in the world.
  • Her studies, her loves, her marriage, her work, her children, together a vocation, she is making sense of life as she lives her life.
  • A Just Man Ordinary people in ordinary places, each one is a story of a life lived as a vocation. None have arrived, and each lives with a keen sense that more could be done.
  • What most do not know is that in Victor Hugo’s novel there is a lifetime behind that decision. If the stage play gives the bishop ten minutes, the novel tells the story of his whole life over almost one hundred pages, titling book one “A Just Man.” From the calling to a pastoral vocation on through to becoming a bishop, we come to know an unusual man.
  • And it is the story of a man who sees his vocation as implicated in the lives of people like that. He has chosen to live a common life for the common good. And Valjean, very slowly, makes that choice too. Profoundly formed by the bishop’s life, he begins to take up his new life with the same simple grace—not in the ministry, but in the marketplace. If the bishop’s clerical calling implicated him in the lives of his people, then it was the vocation of business for Valjean that drew him into the welfare of his workers and his city. And because he saw himself in relationship to a people in a place, he saw himself as responsible for the way their world turned out, for the way it was and the way it ought to be.

Scripture interprets Scripture

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence – married to my best friend Tammy, a graduate of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis Cardinals fan, formerly a manager at a Fortune 50 organization, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop, and to use their strengths to their fullest potential. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinder themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony, and Achiever, and my two StandOut strength roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book of the Bible, and Colossians 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 being my favorite verses. Some of my other favorite books are The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I enjoy music in a variety of genres, including modern hymns, Christian hip-hop and classic rock. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace and Tammy’s book Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold are available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

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