Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

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Book Reviews

UncommonUncommon: Finding Your Path to Significance by Tony Dungy. Tyndale Momentum. 288 pages. 2009. Audiobook read by Tony Dungy.
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This book was released shortly after Coach Tony Dungy announced his retirement from coaching the Indianapolis Colts in the National Football League. I read the book when it was first released and recently read it again. The book is addressed to men, even more specifically to young men, though men of all ages will benefit from reading it.

Dungy writes that two young men were the motivation for him to write the book: “Two boys, two different backgrounds, two different upbringings. Both followed the “wide road” and ended up in prison, which tells me that our society is facing a widespread problem. It is not an inner-city problem, or an economic problem, or even a religious problem. The kind of ideas our young people are buying into and the pressure to conform are causing our teenagers to follow the path of least resistance.”

He states that the book came about due to two separate but related causes. First, after the release of his first book Quiet Strength he received a number of letters and emails from men, particularly young men, who indicated that they were struggling with what it meant to be a man in today’s culture. Second, he noticed that young men coming into the NFL were increasingly less prepared to be a man, and in need of more direction.

In thirty-one short chapters, Dungy shares a lifetime of wisdom, much of which he learned from his parents, on a wide variety of topics all designed to help develop what he calls an uncommon man. A few of the takeaways I had from the book were:

  • Character. How you do things is more important than what you do. We build character through the little things we do.
  • Integrity. Integrity is doing the right thing when nobody is watching. Dishonesty will eventually catch up with you. We can’t control our reputation (what others think of us), but we can control our integrity.
  • Humility and Availability. Don’t blow your own horn. There is a fine line between confidence and pride. Billy Graham and Tom Landry were examples mentioned. God often works through ordinary, humble and available people.
  • Stewardship. Stewardship recognizes that life is not about us, but about and owned by God. Stewardship is not ownership. How we steward our time and gifts is important.
  • Convictions and Principles. It takes courage to stick with our convictions and principles. Don’t give in to peer pressure.
  • Treating Women. The way you treat a woman will impact all other areas of your life. Many men have not had good role models in this area, having fathers who were either too strong or too passive.
  • Fathers. Children need positive role models as fathers. Be present – don’t be an absentee father. Watch how you speak to your children –words matter. Make memories with your children.
  • Friendship. What benefits do you bring to your friendships? Choose your friends for their values.
  • Mentoring. Mentoring is building character into the lives of others and leaving a legacy.
  • Work and Purpose. Be careful about making job/career decisions primarily based on money. Leave work at work. Be fully present with your family. Don’t be so busy making a living that you forget to live.
  • Failure. Failure is part of the journey to success. The uncommon man stays focused on his goals and values during times of adversity.
  • Style over Substance. Many men find their significance in status and success. Choosing style over substance obscures what is really important in living a significant life. A life centered on Christ will re-direct our focus to direct our priorities to what really matters. It is never too late to adjust our priorities. Don’t confuse your value with what you do.
  • Sexual integrity. Sexual activity was designed for those in a marriage relationship. Run from sexual sin (porn, affairs, etc.).
  • Platform/Role Model. Use whatever platform you have been given to positively impact lives. Right or wrong, someone is always watching you. It’s important to see yourself as a role model. Dungy shares the positive impact his parents and uncles have had on his life as role models.
  • Faith and Relationship with Christ. You were created by God and He cares about you in every circumstance.
  • Purpose. We were intentionally designed by God to have a unique and significant impact on those you meet, and also on those you will never meet.
  • Significance. God calls us to be faithful, not successful. God’s scorecard is different from ours. At the end of each major part of the book Dungy helpfully summarizes the key points from that section. At the end of the book is a 32-page “Q&A” with Coach Dungy in which he answers 73 questions that relate to each of the chapters of the book. This would be an excellent book to read not only individually, but also with a son or as a part of a Men’s study group.   Since the publication of this book, Dungy has continued the Uncommon theme with The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge (which I read daily) and Uncommon Marriage: What We’ve Learned about Lasting Love and Overcoming Life’s Obstacles Together.

Tim Keller's New Book on PrayerPrayer 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 2: The Greatness of Prayer

Rather, in them he reveals what he asked most frequently for his friends—what he believed was the most important thing God could give them. What is that? It is—to know him better.

  • It means having the “eyes of their hearts. . . enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18).
  • It is to have a more vivid sense of the reality of God’s presence and of shared life with him.
  • Therefore, knowing God better is what we must have above all if we are to face life in any circumstances.
  • Paul’s main concern, then, is for their public and private prayer life. He believes that the highest good is communion or fellowship with God.
  • He does not see prayer as merely a way to get things from God but as a way to get more of God himself.
  • If we give priority to the outer life, our inner life will be dark and scary.
  • To discover the real you, look at what you spend time thinking about when no one is looking, when nothing is forcing you to think about anything in particular. At such moments, do your thoughts go toward God?
  • If you aren’t joyful, humble, and faithful in private before God, then what you want to appear to be on the outside won’t match what you truly are.
  • The infallible test of spiritual integrity, Jesus says, is your private prayer life.
  • Those with a genuinely lived relationship with God as Father, however, will inwardly want to pray and therefore will pray even though nothing on the outside is pressing them to do so. They pursue it even during times of spiritual dryness, when there is no social or experiential payoff.
  • At the heart of all the various ways of knowing God is both public and private prayer.
  • I can think of nothing great that is also easy. Prayer must be, then, one of the hardest things in the world.
  • When your prayer life finally begins to flourish, the effects can be remarkable.
  • The Bible is all about God, and that is why the practice of prayer is so pervasive throughout its pages. The greatness of prayer is nothing but an extension of the greatness and glory of God in our lives. The Scripture is one long testimony to this truth.
  • To fail to pray, then, is not to merely break some religious rule—it is a failure to treat God as God. It is a sin against his glory.
  • Jesus Christ taught his disciples to pray, healed people with prayers, denounced the corruption of the temple worship (which, he said, should be a “house of prayer”), and insisted that some demons could be cast out only through prayer. He prayed often and regularly with fervent cries and tears (Heb 5:7), and sometimes all night.
  • When he faced his greatest crisis, he did so with prayer. We hear him praying for his disciples and the church on the night before he died (John 17:1–26) and then petitioning God in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Finally, he died praying.
  • All Christians are expected to have a regular, faithful, devoted, fervent prayer life.
  • Christians are taught that prayer should pervade their whole day and whole life—they should “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17).
  • Prayer is so great that wherever you look in the Bible, it is there. Why? Everywhere God is, prayer is. Since God is everywhere and infinitely great, prayer must be all-pervasive in our lives.
  • One of the greatest descriptions of prayer outside of the Bible was written by the poet George Herbert (1593–1633) in his “Prayer (I).” The poem is remarkable for tackling the immense subject of prayer in just one hundred words and without a single verb or prose construction. Instead, Herbert gives us some two dozen word pictures.
  • Prayer is a natural human instinct.
  • Prayer is a nourishing friendship.
  • Prayer changes those around us.
  • Prayer is a journey.
  • Prayer helps us endure.
  • Prayer is learning who you are before God and giving him your essence. Prayer means knowing yourself as well as God.
  • Prayer is rebellion against the evil status quo of the world
  • Prayer changes things.
  • Prayer is a refuge.
  • Through prayer, which brings heaven into the ordinary, we see the world differently, even in the most menial and trivial daily tasks. Prayer changes us.
  • Prayer unites us with God himself.
  • Prayer is awe, intimacy, struggle—yet the way to reality. There is nothing more important, or harder, or richer, or more life-altering. There is absolutely nothing so great as prayer.

Book News

  • The Biggest StoryOn My Shelf: Life and Books with Tom Schreiner. Matt Smethurst continues his series of visiting with various writers through a behind-the-scences glimpse into their lives as readers. This time he corresponds with Tom Schreiner, professor of New Testament theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
  • Praying the Bible. Tim Challies reviews the new book Praying the Bible from Don Whitney.
  • Kevin DeYoung Children’s Book. DeYoung’s first children’s book The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden will be published August 31.

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Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence ~ married to my best friend for more than 37 years, a St. Louis Cardinals fan, a manager at a Fortune 50 company, a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary, and in leadership at my local church. I enjoy speaking about calling, vocation and work. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop to their fullest potential and to utilize their strengths more fully. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinders themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony and Achiever, and my two StandOut strengths roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book and Colossians 3:23 my favorite verse. Some of my other favorite books are Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, The Prodigal Son (originally titled A Tale of Two Sons) by John MacArthur and Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I enjoy Christian hip-hop/rap music, with Lecrae, Trip Lee and Andy Mineo being some of favorite artists.

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