Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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book reviews
Good News of Great JoyGood News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent by John Piper. Desiring God. 78 pages. 2013

In this short book of daily readings for Advent, John Piper writes that Advent is for adoring Jesus. It is an annual season of patient waiting, hopeful expectation, soul-searching, and calendar-watching marked by many. Advent is a tradition that developed over the course of the church’s history as a time of preparation for Christmas Day. He writes that many have found observing Advent to be personally enjoyable and spiritually profitable.

Piper tells us that the English word “Advent” is from the Latin adventus, which means “coming.” Although the advent primarily in view each December is the first coming of Jesus two millennia ago, Piper tells us that Jesus’s second coming gets drawn in as well, as the popular Christmas carol “Joy to the World” makes plain.

Advent begins the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ends Christmas Eve. Piper states that Christians throughout the world have their different ways of celebrating Advent, such as lighting candles, singing songs, eating candies, giving gifts and hanging wreaths.

My wife and I started reading these meditations yesterday (December 1), to help us prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus and to keep Him as the center of our celebrations and the greatest treasure of our Advent season. The readings are short and can be completed in just a few minutes each day. I would recommend reading them with your spouse or family, if possible. An Appendix on Old Testament shadows and the coming of Christ coordinates with the meditation for December 12.

New Mohler bookWe Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrong by R. Albert Mohler Jr. 256 pages, Thomas Nelson, 2015.

Albert Mohler, the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, and one of the leading voices in evangelicalism today, has written a very important book regardless of where the reader stands on these issues. He states that we are now witnesses to a revolution that is sweeping away a sexual morality and a definition of marriage that has existed for thousands of years. He writes about that moral revolution, how it happened and what it means for us, for our churches, and for our children.

He takes us through the moral revolution and its vast impact. He states that any consideration of the eclipse of marriage in the last century must take into account four massive developments: birth control and contraception, divorce, advanced reproductive technologies, and cohabitation.

He includes a very interesting chapter on the transgender revolution and spends a chapter asking what the Bible really says about sex. I found the chapter on the real and urgent challenges to religious liberty to be of particular interest, recognizing many of the recent examples from culture he writes about. He also includes a very helpful “Question and Answer” section, in which he looks at 30 questions pertaining to the moral revolution. He concludes the book with a “Word to the Reader”, written in response to the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage.

Mohler writes that when it comes to marriage and morality, Christians cannot be silent—not because they are morally superior, but because they know that God has a better plan for humanity than we would ever devise for ourselves. He wrote the book in the hope that the church will be found faithful, even in the midst of the storm.

This is a well-researched and written book. Mohler states that we are facing nothing less than a comprehensive redefinition of life, love, liberty, and the very meaning of right and wrong. He has covered some of this information in his excellent daily podcast “The Briefing”, which features an analysis of the leading news headlines and cultural conversations from a Christian worldview. I can’t think of a more important book that I have read this year and highly recommend it.

book news

  • Big Christianaudio Sale. I always look forward to this semi-annual sale from Christianaudio in which almost their entire inventory of audiobooks is priced at just $7.49. Hurry, though. The sale ends at midnight Pacific time on December 18.
  • The Whole ChristThe Whole Christ. I can’t keep up with all of the new books by Sinclair Ferguson – a wonderful problem to have! While I’m reading Child in the Manger, I’ll look forward to The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters, with a Foreword by Tim Keller, to be published by Crossway on January 31.
  • The Plausibility Problem. Tim Challies reviews Same-Sex Attraction and the Church: The Surprising Plausibility of the Celibate Life by Ed Shaw. He writes “Shaw’s book is just the latest in a number of excellent titles pushing Christians to better understand and serve those who experience same-sex attraction. It helpfully identifies specific concerns and shows how the Bible calls us to meet them in God’s way. It does all of this with a firm grounding in Scripture and without an ounce of compromise. I highly recommend it.”
  • Lessons from a Hospital Bed. Another new book I’m looking forward to in 2016 is Lessons from a Hospital Bed by John Piper. The 80-page book will be published on February 29.
  • Jesus is Never Mentioned in the Psalms, but Tim Keller Sees Him There. Jonathan Merritt talks to Tim Keller about the new book he wrote with wife Kathy, The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms. Listen to the Kellers discuss the new book with Eric Metaxas here.
  • Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent Check out this book of Advent readings from John Piper and Desiring God, the e-book version being free. Tammy and I are using this in our daily readings as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ.
  • Recovering Redemption by Matt ChandlerChristianaudio Free Audiobook of the Month. The free audiobook for December is Recovering Redemption by Matt Chandler and Michael Snetzer. Recovering Redemption, written with a pastor’s bold intensity and a counselor’s discerning insight, takes you deeply into Scripture to take you deeply inside yourself. The authors discover that the heart of all our problems is truly the problem of our hearts. But because of what God has done, and because of what God can do, the most confident, contented person you know could actually be you—redeemed through Jesus Christ.
  • Top 15 Books of 2015. Here’s the first of many “Best” lists that I’ll be sharing (including my own). This one is Tony Reinke. His top book is Happiness by Randy Alcorn.

Top 15 Books

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?

Studies in the Sermon on the MountStudies in the Sermon on the Mount by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

This book made a significant impact on my wife Tammy when she read and discussed it with friends thirty years ago. When I picked up my diploma the day after graduation ceremonies from Covenant Seminary last year I was given a copy of this book. After enjoying Lloyd-Jones book Spiritual Depression (and the sermons the book was taken from), I couldn’t wait to read this book, which is the printed form of sermons preached for the most part on successive Sunday mornings at Westminster Chapel in London. This week we look at Chapter 15: The Light of the World.

  • First of all let us look at its negative import or claim. It always represents itself in terms of light, and men who are interested in that kind of movement always refer to it as `enlightenment’. Knowledge, they say, is that which brings light, and, of course, in so many respects it does.
  • Scripture still proclaims- that the world as such is in a state of gross darkness, in spite of our having discovered all this great and new knowledge, we have failed to discover the most important thing of all, namely, what to do with our knowledge.
  • Is it not obvious that our Lord’s statement is still true, that the world is in a state of terrible darkness? Think of it in the realm of personal life and conduct and behavior.
  • There is obviously no light at all in this world apart from the light that is provided by Christian people and the Christian faith.
  • The darkness of the world has never been more evident than it is now, and here comes this astonishing and startling statement. That, then, is the negative implication of our text.
  • Now let us consider its positive implications. Its claim is that the ordinary Christian, though he may never have read any philosophy at all, knows and understands more about life than the greatest expert who is not a Christian.
  • Let us always remember that it is a statement concerning the ordinary, average Christian, not certain Christians only. It is applicable to all who rightly claim this name.
  • The Lord who said, `Ye are the light of the world,’ also said, `I am the light of the world.’ These two statements must always be taken together, since the Christian is only `the light of the world’ because of his relationship to Him who is-Himself `the light of the world’.
  • It is essential that we bear in mind both aspects of this matter. As those who believe the gospel we have received light and knowledge and instruction. But, in addition, it has become part of us. It has become our life, so that we thus become reflectors of it.
  • The light that is Christ Himself, the light that is ultimately God, is the light that is in the Christian.
  • Here is a man who has become a Christian; he lives in society, in his office or workshop. Because he is a Christian he immediately has a certain effect, a controlling effect, which we considered together earlier. It is only after that, that he has this specific and particular function of acting as light. In other words Scripture, in dealing with the Christian, always emphasizes first what he is, before it begins to speak of what he does.
  • Far too often we Christians tend to reverse the order. We have spoken in a very enlightened manner, but we have not always lived as the salt of the earth. Whether we like it or not, our lives should always be the first thing to speak; and if our lips speak more than our lives it will avail very little. So often the tragedy has been that people proclaim the gospel in words, but their whole life and demeanor has been a denial of it. The world does not pay much attention to them.
  • Let us never forget this order deliberately chosen by our Lord; `the salt of the earth’ before `the light of the world’. We are something before we begin to act as something. The two things should always go together, but the order and sequence should be the one which He sets down here.
  • Bearing that in mind, let us now look at it practically. How is the Christian to show that he is indeed `the light of the world’?
  • The first thing light does is to expose the darkness and the things that belong to darkness.
  • Light not only reveals the hidden things of darkness, it also explains the cause of the darkness.
  • The sole cause of the troubles of the world at this moment, from the personal to the international level, is nothing but man’s estrangement from God. That is the light which only Christians have, and which they can give to the world.
  • In spite of all the knowledge that has been amassed in the last two hundred years since the beginning of the enlightenment half-way through the eighteenth century, fallen man by nature still `loves darkness rather than light’. The result is that, though he knows what is right, he prefers and does what is evil.
  • Light not only exposes the darkness; it shows and provides the only way out of the darkness.
  • What man needs is not more light; he needs a nature that will love the light and hate the darkness-the exact opposite of his loving the darkness and hating the light.
  • The Christian is here to tell him that there is a way to God, a very simple one. It is to know one Person called Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
  • He gives us that new life, the life that loves the light and hates the darkness, instead of loving the darkness and hating the light.

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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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