Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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This month marks 18 years since we started as a four-page monthly church newsletter in September, 1998. Much has remained the same – we aim to look at contemporary culture (movies, books, music, news) from a Christian worldview.  We transitioned to a non-church specific blog in late 2013.
Thanks for making us part of your life. Please let us know how we can we better serve you.

recommended-resourcesSermon on the Mount by Sinclair B. FergusonSermon on the Mount

I recently enjoyed listening (for the second time) to Sinclair Ferguson’s excellent 12-part teaching series Sermon on the Mount. Ligonier describes the series as follows:

“In the face of scorn and disbelief, Jesus Christ announced His kingdom. In the face of hatred and death, He demonstrated its power. In this twelve-lecture series, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson explains how the Sermon on the Mount equips us to live a kingdom life in a fallen world. Dr. Ferguson highlights Christ’s exhortations to live counter-culturally, to examine the deeper implications of God’s law, and to rest in the knowledge of God as Father for the cure of all our anxieties.”

You can watch the first message “Life in the Kingdom” and find out how to order the DVD or CD here.

book reviews

every-season-prayersEvery Season Prayers: Gospel-Centered Prayers for the Whole of Life by Scotty Smith. Baker Books. 336 pages. 2016.

With his first book, 2001’s Objects of His Affection, I was gripped by the honesty, transparency and Gospel-centeredness of Scotty Smith. I told my pastor that my desire was to take a class at Covenant Seminary with Scotty. Much later, I was blessed to have not one, but two wonderful classes with Scotty that I described as small tastes of Heaven, and have since read with joy each of his books. His daily Heavenward prayers come into my email inbox and often times speak directly to something that my wife and I have been dealing with at the time. He has told me that he receives similar feedback from friends all around the world.

His first book of prayers, Everyday Prayers, has been a daily companion of mine since it was published in 2011. I’m so excited about this new volume of prayers, which will be a treasured part of my morning devotional reading.

This new sequel to Everyday Prayers, which had a prayer for each day of the year, is arranged topically, so readers can, as Scotty tells us, find a prayer applicable to a particular need, mood or issue. He states that he wrote most of these new prayers in response to comments asking him for prayers for a particular topic. He also received many suggestion for prayers of different forms, lengths and voices, including many from pastors and worship leaders for prayers of confession and family worship.

Scotty’s intent with this new book, as it was with Everyday Prayers, is to equip God’s people to pray, not to do their praying for them.  To help with that, he has included exercises in the book that will enable the reader to develop their own voice in prayer as well as cultivate a listening heart.

It is with joy that I highly commend this new book of prayers to you. May it be a wonderful daily companion for years to come!

we-shall-see-god-alcornWe Shall See God: Charles Spurgeon’s Classic Devotional Thoughts on Heaven by Randy Alcorn. Tyndale House Publishers. 336 pages. 2011

This unique book of 50 readings features excerpts from the sermons of the great London preacher Charles Spurgeon on the subject of heaven, along with supplemental thoughts from Randy Alcorn. Alcorn has read more than 150 books on heaven and has written a bestseller on the subject appropriately titled, Heaven. Alcorn writes that Spurgeon’s teachings about heaven are some of the most poignant, moving, and biblically insightful that he has read on the subject. This book is his attempt to help readers access wonderful Spurgeon insights into heaven they might otherwise never know.

Alcorn has taken some steps to make Spurgeon’s writings more readable to the modern reader (shortening sentences, substituting words to more plainly communicate his thoughts, adding explanatory information in brackets where there are confusing phrases, using the English Standard Version (ESV) translation rather than the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, etc.).

In each of Alcorn’s portions, he refers back to something Spurgeon has said in his sermons. Sometimes he integrates stories from Spurgeon’s life that help give context and personal meaning to his words. He also quotes other authors whose books Spurgeon read and loved, including Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Richard Baxter, and Jonathan Edwards.

This summer I read this book as a devotional while I read Alcorn’s Heaven.

book news

  • the-boy-born-deadChristianaudio FREE Audiobook for September. This month, Christianaudio is offering The Boy Born Dead by David Ring as their free audiobook of the month. Here’s their description of the book: “In 1953, in Jonesboro, Arkansas, a baby boy was born–dead. The attending physician set his little body aside and tended to his mother for eighteen minutes. Now, more than sixty years later, that boy leads an internationally known ministry that encourages hundreds of thousands every year. The Boy Born Dead tells his incredible story from the perspective of his best friend, David Wideman. Full of hope, this moving story illustrates how friendship and love triumph over adversity. Anyone who faces tough times will treasure this story of hope and courage. This is a 2016 Audie Award winner.”
  • Crucial Questions: 25 FREE eBooks from R.C. Sproul. Ligonier Ministries has recently published three new (and free) ebooks in the Crucial Questions series – Are People Basically Good?, How Can I Be Blessed?, and How Should I Think about Money?  
  • Kindle Deals for Christians. One of the things I most look forward to each morning (Monday through Saturday) from Tim Challies is his daily list of Kindle deals.
  • 35 Books Mark Dever Recommends for Discipling Relationships. Kevin Halloran writes “In the appendix of Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus, Mark Dever shares thirty-five books besides the Bible recommended for discipling others, sorted by author last name.”
  • Rediscovering J. C. Ryle’s Holiness. Ben Rogers writes “Have we become distracted by politics, controversy, party spirit, and the world? Has our standard of living fallen painfully below the New Testament standard? Have we failed to beautify our profession with our daily habits and tempers? If so, then we still need J. C. Ryle’s Holiness.
  • The Apostle. Tim Challies reviews John Pollock’s book The Apostle. He writes “First written nearly 50 years ago and then recently revised, I found The Apostle a joy and a blessing to read. It helps me understand the life and times of its character and, even better, helps me better understand the words he wrote. It makes me want to know more about this man Paul and the God he served at the cost of his reputation, his health, and even his life.”
  • Hot New Releases of Leadership Books | August, 2016. Paul Sohn looks at five new leadership books.
  • The Bestsellers: Heaven Is For Real. Tim Challies continues his series of looking at bestselling books in the Christian marketplace. This time he looks at Heaven is for Read by Todd Burpo, which was also made into a film.
  • If Pedophilia is a Sexual Orientation, Now What? Denny Burk writes “In this book Kershnar questions whether pedophilia should be considered a mental disorder and/or morally wrong.”
  • 15 Great Quotes on 1 Great Chapter. Tim Challies shares these 15 quotes from Derek Thomas’ excellent book on Romans 8, How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home.
  • Devoted to GodDevoted to God. Banner of Truth recently announced a few upcoming releases, including Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification by Sinclair Ferguson. Can’t wait for this one.
  • The Second Life of the Man Who Wouldn’t Run on Sunday. Owen Strachan reviews the new book about Eric Liddell For the Glory by Duncan Hamilton.
  • Coming Together in Polarizing Times….Is It Possible? This is the Introduction to Scott Sauls excellent book Jesus Outside the Lines, which Tammy and I are reading and discussing.
  • Six Keys to Understanding the Treasure Principle. In this 10-minute video, Randy Alcorn and Pastor Todd Wagner of Watermark Church and I discuss the six keys from Alcorn’s book The Treasure Principle.
  • 100 of the Best Quotes from J.I. Packer. Kevin Halloran shares these great quotes from theologian/author J.I. Packer, best known for his book Knowing God.
  • Hillbilly Elegy Lives up to the Hype. Denny Burk highly recommends the new book Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D.
  • 21 Books on My Summer Reading List. Kevin Halloran shares his summer reading list with an assortment of related links, mini-reviews, and a couple of freebies.
  • The Blessing of Humility. Tim Challies reviews Jerry Bridges’ excellent book The Blessing of Humility. He writes “Read it and consider reading it with a group of friends. You will benefit, they will benefit, and everyone around you will benefit.”
  • Being There: How to Love Those Who Are Hurting. David Murray looks at David Furman’s new book Being There. He writes “But out of this darkness, comes a beautiful book in which Dave comforts others with the comfort he has received from God, and teaches others the lessons he’s been learning in the school of affliction.”
  • The Temple and the Tabernacle. Tim Challies reviews The Temple and the Tabernacle: A Study of God’s Dwelling Places from Genesis to Revelation by J. Daniel Hays. He writes “The Temple and the Tabernacle is as good a book as I’ve read in 2016 and it is one I gladly commend to you.”
  • A Case for Beautiful Orthodoxy. Scott Sauls writes “I don’t know about you, but this is the kind of orthodoxy I want. Beautiful orthodoxy. The kind that electrifies the light so lovely. The kind that gives a tired, sometimes cynical world a reason to pause and consider…and to start wishing it was true.”

BOOK CLUBS – Won’t you read along with us?

Jesus Outside the LinesJesus Outside the Lines BOOK CLUB

Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides by Scott Sauls

This is a book I’ve been wanting – and not wanting – to read for a while. I’ve wanted to read it because I enjoy Scott Sauls’ blog posts and I’ve heard a lot of good things about the book. He’s a pastor in the same denomination I serve in, he served with Tim Keller at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, graduated from Covenant Seminary and is a St. Louis Cardinals fan. What’s not to like about the guy?

I’ve not wanted to read the book because I think it’s going to challenge me to get out of my comfortable box. How about reading along with Tammy and I?

This week we look at highlights from

Chapter Two: For the Unborn or for the Poor?

  • Both sides claim that they are upholding the sanctity of human life. Both sides claim that their utmost concern is for “the least of these.” Both sides believe without a doubt that Jesus is on their side. And both sides, believing that they possess the moral high ground, launch verbal and digital grenades at the other for having such a low regard for human dignity.
  • According to Jesus, every single person ever born is a carrier of the divine imprint. To be human is to be created in the image of God.
  • It is an awareness of the image of God in every person—not merely some—that will enable us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Embracing every person’s God-given dignity also enables us to declare a cease and desist on a posture that is prone to taking sides and looking for something or someone to be offended by.
  • It is people, even more than places and things, who manifest the glory and beauty and magnificence of God. We are made in his image. We are created in his likeness. We are carriers of his imprint.
  • And the more the light of God shines in us and through us as we behold the face of Christ, the more like Christ we will become. The more like Christ we become, the more his fractured image in us will be restored. The more his fractured image in us is restored, the less we will want to medicate our fractured egos by putting others down and diminishing others’ dignity through gossip, slander, prejudice, and exclusion. And the less we diminish others’ dignity, the more we will want to uphold and affirm and celebrate others’ dignity as Jesus does. And the more we uphold and affirm and celebrate others’ dignity as Jesus does, the less prone we will be to take sides in ways that Jesus does not.
  • We are not only to love those who are like us. We are even—no, especially—to love those who are not like us. This, in fact, is the true measure of whether love resides in the heart. This is the true measure that the light that shines out of darkness is also shining in and through us.
  • Jesus went out of his way to affirm the dignity of every type of person. The way that he came into the world and lived his life is proof positive of this.
  • To Jesus, everybody mattered.
  • While Jesus affirmed the dignity of every type of person, there were two particular types to whom he gave special attention and for whom he had a glaring soft spot. These were, to a political conservative’s delight, little children and, to a political liberal’s delight, the poor.
  • Jesus is eager to speak on behalf of all kinds of people, but especially those who are not able to speak for themselves.
  • Perhaps there is no greater way for Jesus to uphold the dignity of the poor than by choosing to be poor himself.
  • Besides choosing to be poor himself, Jesus upheld the dignity of the poor and gave special attention to those who had nothing.
  • But his listeners weren’t sick. They were not sick or desperately poor. Their desire was to keep themselves clean from all the messiness involved in moving toward the sick, the poor, and those on the margins. Their desire was to keep themselves free from the costs and inconveniences of love.
  • Privileged people can have a hard time sympathizing with those who have no idea what it feels like to be privileged. We can be incredibly naive about the plight of the poor and the unique pressures that the poor encounter every single day.
  • Poor conditions often breed poor choices.
  • The conditions in which the poor must live, including the shortage of resources and opportunities to improve their situations, are what make them poor and keep them poor.
  • Why is it more blessed to give? Because God is by nature a giver, and every person carries his imprint and is made in his likeness.
  • From the cross where Jesus, the pure image of God, was deconstructed and dismantled, Jesus secured the reconstruction of God’s image in us. Now Jesus, the resurrected and returning King, sees the ruins in us and envisions a conduit for God’s glory and wholeness.

Studies in the Sermon on the MountStudies in the Sermon on the Mount BOOK CLUB

Studies 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 Four from Volume Two, “When Ye Pray”

  • Our Lord clearly found it necessary not only to warn His followers against certain dangers in connection with prayer, but also to give them positive instruction.
  • Prayer is beyond any question the highest activity of the human soul.
  • It is the highest activity of the human soul, and therefore it is at the same time the ultimate test of a man’s true spiritual condition. There is nothing that tells the truth about us as Christian people so much as our prayer life.
  • Ultimately, therefore, a man discovers the real condition of his spiritual life when he examines himself in private, when he is alone with God.
  • It is not only the highest activity of the soul, it is the ultimate test of our true spiritual condition.
  • More and more we miss the very greatest blessings in the Christian life because we do not know how to pray aright.
  • We need to be taught how to pray, and we need to be taught what to pray for.
  • `The Lord’s Prayer’. It is a perfect synopsis of our Lord’s instruction on how to pray, and what to pray for.
  • The first is that this prayer is undoubtedly a pattern prayer. The very way in which our Lord introduces it indicates that.
  • That does not mean, of course, that when we pray we are simply to repeat the Lord’s Prayer and stop at that, for that is obviously something that was not true of our Lord Himself.
  • We might say that what we have in the Lord’s Prayer is a kind of skeleton.
  • The Lord’s Prayer covers everything; and all we do is to take these principles and employ and expand them and base our every petition upon them. That is the way in which it is to be approached.
  • This prayer is obviously meant not only for the disciples, but for all Christians in all places and at all times.
  • Do you know that the essence of true prayer is found in the two words in verse 9, `Our Father’? I suggest that if you can say from your heart, whatever your condition, `My Father’, in a sense your prayer is already answered.
  • Prayer means speaking to God, forgetting ourselves, and realizing His presence.
  • It is only those who are true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who can say, `Our Father’.
  • It is vital when we pray to God, and call Him our Father, that we should remind ourselves that He is `our Father which is in heaven’, that we should remind ourselves of His majesty and of His greatness and of His almighty power.
  • Remember that you are approaching the almighty, eternal, ever-blessed holy God. But remember also that that God, in Christ, has become your Father, who not only knows all about you in the sense that He is omniscient, He knows all about you also in the sense that a father knows all about his child.

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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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