Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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ALBUM REVIEWS and NEWS

Album Reviews:

Cinco: The Album – Jim Gaffigan
****

Jim Gaffigan is my favorite comedian. Sometimes called “the clean comedian”, he gives us his common guy take on everyday topics such as his children, belts and morning people. I’ve seen him in concert in the past few years and will be catching him on his new tour later this year. This is the audio version of his fifth television special.
I found this material to be very funny, classic Gaffigan. My favorite bits were on seasons, leaves (my favorite), being fat (of course), binge watching, travel, eating fish, and a hilarious bonus clip about his Dad from 2001.
Included is a bonus disc is Gaffigan and wife Jeannie talking about each of the comedy bits on the special. Although not overly funny, I did find it to be interesting.

Therapy Session by NF
****

I came late to the NF game. It was only after hearing a few of these tracks – “I Just Wanna Know” and “Oh Lord” – on the radio that I decided to pick up the album, and I’m glad I did. Therapy Session is the sequel to the debut album Mansion by 25 year-old rapper NF (Nate Feuerstein). NF has had a difficult life thus far and he writes about that in these fourteen songs. The themes here are dark, and include pain, addiction, loss, depression and his critics. All songs are written by NF and Tommee Profitt, with the exception of Grindin’, on which Marty of the Social Club Misfits contributes.  Most of the songs were produced by Tommee Profitt unless otherwise noted.

Below are a few thoughts on each of the songs:    Continue reading

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

The Gospel According to Paul: Embracing the Good News at the Heart of Paul’s Teachings by John MacArthur. Thomas Nelson. 256 pages. 2017
****

I can’t think of anyone else that I would rather have write on the Gospel than John MacArthur. The 77-year-old pastor has faithfully served his church for more than 48 years. This is his third book in his The Gospel According To series, with previous books from the perspectives of Jesus and the Apostles.
The author writes that Paul was unlike any of the other apostles with his intelligence and academic credentials. Paul wrote more New Testament books than any other author. He consistently explained and defended the Gospel in his writings.
The author states that next to Jesus, Paul is the model for his pastoral ministry. Paul encourages us to imitate him and he imitated Christ.
The author reviews attacks on the Gospel (lordship salvation, etc.) he has addressed in some of his previous books. This book looks at the Gospel as Paul proclaims it in his writings; it also includes four appendices.
The author writes that the Gospel is under attack in our culture. It is also very much misunderstood by many. Most, if not all other religions besides Christianity, are works-based. They are about what we need to do. On the other hand, the Gospel is what God has already done for sinners. The Gospel is good news for sinners who can’t save themselves. But we first have to recognize that we are sinners and the helpless state of fallen humanity.
Paul has written that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. He also wrote that no one seeks after God. Yet many churches continue to design their worship experiences for the “seeker”.
Given sin, how can a man be made right with God? The author states that the Gospel is the answer to that question.
The author goes over Paul’s writing on justification by faith alone (Sola Fide), and that Christians are justified by grace through faith. Justification is a gift. Grace is why the Gospel is such good news.
The author discusses penal substitutionary atonement, which some liberal theologians find abhorrent. He writes about the Great Exchange (2 Corinthians 5:21) and the offense of the cross.
The author writes about the sovereignty of God in salvation, and that our salvation is entirely God’s work. Christ’s righteousness is imputed to sinners. Christ is our perfect substitute.
He also writes about such weighty topics as election, legalism and antinomianism in a manner that laypeople can easily understand them.
Highly recommended!

  • What I’m Reading. I found it interesting to see what Russell Moore has been reading lately.
  • 2017 Summer Reading List for Christians. David Qaoud shares 10 summer book recommendations. I’ve read most of these and have Reset and 12 Ways Your Smartphone is Changing You on my summer reading list.
  • A Stack of Books for the Season: Summer Reading List for 2017. Albert Mohler shares his summer reading list. He writes “The following is my list of ten recommended books for summer reading. This list must be seen for what it is — a recommendation of ten books I am eager to recommend — books that I found thought-provoking and fun. My summer list tends, quite naturally, to reveal what I most enjoy reading in the season. As usual, the list is weighted towards history and historical biography.”

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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

  • By the Way Conference.The Lexington Community Church, located in central Illinois, will hold the By the Way Conference, a whole family conference and worship time, Thursday, July 6 – Saturday, July 8. I’ll be speaking on the topic of “Disciples at Work” on Thursday, July 6 at 6:15 pm.  Please stop by if you are in the area.
  • My Amazon Reviews. Check out more than 260 of my book, music and movie reviews on Amazon.

POLITICS:

  • Os Guinness: “President Trump is God’s Wrecking Ball”. In this interview with Collin Hansen, Os Guinness states “The way I put it is I think President Trump is God’s wrecking ball stopping America in its tracks [from] the direction it’s going and giving the country a chance to rethink. Now we’re not putting our hope in the president or in politics, but you have a window to regroup, to rethink. The church profoundly needs reformation in all sorts of areas. So there’s a breathing space.”
  • Your Rabbi? Probably a Democrat. Your Baptist Pastor? Probably a Republican. Your Priest? Who Knows. Kevin Quealy writes “America’s pastors – the men and women a majority of Americans look to for help in finding meaning and purpose in their lives – are even more politically divided than the rest of us, according to anew data set representing the largest compilation of American religious leaders ever assembled.”

    Courtesy of World Magazine

IN THE NEWS:

  • The Life and Times of Redeemer Presbyterian Church. OnJune 25, Tim Keller will deliver his last sermon as senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. After nearly 30 years, Redeemer voted in May to split into three distinct churches. Few churches in our day have exerted so much global influence, though Redeemer’s primary focus has always been on its immediate Manhattan context. Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra writes about how Keller’s unlikely church plant changed the way Christians think about the city—and the way the city thinks about Christians.
  • Seattle Reboot: Life After Mars Hill. In this lengthy article, Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra writes “In the end, Mars Hill’s final announcement wasn’t optimistic enough. Counting previous campuses and new plants, the megachurch gave way to 15 new churches, not 11. And even though the collapse of Mars Hill left hundreds hurting and soured on the idea of belonging to a church, it also sparked a wave of healthy soul-searching and a realignment of churches with the gospel.”
  • College Freshmen Are Less Religious Than Ever.Allen Downey writes “The number of college students with no religious affiliation has tripled in the last 30 years, from 10 percent in 1986 to 31 percent in 2016, according to data from the CIRP Freshman Survey. Over the same period, the number who attended religious services dropped from 85 percent to 69 percent. These trends provide a snapshot of the current generation of young adults; they also provide a preview of rapid secularization in the U.S. over the next 30 years.”
  • Farmer Banned From Selling Produce at Market Because of His Views on Marriage. Denny Burk writes “If you think recent concerns about religious liberty among evangelicals is much ado about nothing, here’s yet one more piece of mounting evidence that this is much ado about something–something precious that is being lost.” And here is Kevin DeYoung’s, a long-time resident of East Lansing, Michigan, take on the issue.
  • Womb with a View: Fetuses can Recognize Faces While Still Inside Mom. Doyle Rice writes “We know babies love looking at the faces of their mom or dad. Now, for the first time, researchers have discovered that this preference develops in the womb several weeks before birth, according to a study published Thursday.”
  • BreakPoint: Abortion is What Planned Parenthood Does. In this episode of theBreakpoint podcast, Eric Metaxas states “Planned Parenthood wants to be known for nicer, less horrifying, less controversial services. But ladies and gentlemen, at the end of the day, their name means one thing: abortion. And lives depend on putting this big-name brand out of business.”
  • On Saying “No” To a World-Famous Rock Star.Scott Sauls writes “Let’s take comfort in this reality. We are pursued, seen, and infinitely loved by a Star even bigger than Bono. And that’s something that even Bono is glad about.”
  • Yoga Comes to Metro Atlanta Schools, Despite Some Christians’ Concerns. Ty Tagami writes “Yoga may be controversial with some conservative Christians, but it’s slowly being accepted into metro Atlanta schools. There’s little substantial research with evidence that it helps students, but educators who have tried it say it has a calming effect.”
  • The Transgender Revolution and the Rubble of Empty Promises. Russell Moore writes “Ultimately, the transgender question is about more than just sex. It’s about what it means to be human.”
  • Bernie Sanders to Traditional Christians: Your Beliefs Are Indefensibly Hateful and Insulting, and Not What This Country Is Supposed to Be About. Justin Taylor shares the video of an exchange between Senator Bernie Sanders and the potential deputy White House budget director, Russell Vought, who is an evangelical Christian. Here is Denny Burk’s take on it.
  • Christ’s Exclusive Truth-Claims Make Believing “All Religions Are Basically the Same” Impossible. Randy Alcorn writes “Christianity rises or falls on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. If this event is historically true, it makes all other religions false, because Jesus Christ claimed to be the one and only way to God the Father.”

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4 Study Bible Recommendations


I find value in the use of a Study Bible and have used several different ones over the years. A danger in using a Study Bible is that you could tend to just rely on the study notes instead of the Holy Spirit in interpreting a passage. I like what my wife does:  she first reads and prays about the meaning of a passage, and only after doing that does she consult the study notes.

There are many Study Bibles available these days. Here are four that I have used and would recommend to you:
 
Reformation Study Bible. This is the Bible that I use for my daily reading and study. Originally published in 1995 under the title of the New Geneva Study Bible, the Reformation Study Bible is available in the English Standard Version (ESV) and the New King James Version (NKJV). R.C. Sproul served as the General Editor, and the study notes are from 75 distinguished theologians such as Sinclair Ferguson, R.C. Sproul, Peter Jones and Wayne Grudem. Willem A. VanGemeren who attends our church. The Reformation Study Bible was completely revised and updated in 2015. Some of the new features include over 20,000 new, revised, or expanded study notes, and historical creeds and confessions from 2,000 years of church history.

ESV Study Bible. First published in 2008, The ESV Study Bible features more than 2,750 pages of extensive, accessible Bible resources, including notes, full-color maps, illustrations, charts, timelines, and articles created by a team of 93 evangelical Christian scholars and teachers. In addition to the 757,000 words of the ESV Bible itself, the notes and resources of the ESV Study Bible comprise an additional 1.1 million words of explanation and teaching-equivalent to a 20-volume Bible resource library all contained in one volume. Wayne Grudem served as the General Editor.

Gospel Transformation Study Bible.  Bryan Chapell served as the General Editor for the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible. Its contributors feature an outstanding list of more than 50 pastors and scholars, including the following that I had classes with at Covenant Seminary – Scotty Smith, Robert Yarbrough, Mary Beth McGreevy, V. Philips Long, Robert Peterson and Daniel Doriani.
The Gospel Transformation Bible was produced out of the conviction that the Bible is a unified message of God’s grace culminating in Jesus, it is a significant tool to help readers see Christ in all the Bible, and grace for all of life. The notes not only explain but also apply the text in a grace-centered way.

MacArthur Study Bible  The MacArthur Study Bible was first published in 1997. It is now available in the English Standard Version (ESV), New American Standard Version (NASV), the New International Version (NIV) and the New King James Version (NKJV). It contains nearly 25,000 explanatory notes from John MacArthur, more than 140 maps, an extensive concordance and other features.
I have seen Mac Arthur speak several times and read many of his books. One note of caution on his Study Bible notes would be his dispensationalist views on eschatology.

These are four Study Bibles that I use and can recommend; they all have a Kindle version available also.  What about you? Do you use a Study Bible, perhaps one that I didn’t mention above? Please respond and let us know your thoughts.


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Book Reviews

The Legacy of Luther, edited by R. C. Sproul and Stephen J. Nichols. Reformation Trust Publishing. 303 pages. 2016
****

This is a wonderful volume to read as we celebrate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing of the Ninety-Five Theses (which are included in an appendix) to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, initiating the Protestant Reformation. This anthology of essays honoring Luther from some of the most respected Reformed theologians today looks at several aspects of the life, ministry and legacy of the great reformer.
This in-depth volume includes a Foreword by John MacArthur and chapters by respected pastors and theologians such as Sinclair Ferguson, Steven Lawson, David Calhoun (who I enjoyed two church history courses at Covenant Seminary with), Michael Horton, Robert Godfrey, Gene Veith, Derek Thomas and many others. These essays cover a wide variety of aspects of Luther’s life and ministry, including his life at home, his music, his doctrine of scripture, the doctrine of justification by faith alone, his doctrine of vocation, as a man of conflict, his later years, as a preacher, on the sacraments, and a final reflection from R.C. Sproul on Luther and the life of the pastor-theologian.
The legacy of Martin Luther is vast and varied, and this book offers an attempt to summarize that legacy. The book is written for, and can be enjoyed by, both those who have little knowledge of Luther, and also for those who know him well. The book is organized into three sections – Luther’s Life, Luther’s Thought and Luther’s Legacy.
I highly recommend this book as a way to get to know Luther – warts and all – as we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Reading Romans with Luther by R.J. Grunewald. Concordia Publishing. 136 pages. 2017
***

I was interested in reading this short book for several reasons. First, I enjoy reading books about the great Protestant Reformer Martin Luther, especially during this 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Second, Romans is my favorite book of the Bible, and it is also where I was in my reading through the Bible at the time this book was published. Third, I have enjoyed the author’s blog and looked forward to reading a book by him.
The author, a Lutheran pastor, states that the book is meant to introduce the reader to the work of Martin Luther, to explain his words in a way that removes some of the intimidation. He realizes that Luther’s works can be intimidating, and this book is meant to take some of that intimidation away and guide the reader into Luther’s works. The author wants you to look at this book as Luther for everyday life.
The book does not contain Luther’s entire commentary on Romans, but only pertinent paragraphs that go along with the themes outlined in the table of contents. Rather than providing a linear exploration of Luther’s commentary, the author has divided and rearranged it according to thematic teachings in Romans. Continue reading


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My Review of the Movie MEGAN LEAVEY

Megan Leavey, rated PG-13
** ½

This film tells the true story of two war heroes: a young marine corporal and her military combat dog.
It is directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite (Blackfish) and written by Oscar nominee Annie Mumolo (Bridesmaids), Pamela Gray and Tim Lovestedt. When we first meet Megan Leavey (Kate Mara, House of Cards, Captive) she is without purpose. Living at her Mom’s home, she sleeps in late, drinks a lot, and has a contentious relationship with her mother Jackie (Edie Falco, The Sopranos), and her boyfriend Jim (Will Patton). Jackie had an affair with Megan’s father Bob’s (Bradley Whitford, The West Wing) best friend, which broke up their marriage. We also hear of Megan’s best friend who died of an overdose when she and Megan drank and took drugs, which may have contributed significantly to Megan’s lack of purpose.   
After Megan is fired from a job in 2001, she decides on a whim to enroll in the Marines. Soon, she is off to Boot Camp. After getting drunk one night with two other female recruits, she is disciplined by being assigned to clean up the K-9 Unit cages.  It is there she first encounters Rex, a ferocious German Shepherd.  As she watches the handlers working with their dogs she decides she would like to be assigned that work and expresses that to her commanding officer Gunny Martin (Oscar winner Common, Selma). When Rex bites his handler, breaking multiple bones in his hand, Megan gets her chance. Andrew Dean (Tom Felton, Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter films), is her K-9 trainer. We see Megan and Rex slowly begin to bond, and Megan finding purpose.
Megan is told that female dog handlers aren’t usually sent into combat situations, but she is soon sent to Iraq and into danger with Rex to sniff out and identify bombs, eventually serving together on more than 100 missions. Megan develops a relationship with a fellow dog handler, the likeable Matt Morales (Ramon Rodriguez). Matt makes it clear that he desires the relationship to become more than a friendship.
We see intense battle scenes in Iraq and Megan and Rex being injured.  As she returns from the war and ends her time in the Marines we see her struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Though she is hailed as a war hero, we see her life going back to the way it was before she enrolled in the Marines, without purpose. Although it appears she has a good relationship with her father, the only one that she truly connects to is Rex. And she misses him badly.
The film contains a significant amount of adult language and God’s and Jesus’ names are abused several times. It contains some intense war violence and an implied sexual relationship, though nothing is seen.
Although Megan’ and Rex’s true story is an inspiring one, even as a dog lover I didn’t feel that the film measured up to their story. I believe I’m in the minority here as the film is receiving strong reviews from critics and viewers; that’s the reason I went to see it. The film moves along slowly and felt just a step above a paint by the numbers Hallmark movie to me and my wife.
Mara is good in her role, but Megan is not a very likeable character, who finds it hard to connect with anyone other than Rex. The supporting cast is solid, but there is little tension in the film except the conclusion which I’m not sharing here, as to not spoil it for you.  It’s definitely a renter.


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Dream Realized: Teaching a Seminar at the PCA General Assembly 

Back in January, Tammy, my wife and biggest encourager, saw that proposals to teach a seminar were due at the end of the month.  It would be at the 2017 General Assembly, an annual gathering of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), my church’s denomination. She sent me an email and said I should submit a proposal. My first (and second, third and fourth) thoughts were to just delete the email and then be done with it. But I didn’t. Later, I looked at who had presented seminars at General Assembly the year before; a lot of the presenters were people I knew of, had read their books, etc. All the more reason for me not to submit a proposal. Eventually however, I submitted a proposal for a presentation entitled “Helping Our People to Connect Their Faith to Their Work and Callings”, hoping to bring my unique perspective of being a leader in a Fortune 50 organization, a ruling elder in my church and a seminary graduate to the growing faith and work conversation. Still, I knew that there wasn’t “a snowball’s chance…” that my proposal would be approved. But in God’s providence it was!
So last Sunday, Tammy and I (who usually fly anywhere over six hours away), started out on our adventure to Greensboro, North Carolina, which would cover us travelling through parts of seven states and more than 1,700 miles. We weren’t familiar with that part of the country, so we thought it would be fun to drive the eleven-plus hours each way. Friends and family members said it would be a beautiful drive, and it was. I especially enjoyed driving through the winding hills of West Virginia. We had a blast, breaking up the trip with a stop in Huntington, West Virginia on the way down and Cincinnati, Ohio on the way back. Once in Greensboro, we took a side trip to Boone, North Carolina where our nephew went to school and Blowing Rock, North Carolina, home of Jan Karon, author of the Mitford books. We got to travel the famous Blue Ridge Parkway, and watch a thunderstorm coming into the area.

Walking into the convention center to check out the room I would be speaking in, I ran into Tim Keller, one of my heroes, introduced myself and shook his hand. We then ran into our senior pastor of more than 22 years Bob Smart. Later that night, we joined our former Youth and Family Pastor, and all

around great guy, David Keithley, who is now the lead pastor  at Hanna City Presbyterian Church, and several other friends from our presbytery at Hops Burger, the top rated burger place in the country for a great meal and fellowship.
Pastor David did his best to recruit people to my seminar the next morning, even offering free Duck Donuts!

I had prayed for 15 to attend, and I was thrilled to have double that amount in attendance. Many of you told me that you were going to pray for me, and I so very much appreciate that. I felt God’s presence and peace throughout the one hour seminar. The seminar was recorded and is available for purchase here, but there was a problem with the microphone battery, so unfortunately, the first part of the seminar was not recorded.
It was an honor to speak at the PCA General Assembly, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity. Thanks so much for your prayers and good wishes.