Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Book Reviews
When Is It Right to Die?  A Comforting and Surprising Look at Death and Dying by Joni Eareckson Tada. Zondervan Updated Edition. 208 pages. 2018

There are few people I respect more than Joni Eareckson Tada. She has had tremendous influence since a diving accident left her in a wheelchair fifty years ago. I’ve read many of her books and seen her speak at conferences. This is a revised edition of a book that she wrote 25 years ago. Much has changed during that time. When the book was first written, some of what is covered in this helpful new edition was only theoretical.
The book goes beyond the theoretical to the practical. Joni helps us make the moral judgments we will all be faced with. She brings what she and her family have learned from going through the dying process with her father. She writes about her own periods of depression, suicidal thoughts, severe pain and also breast cancer.
She writes about physician assisted suicide, which is now legal in five states in the U.S. She recalls the case of Terri Schiavo case, who was deemed to be in a “persistent vegetative state”, and other stories from the headlines, but indicates that most of these stories never make the headlines. She shares heart-breaking letters that have been sent to her.
Joni tells us that 44,000 people commit suicide in the U.S. each year, and many, many more attempt it, in addition to those who take advantage of states that provide physician’s assisted suicide. Why the increase in those taking their own life? Joni states that it is often due to pain and no hope for relief. This much and no more.
She shares several answers that people give as to when it is right to die (when it’s too expensive to live, mercy, pain, etc.). She writes that unfortunately 38% of evangelicals support in certain cases “mercy killing”. She defines the various terms in the conversation (euthanasia, physician’s assisted suicide, etc.).
Scripture says that death is the final enemy. Joni writes that you have the right to live. She writes how your decision for life matters to others, to yourself and to the enemy, and to God.
She shows from the Bible that God is opposed to mercy killing, but that it is acceptable to let dying people die. The act of dying does not need to be prolonged. End of life decisions are difficult. She recommends an Advanced Care Directive, as opposed to a Living Will. She recommends that you assist your loved ones by documenting your wishes and revisit them often. Ask God to give you wisdom on these important decisions.
This practical book contains real-life stories throughout. She tells us that a life worth living is found in Christ. One day believers will have the most perfect “final exit”. This is an excellent book to read with others in a book club setting. Helpful questions for discussion and reflection are included at the end of each chapter.

Rediscovering the Holy Spirit: God’s Perfecting Presence in Creation, Redemption, and Everyday Life by Michael Horton. Zondervan. 336 pages. 2017 

In this scholarly work, the author, a seminary professor, wants to widen our vision of the Holy Spirit’s work. He looks at the mystery of the Trinity, and some of the heresies that have arisen about the Trinity throughout church history. He tells us that the Holy Spirit is polarizing in local churches today, primarily due to the Charismatic movement, and that interest in the Holy Spirit has been increasing. This renewed interest does not necessarily bring new clarity and consistency to historical teaching however. He tells us that the Holy Spirit is the first member of the Godhead that we encounter as new believers, and that most misunderstood is the Holy Spirit’s work or operation in the life of the believer.
At the same time, many (churches, believers), have their focus on Jesus, and so can sometimes attribute works of the Holy Spirit to Jesus.  We need to be aware of the distinctions between the two, but not separate them.
Horton tells us that there is a depersonalization of the Holy Spirit (“It”, power, energy, etc.), instead of a person, and a member of the Trinity. He states that the Reformation brought a rediscovery of the Holy Spirit.
His emphasis in the book is:

  • The distinctiveness of the Holy Spirit’s person and work, along with His unity with the Father and Son.
  • Identification of the Holy Spirit’s operations in Scripture.

He begins by looking at the personal attributes of the members of the Trinity (Father is unbegotten, Son is begotten and the Holy Spirit proceeds), and then looks at the person and work of the Holy Spirit throughout redemptive history, including becoming our new advocate, Pentecost, the Ascension and the last days. He looks at the difference in the Holy Spirit’s presence before and after Pentecost, and the controversial topic of the continuation or discontinuation of the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit.  He also looks at the “Golden Chain of Salvation” (Romans 8:30) and the role of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, adoption, justification, sanctification and glorification.
Among the other subjects he looks at are the Holy Spirit and the means of grace, the Holy Spirit and the Word and baptism. I would have liked him to spend some time addressing the idea of a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit in revival. I’ve read books by respected pastors and theologians who fall on both sides of that issue.
Throughout the book, he utilizes Scripture, and also quotes liberally from other authors such as Sinclair Ferguson.
Some of Horton’s books (Core Christianity, Ordinary, for example) are written for a wide audience. This book, however, is an exhaustive and scholarly look at the third person of the Trinity. I believe this book would best be appreciated by pastors and others who have some theological training.

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

 The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down: The Lord’s Prayer as a Manifesto for Revolution by Albert Mohler. 224 pages. 2018

In this new book, step by step, phrase by phrase, Dr. Mohler explains what the words in The Lord’s Prayer mean and how we are to pray them. This week we look at Chapter 2 – And When You Pray:

  • A failure to pray is therefore not only a sign of anemic spiritual life, it is disobedience to Christ.
  • There is simply no way to reconcile the general prayerlessness of the typical modern American Christian with the teachings of the New Testament and the example of Christ.
  • The real issue is not so much where you pray but doing so in a way that does not parade your piety in front of others.
  • The Lord isn’t looking for impressive words; he is looking for humble hearts—hearts that trust him enough to work, even when our words are few.
  • He teaches us that prayer is not about impressing God; rather, it is about praising him by humbly coming before him to offer the kind of prayer that pleases him.
  • We need the Lord Jesus Christ himself to teach us to pray because, left to our own devices, we will pray wrongly.

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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