Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. Moody Publishers. Originally published in 2009. 288 pages.

I’d been wanting to read this book for some time now. I don’t know if you are like me, but I always struggle about what to do when I see people begging on the street or sidewalk. Should I give them a handout? Will they use it for food or alcohol? Does it matter?
The authors present their thoughts in a well-organized manner, from the theoretical to application, in this practical and helpful book directed primarily at North American Christians. They begin with foundational concepts for helping the poor, and then build on those with principles and strategies, as they offer solid, practical and biblical advice on an important subject.
The authors state that there has been a growing interest by North American Christians and churches to help the poor. However, they write that in many instances those good intentions can actually make things worse for those in poverty, and hinder the work of alleviating poverty.
The authors assert that:

  1. North American Christians are not doing enough.
  2. When North American Christians do attend to poverty alleviation, it often does harm.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for more of this book review and:
BOOK REVIEW ~ Through My Father’s Eyes by Franklin Graham
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down: The Lord’s Prayer as a Manifesto for Revolution by Albert Mohler
The authors state that how the poor describe poverty (shame, inferiority), is different from the way North American Christians do (material poverty). This makes a difference in the solutions we advance. We tend to treat the symptoms, rather than the real problem.
They provide biblical foundation for this discussion by using the biblical grand narrative of creation, fall and redemption. We are broken people because of the fall. What is it that motivates us to help the poor?
They address “material poverty” vs.” relational poverty”. The so-called “Health and Wealth Gospel” teaches that spiritual maturity leads to material prosperity.
In looking at redemption, they begin to look at ways to alleviate poverty. We need to put things in right relationship. We need to have a ministry of reconciliation of relationships. We are all broken and need to be saved. We are broken individuals and there are broken systems.
The authors tell us that not all poverty is the same. We need to consider what approach – relief, rehabilitation or development – is needed in each situation. They tell us that one of the biggest mistakes that North American churches make is in applying relief to situations in which rehabilitation or development is the appropriate intervention. They tell us that we shouldn’t do anything for people that they can do for themselves. We should begin not with what the poor need, but what gifts they have, using Asset Based Community Development (ABCD). We should balance the North American desire for speed vs. long-term solutions. Another point is that people should participate in their own development.
The authors spend quite a bit of time discussing short-term missions. They indicate that in 2006 2.2 million North Americans participated in a short-term mission trip. They offer helpful suggestions on how to improve short-term missions so that they help, rather than harm the poor.
The final section of the book addresses how churches can help the poor in North America and abroad. This section includes information on micro-financing solutions and training ministries.
Throughout, the authors include helpful illustrations. They demonstrate humility and honesty on when they hurt while trying to help. This is a helpful book for both individuals and churches.
For more information on alleviating poverty, go to

Through My Father’s Eyes by Franklin Graham.  Thomas Nelson. 319 pages. 2018

There are few people that I respected more than Billy Graham. He was a faithful preacher of God’s Word and had a sincere desire that all would be saved. As an evangelist, his theology was Arminian, using invitations to lead to individual decisions, rather than God’s sovereign election.
This book by his son Franklin, has a title that has a double meaning. Though some readers may rightly believe it refers to the author’s earthly father, it also, more so, refers to his heavenly father. The book contains lessons that the author learned from his earthly father. It is part biography and part autobiography and is saturated in scripture.
The author had been working on the book for a number of years. Each chapter starts with a Billy Graham quote.  The book covers a wide variety of subjects and contains some wonderful stories. The author addresses controversies in his father’s life, such as comments that led some to believe that he felt that there were multiple ways to get to Heaven, family disagreements about where his mother would be buried and his father’s view of Jewish people.
Some of the topics that are covered in the book include:

  • Forgiveness, salvation and the cross
  • Warm remembrances of his mother Ruth Bell Graham. He bought both his mother Ruth (who died in 2007) and his father (who died February 21, 2018) wooden caskets made by prisoners at the Angola Prison.
  • The Bible
  • The church
  • Communicating the Gospel through television.
  • Sin and the moral decline in America
  • Prayer
  • Preaching the Gospel through evangelistic crusades
  • Letter writing
  • Sharing the Gospel in hostile situations
  • His leadership of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelical Association (BGEA).
  • Billy Graham’s final TV message “The Cross”

Franklin Graham loves this country. He writes of his “Decision America” tour leading up to the 2016 presidential election.  He stated that it was “high noon” for America, as he preached on the steps at each state capitol and led the attendees in prayer at noon during the week. He didn’t endorse either of the candidates, but instead encouraged voters to become familiar with the party platforms and then vote for the party which most closely aligns to biblical principles.
Billy Graham’s death in February was addressed in the Postscript.
I enjoyed this book which covered a large number of topics by a son who loved and was loved by both his earthly and heavenly fathers.

  • The Faith of Donald J. Trump: A Book Review. Thomas Kidd writes “The Faith of Donald J. Trump by David Brody and Scott Lamb represents an evangelical apologetic for supporting a deeply flawed, non-evangelical politician.”
  • 10 Books Every Leader Should Read This Summer. Brian Dodd writes “If you do not have a reading list, I highly recommend each of these books.  They are already making me a more effective leader.”
  • Jackie Hill Perry Book. Rapper Jackie Hill Perry will release Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was, and Who God Has Always Been will be published September 3. From the Amazon description “In Gay Girl, Good God, author Jackie Hill Perry shares her own story, offering practical tools that helped her in the process of finding wholeness. Jackie grew up fatherless, experienced gender confusion, and embraced both masculinity and homosexuality with every fiber of her being. She knew that Christians had a lot to say about all of the above. But was she supposed to change herself? How was she supposed to stop loving women, when homosexuality felt more natural to her than heterosexuality ever could?  At age 19, Jackie came face-to-face with what it meant to be made new. And not in a church, or through contact with Christians—God broke in and turned her heart towards Him right in her own bedroom in light of His gospel.  Read in order to understand. Read in order to hope. Or read in order, like Jackie, to be made new.”

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 7: Lead Us Not Into Temptation

  • The Bible clearly teaches that the Devil and his demons are real and that these invisible enemies are bent on destroying our spiritual lives. Yet many evangelicals rarely, if ever, meditate on or live in light of this truth.
  • Asking to be delivered from sin and temptation is a cry that emerges only from the heart of a citizen of God’s kingdom.
  • We desire to submit to the rule and reign of God, not the dominion of sin.
  • This petition is one of kingdom warfare, asking that God conquer the powers of sin, Satan, and the demons so that we might live for his heavenly kingdom.
  • The most dangerous thing a Christian can ever do is believe that he is somehow immune to temptation. In fact, failing to account for the dangers of temptation betrays a severe misunderstanding of the gospel.
  • If we, at any point, think that we are somehow freed up from fighting temptation, then we have both overestimated our own spiritual state and grossly underestimated our need for God’s grace.
  • The Bible does not teach that God helps those who help themselves; instead, God helps those who are at the end of themselves.
  • The Lord’s Prayer might seem to imply that there are times when God does in fact lead us into temptation. Yet when we let Scripture interpret Scripture, we find that God does not tempt his people.
  • We must also recognize that while God will never tempt us, he may sometimes test us in order to strengthen our faith.
  • God certainly tests us, but he never tempts us.
  • We must never allow God’s tests to lead to temptations.
  • The question is not if we will encounter temptations, but what will we do with temptations when we encounter them?
  • This prayer underlines the fact that apart from God, we simply are unable to resist temptation.
  • We must recognize that the fight against sin will be a lifelong struggle. Only by regularly pleading with the Lord for strength to overcome temptation will we endure to the end.
  • We all have weaknesses. The adversary will exploit those weaknesses at every opportunity. This is why we need the Lord’s gracious hand to guide us away from temptation at every turn.
  • Christians must never entertain temptation. We are to radically reject it and flee from it.
  • While the final petition of the Lord’s Prayer is typically rendered “deliver us from evil,” most modern scholars and translations note that the most appropriate translation is probably “deliver us from the evil one.”
  • Jesus teaches us that we will never combat temptation to the fullest extent until we recognize that we have an adversary that plots against our personal holiness.
  • Jesus taught his disciples that the best weapon against temptation is prayer. When we do not pray faithfully, our defenses are down.
  • Every Christian church is supposed to be a deliverance ministry. Christians are in this together. We cannot be faithful individually if we are not faithful together.

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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