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Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul David Tripp. Crossway. 384 pages. 2004

Each morning, Paul Tripp tweets three gospel thoughts about the Christian faith on Twitter. His goal with the tweets is to confront and comfort people with the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He wants people to see that the grace of the gospel is not so much about changing the religious aspect of their lives, but about everything in life that defines, identifies, and motivates them. Through his daily tweets, he is calling people to see the gospel as a window through which they are to look at everything in life.
Those daily tweets inspired this book of 365 daily devotional readings, a book I am using as a part of my daily readings this year. Each day’s reading opens with one of his gospel tweets, lightly edited, and then a meditation that expands on the tweet. The reading ends with a passage of scripture included under “For Further Study and Encouragement”.
The author writes that the devotional is a call for us to remember…

  • The horrible disaster of sin
  • Jesus, who stood in our place.
  • The transforming power of the grace we couldn’t have earned.
  • The destiny that is guaranteed to all of God’s blood-purchased children.
  • His sovereignty and his glory.
  • The remembering is spiritual war, and for this we need grace.

The title of the book is not only a reference to the way the Bible talks about grace, but also an allusion to the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness”, lyrics written by Thomas Chisholm and music by William M. Runyan:
Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
I look forward to reading through the daily readings in this book this coming year.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World by Rosaria Butterfield and Take Heart: Christian Courage in the Age of Unbelief by Matt Chandler
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age by Jonathan Leeman

The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World by Rosaria Butterfield. Crossway. 240 pages. 2018

This book, by a respected author and speaker, is about hospitality, a subject that I am not very good with, but have a sincere desire to grow in. The author tells us that offering radically ordinary hospitality is an everyday thing at her home. As she describes what that looks like, she tells interesting, and at times heart-breaking, stories that illustrate her points, including stories about Hank, her neighbor next door, and biographical stories about her growing up in Catholic schools, her relationship with her mother and about the kind pastor and his wife who showed her hospitality when she was hostile to the Christian faith. In this book, we are invited into the author’s home, her childhood, her Bible reading, her repentance, and into her homeschool schedules, shopping lists, simple meals, and daily, messy table fellowship. Her hope with the book is that daily fellowship will grow our union with Christ and that we would no longer be that Christian with a pit of empty dreams competing madly with other reigning idols, wondering if this is all there is to the Christian life. After reading this book, you may find that hospitality is ordinary, but the manner in which Rosaria and her family practice it is radical.
First, we need to define what radical, ordinary hospitality is. It is not entertaining like Martha Stewart would describe. The author defines it as “Using your Christian home in a daily way that seeks to make strangers neighbors, and neighbors family of God. It brings glory to God, serves others, and lives out the gospel in word and deed.” Its purpose is “To build, focus, deepen, and strengthen the family of God, pointing others to the Bible-believing local church, and being earthly and spiritual good to everyone we know.” She tells us that we are to take the hand of a stranger and put it in the hand of the Savior, to bridge hostile worlds, and to add to the family of God. She writes that daily hospitality, gathering church and neighbors, is a daily grace.
But daily hospitality can be expensive and even inconvenient. It compels us to care more for our church family and neighbors than our personal status in this world. She tells us that the gospel comes with a house key, not because it is easy, but because it is hard. God makes the key—and the lock to fit it. She writes that the gospel coming with a house key is “ABC Christianity”. Radically ordinary and daily hospitality is the basic building block for vital Christian living.
I highlighted a number of passages as I read the book. Below are just a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • Radically ordinary hospitality is indeed spiritual warfare.
  • Radically ordinary hospitality creates an intimacy among people that allows for genuine differences to be discussed.
  • Radically ordinary hospitality begins when we remember that God uses us as living epistles and that the openness or inaccessibility of our homes and hearts stands between life and death, victory and defeat, and grace or shame for most people.
  • Christian hospitality cares for the things that our neighbors care about. Esteeming others more highly than ourselves means nothing less.
  • And that is what radically ordinary hospitality accomplishes in the Lord’s grace. It meets people as strangers and makes them neighbors; it meets neighbors and make them family.
  • Radically ordinary hospitality manifests confident trust that the Lord will care for us and that he will care for others through our obedience.
  • Knowing your personality and your sensitivities does not excuse you from ministry. It means that you need to prepare for it differently than others might.

Take Heart: Christian Courage in the Age of Unbelief by Matt Chandler. The Good Book Company. 131 pages. 2018

The author, a respected pastor, states that Christians can thrive in this age of unbelief. He states that each of us will respond in one way or another, and covers three basic approaches, each of which is born of fear:

  • Converting Culture Approach. In this approach, what matters most is that our nation’s culture reflects biblical principles and values.
  • Condemning Culture Approach. In this approach, the idea is to remove ourselves from the world, retreating into a subculture, and staying well away from wider culture because society is sinful, corrupted and antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • Consume Culture Approach. This approach, which he states is in many ways the most widespread, and the scariest, is to follow the trends—to consume culture.

The author wants to give us courage and a posture that allows us to look round and think that this is a great time to be a Christian. The book is about where to find real courage and how to live by it.
He tells us that Christians are going to need to live with courage, but he tells us that will be easier said than it is done. To provide us help, he turns to a few passages from the Bible from the writings of Paul and Peter.
He tells us that there will come a day when we will be marginalized, ridiculed, or oppressed for our faith, if it hasn’t already happened. In that moment, a few of the things that will help us will be:

  • The wisdom and knowledge of the Father
  • A right assessment of our own weaknesses (in comparison to the greatness of God).
  • God’s grace, which breeds courage.
  • Holy integrity, devotion and evangelism.
  • A big enough view of God—of God the Warrior, for you to be empowered to live with faithful, joyful, positive courage in our secular, post-Christian, post-whatever world.

The section of the book I took the most from was his writing about missional hospitality. He tells us that hospitality means to give loving welcome to those outside our normal circle of friends. It is opening our life and our house to those who believe differently than we do. He writes that God has been hospitable to us, saving us as sinners and inviting us to eat at his table in his eternal home. He writes that we demonstrate that we truly appreciate the divine hospitality we have received as we extend our own hospitality to those around us.
He offers four helpful tips regarding hospitality:

  • Welcome everyone we meet.
  • Engage with people.
  • Make dinner a priority.
  • Love the outsider.

He tells us that God extends radical hospitality to me and to you, and that is why we love the outsider: because we were the outsider. Missional hospitality is costly. It costs our time, our money, our comfort. It is also risking and requires trust in God instead of ourselves. It also demands courage. He tells us that the extent of our courage will be shown by who sits round our table.
The author tells us that the end of Christendom may have surprised and scared many Christians, but not God. He is greater than us, and any cultural norm or pressure. He has designed us for such a time and place as this. He tells the believer to take heart, God has given us all we need to live with holiness—with integrity, devotion, and evangelistic hospitality.

  • New Tim and Kathy Keller Devotional. In The Meaning of Marriage: A Couple’s Devotional, Tim and Kathy Keller draw from and expand upon lessons they first introduced in their book The Meaning of Marriage. The book will be published October 1.
  • My Reviews on Good Reads. Check out more than 215 of my book reviews on Good Reads.
  • 2018 Gospel Coalition Book Awards. Ivan Mesa shares the 2018 Gospel Coalition Book Awards in a number of categories.
  • Christianity Today’s 2019 Book Awards. Matt Reynolds shares Christianity Today’s 2019 Book Awards in a number of categories.
  • Top Ten Books of 2018. Kevin DeYoung shares his top books of 2018.
  • Systematic Theology Review. Kevin DeYoung writes “Below you’ll find my brief evaluation of several systematic theologies, with the reading level noted for each (Beginner, Medium, Hard). I’ll start with my three favorites and then move on to the others in a few different categories.”
  • How Discernment is Like Thrifting. This article is adapted from Hannah Anderson’s book All That’s Good: Recovering The Lost Art of Discernment, which was a winner in the Gospel Coalition 2019 Book Awards.
  • Book Review: Inexpressible Grace. Hannah Hubin writes “Reading Card’s book is something of a scavenger hunt and something of a story, each chapter unfolding a new use, encounter, associated word, object, or expression of hesed.”
  • Why John Piper Loves the Apostle Paul. Guy Waters reviews John Piper’s new book Why I Love the Apostle Paul. He writes “Taken as a whole, Why I Love is a fitting homage to a master teacher by a seasoned and grateful student. Novice and expert alike will walk away from this book with deep impressions of the learning and devotion of Paul. “
  • Mere Calvinism. Tim Challies reviews the new book Mere Calvinism by Jim Orrick. He writes “It is, in my opinion, one of the finest introductions to Calvinism you’ll find.”
  • Tony Dungy Interview. Listen to Tony Dungy talk about his new book The Soul of a Team on the Eric Metaxas show on February 6 (the interview starts at the 1:50 point).

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

How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age by Jonathan Leeman

This week we look at highlights from Chapter 7 – Christians: Not Cultural Warriors, But Ambassadors

  • There are at least three wrong paths Christians in America might take today in their approach to politics and the public square.
  • Wrong path number one is disengagement. Here Christians isolate themselves from civic life and focus only on their lives together. They tell themselves this is the “spiritual” thing to do. Wrong path number two is capitulation. This is not the path of neutrality but of positively endorsing the world and its ways. Wrong path number three is worldly engagement. There is a way of engaging that’s right on the substance but wrong on the strategy or tone.
  • Respect and honor the legitimate institutions of this present age. Let them do their jobs and work for their good. But realize that they are passing, and do not give them your ultimate allegiance and hope.
  • I want it to inspire you to get involved wherever you live: in a school, in a city council, in writing letters to the editor, in a crisis pregnancy shelter, in a homeless shelter, in a neighborhood revitalization project, or in any number of other ways to honor the institutions in place, and, in so doing, do good.
  • Work to do good while you’re here, but know that nothing lasts. This isn’t heaven.
  • Recognize that political success for a Christian equals faithfulness, not results.
  • The person who fears the Lord will put a career on the line in order to do the right thing. She knows there is something greater than a career.
  • A failure to vote, if one is capable, is arguably a failure to love one’s neighbor and, therefore, God.
  • A Christian’s supreme political value should always be justice.
  • One sign that you identify more with your ideological tribe than you do with Jesus is that you cannot hear what’s good when it comes from another tribe. You assume that everything that people on the other side of the aisle say must be wrong.
  • Our arguments should seek to persuade rather than to score points.
  • When we claim to know what God is doing in history, speaking where Scripture does not, we risk projecting our own ideological and partisan preferences onto God. In effect, we substitute our wisdom for God’s, and thus become idolaters.
  • Whether you identify with the Democrats or the Republicans, the gospel frees us from being over-identified with either. Instead, it equips you to enter either party as an ambassador. It enables you to be a better party member by affirming the good, denouncing the bad, and pushing your party toward justice.
  • Any action you take against a government will be judged by God’s final government on the Last Day. Make sure you’re ready to give that account.
  • We should pray not only for the governments we like, but for the ones we don’t like.

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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