Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Grand Central Publishing. 321 pages. 2017

This heartfelt book is about a friendship between two people who were in some ways very different from each other. The author, one of the greatest basketball players in the history of the game, writes of his nearly fifty-year friendship with John Wooden, arguably the greatest basketball coach ever, who died in 2010 at the age of 99. Wooden was white, a Midwesterner and a devout Christian, while Abdul-Jabbar is Black, from New York City and a devout Muslim.
The author states that Wooden was much more than a basketball guru. He was also his teacher, his friend, and, though he never told him, his role model. Their relationship had been born over basketball, but eventually that became the least important aspect of it. The author writes that among those things that he and Wooden had in common was the belief that playing basketball wasn’t the end, but rather the means to make our lives more fulfilling.  He states that their legacy as friends would be one of the most important and rewarding accomplishments of his life.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and a review of Shaped by God: Thinking and Feeling in Tune with the Psalms by John Piper
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age by Jonathan Leeman

He writes that Wooden, as an example of a man of unbending moral strength taught him how to be the man he wanted to be—and needed to be. It was his example of kindness and compassion that helped the author become the kind of man who could let go of animosity and forgive past hurts. The author saw Wooden as a second father, in some ways a more compassionate, hands-on father than his own father had been. Wooden taught his players that academics were more important than basketball and that personal integrity was more important than both.
As the author writes about their relationship he addresses topics such as race, politics, religion, Wooden helping him as he became a coach, and helping each other deal with grief in their lives.
I really enjoyed this touching story of an incredible friendship that spanned nearly fifty years.

Shaped by God: Thinking and Feeling in Tune with the Psalms by John Piper. Desiring God. 73 pages. 2017

This is the second book on the Psalms I have read recently, the first being Learning to Love the Psalms by Robert Godfrey. In this book, John Piper looks briefly at Psalms 42, 51, 103, 69, and 96. His aim is that God would be revealed, and that you would want to know Him.
The author tells us that there are three things we should know about the Psalms: they are instructive, they are poems, and they are from God. He tells us that Psalms is the most often-quoted Old Testament book in the New Testament. Alongside the teachings of Jesus and the apostles, Psalms was the book that shaped the thinking and feeling of the first disciples more than any other. He tells us that the Psalms are designed to inform your thinking in a way that delights your heart.
This is a well-organized book in which the author clearly organizes his main points. Here are a few brief comments about each of the five Psalms looked at in this book:

  • Psalm 42 examines spiritual depression and how to be discouraged well. It shows us what a godly person does in the midst of spiritual depression, and is meant to shape how we deal with our own seasons of darkness.
  • Psalm 51 examines how to be brokenhearted well by guilt and regret. Psalm 51 is the way that God’s people should think and feel about the horrors of their own sin. He writes “Being a Christian means being broken and contrite. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you get beyond that in this life. Brokenness marks the life of God’s happy children until they die. We are broken and contrite all the way home—unless sin gets the proud upper hand. Being broken and contrite is not against joy and praise and witness. It is the flavor of Christian joy and praise and witness.”
  • Psalm 103 provides all believers with powerful instruction for how we should think, feel, and act in response to God’s mercy, goodness, and compassion. The psalm is overwhelmingly focused on blessing the Lord. He writes that as parents, perhaps the most effective thing we can do to help our children trust God is to bless the Lord continually in their presence, and to do it authentically, from our souls.
  • Psalm 69 examines how to rightly endure opposition, mistreatment, and injustice. There is a group of psalms known as imprecatory psalms because they include imprecations, or curses, against God’s enemies. He tells us that the New Testament honors Psalm 69 by quoting from it in at least two important ways: it quotes the psalm as the words of David, and it quotes the psalm as the words of Jesus. He tells us “We want to exercise forgiveness and mercy—but not because there is no wrath, no punishment, or no judgment in Psalm 69. It is precisely because there is judgment— judgment which it is not our business to execute.”
  • Psalm 96 glorifies God as sovereign Creator, Savior, and Judge. The author tells us that singing has never been more at the forefront of missions than it is today. God is doing something wonderful in the fulfillment of Psalm 96. He writes “Don’t miss what God is doing. Be a part of it. Get the nations on your heart. Think rightly about God’s global purposes. Feel deeply about his marvelous works. Sing with all your heart to the Lord. Be a part of summoning the nations to join you.”

  • New Alistair Begg Book. Pray Big: Learn to Pray Like an Apostle by Alistair Begg will be published on May 1.
  • Biographies for People Who Have Never Read a Biography. Tim Challies offers a few suggestions and recommendations for people who are approaching biography for the first time, or for the first time in a long while.
  • New Sinclair Ferguson Book. I’m always excited to hear about a new book from Sinclair Ferguson. Maturity: Growing Up and Going In On the Christian Life will be published soon by Banner of Truth.

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 Chapter 8 – Justice: Not Just Rights, But Right. Here are some good quotes from that chapter:

  • Behind every political division in the nation is a different view of justice.
  • Identity politics, broadly speaking, begins with the common-sense observation that our lives and beliefs are shaped by the groups we occupy—whether those groups are based on gender, race, class, sexual orientation, or something else. And then it makes moral and political claims based on those group
  • When you remove the God of glory and the God of judgment who created all humanity in his image, this is where the story of freedom, rights, and equality culminates.
  • The American Experiment, divorced from God, makes same-sex marriage, transgender-bathroom debates, and the end of religious tolerance inevitable.
  • If God is not judge and I am not created in his image, then, yes, I have every right to define my gender, my existence, my everything. The only moral categories that come to predominate are a belief in liberty, proportional fairness, and not harming others—the three values that animate social justice.
  • People have rights because God created them in his image. Governments should respect people’s rights because people are made in God’s image and are of inestimable worth.
  • True justice doesn’t start with our rights. It starts with God’s righteousness and his understanding of what’s right. We do justice by doing what’s right, which includes respecting people’s rights. First right, then rights. The order is crucial.
  • When we disregard what God says is right, then anyone can say which rights are right and which aren’t. There is no rebuttal. There is no public and accepted righteousness or standard of right.
  • If you would be just, build meaningful friendships with people who don’t look like you, sound like you, or shop in the same kinds of stores.
  • Apart from meaningful relationships with people from different groups that involve your heart, your affections, and your love, you will most likely possess an incomplete picture of that group. And, as such, your calculations about “what’s just” will more than likely be skewed, partial, and unjust.
  • Christians do justice by caring for the materially disenfranchised and the spiritually downtrodden in every way—physically, socially, emotionally. Yet we do justice most of all by pointing people to their Judge and would-be Redeemer and calling them to repent and believe.
  • A more robust vision of justice starts inside of the life of the congregation. Then it spills outward. And it spills outward, first, with evangelistic impulse and purposefulness.

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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