Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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Why I Love Our Small Group

For about twenty years, our church has had what we call K-Groups. The “K” is for koinonia, which is a Greek word that occurs 20 times in the Bible. The primary meaning of koinonia is “fellowship, sharing in common, communion.” The first occurrence of koinonia is in Acts 2:42:
 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Our K-Groups are wonderful opportunities to enter into fellowship with a small group of friends from church. We have been in several different K-Groups over the years, all of them wonderful, resulting in some deep and lasting friendships. The K-Group we have been a part of for the past few years was a thriving group long before we joined. Small groups come in every shape and size.  Continue reading


What We Can Learn from “For a Continuing Church: The Roots of the Presbyterian Church in America”

As an elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), I’d been wanting to read Sean Michael Lucas’ book For a Continuing Church: The Roots of the Presbyterian Church in America for some time. Like much of history, the story of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) is filled with items (particularly racism), that are now embarrassing and regretful. The southern Presbyterian denomination, existed from 1861 to 1983, and was the conservative Presbyterian denomination, as opposed to the liberal northern Presbyterian denomination, known as the Presbyterian Church in the United States of American (PCUSA).
Lucas’ book is detailed, thorough, and heavily footnoted. It’s certainly not light reading. If I were to briefly summarize the story, as early as the 1920’s, a progressive element of the PCUS was starting to take shape. The progressives were spreading their message through the churches, seminaries and publications. This message included a move away from the Biblical authority (inerrancy, for example), to a social gospel, a lower view of the confessional standards of the church (Westminster Confession), evolution, women’s ordination, universalism, secularism, etc. The overall goal of the progressives was a reunion with the northern church. Continue reading

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The Counter-Cultural Church

We live in a consumer driven culture. Each day, we have many choices to make, such as where to live, where to work, where to eat out, where to go to the movies, where to go to church, where to shop, etc.  We try to make the best choices, often using the criteria of “What is going to be the best for me and/or my family”, be it climate, income, neighborhood, selection, price, service, etc. It is easy to go along with the culture and look for others to serve us, our needs and desires.
Francis Chan, in his excellent book Letters to the Church, writes “It’s no secret that most people who attend church services come as consumers rather than servants.” However, as I look at the local church, I see the consumer driven mindset reversed. Rather than what is going to be the best for me, a healthy church member will look at life from a completely different perspective. They will follow the apostle Paul’s advice in Philippians 2:4 when he wrote “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Continue reading


One Church “Activity” That Needs to Remain

Recently, I read an article titled “10 Church Activities That Need to Go” by Lindsey VanSparrentak, a contributing writer on The article did have some interesting suggestions, until, that is, when it got to the tenth item that needs to go – the sermon. That’s right, on a so-called Christian website, the author of this article suggests that the sermon in the worship service needs to go. She writes that the real issue is the format of the sermons, indicating that because the attention span of people is so short these days, the sermon has to go. She goes on to offer a suggested alternative:
“You can still have your pastor up front on Sundays, but instead of just talking, he or she can lead experiences. Lectures could be replaced by an environment where people are free to talk and ask questions. You could even try sitting people at tables to better encourage discussions. These are the types of moments that create the biggest impact.”
This actually would have been a pretty funny Babylon Bee satirical post, but I actually think the author is serious. Continue reading


Why You Should Rest on Sundays

Ask how someone is doing these days and you’ll often hear “Busy, really busy”. I don’t doubt it. We seem to have more to do and less time to do it in. And the older we get, when we get home during the week, we’re tired, and we just want to have dinner, and maybe relax a little with that TV program we’ve been binge-watching. That leaves the weekend to catch up on other things that need to get done – yard work, laundry, shopping, home repairs, etc.
The creation story tells us that God finished the work He had done and rested on the seventh day. He blessed that day and made it holy. As we are made in His image, we should rest on Sunday as well.
The workplace changed significantly from the beginning to the end of my career, primarily due to technology. There was no email, no smartphones and there were standard beginning and endings to the workday when I began my career. The organization I worked at even had chimes to start and end the day and for lunch break.  Now, workers are always connected. And many, including Christians, use Sunday to catch up on work that has built up from the previous week. In addition, many youth sports traveling teams compete on Sundays, often conflicting with worship services.
What does the Bible say about activities on Sunday? Continue reading

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Discerning Whether Someone is a True Believer

In our church, if someone wishes to pursue membership, they meet with two elders. The purpose of the meeting is to discern, as much as humanly possible, whether the individual is a Christian. I really enjoy these meetings in which we get to hear how the Lord has worked in someone’s life. It’s one of my favorite responsibilities of being an elder.
In a recent meeting, the person we were meeting with asked us a very interesting question. He asked what we thought about when public figures professed to be Christian, but their public behavior didn’t seem to align with that of a Christian? We each provided our answer, but I’ve continued to give the question some thought. Although we can never truly know someone’s heart, only God does (Acts 15:8), here are three thoughts to help us in discerning whether someone is a believer. Continue reading

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Are People Surprised When They Find Out You Are a Christian?

Recently, I read David Goetsch’s book Christians on the Job: Winning at Work without Compromising Your Faith. This is a good book that I would recommend to Christians on how to integrate their faith with their work.
One comment in the book stood out as I read it. The author writes: “Have you ever worked with someone and been surprised to learn he or she is a believer? How did this make you feel about the individual in question?” Immediately my mind went back to a time early in my career. Continue reading

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Leadership Courage

I used to regularly get feedback indicating that “Bill doesn’t like conflict”. Well, I’m not sure many people really like conflict, but I do know that if you avoid situations because you don’t want to deal with conflict due to a lack of leadership courage it can result in other problems. In fact, Patrick Lencioni has written that the fear of conflict is almost always a sign of problems.
In the organization that I worked at as a leader for nearly 38 years, we often talked about leadership courage, especially in evaluating emerging leaders. But what do we mean by leadership courage?
John Maxwell has said that he has never known a successful leader who was not courageous. He states that courage is an essential quality for a leader. Samantha Pena has written that a courageous leader is someone who constantly asks themselves if they are being courageous enough, who are willing to make difficult decisions and do not back down when things get too hard.

Leaders who consistently demonstrate leadership courage model these 5 traits:

  • Confront reality. Leaders need to be able to assess their environment effectively and then lead based on the current reality. They have to be able to adjust their thinking and approach based on current conditions.
  • Change agent. Leaders who have leadership courage are comfortable driving change, are not afraid to challenge the status quo and take calculated risks. Susan Pearse writes “Without courage you can’t have the right conversations that lead to change. Without courage you won’t even get off the starting block as a leader.”
  • Open and honest communication. Leaders must be able to deliver the difficult messages about change in their organization, even if they may personally disagree with them.
  • Honest performance feedback. Not being honest about a team member’s performance appears to be kind, but it’s really not. Not being honest doesn’t do the team member nor the organization any favors. Giving a team member a better than deserved performance evaluation is not being fair to them, because eventually they will encounter a good leader who will be honest with them. Give them honest feedback that will help them to address any performance issues they may have.
  • Go back. There are times when a leader must show leadership courage and go back on a decision they have made when it becomes obvious that the decision was wrong. This also takes humility, a trait of all great leaders.

These are just 5 traits of leaders who consistently demonstrate leadership courage. What would you add to the list?

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Character in Action

When we look to do business with an organization, we look to work with people in that organization that have both competency and character. First, we need people who know their jobs, and have the skills and experience to take care of what we need them to do for us. Second, and every bit as important, if not more so, we need them to be honest, have integrity and be people of character. A definition that I have used for character for many years is doing the right thing when nobody is watching. Carey Nieuwhof writes in his new book Didn’t See It Coming, that all the competency in the world can’t compensate for a lack of character.
My wife and I recently had an unexpected encounter with a person in a service profession who demonstrated honesty, integrity and character.  An indicator light in Tammy’s car showed that the front left tire was running low. That was surprising as she had bought four new tires just five months ago. After adding air to the tire, we noticed a bubble in it so she set up an appointment to get the tire replaced. What happened next was a true demonstration of honesty, integrity and character. Continue reading


Battling Our Fear of Failure

I have struggled with a fear of failure for as long as I can remember. Several years ago I read Dr. Alan Zimmerman’s book Pivot: How One Turn in Attitude Can Lead to Success with a team member. I remember joking as we started the book that it was funny that two positive people with good attitudes were reading a book about attitude. However, as it turned out, Dr. Zimmerman included chapters about worry and failure in the book. I have to admit that I worry about failing. My wife can tell you that I tended to stress about each new class at seminary after receiving the syllabus. After looking it over and feeling overwhelmed before class even started, I thought there was just no way I was going to be able to do it. How could I, working 50+ hours a week, possibly do well on a mid-term and final exam, do all of the required reading, write a paper, etc.?

How about you? Do you have a fear of failure? Do you worry about failing? Continue reading