Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Book Reviews
The Generosity Factor: Discover the Joy of Giving Your Time, Talent, and Treasure by Ken Blanchard and Truett Cathy. Zondervan. 138 pages. 2009

This book, about stewardship and the joy we can find in giving, is written like most of Ken Blanchard’s books, communicating his messages through a leadership fable. Blanchard wrote the book with Truett Cathy. Those familiar with the life of the Chick Fil-A founder will recognize many things in the book that point to his life and the culture of Chick Fil-A.
In the book, we are introduced to a few primary characters. First, we meet the Broker, a young man who has a successful online brokerage house. But he rejected his father’s attempts to instill an old-fashioned work ethic in him. He is disgusted by an unkempt Bag Lady who he sees daily outside of his high-rise, eventually calling the police on her.
We also meet the Broker’s Driver, who served time as a young man, but benefitted significantly from the Teacher, who poured her life into the young men in the institution. As a result, today the Driver is known as a gentle, caring man, a father and husband.
We are introduced to the Executive, who built a multi-state chain of auto parts and service centers from a simple idea in a single location. He now has more than eight hundred auto service centers and parts outlets scattered throughout the southwestern United States.

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More of this review… and reviews of the books…
**Everybody, Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People by Bob Goff
**In the Year of Our Lord: Reflections on Twenty Centuries of Church History by Sinclair B. Ferguson

The Broker reads a story in his favorite financial newspaper about the Executive who claims that the greatest joy in his life was his ability to give to others. This is inconceivable to the Broker, who decides to call the Executive. That conversation leads to the Broker, described as the hardest, coldest man in New York, to travel to meet the Executive, who may well be the most tenderhearted man in Denver.
Over the course of a few days the Executive shares with the Broker the elements of a plan that makes it a pleasure to give, which he calls the Generosity Factor, to the Broker. The Executive shares his secret so that the Broker can change his world, just as the Executive has changed his.  He shares concepts such as Time, Talent, Treasure and Touch, as well as the impact his faith has had on his generosity. He also shares the “three M’s”, Master, Mission and Mate and the importance of the blessings in our lives. But will the Executive be able to get through to the cold-hearted Broker?
I really enjoyed this simple story that communicates important truths.

Everybody, Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People by Bob Goff. Thomas Nelson. 237 pages. 2018

This is Bob’s Goff’s second book. I read it in just a few days, and as soon as I finished it, I immediately downloaded his first one, Love Does. I enjoyed this book that much. I didn’t want to put it down.
The book is made up of short chapters which contain compelling stories of some of his friends and what they have taught him about extravagant love and acceptance.
The author seems like an incredible guy, a guy I would like to meet. I did get to hear him speak a few months ago at a local fundraiser. He is a lawyer, a diplomat for the Republic of Uganda, a pilot, teaches classes at a university, and has an office at Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland. And I’m sure I’m leaving out a lot of other things about him. He writes that while some people have bucket lists of things they’ve always wanted to do, he doesn’t.  He wants to do everything. He tells us that it’s given him a lot of comfort knowing we’re all rough drafts of the people we’re still becoming.
In this book, he covers a variety of topics around the subject of love, stating “What Jesus told His friends can be summed up in this way: He wants us to love everybody, always—and start with the people who creep us out. The truth is, we probably creep them out as much as they do us.” He wants us to become love. Among the subjects he covers in the book are loving difficult people, loving our enemies, and those we don’t agree with. He writes that we make loving people a lot more complicated than Jesus did. He tells us to live without fear and not play it safe. He tells us to build a kingdom, not a castle and to care about people without having an agenda, and most of all how to love people like Jesus did.
I highlighted a number of passages as I read through the book. Below are 25 great quotes from the book:

  • There’s a difference between good judgment and living in judgment. The trick is to use lots of the first and to go a little lighter on the second.
  • What I’m learning about love is that we have to tackle a good amount of fear to love people who are difficult.
  • He wants us to love the people near us and love the people we’ve kept far away. To do this, He wants us to live without fear.
  • Find someone you think is wrong, someone you disagree with, someone who isn’t like you at all, and decide to love that person the way you want Jesus to love you.
  • Instead of telling people what they want, we need to tell them who they are. This works every time. We’ll become in our lives whoever the people we love the most say we are.
  • He won’t love us more or less based on how we act, and He’s more interested in our hearts than all the things we do.
  • He said He wanted us to build a kingdom, and there’s a big difference between building a castle and building a kingdom. You see, castles have moats to keep creepy people out, but kingdoms have bridges to let everyone in. Castles have dungeons for people who have messed up, but kingdoms have grace.
  • Loving people means caring without an agenda. As soon as we have an agenda, it’s not love anymore.
  • People who are becoming love keep it real about who they are right now, while living in constant anticipation about who God’s helping them become.
  • Our lives will never be about Jesus if we keep making everything about ourselves.
  • Loving people the way Jesus did is always great theology.
  • What I’ve come to learn so far about my faith is Jesus never asked anyone to play it safe. We were born to be brave. There’s a difference between playing it safe and being safe.
  • Loving people we don’t understand or agree with is just the kind of beautiful, counterintuitive, risky stuff people who are becoming love do.
  • God doesn’t like us more when we succeed or less when we fail. He delights in our attempts. He gave each of us different abilities too.
  • It was a backward economy Jesus talked about. If they wanted to be a good leader, they would need to be an even better follower.
  • God isn’t always leading us to the safest route forward but to the one where we’ll grow the most.
  • God didn’t promise us a safe life. Instead, He said He would give us a dangerous, courageous, and purposeful one if we’ll take Him at His word and stay engaged.
  • Loving people the way Jesus did means living a life filled with constant interruptions.
  • We all encounter difficulties. It’s what we do next that defines us.
  • Many of us think of our big mistakes as disqualifying us; God sees them as preparing us.
  • Our problem following Jesus is we’re trying to be a better version of us, rather than a more accurate reflection of Him.
  • Jesus said being right with Him meant loving people who got things wrong.
  • Loving people the way Jesus did means being constantly misunderstood. People who are becoming love don’t care. They will do whatever it takes to reach whoever is hurting.
  • Even when we feel like we can’t muster the strength and humility to love our enemies, the truth is we can. If you do this, I can promise two things will happen. First, it will be messy. The second thing is just as true: you’ll grow.
  • Don’t just love the people who are easy to love; go love the difficult ones. If you do this, Jesus said you’d move forward on your journey toward being more like Him.

In the Year of Our Lord: Reflections on Twenty Centuries of Church History by Sinclair B. Ferguson. Reformation Trust Publishing. 229 pages. 2018 

In this book, Sinclair Ferguson, one of today’s most respected theologians, gives us an overview of church history in twenty short easy to read chapters. The book is dedicated to Vesta Sproul and in deep gratitude for R.C. Sproul.
The author tells us that that book is intended to be a very simple but informative, encouraging, and enjoyable introduction to some members of “the Christian family”—the worldwide, history-deep, eternity-long church of Jesus Christ. He tells us that it is a book of people, stories, words, and songs—a kind of family narrative accompanied by a songbook. It is not a history of the church, rather, it is but fragments of her story. It is not the work of a professional historian but of a family member. The books looks at the period of first-century Jerusalem to the present day.
The author tells us that none of the figures featured in the book were perfect. Some of them did much good, wrote much that is helpful, and demonstrated enormous courage. On the other hand, they also did harm by their inadequate or confused teaching about the Christian faith or by the style in which they lived it. He tells us that what we can honor and imitate we should, but we ought never to be blinded by unthinking admiration. Throughout the book he includes some helpful lessons we might take to heart for the life of the present and future church.
Each chapter opens with a reading from that particular century. That is followed by a brief narrative of individuals and events from that century. Each chapter ends with a hymn written that was written in that particular century.
The origin of the book comes from a series of talks the author delivered at the church he was serving in the closing months of 1999.
I thoroughly enjoyed this historical overview and would recommend it to you. Below are 10 helpful quotes from the book:

  1. As we read about the Christian centuries and live in the contemporary world, we need to learn this: gospel advance always evokes opposition. That is as true in our personal lives as it is in the life of the church.
  2. Jesus Christ has built His church through the centuries by permitting suffering and martyrdom.
  3. It is becoming increasingly clear in our society that while the lordship of Jesus Christ may be permitted as a private religious conviction, for an individual to act in a manner consistent with that conviction may well contravene laws created by the state. Confessing Jesus as Lord is permitted, but to express His lordship may be a different issue altogether.
  4. The early Christians knew that martyrdom could never ultimately kill either the believer or the church. But false teaching always does.
  5. Put simply, the new assumption is this: since we cannot have certain knowledge of God (if He exists at all), all we are left with is that all religions are descriptions of religious experience. Ultimately, they all are doing the same thing, some better than others. But more than that we cannot say. Thus, in our modern world, Christianity and Islam are seen as two different forms of the same basic religion, two expressions of man’s “spiritual side.”
  6. Islam is a way of submission and good works. There is no good news there. By contrast, the gospel is a message of God’s grace, of faith and hope and love—a message about God’s seeking us and finding us.
  7. When the church begins to have power and influence not merely in society but over society, it tends to become more interested in its own voice being heard than in the word of the gospel being proclaimed.
  8. How unnerving, therefore, to see churches today with massive indebtedness for constructing hugely impressive church buildings, organizing services as though they were concerts, and apparently measuring the “quality of worship” by a grid appropriate to performance rather than faith. And, in most instances, either having no second service on the Lord’s Day, or one that is vastly diminished in attendance.
  9. Throughout the history of the church, it has always been those who have given themselves to the simplicities of day-by-day devotion to Jesus Christ who have made the deepest and most enduring impression for Him in the world.
  10. We cannot avoid being citizens of two worlds. But we endanger the gospel if we confuse these two worlds. And doubtless, to some extent, this was true of the Crusades.

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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