Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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A Prayer for America

Father in Heaven,

We come to you this day asking for your help, for we know that our help comes from you:
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 121: 1-2  (Note:  Listen to Casting Crowns’ song – Praise You in This Storm)

Our country badly needs you, Father. We are a divided and hurting people. This year we have faced so much trouble. We have faced weather issues from tornadoes in the spring, to now wildfires and hurricanes. We pray for those who have lost family members and their homes as a result.

So many lives have been lost in our nation, and worldwide, during this pandemic. We pray for the many doctors who are working on cures and vaccines. We lift up the healthcare workers and caregivers to you for protection and strength.

We pray that our leaders would not politicize this issue, but instead work together to save lives and help those in need. We pray for family and friends to remain safe during this time, especially those who are most vulnerable. We pray that family, friends and churches would not be divided over issues such as wearing masks and keeping socially distant.

We pray for the many who have lost jobs or businesses because of the pandemic. We pray for the businesses that are slowly beginning to open and the workers who are returning to the workplace. Please keep them safe, Father. We pray for those who are returning to school, either in person or virtual. Keep them safe and healthy and give them perseverance and joy in teaching and learning.

Father you know the racial issues that have gripped our country. We pray that we would be good listeners during this time, so that we can make meaningful change.

We pray for the upcoming national election, for the presidential, congressional and state races. Grant us wisdom as we vote, and may your will be done.

Father this has been a most difficult year. Draw us near to you this day.

In Jesus name,

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THIS & THAT: A Weekly Roundup of Favorite Articles and Quotes

  • What Comfort Does the Doctrine of Providence Bring to Christians During Difficult Times? In perfect wisdom and might, the Lord moves all creatures and events to accomplish His sovereign purpose. From Ligonier’s event Made in the Image of God, John MacArthur expresses the comfort of God’s providence when we face trials of many kinds.
  • Are You Hopeful for Another Spiritual Awakening in Our Day? Can we hope to see another great awakening to the gospel in our lifetime? From one of Ligonier’s live events, R.C. Sproul and Derek Thomas provide global and historical perspectives on the Lord’s work in causing resurgences of the Christian faith.
  • How Do I Find Hope in Suffering? In this episode of the Gospel Coalition biblical counseling series, Paul Tripp answers the question, “How do I find hope in suffering?”
  • What is a Biblical Church? What constitutes a biblical church? From one of the Ask Ligonier events, Derek Thomas sets forth several classic marks of a true church that are derived from principles in God’s Word.
  • Is Social Media All Negative? In this video, Tim Challies provides counsel on how a Christian can use social media for God’s glory.
  • Is God Disappointed in Our Mistakes or Disobedience? Sin is no mere mistake. It’s a willful act of disobedience against the holy, righteous God. In this Q&A video from Ligonier’s 2016 National Conference, R.C. Sproul and Michael Reeves warn of the seriousness of sin.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:

  • More interesting article links
  • Favorite Quotes of the Week

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Improve your Listening Skills

In our Friday morning book club, as we were discussing Bob Buford’s book Half Time, the subject of listening came up. Although we rarely think of it, listening is a very underappreciated communication skill, not only for leaders, but for all of us. You’ve probably heard people say that God so valued listening that He created us with two ears, while only giving us one mouth to speak with.
One of the members of our book club mentioned how his wife will say to him that he hasn’t heard a word that she had been saying. He is able to repeat the very last thing she had said, but yes, she was right, he heard her but wasn’t listening.
When I was attending seminary there were times during dinner when I was thinking about the reading or studying that I needed to do that evening. My wife could sense this and called me on it. I was preoccupied – physically present with her, but not truly present.
I admit that listening is an area that I can certainly grow in. Years ago I was caught off guard by feedback at work I received from a new boss. They stated that my former director told them that I hear, but don’t listen. I was caught off guard because the former leader, while mentioning that to my new leader, had never shared that feedback with me. But it is true that too often, rather than intensely listening to what someone is saying, I’m thinking ahead to how I will respond. Is that true for you as well?
John Maxwell has stated that a leader’s biggest communication problem is that they do not listen to understand. He tells us that most often, like me, leaders listen to reply. He goes on to state:
“The bottom line is this — when the leader listens, the organization gets better. Is it possible to be a leader without listening? Yes. Is it possible to be a good leader without listening? No. No leader can take an organization to the highest level without being a good listener. Why? Because you can never get the best out of people if you don’t know who they are, where they want to go, why they care, what they think, and what they have to contribute.”
Dr. Alan Zimmerman writes that listening communicates importance and respect. He writes “When you listen to another person, you are saying, “I am listening to you and only you right now. You are getting all of me. No distractions, no mind wandering, no looking at the papers on my desk, no checking my smart phone. You’re getting all of my attention because you’re important to me.”
So, how can we become better listeners? Awareness that we need to improve is really the first step. Here are three other thoughts:

  1. Practice listening. That may sound strange, but try it. Next time you are meeting with someone, perhaps over dinner or coffee, make it a point to make good eye contact and really listen to them. My guess is that it will feel very different from how you listen today.
  2. A wise older gentleman that counseled many people would listen very intently and then ask a probing question or two. It takes your full attention and not being distracted to listen and get to underlying issues.
  3. Confirm what you have heard. To better understand what someone is saying to you, especially in very important or “crucial” conversations, take time to confirm what you think you have heard. Ask the person you are in a conversation with “What I hear you saying is…”. They can either confirm what you have stated or correct it. If you want a great example of how someone’s NOT truly listening and reflecting back what the speaker said, watch this humorous recut version of an interview with Jordan Peterson.

Listening is a very important and underappreciated communication skill. What other ideas and tips do you have for us to improve our ability to really listen?

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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:

  • More links to interesting articles
  • The Top 10 Faith and Work Quotes of the Week
  • My Review of The Leadership Style of Jesus: How to Make a Lasting Impact by Michael Youssef
  • Snippets from Os Guinness’ book “The Call: Finding and Fulfilling God’s Purpose For Your Life”

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Is Anything Too Hard for the Lord?

In Genesis chapter 17, we see that the LORD appeared to Abram, who was then 99 years old. In verse 16, the LORD told Abraham that he would give him a son by his wife Sarah, who was 90 years old. We read that Abraham then fell on his face and laughed to himself about how impossible it would be for a couple of their age to have a child.
Laughter shows up again in chapter 18 as the LORD and two other men appear to Abraham. Sarah, listening nearby, hears the LORD tell Abraham that he will return in a year and Sarah will have a son. Sarah laughed to herself about this impossibility because of her age, because she was way beyond her child-bearing years and had been barren up to this point.  The LORD then asked Abraham why Sarah laughed, asking “Is anything too hard for the LORD?”

Are there things in your life that you think are just impossible, even too hard for the LORD? What about? Continue reading

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The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

I think, in the words of Tom Petty, that great theologian/rock star, that waiting is one of the hardest things we have to do. Think of some of the many times we have to wait in life:

  • In line – at the grocery store, doctor’s office, ballpark, theatre, Disney World, etc.
  • In traffic, going to and from work Monday through Friday. For some of us, this represents hours each day.
  • For a job offer.
  • For medical test results.
  • For answers to prayer.
  • And in many more instances.

One of my good friends was waiting to hear back on a job offer. He had three interviews for the position and was told that they had hoped to make a decision, but at least a week had gone by. He wondered if he would even hear back from the employer, and was convinced that he wasn’t going to get an offer. He just wanted to hear one way or the other.
When we are waiting for something of significance (job offer, medical test results, you fill in the blank), doubt can set in. I’ve heard people say that they are hoping and praying for the best, but preparing for the worst. We are particularly prone to the attacks of the enemy at these times, as our minds go back and forth with how we are going to deal with things if this happens, or if this happens. Continue reading

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My Review of “A Way With Words: Using Our Online Conversations for Good” by Daniel Darling

A Way with Words: Using Our Online Conversations for Good by Daniel Darling. B&H Books. 224 pages. 2020

In this book, Daniel Darling considers the important subject of communicating in the internet age. He addresses the way we conduct ourselves in this new reality, the way we behave online. He tells us that we have a speaking God, which means that those who bear his image are also speakers. Sadly however, not all the words that we create reflect God’s own beautiful words, which is the reason for the book. The author states that nobody who bears the name of Christ is exempt from the Bible’s command toward thoughtful speech. He reminds us that we are the people, after all, who should most care about the truth as we serve the One who ultimately claimed to be the truth.
In this book, the author addresses such important topics as confirmation bias (the instinct to believe the worst things about people with whom we might disagree); a “hive mind” (groups of people who come to a consensus about something without hearing or being willing to listen to alternative ideas; performative posting (a projection of a life and a persona that we wish we had. It’s wanting to be seen as the kind of person we wish we were rather than who we really are); performative victimhood, courage and civility; conspiracy theories; the emerging shame and cancel culture; discernment (a constant theme directed toward the people of God in the Bible, and thus not an optional exercise for believers); creating unnecessary division in the body of Christ, which he writes is not just annoying, but sinful; how we process the news and interact with it online, suggesting that we begin with a commitment to read a variety of perspectives, not just those that confirm our biases; not only being right, but having the right tone; how to properly steward our influence;  what our online speech is modeling for others; and the impact of the internet on the local church. Continue reading

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5 Thoughts on Money for the Christian

Jesus taught much on the subject of money. In fact, you may not know that he taught more often on money than He did on love or on heaven and hell combined. Since Jesus spent so much time on the subject of money, we should devote some time thinking about it as well.
Gene Veith, in his excellent book God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life, writes that the purpose of vocation is to love and serve our neighbor. How is the believer to apply the purpose of vocation to our use of money?
R.C. Sproul, in his book How Should I Think about Money? writes that one of the most important things to consider is how we allocate the resources that God has given to us. How do we make important and wise decisions about how we’re going to spend our money?
There is much that we could talk about in regards to money. In this article, I want to briefly look at just five aspects: Continue reading

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7 Ways in Which Good Leaders Are Generous

In the book The Leadership Style of Jesus: Making a Lasting Impact by Michael Youssef, one of the chapters looks at the generosity of a leader. Youssef writes, “Great leaders who follow the leadership style of Jesus are generous with their resources, their time, their wisdom, and their insight. They give as Jesus gave, expecting nothing in return.” One of the principles the author lists is:  Authentic leaders give generously.
This got me to thinking about ways in which good leaders are generous. There are any number of ways that we could think of, but here are seven that I would like to highlight: Continue reading

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25 Great Quotes about Work from “The Economics of Neighborly Love” by Tom Nelson

Tom Nelson is the lead senior pastor at Christ Community Church in Kansas City. His book Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work is one of my favorite books on integrating our faith and work. In his latest book The Economics of Neighborly Good, he asks When it comes to faith, work, and economic integration, how are you and your church doing? Are you thoughtfully addressing the Sunday-to-Monday gap?”

Here are 25 great quotes about work from the book:

  1. A primary way God designed us to love our neighbors is for us to do our work well, and from our work to have the capacity to be generous to neighbors in need.
  2. Doing our work well matters to God and to our neighbor. The best workers make for the best neighbors.
  3. Whether our work is paid or not paid, our work is to glorify God, honor others, and add value to their lives.
  4. We may retire from our paycheck, but we never retire from work. We never retire from the privilege and responsibility of neighborly love.
  5. Fruitfulness means adding value and bestowing honor to others in and through our work.
  6. To minimize our unique creativity is to diminish the God who designed us in his image. Each one of us has the capacity to be creative and to reflect God with our creative output. Continue reading