Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

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The Logic of God: 52 Christian Essentials for the Heart and Mind by Ravi Zacharias. HarperCollins Publishing. 275 pages. 2019 
****

This book of 52 readings from Ravi Zacharias, who went home to be with the Lord May 19, is a collection of his writings, most of which have never before been published in book form. They were selected for their perspective on the many ways God has provided us with evidence of His existence and how this “logic” gives life meaning, establishes the credibility of the Christian message, shows the weakness of modern intellectual movements, demonstrates the certainty of the claims of Jesus Christ, and validates biblical teaching and Christian apologetics. Each reading is preceded by a relevant quote from the Bible. Two other features to help the reader to reflect on important themes in the readings – “Reflection Questions”, and apply the lessons learned from the readings – “Personal Application”. The author recommends that, if possible, you spend a week with each “experience”, although you can also read like a standard “daily devotional” as I did.

Below are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and reviews of
~ Growing in Holiness by R.C. Sproul
~ Growing Up (With) R.C. by R.C. Sproul Jr
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
I’M CURRENTLY READING….

  • Truth by definition is exclusive. Everything cannot be true. If everything is true, then nothing is false. And if nothing is false, then it would also be true to say everything is false. We cannot have it both ways.
  • In the pursuit of truth, intent is prior to content, or to the availability of it. The love of truth and the willingness to submit to its demands is the first step.
  • It is Christ who shows that unless a person’s pain is understood, one will never understand a person’s soul.
  • The more and the better we hear others, the more and the better they will hear us. This is especially true today when sensitivities run so deep.
  • Christianity is not a religion or perspective; it is God’s self-disclosure in Christ. It is built on and built through a relationship.
  • Let us come to the cross as we are: children desiring love, sinners needing mercy, souls weary of running through our nights and days, and ready to follow the One who ordains us.
  • The cross is the centerpiece of the gospel message. It is truly the intersection of love and justice, judgment and grace, exactitude and mercy.
  • The single greatest obstacle to the impact of the gospel has not been its inability to provide answers, but the failure on our part to live it out. That failure not only robs us of our inner peace but mars the intended light that a consistently lived life brings to the one observing our message.
  • Jesus does not offer to make bad people good but to make dead people alive.
  • Only when I am at peace with God can I be at peace with myself, and only then will I be at peace with my fellow humans and truly free.
  • God alone can weave a pattern from the diverse strands of our lives—whether suffering, success, joy, or heartache—and fashion a magnificent design.
  • God has put enough into this world to make faith in Him a most reasonable thing. But He has left enough out to make it impossible to live by sheer reason alone. Faith and reason must always work together in that plausible blend.
  • Although prayer remains a mystery to all of us but especially to one who lives apart from God, I have observed again and again that even the hardened heart retains a longing for the possibility of communicating with God.
  • Hope, like character, takes years to build and minutes to shatter. But hope, like character, can also rise beyond the moment to reinvest in what is of ultimate value: an eternal relationship with God.
  • Faith is that sublime dependence upon God that even though we may not get what we want, we know and love the One who denies us for His good reason and for our ultimate good.
  • Prayer draws the heart away from one’s own dependence to leaning on the sovereign God.
  • Only when we surrender to the light of God’s truth in our own lives are, we enabled to truly see and then be a beacon of hope and healing in our dark world.
  • Giving all that is your best to God is worship at its core.

Growing in Holiness by R.C. Sproul. Baker Books. 150 pages. 2020 
****

In this book drawn from his lectures, R.C. Sproul, who had a profound impact on my spiritual growth, looks at the process of sanctification, or making progress in our spiritual life. He writes that sanctification is not a casual endeavor, pointing out that the Apostle Paul tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
He tells us that the Christian life is a marathon. We have to learn perseverance. We have to keep on keeping on. We have to know how to press on with the work. He tells us that for spiritual growth to take place, there has to be effort. There has to be discipline. There has to be a willingness to pay the price to overcome all kinds of adversity and obstacles in a very real struggle. He writes that the basic emphasis of the New Testament call to sanctification, to growth in Christ, is an emphasis on disciplined struggle.
The goal of our lives is to be conformed to the image of Christ. Yet, the author tells us that it would be dishonest of him to suggest that growth in the Christian life comes easily. Growth in Christ is not easy, and we have to know we are in for a struggle for the rest of our lives. He tells us that the goal of the Christian life is not spirituality, or piety, or morality. The goal of the Christian life is righteousness.
The author tells us that justification stands at the beginning of the Christian life, it’s the moment we truly believe in Christ. We don’t have to wait until we’re righteous for God to regard us as righteous. We are regarded by God as righteous once He transfers to our account the righteousness of Jesus. The rest of the salvation process on earth is called sanctification.
The author tells us that sanctification has an ultimate, terminal point in the work of grace called glorification. That is when all sin will be eradicated from our personality. We will live lives totally and completely in conformity to the will of God in perfect righteousness. He tells us that believers will be fully and finally sanctified, not in this life, but in heaven. God will complete this process. He will purify us perfectly.
He tells us that we won’t make progress in our Christian life until we get assurance of our salvation settled. Our assurance can only come when we trust in Christ alone for our justification.
The author looks at detail at 1 Corinthians 13 and the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. Some of the topics covered in this helpful book are justification, sanctification, pride, humility, love, sin, justice, assurance of salvation, faith,
The book is an excellent introduction to the doctrine of sanctification, our growth in the Christian life. One of Sproul’s gifts was to be able to communicate theology in an understandable manner. That is what first attracted me to his ministry more than thirty years ago. This book is easy to understand and would be a good one to read and discuss with a new believer.
Below are 30 of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • God is holy, and we are to reflect that holiness so that this whole work of growing in sanctification is a growing in holiness.
  • Every time we choose to sin, at that moment we prefer sinning to obeying Christ. Our desire to commit the sin is more intense and greater than our desire to obey Christ.
  • To be Christ to your neighbor means that your life is so conformed to the will of God that when people look at you, they see the holiness of Christ reflected in your life.
  • When we pursue the glory of God in all of life, the unbelieving world will notice—they can’t help but notice.
  • We must first be holy in Christ before we can manifest Christ to the outside world. The primary way we fulfill our destiny to glorify God as those made in His image is through the practice of righteousness.
  • We must never rest upon our own merit to get us into the kingdom of God. It’s only by Christ’s righteousness that we can ever stand before Him.
  • The pursuit of holiness should be a response of love and obedience from those who have been freely forgiven.
  • One of the most important of all the means of grace is participation in the body of Christ.
  • Even though justification is by faith alone, it never remains alone. It produces love and good works.
  • We must make a profession of faith. But the mere profession does not guarantee salvation. Salvation comes through the possession of faith, not just the profession.
  • Biblical doctrine matters because it can give great comfort and healthy assurance.
  • If there’s true faith, then it yields true justification, and true justification yields the fruit of sanctification. Of that we may be sure.
  • Saving faith is intensely personal and individual, but it is never to remain private. Christ calls us to confess His name before the world. He calls us to give our testimony before people.
  • It is our duty not only to possess faith but also to profess it. Few things give us assurance of our salvation like sharing our faith with others.
  • We can gladly and patiently bear the sins of others, because God has been so gracious and patient with us.
  • Our horizontal relationships with people flow out of our vertical relationship with God.
  • When a Christian grows in grace, he begins to understand what brings true joy and happiness. When the fruit of the Spirit takes hold in his life, he truly knows the source of his good cheer.
  • The victory has been won. No matter what else goes wrong in the Christian’s life—real tragedy, pain, or sorrow—there still is that rock-bottom dimension of cheerfulness that should be there because of what Christ has done.
  • When you possess in your heart the peace of Christ, it gives you power for a peaceful disposition. It puts to death the spirit of strife and the quarrelsome personality that does not bring honor to Christ.
  • All Christian virtues are ultimately based on the character of God. The fruit of the Spirit is nothing more and nothing less than the holy and righteous character of God produced within us.
  • When we truly understand that we ourselves are the recipients of God’s kindness, we will be kind. We will want to show kindness.
  • One of the most dramatic changes that comes about through conversion is that we have a radically new inclination toward goodness. We want to do good, because we want to please God.
  • Part of our growth in sanctification is the ability to appreciate excellence wherever it manifests itself. We should appreciate beauty for what it is because it reflects the order and the harmony of the character of God Himself.
  • It is one thing to believe in God, and it is another thing to believe God.
  • When we grow spiritually, faith becomes increasingly fruitful. We have an increased capacity to believe God, and that has a direct impact on our struggle with sin.
  • As the fruit of faith grows within us, we not only become more trusting of other people, we also become more trustworthy. We become faithful to our vows, promises, and commitments.
  • If the fruit of the Spirit is to grow to its fullness—to maturity—it requires a mature understanding of the things of God.
  • You’ve got to have fellowship with other genuine Christians if you want to have fruit. You cannot walk the Christian life in isolation.
  • Don’t neglect the means of grace. Make diligent use of these things so that the fruit of Christ might be perfected in your life.
  • If we want to grow in Christlikeness, if we want to have confidence that we are in Him, then we will diligently pursue love.

Growing Up (With) R.C.: Truths I Learned About Grace, Redemption, and the Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul Jr. Ichthus Publications. 226 pages. 2019 
***

R.C. Sproul Sr., through his teaching, was my spiritual mentor for more than 30 years prior to his death in December, 2017. Reading about what it was like to have him as a father was what interested me in this book. But given who the author of the book was, and also who he chose to write the “Foreword” to the book – two people who have experienced significant moral failings – gave me significant pause.  I would have felt different if the “Foreword’ had been written by Sinclair Ferguson, for example, someone the author speaks highly of in the book. Despite my concerns, I decided to read it, and I’m glad that I did.
The book opens with an account of the author’s experience after being arrested for driving under the influence with two minor children in his car in Indiana in 2016. He writes that God’s grace was not merely enough to forgive him, but also to heal him. He writes that over the years he has brought shame on his father on more than one occasion, and in the minds of many, is living proof that sometimes the apple falls plenty far from the tree. He writes about his father not only teaching him theology, but also pastoring and shepherding him. He writes that his father did not hold many grudges. Rather, he was quick to forgive, and even quicker to forget. The author writes that his wanderings are his fault, not his fathers.
First, a few things that are missing from the book. Other than writing about daughter Shannon, who died at the age of 15, he doesn’t make reference to his first wife Denise, nor to their other seven children in this book about his life, though there is much about his current wife Lisa. There is also no reference to what the author, formerly a pastor, Ligonier Teaching Fellow, etc. is doing today vocationally.
This book is not really a biography of his father (it’s actually closer to a biography of the author), but it is one of tender remembrances of the lessons he was taught by his father. Throughout, the tone of the book is warm and loving. At the same time, he writes that his father was not a perfect man. The author doesn’t want this collection of memories to descend into a false, airbrushed portrait of the man. What I most enjoyed about this book were the stories about the lessons the author learned from his father. It is clear that he dearly misses his father.
He writes that his parents loved him well, loved each other well, and best of all, loved Jesus well and taught him about Jesus from infancy. He writes that every day of their lives together, his father pointed him toward their perfect elder Brother.
He writes that he did not so much learn from his father as absorb him. As his father modeled Jesus, he learned forgiveness, compassion, humor, loyalty, and love. He writes that his father knew the holiness of God because he knew God and feared Him. And in his grace—and by His grace—his father taught him the same.
He talks about his father being a “Renaissance Man”, having many interests (astronomy, painting, the violin, etc.) and always giving each of those interests his fullest effort, for a time, and then moving on to something else. Two great loves that he never gave up however were the piano and golf.
He writes of going to movies and discussing them with his father, his father asking him what he was reading, and the back-patio conversations with his father as he was attending Reformed Theological Seminary. He tells us that his father was a profoundly gentle man and had a wonderful sense of humor, which came through in his teaching.
The author writes of his father’s death, indicating that by the time he arrived at his deathbed, he was already in a coma. Knowing that his father might still be able to hear, the author shares what he spoke to him when it was just the two of them in the room. He also shares a touching blessing that his father wrote and recorded for them, at the request of his wife Lisa.
I would recommend this book for its unique insights into how a father poured himself into the life of his son. As someone whose life has been forever changed by how the Lord used R.C. Sproul’s ministry, I thoroughly enjoyed the book.


  • Books for a Summer Afternoon: The 2020 Summer Reading List. Albert Mohler writes “The following are some suggestions for summer reading that I offer as one reader to other readers. As is usual for this annual list, the books are predictably centered in history and historical biography. I read a great deal of fiction and literature, but those books will have to await some later list. The titles I mention below are books I enjoyed reading, and now pass to you.”
  • Jackie Hill Perry on ‘Gay Girl, Good God’. Jackie Hill Perry delivered a message during a breakout session at The Gospel Coalition’s 2019 National Conference titled “Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was and Who God Has Always Been” based on her book by the same name. In it, she addresses same-sex attraction through her own story, couched within the larger story of God.
  • The Heart of Jesus. My wife Tammy and I are reading and discussing Dane Ortlund’s new book Gentle and Lowly. Ortlund writes ““Gentle and lowly.” This, according to His own testimony, is Christ’s very heart. This is who He is. Tender. Open. Welcoming. Accommodating. Understanding. Willing. If we are asked to say only one thing about who Jesus is, we would be honoring Jesus’ own teaching if our answer is gentle and lowly.”
  • A way-station to egalitarianism: A review essay of Aimee Byrd’s Recovering from Biblical Manhood & Womanhood. Denny Burk reviews Aimee Byrd’s new book Recovering from Biblical Manhood & Womanhood: How the Church Needs to Rediscover Her Purpose. He writes “I predict arguments like Byrd’s will prove over time to be a briefly held way-station on the movement from narrow complementarianism to egalitarianism. Readers who do not wish to take that journey should be cautious about Byrd’s book.” Here is a review of the book from Andy Naselli.

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

The Gospel According to Jesus: What is Authentic Faith? by John MacArthur

We are reading through John MacArthur’s classic book The Gospel According to Jesus. What did Jesus mean when He said, “Follow me”?  MacArthur tackled that seemingly simple question and provided the evangelical world with the biblical answer.  For many, the reality of Jesus’ demands has proved thoroughly searching, profoundly disturbing, and uncomfortably invasive; and yet, heeding His words is eternally rewarding. The 20th anniversary edition of the book has revised and expanded the original version to handle contemporary challenges.  The debate over what some have called “lordship salvation” hasn’t ended—every generation must face the demands Christ’s lordship. Will you read along with us?
This week we look at Chapter 15:  The Lost and Found. Here are some of my takeaways from the chapter:

  • What touches the heart of God most deeply is the salvation of those whom He pursues and brings to repentance.
  • When a repentant sinner turns to God, He learns that God is already looking for him to come, eager to run and meet him. Before he ever gets near to God, he discovers that God has first come to embrace him.
  • All three of these parables have this common theme: a seeker finds what was lost and rejoices. In every case, the seeker pictures God, who rejoices over the salvation of a sinner.
  • The Lord always seeks to save the lost, but they must see themselves as lost.
  • Often the most flagrant, irreligious, repugnant sinners are quicker to understand their depravity than people steeped in religious achievement and self-righteousness.
  • God is seeking the lost. Those who acknowledge their sin and turn from it will find Him running to them with open arms. Those who think they are good enough to deserve His favor will find themselves excluded from the celebration, unable to share the eternal joy of a loving Father.

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence ~ married to my best friend for more than 40 years and a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Before retiring I served as a manager at a Fortune 50 company; I'm a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary and in leadership at my local church. I enjoy speaking about calling, vocation and work. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop to their fullest potential and to utilize their strengths more fully. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinders themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony and Achiever, and my two StandOut strengths roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book and 2 Corinthians 5:21 my favorite verse. Some of my other favorite books are Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, The Prodigal Son (originally titled A Tale of Two Sons) by John MacArthur and Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I enjoy Christian hip-hop/rap music, with Lecrae, Trip Lee and Andy Mineo being some of favorite artists.

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