Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

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Brave by Faith: God-Sized Confidence in a Post-Christian World by Alistair Begg. The Good Book Company. 98 pages. 2021
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Pastor and author Alistair Begg tells us that secularism pushes back again and again against what the Bible says about sexual ethics, about salvation, about education, about the role and reach of the state, and about matters of public welfare. Public opinion has turned against Christians in America. Christians are suddenly a minority group within an increasingly secularized nation. We are finding out how it feels to be outsiders, and we don’t like it.
He tells us that the message of the book of Daniel is incredibly relevant for us in our generation. The message of Daniel is this: don’t be discouraged. You have not reached home. This isn’t it. And Jesus shall reign.
Begg uses the familiar first seven chapters of the book of Daniel to teach American Christians what it looks like to live as a Christian in a society that does not like what Christians believe, what we say, and how we live. He writes that we will be able to navigate our present moment to the extent that we realize that the God of the exiles in the sixth century BC has not changed in the intervening two and a half millennia. God is powerful, and God is sovereign, and even in the face of circumstances that appear to be prevailing against his people, we may trust him entirely.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review…
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ Providence by John Piper
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He asks how can we, as Christians, keep our courage and hope, in this culture? The answer is to look to the God whom Daniel knew and we will find out why, and how, to live as his people. Here is how you stand firm and live bravely when the wind is blowing hard against you. We will only live brave like Daniel did if we first know the God who Daniel did. We are in Babylon—and God is sovereign even here.
He writes that we are going to face challenges. We will be challenged to give into the beliefs of our secular culture. Those crises we will face will reveal what is inside us. He tells us not to assume that you will stand firm in those moments. Equally, don’t assume you will have to give in. Resolve now. Think through where to draw the lines you will not cross. The crises will come; the moments will arrive when we are called to go with the flow of our culture rather than obedience to our God in the workplace, or the sports club, or in how we raise our children, or what we say from our pulpits, and so on.
The purpose of the book of Daniel is to say again and again essentially the same thing: that God is in charge of the whole universe and you can trust him.
Among the topics covered in this short book are compromise, idols, evangelism, trials, and pride.
Below are 15 of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • We will not necessarily all draw all our lines in the same places. The lines may be drawn in different places, but drawn they should be, and crossed they must not be.
  • Here is the main and the plain thing: human history is under the control of God, and he has a purpose which will be achieved.
  • This was the message of the dream for the exile and the king, and for us: God is God, God is in control, and God’s kingdom has no rivals.
  • God sets up and God brings down kingdoms. These kingdoms will come and go, but God has established a kingdom that will never come to an end and will never be passed on to somebody else.
  • Idolatry—in your life and more broadly in society—precedes immorality. If we would understand why immorality is tolerated or even promoted, we need to look behind the behavior to the worship—to the idol.
  • Our hearts naturally worship idols that exalt our agenda, our goals, our significance, or our reputation.
  • We are not called to be pragmatic but faithful: to say, God has said this, and so I will do it.
  • Obedience to Jesus does not mean we skip the fires; indeed, often obedience will bring us into the fires. It is in the midst of the fire that God often shows himself the most clearly to us and reveals his strength to us.
  • It is in trials that the Christian is formed, and in trials that we find the greatest blessings.
  • The extent to which we truly believe in the God of Daniel will be demonstrated by the confidence of our evangelism in a pagan culture.
  • Your job, and mine, is not to convert people. It is to communicate the gospel. God is big enough to do the rest, according to his sovereign plan to build his church.
  • Pride is at the very heart of human rejection of God. We do not want to accept that there is someone other than us who is in charge of our lives and who gives us our breath and our every success.
  • We are called to do far more than to be good workers and to serve our society well; but we are certainly not called to do less.
  • God is on the throne and the future is securely in his hands.
  • Don’t look back to the “glory days.” Live well in this day. If you’re a banker, be a banker to the glory of God. If you’re a teacher, teach to the glory of God. If you’re a scientist, research to the glory of God. If you’re a salesman, sell to the glory of God.

  • Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold. My wife Tammy recently published a book about HOW to study the Bible. The book is available on Amazon in both a Kindle and paperback edition. She writes “Maybe you’ve read the Bible but want to dig deeper and know God and know yourself better. Throughout the book I use the analogy of making a quilt to show how the Bible is telling one big story about what God is doing in the world through Christ. Quilting takes much patience and precision, just like studying the Bible, but the end result is well worth it.”
  • The Supremacy of God in Preaching: Conclusion. On this episode of the Ask Pastor John podcast, John Piper reads the brief conclusion to his book The Supremacy of God in Preaching.
  • What an Old Controversy Teaches Us about Grace and Legalism. On this episode of the Crossway Podcast, Sinclair Ferguson discusses the relevance of church history and divisive theological positions as we dig into a largely forgotten 18th-century Scottish debate about God’s grace and our works, explaining the roots of legalism and antinomianism, and why all of this matters for modern-day believers.
  • Advice for a New Christian Reading the Psalms. In this short video, Dane Ortlund states “I would encourage such a person to take a psalm a day, or each evening, and build into their life a way of reading the psalms that lifts them in prayer to God, and thereby shapes their own heart towards truth and towards beauty as they walk with God.”
  • Devotional Options for Those Who Have Fallen Behind. Tim Challies writes “There is no need to wait until January 1 to get into a devotional resource that will be a blessing to you. There are lots of options available that can help you finish strong in 2021.”

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

Providence by John Piper

The providence of God is his purposeful sovereignty by which he will be completely successful in the achievement of his ultimate goal for the universe. God’s providence carries his plans into action, guides all things toward his ultimate goal, and leads to the final consummation.
John Piper draws on a lifetime of theological reflection, biblical study, and practical ministry to lead readers on a stunning tour of the sightings of God’s providence—from Genesis to Revelation—to discover the all-encompassing reality of God’s purposeful sovereignty over all of creation and all of history.
Exploring the goal, nature, and extent of God’s purposes for the world, Piper offers an invitation to know the God who holds all things in his hands yet remains intimately involved in the lives of his people.
You can download the PDF of the book free from Desiring God.
Watch this six-minute video as John Piper talks about the book, and this interview with Dr. Joe Rigney of Bethlehem College & Seminary.
The book was recently made available in an audiobook format.
This week we look at Chapter 12: Christ’s Foundational Act in Establishing the New Covenant. Here are a few takeaways from the chapter:

  • Jesus is the ground of the new covenant. He is the basis of it. It has taken effect because of the sacrifice he made. He is responsible for putting it into effect.
  • Because of what Christ accomplished in his suffering and death and resurrection, he is not only the ground of the new covenant; he has become its supreme reward.
  • God’s purpose in the new covenant was not only to make it possible for sinners to be forgiven and to know and enjoy the glory of God forever. His purpose was also that the mediator of the covenant would be that very God and would enact a redeeming glory that would become the most beautiful display of glory anyone could ever enjoy—the glory of God’s grace.
  • Grace is the consummate expression of God’s glory, and Christ in his suffering is the consummate expression of grace.
  • The ultimate goal of God in his saving providence—namely, the praise of the glory of his grace—was achieved through the suffering of the Son of God, who died to deliver us from eternal suffering (2 Thess. 1:9) and bring us into everlasting enjoyment of his glory (John 17:24).
  • The ultimate reason that suffering exists is so that Christ might display the greatness of the glory of the grace of God by suffering himself to overcome our suffering.
  • The suffering of the utterly innocent, and infinitely holy, Son of God in the place of utterly undeserving sinners to bring us to everlasting joy is the greatest display of the glory of God’s grace that ever was or ever could be.
  • The suffering and death of the Lamb of God in history is the consummate display of the glory of the grace of God. That is why God planned it before the foundation of the world. That is the aim and work and wonder of God’s pervasive providence.
  • The display of the glory of God’s grace, especially in the suffering of the Beloved, echoing forever in the all-satisfying praises of the redeemed, is the goal of creation and the ultimate aim of all God’s works of providence.

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.

2 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

  1. Thank you for both book reviews. Allistair Begg and John Piper are huge influencers for our Christian culture. Their keen insight into what is happening around us, just like Daniel in Babylon, helps us to see how to be in the world, but not of the world. It takes much wisdom and guidance to navigate through this complex society, and I pray that these two books will equip the saints to share their faith with humility and love. Blessings!

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