Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Worship Forever – Michael W. Smith
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Michael W. Smith’s best-selling album is Worship, which was released on September 11, 2001, the day our nation was attacked. As a way to honor the tragic September 11 anniversary, Smith has released a reimagined version of the album. Worship Forever was recorded in front of a live audience in Nashville in July with a full symphony orchestra, choir and guest appearances by Amy Grant, Matt Redman, and Tauren Wells.
Smith adds a few newer songs to the track list including “Surrounded/Waymaker” and the new studio recording, the piano and orchestra driven “Sing Again.” Below is the chorus for “Sing Again”:

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  • More of this review
  • Music News
  • Song of the Week Lyrics:  Send Out Your Light by Sandra McCracken

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

R.C. Sproul: Defender of the Reformed Faith by Nate Pickowicz. H&E Publishing. 140 pages. 2022 
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In this warmly written and concise biography of R.C. Sproul, pastor and author Nate Pickowicz shares an appreciation that many of us have for the life and ministry of R.C. Sproul, who went home to be with the Lord in December, 2017. He writes that Sproul’s five decades of ministry loosely reflected the five solas of the Reformation.
The author focuses primarily on Sproul’s public ministry, quoting liberally from Sproul’s books and on his defense of the faith. Each chapter begins with a quote from Sproul.
The author’s fast-moving biography tells us that Sproul knew at 13 years of age that he would marry Vesta Voorhis. They would marry in 1960. He writes of Sproul’s father’s multiple strokes and death, telling us that it would be his father’s suffering that would drive him into the arms of the Suffering Savior, writing about his conversion in his dormitory room in 1957.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review…
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ Providence by John Piper
I’M CURRENTLY READING…. Continue reading


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What are the Benefits of Reading?

I love to read books in a variety of genres (almost entirely non-fiction, and on a Kindle device), including theology, sports, leadership, professional development, devotional, biography and Christian living. I always have multiple books in progress at one time. Perhaps I got my love of reading from my parents, who were both avid readers, though neither my brother nor sister enjoy reading.
For the past few years, I’ve enjoyed assisting one of our pastors teach seminary students soft skills through the NXTGEN Pastors organization. Recently, we covered a module titled “Reading Life of a Pastor”, written by Chris Vogel and Andy Perry.
As part of the lesson, we asked the participants to bring one book (other than the Bible) that has shaped them into who they are, has made an impact in their life, that gives comfort when needed, etc. It was a joy to hear what the men shared. Personally, I shared two books – The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul (to help me with theological foundation), and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper (to encourage me to return to seminary). What book(s) would you have shared? Continue reading


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THIS & THAT: A Roundup of Favorite Articles and Quotes

  • As We Exalt God, We Edify One Another. Matt Merker writes “Exaltation is the vertical dimension of our corporate response to God’s initiating grace. Edification is the horizontal dimension. Both take place at the same time. As we exalt God, we edify one another.”
  • Christians Volunteering Pronouns? Andrew Walker writes “In the transgender debate, Christians must be vigilant to avoid using language that serves falsehood. We should not allow our language to be drafted into a cause that is fundamentally false on the one hand, and positively harmful on the other.”
  • What Should We Remember in Trials? In this short video, Derek Thomas provides encouragement for Christians who are enduring suffering.
  • Songs of Suffering: A Short Film Featuring Joni Eareckson Tada. No one has spoken more personally and insightfully into the intersection of suffering and faith than Joni Eareckson Tada. In this 13-minute documentary, hear more from Joni herself about her story, how she reacted when she learned 55 years ago that she would never walk again, and what she does to find the heartbeat of Christ within her daily struggle with chronic pain and quadriplegia.
  • 10 Free Tools for Prayer. Kevin Halloran writes “Here are ten of the best free prayer tools from the gracious hand of God. They are all simple but profoundly helpful and effective at seeking God’s face.”

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  • More interesting article links
  • Favorite Quotes of the Week

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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

  • How Do I Prioritize My Busy Life? On this episode of the Ask Pastor John podcast, John Piper responds to a question that reads in part “How do I balance the importance of working hard for the Lord, while still having enough time for God, spiritual growth, and my family, when my job won’t allow it? Should I accept that I will have to sacrifice much for my work, consider a career change, or do something in between?”
  • How Can the Average Christian Serve the Lord? For Christians who aren’t ordained ministers, what does it look like to serve the Lord? From one of Ligonier’s live events, Stephen Nichols and Robert Godfrey address the biblical and Reformation doctrine of vocation.
  • What Does Loving God Have to Do With Your Job? Steve Lindsey cites four reasons why the comprehensive command to live in wholehearted devotion to God and love for your neighbor on a consistent daily basis throughout your life is not only possible, but is, in fact, achieved mostly through your work.
  • How Can I Move Past a Disagreement with a Colleague? Russ Gehrlein writes “I was asked to reflect on a difficult situation at work. Although it may have been hypothetical, I gave it some thought. The individual asking had a pretty stressful few months as he or she had a sharp dispute with a coworker. They both apologized for the way it was handled at the time, but ever since, it has been difficult to move on. It is still awkward to be around each other as the issue was never truly resolved. He or she was wondering how to approach this situation in a such a way that it would bring glory to God and would be in line with the gospel message of Jesus Christ.”

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:

  • More links to interesting articles
  • The Top 10 Faith and Work Quotes of the Week
  • My Review of Grace at Work: Redeeming the Grind & The Glory of Your Job by Bryan Chapell
  • Quotes from the book You’re Only Human: How Your Limits Reflect God’s Design and Why That’s Good News by Kelly Kapic

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40 More Great Quotes from The Leader’s Greatest Return: Attracting, Developing, and Multiplying Leaders by John Maxwell

If you are a leader, I highly recommend that you read this book –The Leader’s Greatest Return: Attracting, Developing, and Multiplying Leaders by John Maxwell. You can read my review of this book and his other books here.

Here are 40 more great quotes from the book.

  • If you want to be an effective leader, you must make learning by listening a top priority every day.
  • You can never get the best out of people if you don’t know who they are, where they want to go, what they care about, how they think, and how they want to contribute. You can learn those things only if you listen.
  • When you know why you’ve been put on this earth and you know what you need to be doing, you don’t need anyone to motivate you. Your purpose inspires you every day.

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My Review of BREAKING

Breaking, rated PG-13
***

Breaking is an intense film based on true events that took place in 2017 about a veteran, who feeling that he is out of options and at his breaking point, goes to a Wells Fargo bank in Atlanta with a bomb. The film features a solid cast and a powerful acting performance by John Boyega (Star Wars films), who portrays Brian Brown-Easley.
The film was written and directed by Abi Damaris Corbin and co-written by Kwame Kwei-Armah. It is based on the 2018 article “They Didn’t Have to Kill Him” by Aaron Gell.
Brian Brown-Easley is an honorably discharged Marine veteran who has fallen on tough times. He is living in a cheap motel and separated from his wife, but stays in touch with his young daughter when he has enough money to buy minutes for his phone. We don’t know what has led him to this situation, but it appears he is suffering from PTSD, and does not have money for the medicine he needs. Continue reading


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Reflections from the 2022 Sing! Getty Worship Conference


Are you longing for refreshment in your individual and congregational worship?  This conference is for you.  7200 people singing together in four-part harmony…  A taste of heaven.
As I sit down to begin writing about my reflections from the 2022 Sing! Getty Worship Conference, it is just minutes after we have returned from our trip to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, an excellent place to hold a conference. My heart and mind are full from what I experienced at the conference.
Many people have asked me just what the Sing! conference is all about. It’s like no other conference that I’m aware of. I could say it is part theology conference and part concert, but that doesn’t really get to it. It is organized by modern hymn writers Keith and Kristyn Getty. The conference began in 2017 and this year’s conference was the sixth in a ten-year plan. Sing! is an initiative to help individuals, families and churches deepen their faith through singing. The annual conference combines rich times of congregational singing, teaching at main sessions and attendees pick four breakout sessions. Each year, the ever-growing Getty writing team introduces us to new hymns from writers such as the Gettys, Matt Boswell, Matt Papa, Jordan Kauflin, Matt Merker, Skye Peterson, Laura Story and others. Continue reading


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The Joy of Walking


As I sit and write this early on a summer morning, I see several people run by our house. I’ve never enjoyed running myself, although many do, but I do very much enjoy walking. Between walking Clara, our two-year-old Alaskan Malamute, a few times daily, and my own afternoon walk, I try to get at least 5 miles of walking in each day, weather permitting.
I occasionally enjoy walking with friends and having good conversation. I miss walking with my friend Neil, who I walked about 6 miles with on a trail in town over a two-hour period on Wednesday mornings for a few years after I retired. I miss talking to my Dad on the phone on my afternoon walks, and still think of him as I pass the place early on my regular route where I asked him through tears, on perhaps our last phone call, if he was looking forward to seeing Jesus. I wanted to be sure. He was.
I enjoy walking with Clara through our neighborhoods and running into old and new friends, one in particular who took an early liking to Clara (who always has a supply of Greenies with her), and the feeling is certainly mutual. I enjoy walking in the park across the street from our home, marveling in God’s creation as I watch people playing disc golf.
I want to share three brief thoughts about my purpose in walking: Continue reading


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The Babylon Bee Guide to Democracy by The Babylon Bee


The Babylon Bee Guide to Democracy by The Babylon Bee. Salem Books. 256 pages. 2022
#guidetodemocracy
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The latest of The Babylon Bee Guides is The Babylon Bee Guide to Democracy. It is a hilarious look at all aspects of our democracy, from the founding of our nation to how our money is spent by the government. The book is essentially a graphic novel that had me laughing all the way through it. It is dedicated to “the one true president Donald J. Trump, long may he reign”.
The book begins by looking at some of the different forms of government used throughout history and the origin story of our democracy (technically a constitutional republic). According to historical fact, in answer to a prayer from George Washington in the late 1700’s, God handed down his chosen form of government: DEMOCRACY.
The book then humorously looks at how democracy works by reviewing the branches of the government, including the Corporate Branch, which writes the laws and hands them off to Congress for a quick sign-off. We are told that every branch is sacred and worthy of our respect.

The book then turns to the centerpiece of democracy – elections – and how to participate in them to make sure our votes are counted. For example, if you are a Calvinist, blindfold yourself and vote for random people to place it all in God’s hands.
We read of George Washington’s foundations (he was a child named Kirin-El sent to Earth from a doomed planet in another galaxy to Mary and Augustine Washington), the “completely true” story of the Revolutionary War and a closer look at the Founding Fathers. For example, John Hancock was the inventor of the signature and cousin to Herbie.
We read that there is nothing so important in our identity as our political party. It is the most significant thing about us, and we are given a flowchart to help us determine what party we are.
The book does a deep-dive on the legislative, executive, judicial, and corporate branches of government, and provides a handy list of your constitutional rights (including some “lesser-known” rights).
We are told that experts have found that every election that we participate in is the most important election in the history of the universe and that if our side loses, it is the end of democracy as we know it. We are told how to rig an election so that we can win every time. If we win, it was the fairest election in the history of the world. If we lose, it was the most rigged and unfair election ever held in the history of the universe.
The important thing to remember about the Electoral College is that it is racist and anti-democratic, unless our side wins the election. Then, it is fair and balanced and a bastion of true democracy in the world.
We read about insurrections and mostly peaceful protests, how to tell the difference between the two, and how to destroy those who disagree with you – including how to win an argument on social media, and how to own your relatives at Thanksgiving dinner. We read about the government’s relationship with money, and that the government doesn’t make any money so it has to take yours by force.
The book includes a helpful glossary. A few of my favorite definitions are:

  • CNN – The nation’s most popular, reliable, and trustworthy satire site.
  • Separation of Church and State. An important legal principle designed to prevent the worship of God from interfering with the worship of government.
  • Undocumented Immigrant – A Democratic voter.

Like any good book, each chapter has a helpful “Chapter Review” with probing questions. Some of my favorite questions were:

  • What’s the Revolutionary War going on in your life now? Give it to God.
  • Is Jesus Christ the founding father in your life? Why not?
  • Can you identify the bureaucracy in your life? Ask God to break those chains right now.
  • Which one of these amendments personally spoke to your heart? Why?
  • What is the election in your life that you need to focus on?
  • Are you more of an insurrectionist or a peaceful protestor?

This creative book is full of the type of satirical humor that you expect from The Babylon Bee.  Highly recommended for those who could use a laugh.