Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Book Reviews

Seasons of Sorrow: The Pain of Loss and the Comfort of God by Tim Challies. Zondervan. 215 pages. 2022

On November 3, 2020, Nick Challies, 20-year-old son of Tim and Aileen, collapsed while playing a game in Louisville, Kentucky, where he was going to Boyce College and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was going to be a pastor, and was engaged to be married. Sadly, he could not be revived.
Flying to Louisville from Canada, Tim began to write through his seasons of sorrow. In this book, he traces his journey through four seasons, beginning in the fall and advancing through winter, spring, and summer. The book of short reflections by a father who lost his only son, ends exactly one year after it began, on the first anniversary of the death of Nick.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and a review of Up and Down: Victories and Struggles in the Course of Life by Bubba Watson with Don Yaeger
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ Providence by John Piper
The well-written book is hard to read in parts, leading me to tears at times, as Tim honestly shares his feelings about such things as the letter he wrote to Nick and put in the pocket of the shirt he was buried in, watching his son’s casket being lowered into the ground, visiting Nick’s grave in the cemetery, the “firsts” (birthday, Christmas, anniversary of Nick’s death), the day that would have been Nick and Ryn’s wedding, cleaning out Nick’s room and much more. The book addresses subjects such as death, the hope of resurrection, prayer, Heaven, courage, grief, and a new ministry of faithful suffering.
About six months after Nick’s death, the family would find out that Nick died from cardiac dysrhythmia. For reasons unknown, Nick’s heart began to beat in an erratic rhythm—and one that quickly led to full cardiac arrest.
When asked what he had learned in the year since Nick’s death, he said it was “to work and to weep.” He writes that this, it seems, is what constitutes life on this side of glory. We journey to heaven working and weeping. To keep one hand on the plow while wiping away tears with the other—this is the essence of living and laboring as a Christian.
This book will be most helpful for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one and for those helping others through grief. The helpful Seasons of Sorrow Application Questions & Group Study Guide is available as a free download.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • The Christian faith offers the promise of a future in which this earth will be renewed and restored, in which all pain and sorrow will be comforted, in which all evil and sin will be removed.
  • God’s goodness does not vary with our circumstances but is fully present and on display in our worst moments as well as our best, in our most lamentable experiences as well as our most joyful.
  • God’s sovereignty is a sweeping doctrine that touches every aspect of life across every moment of creation and every corner of the universe. There is no moment, no spot, no deed, no death, that falls outside of it.
  • The courage I need now is the courage to face a lifetime of grief, the courage to bear up under a great bereavement, the courage to face a long sorrow with faithful perseverance.
  • Death is the great interrupter. Death is the great interrupter because, far more often than not, it strikes when it’s least expected. If death is the great interrupter, it has also been the great redirector.
  • Through this ministry of sorrow, I can testify before a skeptical world that one who praises God in the giving can also praise him in the taking, that one who honors God in times of great joy will still honor him in times of great loss.
  • I can bear witness that faith can survive sorrow, that we can be content even in loss, that when we are weak, then we are truly strong, for it is when we are weak that he provides us with his strength.
  • The death of Death has already been guaranteed by the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Its final day and hour have already been fixed in the mind of God, and it now simply awaits the moment of his choosing.

My wife Tammy and I attended the book launch event at the 2022 Sing! Conference. Watch this conversation with Challies, Alistair Begg and Bob Lepine.
The songwriters from CityAlight read an advanced copy of the book and wrote a song “In the Valley (Bless the Lord)”, inspired by the book. Listen to the song by CityAlight, featuring Sandra McCracken here.

Up and Down: Victories and Struggles in the Course of Life by Bubba Watson with Don Yaeger. Thomas Nelson. 248 pages. 2021  

Bubba Watson has long been one of my favorite professional golfers. One reason is that he plays golf left-handed as I do. Another is that he is a Christian. With this book, you get to know much more about Watson than the fact that he is a two-time Masters champion. Watson opens himself up so that you get to know a man of faith who loves being a husband and father to his two children. He tells us that Golf is what he does, but it is not who he is. Note: I read this book before Watson decided to make his unfortunate move to the LIV Golf Tour.
You also get to know a man who has struggled with fear and anxiety, as he has dealt with the pressure to succeed in golf, while trying to be a good husband, father, and friend as he tried to emulate his biblical role model, Jesus Christ.
The twenty chapters in the book are built on key moments that led to pivots in Watson’s life. He tells us about growing up in the small town of Bagdad outside of Pensacola, Florida, shooting a 62 at the Divot Derby at age thirteen, his disappointing senior season at the University of Georgia (where he met his future wife Angie), his professional golf career, in which he has won thirteen times worldwide, the adoptions of his two children, being confronted by his caddy Teddy and golfer and friend Ben Crane about his behavior and how he was treating others, leading to his being considered a divisive player on the tour, his disappointment in not being selected for the 2016 Ryder Cup team, his business interests in Pensacola and much more.
We learn about a man who is working to be better tomorrow than he is today. Recommended for all golf fans.

Book News:

Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold. My wife Tammy has 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.”

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.
This week we look at Chapter 35: Three Biblical Pictures of How God Brings People to Faith. Here are a few quotes from the chapter:

  • If you receive Christ, if you believe in his name, you are a child of God. That is, you are born again and belong to God’s family forever.
  • In the wisdom of his providence, God brings people to new birth, and thus to faith in Christ, through the gospel of Christ.
  • God intends that the creation of faith come not only through the miracle of new birth, but also through the hearing of Christ-exalting truth.
  • The Spirit gives life through the word, which reveals Christ.
  • The glorious work of the Spirit, blowing where he wills, must give life, new birth, so that as the word is heard, Christ is seen as true and glorious. This is how God, in his merciful providence toward his sinful people, brings about saving faith.
  • God’s providence brings his people to faith in Christ by doing for them what they cannot do for themselves. We cannot cause our own birth. We cannot cause our own resurrection. And we cannot cause our own creation.
  • We are absolutely dependent on God’s grace to make us alive to spiritual reality and to give us the sight of Christ’s glory that embraces him in saving faith.

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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