Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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The Stories I Tell Myself – Matt Maher

I was introduced to Matt Maher’s music when he opened for TobyMac several years ago. I’ve enjoyed his music ever since. This collection of songs, that were mostly written during the pandemic, celebrate friendship with God and other people. The album, which features a variety of musical genres, was recorded in a house owned by Marty Stuart. There are several collaborations, and a few of the songs have two versions, one of which was recorded live.
Here are a few brief comments about each song, several of which were released in advance of the official album release:

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  • More of this review
  • Music News
  • Song of the Week Lyrics:   Only a Holy God/Holy, Holy, Holy by CityAlight

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Luther and the Reformation: How a Monk Discovered the Gospel by R.C. Sproul. Ligonier Ministries. 100 pages. 2021

In this short book, R. C. Sproul provides a brief biography of Martin Luther up until the time of the Protestant Reformation and then addresses the main issues that led to the Reformation and continue to this day.
Sproul writes that the during the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church experienced a steady change in its understanding of biblical Christianity, most importantly in its understanding of salvation. This system of salvation that developed within the Roman Catholic Church came to a crisis with the sixteenth-century Reformation.
Martin Luther was planning on a career in law, until a crisis took place in July 1505. As he was walking home from the university a lightning bolt struck the ground just a few feet from where he was walking. It was so close to him that it knocked him on the ground. He saw this as a message from God. He was terrified, and he cried out in his fear, “Help me, St. Anne; I will become a monk.” He followed through by moving to the Augustinian monastery in the city of Erfurt. His Father Hans was furious with his son for disappointing him by not pursuing a career in law.
Sproul reviews a few moments of crisis that would test Luther’s sanity. The first took place when he was to give and celebrate his first Mass as an ordained monk.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and a review of Discerning Downloads: Hearing God’s Audible Voice for Over 60 Years by Loretta Gibson
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ Providence by John Piper
I’M CURRENTLY READING…. Continue reading

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30 More Great Quotes from Alistair Begg’s Truth for Life: 365 Daily Devotions (Volume 1)

Truth for Life: 365 Daily Devotions is the first of two daily devotional books from respected pastor and author Alistair Begg. I used the first volume as a part of my daily devotional readings last year (see my review of the book here), and am using the second volume as a part of my daily devotional readings this year. I recommend the book to you as a part of your devotional reading.

Here are 30 more of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • How do the cross and the empty tomb affect your relationships, your work, your purpose, or your identity? If Jesus reigns over you, His death and resurrection change everything about the way you live and the meaning of your life.
  • Whatever you face in your life, know that Jesus has gone through worse and therefore understands how you feel.
  • Do not settle for what this life has to offer, nor grow despairing over the disappointments of the here and now. Our best days lie ahead of us, in the city of God.
  • In the new heaven and new earth, life’s storms will finally be stilled. In the meantime, we will pass through squalls and even deluges. We will endure with joy to the extent that we trust that our Father is wise.

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Keys to a Good Marriage, Part 2

Recently I shared Keys to a Good Marriage, Part 1.  My wife Tammy and I have been married for forty-two years now. We weren’t blessed with children, but we’ve been blessed with a great marriage. Here are 5 more keys to a great marriage:

  1. Have a regular “Date Night”.  It is important, whether you have children or not, to have a weekly “Date Night”. For us, during most of our marriage our “Date Night” was on Friday night, and included a movie and dinner. We always found this to be a good way to transition from a busy work week into the weekend. A “Date Night” should be scheduled on your calendar. Otherwise, it’s too easy to forget about it.
  2. Look for ways to sacrificially love your spouse.  This doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, like the saying goes “it’s the thought that counts”. A few suggestions would be: warm their towel in the dryer and then hand it to them when they get out of the shower; fill up their car with gas; fix dinner, or take them out for dinner as a surprise; fold the clothes in the dryer; rub their neck and shoulders. And don’t forget to thank them for the chores they do around the house. You get the idea. This will let your spouse know that you were thinking of them.
  3. Talk to your spouse before making any commitments or decisions.  Communication is huge in every walk of life, and it is especially so in marriage. We have made it a practice not to commit to anything (even something as simple as a dinner invitation) before talking to the other. Not all couples do this, and we have seen the consequences. This practice has worked well for us through the years, and helped us avoid a lot of disagreements.
  4. Be willing to compromise.  This takes humility and being willing to put the desires of your spouse above your own. One way this played out practically for us, and probably just about every other couple, is where to spend the holidays. For example, if you can’t be at both of your families for Christmas each year, a good compromise would be to rotate where you spend the holidays from year to year. Of lesser importance is the movies and television programs you watch. For example, it wouldn’t be fair to Tammy if we watched St. Louis Cardinal baseball every night and she didn’t get to see programs that she enjoyed. There should be good communication and compromise.
  5. Remember: We all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  We are going to mess up and let our spouses down. When we do so, we need to sincerely apologize and ask for forgiveness. When we give forgiveness, we should not bring up the reason for the forgiveness in the heat of an argument. Christians of all people have been forgiven much, so we should also forgive our spouses when they sin against us.

There are many keys to a great marriage. I’ve now shared 10 of them. What others would you add to this list?

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Keys to a Good Marriage, Part 1

Eighty years of marriage… that’s a lot! That’s the total number of years that my brother and his wife and Tammy and I celebrated in 2022. Thirty-eight years for my brother Mike and Julie and 42 for Tammy and I.
Tammy and I weren’t blessed with children, but we’ve been blessed with a great marriage. There are many keys to a great marriage. In this article I’ll share just 5 of them:

  1. Be good friends.  My wife and I just flat out enjoy spending time together, and laughter has gotten us through some very hard times. Quality time together is each of our number one love languages.  (Practical tip:  Read or listen to Gary Chapman’s book “The 5 Love Languages”.)  We enjoy doing things together, whether it is a nice vacation destination, going to the movies, binge-watching a favorite television program or reading good books on our patio. It’s important to be good friends as parents as well. I know of too many couples who once they are “empty nesters” don’t know what to do because their relationship was primarily as parents to their children.
  2. Enjoy the interests of the other.  Part of being good friends is learning to enjoy the interests of your spouse. There is certainly a need to compromise here. Tammy will often remind me that when we were dating she sat behind the stage for a Bob Dylan concert at the old Chicago Stadium. Now that is true love! I’ve gone to my share of craft shows and Tammy has gone to her share of sporting events and concerts that if it wasn’t for the other person we would never have gone to.
  3. Be like minded in your faith.  When we got married I was Roman Catholic and Tammy was Protestant. We would go to Tammy’s church one week and mine the next. It was what we did, and it was the best we could do at the time, but it wasn’t great. There was certainly tension.  Ideally, you would like the husband to be the spiritual leader of the family.  Quite the responsibility!  (Practical tip:  set aside time to read the Bible or a daily devotional together; praying together is lovely also.)
  4. Learn how to handle disagreements.  We will admit that neither of us were very good at this early in our marriage. Tammy tended to pursue me (because she needed to get a quick resolution), at times using sarcasm, while I tended to withdraw. This would only escalate things between us; hence we had some ugly arguments. It was only when we began to respect each other, not escalate the disagreement, hang in there and not withdraw that we were able to effectively handle disagreements.   If the person that wants to withdraw will tell the other person ‘give me 30 minutes alone to calm down and then we’ll discuss it’, that will go a long way in deescalating things.  Also, choosing to speak respectfully to each other (no sarcasm or name calling!) is huge.  (Practical tips from Tammy:  Men desire respect even more than love – Ask for their opinions and input and thank them for what they advise and do.  I’ve seen so many young dads carrying a backpack, a small baby or child in front and then a diaper bag too.  Dads, thanks for what you do!  We don’t want to take you for granted.  Also, if you have something that’s bugging you, wives, please tell them kindly and respectfully.  Men are usually fixers and can’t fix what they don’t know about – don’t just give them the silent treatment.  Be practical; men aren’t great at guessing what you’re mad at or just being a listening ear – they want to fix the problem.  If you need a shoulder to cry on or to listen to all the details of how someone hurt your feelings, call your girlfriend.)
  5. Manage money well and in unity.  In a marriage there is often a spender and a saver, or as Dave Ramsey calls them a free spirit and a nerd. I’ll admit that I was the spender. More than once we received budget books as a Christmas gift from Tammy’s parents, but it wasn’t until I started listening to Dave Ramsey that I got it. Until then, my undisciplined spending had caused problems for us. We each then began getting a small allowance each paycheck to spend on what we wanted. We also led two sessions of Dave’s Financial Peace University at our church and saw the impact it had on those who attended.

I started this article by stating that there are many keys to a great marriage. These are just 5 of them. What others would you add to this list?

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A Prayer for Spring

Our Father in Heaven,
We thank you that in our community, it has been a rather mild winter. Though it seems that across the country, from west to east, there is a new major winter storm almost every week, we have gotten very little snow and just a handful of days when the temperature was so cold it kept us from doing what we needed to do outside.
Seeing bulbs begin to emerge up out of the frozen soil, we are again reminded of your faithfulness as you sovereignly control the changing of the seasons. You have made the moon to mark the seasons and the sun knows exactly it’s time for setting. (Psalm 104:19).
Your word tells us that for everything there is a season…. a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted. (Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2). It won’t be long now before we begin to see the farmers in their nearby fields planting their crops, and soon after we will see the new corn and bean plants breaking through the soil to form perfect rows in the fields. We’ll enjoy watching bulbs come up in our garden and anxiously wait to see which perennials made it through the winter and which did not. Then, we’ll be visiting our favorite garden shops to replenish our gardens, and watch the plants bloom as they display your glory.

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, 
even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Luke 12:27

Great is your faithfulness, Father. We are so thankful that morning by morning your new mercies we see. All that we have needed, your hand has provided.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

So even though Spring is not quite here yet, you are showing us signs of its coming, giving us hope. Thank you for your faithfulness.
In Jesus’ precious name we pray, Amen

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THIS & THAT: A Roundup of Favorite Articles and Quotes

  • How to Grow Stronger in Perseverance. John Pletcher writes “What if our tough times can really be our best times for growing stronger? And what if those tough times are used by God to teach us to persevere, to discover pure joy and the capacity to grow stronger for the sake of others?”

  • I Shipwrecked My Faith – Am I Doomed? On this episode of the Ask Pastor John podcast, John Piper responds to the question “Is there hope for those who have shipwrecked their faith? I believe I have done this as 1 Timothy 1:19describes what has happened to those who have rejected a good conscience. I feel my communion with the Lord has been dry and blocked for almost six months now due to my personal sin. Can a shipwrecked faith be undone?”

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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 You Think About Your Job? Adam Nesmith writes “How you think about your job will directly affect how you work day to day. Sadly, many people have a very wrong perspective about their vocation.”
  • Can I Be a Nurse for a “Gender Reassignment” Surgery? On this episode of the Ask Pastor John podcast, John Piper responds to the question, “I am a nurse in surgery pre-op and recovery for a hospital that performs gender-reassignment surgeries. I play no role in the decisions made to undergo these surgeries. I believe the decision itself is sinful. The question I cannot resolve is this: Is it sinful for me to serve as a nurse involved in the care of these patients in the pre-op and recovery settings?”
  • Are Vocation and Occupation the Same Thing? In this short video, Bryan Chapell tells us “Our occupationis what occupies us, and that’s good and that’s important, but vocation actually comes from a word that means calling.”
  • Should I Prioritize Family or Work? Neither. Michelle Myers responds to the question “Should I prioritize family over work? My quality of work suffers, but my spouse and kids rely on me.”
  • What Would Jesus Do If He Had My Job? Scot Bellavia writes “The WWJD bracelet may be out of style but its purpose remains relevant. “What would Jesus do?” is the only question worth considering for the Christian. What else does it mean to be a Christ follower than to do what he would do?”

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    • More links to interesting articles
    • The Top 10 Faith and Work Quotes of the Week
    • My Review of Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory (Expanded Edition) by Tod Bolsinger
    • 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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Leadership Attributes: Character

In our series on leadership attributes, we now look at character. British Pastor Charles Spurgeon said that a godly character is the best tombstone. But what exactly is character, or more specifically good character? It may be one of those attributes that are hard to describe, but you know it when you see it.
Many years ago, one of my supervisors and I were interviewing candidates for an entry level position in our organization. The individual selected for the position would be working on the second or third shift, essentially unsupervised. A person of good character was critical in this position. One of our interview questions was “What does character mean? What does it mean to say that someone has good character”? Although each candidate tried, we never did get a satisfactory answer to our questions about character. We then told the interviewees that a definition that we had heard that we liked was:

Character is doing the right thing when nobody is watching 

A dictionary definition that may come closest to what I am talking about here is “moral excellence”. Continue reading

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My Review of Jesus Revolution

Jesus Revolution, rated PG-13

On June 21, 1971, TIME magazine published a cover story titled “The Jesus Revolution,” chronicling the rise of Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel church in the early years of that decade. This excellent film shows the reporter of the TIME article, Josiah, played by DeVon Franklin, covering the beginning of a national spiritual awakening that started within a community of teenage hippies in Southern California and then spread across the country. Continue reading