Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Summer Reading Plan

I love to read, and enjoy books in a variety of genres – theology, Christian living, biography, leadership, professional and personal development, sports, etc. Here are the books I’m planning to read this summer along with a short synopsis of each:

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Announcing the Release of My Book “Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace”

I’m excited to announce that my book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace is available now on Amazon. The book is available in the Kindle edition, and can be read on Kindle Fire devices and on Kindle Reading Apps. The book is free on Kindle Unlimited and available on the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. We are working on an update to make it available on all Kindle devices and to activate the links in the book. If you read the book and would like access to the links now, please contact me and I’ll send them to you.
The book looks at calling, vocation, the integration of faith and work and leadership, and ends with some information that will be helpful specifically for church leaders. It includes lessons I’ve learned from more than 40 years of leading in the workplace and at church.
Here is a brief summary of what is in the book:
In Chapter 1 I take you on my faith and work journey.
In Chapter 2-4, I share what the Bible says about work, calling and what I learned about integrating my faith and work as a leader.
In Chapters 5-9, I talk about being called to be a leader and practical applications of living and leading for Jesus in the workplace, which includes meetings, communication, listening, goal setting, leading large teams and challenges in
leadership. There are also tips on how to care for others and develop future leaders.
In Chapter 10 I look at finishing well in our callings and also the idea of retirement for the Christian.
In Chapter 11, I share a few suggestions for church leaders on how they can help those under their care see that God values their work and callings.
In Chapter 12 I share some leadership lessons from the Bible.
Chapters 13-16 include thoughts for developing leaders inside and outside of the church, as well as practical advice on effective planning in the church, as well as reasons why your church should establish a personnel structure.
While the book has been written primarily for Christians, in both the general marketplace and the church, I hope that there will be some helpful takeaways for everyone. Go to this page in the Amazon Kindle Store to view a free chapter in the book and/or purchase it. If you read the book, please let me know what you think of it. Thanks.

https://www.amazon.com/author/billpence


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It was the Worst of Times, but can it also be the Best of Times?

Feeling Down? Count Your Blessings!  How’s that for a trite little “Happy Clappy” phrase? But stay with me please. Have you been feeling down with how things have been going thus far in 2020? It’s really hard not to get down. Let’s see, so far, we’ve been through an impeachment, pandemic, economic crisis, and police brutality, the latter of which has led to both peaceful protests and rioting/looting, some of which has taken place in my relatively small community.
I live in central Illinois, the state with the third highest number of COVID-19 confirmed cases. It is a state that has had some of the longest and most stringent COVID-19 stay at home orders in place from our governor. The order began on March 21, and continues at this time, with the state on track to move to Phase 4, of the 5-phase plan, at the end of June. During this time, wearing a mask has become the norm. We have watched our church worship services online, attended church leadership meetings and small group meetings on Zoom, and used a lot of hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes. We’ve enjoyed socially distanced time with family, but had vacations, conferences, concerts and baseball games cancelled. I’ve talked to people who are doing fine,
but also to those who are sad, isolated and lonely. A friend of mine lost his mother to COVID-19. She was in a nursing home and later a hospital, and he couldn’t visit her in either place. Frankly, at times, I’ve felt like this social media post from pastor Scott Sauls.
It’s easy to focus on all of the bad things that are going on in our lives, country (and world). I admit that I can tend to gravitate to what is wrong, rather than focusing on the blessings in my life that I often take for granted. James tells us that every good gift and every perfect gift is from above (1:17).   Like in Psalm 42, David laments his current circumstances instead of just trying to keep a stiff upper lip.  But then he intentionally speaks to himself and reminds himself of God, His character and His blessings.  This is where his hope comes from.  As I gave it some thought, I came up with a number of blessings that I’ve enjoyed during these days and also a soundtrack for this article: Continue reading


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Am I A Racist?

Editor’s Note:  I wrote this article back in May of 2019 in response to reading Jemar Tisby’s book “The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism”. We thought now would be a good time to publish it.  
I recently read Jemar Tisby’s thought-provoking book The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism. That was a difficult book to read, and it should be, as it showed the American church’s active and passive involvement in racism. As I was reading the book, a thought came to me – Am I a racist?
Growing up I would occasionally hear racist words at home. I know my parents had experienced difficult situations with black students at school in Chicago. I remember my mother telling me of being pushed down the stairs by black students, and that experience had stuck with her. I can remember as a child being in the car as we drove through black neighborhoods to go to a relative’s house in Chicago and my mother instructing us to make sure the car doors were locked. There was certainly fear involved.
As I went through grade school, junior high school and most of high school, I rarely interacted with black students as there were not many who attended our schools. But during my senior year, Jeff transferred to our school and was a member of our school’s basketball team. Jeff was cool. The guys wanted to be around him.  Although we never voiced it, we wanted to dress like him, talk like him and even walk like him. I remember going to a mall in the area with Jeff and others to pick out clothes similar to his. Rather than being racist towards Jeff, we embraced him. On the basketball court, we didn’t see color.
Our high school coach encouraged us to play basketball year-round, and to play against college students who were better than us. He told us that is how we would improve, and he was right. As we played on the basketball courts of the local university, many of those students we played against were black. To me and my friends, these players were just like us, not black or white.
A significant change regarding race happened in our community when Illinois State University hired Will Robinson as the first black Division I head coach. Robinson then began bringing in many talented high school players to the school, several of them black. I remember hearing comments about the number of black players on the team, but by that time in our nation’s history, the racist comments were more said under their breath. Tisby writes that racism never fully goes away; it just adapts to changing times and contexts.
When I met Tammy, who would become my wife, I remember noticing some prejudice in her.  We talked about how racism and Christianity are not compatible, which was a new realization for her.  She would now quote Maya Angelou, “When you know better, you do better.”
Over the years, I have had a few close black friends. One of my faults is that too often when I’m around a black person I find myself talking about black sports figures like Tiger Woods, or music artists like Lecrae. I don’t know why I do this, it’s probably just trying to make a connection, but I need to stop doing it.
So, am I a racist? I hope not. But Tisby tells us that the refusal to act in the midst of injustice is itself an act of injustice. I know that I haven’t done enough to promote racial justice, nor have I always done everything I could to address inappropriate racist comments.
One last thing. Remember Jeff, the black basketball player that became part of our team my senior year in high school? The last year of my career at a Fortune 50 organization I worked with his wife and have run into him a few times in the community.   Small world.
I highly recommend Tisby’s book. It is sobering and heart-breaking, and would be a good book for Christians to read and discuss, especially church leaders. Here is a link to my review of the book.   You can also watch it for free on Amazon Prime Video.


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CURIOSITY: THE ANTIDOTE TO CYNICISM

Pastor and author Carey Nieuwhof tells us that his book Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the Seven Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences (see my review here) is for people who want to see the signs that there’s a major life challenge ahead before it’s too late. The signs he looks at exist for all of us, no matter what stage of life’s journey we might be on. He tells us that none of these signs – cynicism, compromise, disconnection, irrelevance, pride, burnout, emptiness— need to be our final story, but we can see them coming. He tells us that if we regularly do what we were created to do, the likelihood of growing cynical, disconnected, proud, or irrelevant diminishes.

I found his chapter on cynicism particularly interesting. To start, let’s define what is meant by cynicism. Nieuwhof states that cynicism is simply the general distrust of others or a lack of hope in people or their desires. At its worst, it becomes jaded negativity, skepticism, contempt or scorn.

I’ve never really considered myself to be a cynical person. What about you, do you consider yourself cynical? Take a few minutes to take Nieuwhof’s Cynicism Quiz to see how cynical you are. Continue reading


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LEADING IN A PANDEMIC

As I write this, more than 61,000 Americans have lost their lives to the COVID-19 Coronavirus in a very short period of time, and that number is sure to rise. More than 30 million Americans are out of work, millions are working from home, schools are closed and many of us are in states that have had “stay at home” orders from our governors for the past several weeks. Billions of dollars have been spent to try to keep the economy from collapsing into a depression.

We have many questions, such as:

  • How did this virus start? For example, was it in a lab in Wuhan, China?
  • How does it spread?
  • How deadly is it?
  • What will happen when our states start to open back up?
  • Will the virus come back in the fall?

In the weeks since we started hearing about the Coronavirus, I have been fascinated by watching how leaders (federal, state, local, organizational and church) have responded. What can we learn from how our leaders have led in this crisis? Here are a few observations. Continue reading


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Jesus Rested on Saturday ~ a guest article by Tammy Pence

Throughout the course of church history, many people have taught that Jesus’ spirit descended into hell after His death on the cross.  Basing this idea on Ephesians 4:8–10 and 1 Peter 3:18–20, feel free to study it.  But rest assured that we are fully delivered from the anguish and torment of hell in Christ.  Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Back to our discussion… what if Jesus rested?  At that time Saturday, the 7th day, was the Sabbath.  Go back to Genesis 2:2-3, “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.  So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all His work that He had done in creation.
When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.  John 19:30

So they took His body down
The man who said He was the resurrection and the life
Was lifeless on the ground now
The sky was red His blood along the blade of night

And as the Sabbath fell they shrouded Him in linen
They dressed Him like a wound
The rich man and the women
They laid Him in the tomb

Six days shall You labor, the seventh is the Lord’s
In six, He made the earth and all the heavens
But He rested on the seventh
God rested
He said that it was finished
And the seventh day, He blessed it
God rested

So they laid their hopes away
They buried all their dreams
About the Kingdom He proclaimed
And they sealed them in the grave
As a holy silence fell on all Jerusalem

And the Pharisees were restless
Pilate had no peace
Peter’s heart was reckless
Mary couldn’t sleep
But God rested

Six days shall you labor, the seventh is the Lord’s
In six, He made the earth and all the heavens
But He rested on the seventh
God rested
He worked till it was finished and the seventh day He blessed it
He said that it was good
And the seventh day, He blessed it
God rested

The sun went down, the Sabbath faded
The holy day was done and all Creation waited

“God Rested” by Andrew Peterson

Thoughts for further study, also called – “Things that make you go Hmmmm..”:

  1. “Sin against an infinite being demands an infinite punishment in hell. In a few hours, Jesus suffered and exhausted the infinite punishment that impenitent people cannot exhaust even after an eternity in hell. He could do this because, in His deity as the Son of God, He is an infinite being.” Ligonier Ministries
  2. And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.”Having said this, He breathed His last.  Luke 23:46

So… after being forsaken and receiving the wrath of God due for our sins, Jesus still trusted His Father.  He is our Father too.  You can trust Him!

  1. On every day of creation Scripture says, “And there was evening and there was morning…” He didn’t say that on the seventh day – maybe because it is an eternal rest?
  2. If you need a 3 minute sermon to light your fire because your wood’s wet (a.k.a. raise your religious affections), listen to ‘That’s My King’ by Dr. S.M. Lockridge.


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A Prayer for the Pandemic

Father in Heaven,

We are facing challenges that none of us have ever faced before in our lifetime. Many of us are only leaving our homes for essential tasks, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy. Many of us are now working from home. Schools are closed, with students completing their school year at home. We are following the guidelines from our government leaders and medical experts to stop the spread of the coronavirus by practicing social distancing.  Many of us have not seen family members for weeks. Churches have not been able to gather for worship, and sadly will not be able to meet for worship on Easter Sunday. We pray for our pastors as they adapt to leading in a new way, including live-streaming the worship services.
Father, we turn to you to help us against the spirit of fear and anxiety. We pray that you would protect people worldwide from getting this virus. For those who do get it, we pray for complete healing. For those most at risk, those who are older and/or have serious health issues, we pray for special protection. We pray for those doctors and nurses, techs and EMT’s on the front line, bravely risking their own safety each day to care for us.  We pray that hospitals will be able to obtain the amount of masks, gloves, gowns and ventilators that they will need to protect their health care workers.
We pray for our families, our churches and our friends. We miss being able to be with them at this time. Please heal our land, LORD! Use this unique time in our lives as we distance ourselves from other people to draw us closer to You.
We ask these things in Jesus name, Amen.

“Be still, my soul: your God will undertake
to guide the future as he has the past.
Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
his voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.”

“Be Still, My Soul” (Katharina von Schlegel, 1855; Translated by Jane Bothwick)


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Complaining to God

Note – This is a guest blog by Tammy Pence, my wife.  She loves to sing, so has inserted links to songs, etc. for you along the way, and has put in bold print verses that would be great to memorize.
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Have you ever had a spiritual crisis of faith?  Have you ever heard of the book of Habakkuk in the Bible?  Who names a kid Habakkuk?  Who knew that ol’ Huck’s story could help us in this time of coronavirus crisis, or any time of doubt and need?

Habakkuk is struggling with questions of faith, so he takes them in prayer to God; His covenant God is the only one that can answer him.  He is weighed down by this broken world, but persists in prayer even when it seemed God was not listening.  Huck says that’s he’s going to stand at his watchpost/tower and wait for an answer from God to his seemingly hopeless situation.  Huck’s a bit sassy, isn’t he?

COMPLAINTS

“Are my prayers stopping at the ceiling?  Do you hear me God?” “Why does evil seem to go unpunished?  Seems like nasty wicked people are prospering and ruling!”  “Is there no justice?”  And maybe even, “are you sovereign and in control?”  “Are you indifferent?”  “CAN YOU HEAR ME, GOD!”

Fill in the blank with your own complaints and questions. __________________

GOD’S ANSWERS Continue reading


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Don’t Waste This Time


How quickly things can change. A matter of days ago, I was watching Spring Training baseball games and anticipating the upcoming baseball season, the Players Championship in golf and the NCAA “March Madness” basketball tournament. Life was going on as usual, with my wife Tammy and I eating out, going to the movies, and watching the stock market hit new record highs every few days. We were looking forward to flying to Florida on March 17 for a conference.  People were working as usual, and schools were approaching their Spring Break.
I had never heard the terms “social distancing” nor “flatten the curve”. I heard reports of a new virus that was devastating a city in China that I had never heard of, but never expected that it would – and so quickly – come to the United States and my own community. But in today’s connected world, a deadly virus can travel from China to California on one airline flight. And with it, all of a sudden restaurants and schools are closed, vacations are cancelled, people are working from home, churches have resorted to holding online services and toilet paper, hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes have become the hottest items in town.
As I write this, a “stay at home” order has just gone into effect for my state of Illinois. You can still go to the grocery store, pharmacy, doctor’s office, and even get “take out” from your favorite restaurant. But the idea is that we are to stay home and avoid contact with others to stop the spread of the virus. With no sports to watch, and most everything on the 24-hour news networks having to do with the virus, what are we to do with this time that we have been given. Yes, I believe that we can look at this time as a gift. We can use this time to look at items of eternal significance. Continue reading