Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Will There Be Work in Heaven?

How about you? Do you now or have you at one time thought that the only work that had value in God’s eyes was “full-time Christian work”, such as serving in the ministry as a pastor or missionary? Do you feel that there is “sacred” or “religious” work, and everything else is “secular work”, and that secular work is a necessary evil, just to pay the bills and support your family, and contribute to God’s mission, but having no real value in God’s eyes?  That is what many Christians think.

If we were to admit it, many of those we work with, and perhaps some of us, view work as a necessary evil. Most don’t look at their work as a vocation, a calling, or even a career. No, it’s just a job. They embrace Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend” philosophy, celebrate reaching “Hump Day”, ask “Is it Friday yet?”, get the “Sunday Night Blues” as they think about going to work on Monday morning, and count down the days until they can retire.

I wonder if many have a low value of work because they think it is temporal. Many believe that work is something that we will only do on earth.  But is that true? Some reading I’ve been doing recently would seem to contradict that thinking.

Randy Alcorn, author of Heaven, writes of our work continuing in Heaven. He states “Work in Heaven won’t be frustrating or fruitless; instead it will involve lasting accomplishment, unhindered by decay and fatigue, enhanced by unlimited resources. We’ll approach our work with the enthusiasm we bring to our favorite sport or hobby. Because there will be continuity from the old Earth to the new, it’s possible we’ll continue some of the work we started on the old Earth.”

Paul Stevens in his book Work Matters: Lessons from Scripture writes that our final destiny is not a workless utopia, but a renewed world in which we will work with infinite creativity and fulfillment.

In his chapter “What Does the Culture Say?” in the new book The Gospel & Work, Daniel Darling writes that many, if not most, Christians see their workplaces as simple vehicles by which they can provide for their families, tithe their incomes to the church, and perhaps engage in occasional evangelistic conversations. The actual work seems unimportant in light of eternity. But he tells us, our job on Monday is not a means to an end—it is part of your divine calling to fulfill the mandate given to us as God’s image bearers. The cubicle, the garage, the classroom—these are sanctuaries where you are called to worship your Creator with your best work. Our work on earth, when done for the glory of Christ, passes the test of fire (1 Cor. 3:12–13) and is mere preparation for our perfected vocations in eternity.

Here are a few Bible passages to ponder on the subject:

  • We will serve Him day and night in His temple – Revelation 7:15
  • His servants reign forever and ever – Revelation 22:5
  • We will rule over many things – Matthew 25:23

How about you? Do you believe that work is only temporal and that we won’t have work in Heaven?  Why or why not?


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MY 2017 FAVORITES…so far


It’s hard to believe that we are at mid-year already. I wanted to share with you some of my favorites from the first half of 2017 in a variety of categories. Except for books, these are all items that were released or took place in 2017. For books, I include my favorite books that I’ve actually read thus far during 2017.  Enjoy, and please let me know what you think of my list and share some of your favorites.

Music ~ I enjoy music in a variety of genres. My favorites thus far are:

Albums ~Top Pick: Crooked – Propaganda

Here are the rest of my favorite albums (in no particular order) thus far:

  • The Joshua Tree (Super Deluxe) – U2
  • Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Deluxe Edition) – Beatles
  • Triplicate – Bob Dylan
  • The Misadventures of Fern & Marty – Social Club Misfits
  • Cinco – Jim Gaffigan
  • Flowers in the Dirt (Special Edition) – Paul McCartney

Songs ~ Top pick: Blessings – Lecrae (featuring TY Dollar $ign)                

Here are the rest of my favorite songs (in no particular order), thus far:

  • Revival – Third Day
  • I’ll Find You – Lecrae featuring Tori Kelly
  • My Song is Love Unknown – Fernando Ortega
  • Your Cross Changes Everything – Matt Redman
  • Your Love Defends Me – Matt Maher

Concerts  ~ Top Pick: U2’s The Joshua Tree Tour at Soldier Field in Chicago with the Lumineers opening.

Musicals  ~ Top Pick: Hamilton in Chicago

Books ~ In this category, while many of the books were published in 2017, I list the best of the books I actually read in 2017. My favorites thus far are:

Top pick: The Legacy of Luther, edited by R.C. Sproul and Stephen Nichols

Here are the rest of my favorite books (in no particular order), thus far:

  • The Gospel According to Paul: Embracing the Good News at the Heart of Paul’s Teachings – John MacArthur
  • Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God – Courtney Reisigg
  • Learning to Love the Psalms – Robert Godfrey
  • Calling to Christ: Where’s My Place? – Robert Smart
  • Discipleship with Monday in Mind: How Churches Across the Country Are Helping Their People Connect Faith and Work – Skye Jethani and Luke Bobo
  • Between Heaven and the Real World: My Story – Steven Curtis Chapman
  • Leaders Made Here: Building a Leadership Culture – Mark Miller
  • Workplace Grace – Bill Peel and Walt Larimore
  • Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear – Scott Sauls
  • Reset – David Murray
  • Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen

See what I’m reading now.

Movies ~ I usually see at least one movie a week. Here is the best – and the worst – of what I’ve seen thus far:

Top Pick:  Hidden Figures

Here are the rest of my favorite movies (in no particular order), thus far:

  • Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
  • Gifted
  • The Case for Christ
  • A United Kingdom
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Get Out
  • Lion
  • Baby Driver
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Unfortunately, there have also been a few poor movies I’ve seen as well. Here are the two worst movies I’ve seen thus far:

  • The Resurrection of Gavin Stone
  • The Zookeeper’s Wife

Television Program

Top Pick:  The Profit. Season 4 is finally here. If you are not familiar with this show, read more about it here.

Podcasts

Top Pick: Albert Mohler’s The Briefing. Each weekday morning, Albert Mohler hosts a podcast providing worldview analysis about the leading news headlines and cultural conversations.  This is required listening for me. Check out Dr. Mohler’s website.

Also, I was happy to hear recently that Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent podcast Revisionist History returning for season two. Listen to the first episode “A Good Walk Spoiled” here.

Blogs

Top Pick: Tim Challies’ Ala Carte. This is required reading for me each Monday through Saturday. Challies includes helpful Kindle deals, links to a good variety of helpful articles and a quote.  Check out Tim’s website.

Another blog that is required reading for me each day is HeadHeartHand from David Murray, author of the excellent new book Reset.

Recommended New Teaching Series

The Lord’s Prayer by Albert Mohler. In this twelve-part series, Dr. Albert Mohler shows that the pattern of prayer Jesus provides is few in words, yet massive in meaning. His prayer reflects true theology and proper doxology—a perfect guide for our own lives. I listened to this series as our book club was studying Tim Keller’s book Prayer.

Recommended Resources

Luther: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer.  See my review of this excellent new documentary.

Dispatches from the Front: The Fourth Man. If you are not familiar with this set of videos from Frontline Missions and Tim Keesee you should be. For more information go here.

Conference

Top Pick: Ligonier Ministries National Conference: The Next 500 Years. Watch or listen to all of the messages here.

These are my favorites in a variety of categories.  What about you? Please share your favorites.


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My Tribute to Art Moser

I realize that most of you did not know Art Moser, who went home to be with the Lord late Monday evening at age 91. Let me share how he touched my life. I first met Art when he and his wife Millie joined our church several years ago. We served as elders together at the church for a number of years. The last time I saw him was several weeks ago at Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria. It was Art’s first time back at church in several months after breaking his hip. He was in good spirits and it was great to see him and Millie. Little did I know it would be the last time I would see him this side of Glory.

For years I’ve told my wife Tammy that Art modeled a life I hope to live as I grow older. Art is a wonderful example of someone not wasting their life. As I was taking one of my favorite classes in seminary, Spiritual and Ministry Formation with Dr. Phillip Douglass, I completed his “Divine Design Assessment”. When asked to name people that I respect, I wrote this about Art:  “When I think about people in ministry, I admire Ruling Elder Art Moser for his ability to finish strong. In his 80’s he is still mentoring young men, reading books and writing book reviews and articles for our church newsletter.”  I listed him right up there with R.C. Sproul, Michael Card, Scotty Smith and John MacArthur as men I admire in ministry.

I will adapt the Apostle Paul’s words to Art’s life:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.  2 Timothy 4:7 (ESV)

Over the years Art would write articles for our newsletter called “Small Thoughts”. I’m reprinting one of my favorites below as we celebrate his life and legacy.


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4 Study Bible Recommendations


I find value in the use of a Study Bible and have used several different ones over the years. A danger in using a Study Bible is that you could tend to just rely on the study notes instead of the Holy Spirit in interpreting a passage. I like what my wife does:  she first reads and prays about the meaning of a passage, and only after doing that does she consult the study notes.

There are many Study Bibles available these days. Here are four that I have used and would recommend to you:
 
Reformation Study Bible. This is the Bible that I use for my daily reading and study. Originally published in 1995 under the title of the New Geneva Study Bible, the Reformation Study Bible is available in the English Standard Version (ESV) and the New King James Version (NKJV). R.C. Sproul served as the General Editor, and the study notes are from 75 distinguished theologians such as Sinclair Ferguson, R.C. Sproul, Peter Jones and Wayne Grudem. Willem A. VanGemeren who attends our church. The Reformation Study Bible was completely revised and updated in 2015. Some of the new features include over 20,000 new, revised, or expanded study notes, and historical creeds and confessions from 2,000 years of church history.

ESV Study Bible. First published in 2008, The ESV Study Bible features more than 2,750 pages of extensive, accessible Bible resources, including notes, full-color maps, illustrations, charts, timelines, and articles created by a team of 93 evangelical Christian scholars and teachers. In addition to the 757,000 words of the ESV Bible itself, the notes and resources of the ESV Study Bible comprise an additional 1.1 million words of explanation and teaching-equivalent to a 20-volume Bible resource library all contained in one volume. Wayne Grudem served as the General Editor.

Gospel Transformation Study Bible.  Bryan Chapell served as the General Editor for the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible. Its contributors feature an outstanding list of more than 50 pastors and scholars, including the following that I had classes with at Covenant Seminary – Scotty Smith, Robert Yarbrough, Mary Beth McGreevy, V. Philips Long, Robert Peterson and Daniel Doriani.
The Gospel Transformation Bible was produced out of the conviction that the Bible is a unified message of God’s grace culminating in Jesus, it is a significant tool to help readers see Christ in all the Bible, and grace for all of life. The notes not only explain but also apply the text in a grace-centered way.

MacArthur Study Bible  The MacArthur Study Bible was first published in 1997. It is now available in the English Standard Version (ESV), New American Standard Version (NASV), the New International Version (NIV) and the New King James Version (NKJV). It contains nearly 25,000 explanatory notes from John MacArthur, more than 140 maps, an extensive concordance and other features.
I have seen Mac Arthur speak several times and read many of his books. One note of caution on his Study Bible notes would be his dispensationalist views on eschatology.

These are four Study Bibles that I use and can recommend; they all have a Kindle version available also.  What about you? Do you use a Study Bible, perhaps one that I didn’t mention above? Please respond and let us know your thoughts.


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Dream Realized: Teaching a Seminar at the PCA General Assembly 

Back in January, Tammy, my wife and biggest encourager, saw that proposals to teach a seminar were due at the end of the month.  It would be at the 2017 General Assembly, an annual gathering of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), my church’s denomination. She sent me an email and said I should submit a proposal. My first (and second, third and fourth) thoughts were to just delete the email and then be done with it. But I didn’t. Later, I looked at who had presented seminars at General Assembly the year before; a lot of the presenters were people I knew of, had read their books, etc. All the more reason for me not to submit a proposal. Eventually however, I submitted a proposal for a presentation entitled “Helping Our People to Connect Their Faith to Their Work and Callings”, hoping to bring my unique perspective of being a leader in a Fortune 50 organization, a ruling elder in my church and a seminary graduate to the growing faith and work conversation. Still, I knew that there wasn’t “a snowball’s chance…” that my proposal would be approved. But in God’s providence it was!
So last Sunday, Tammy and I (who usually fly anywhere over six hours away), started out on our adventure to Greensboro, North Carolina, which would cover us travelling through parts of seven states and more than 1,700 miles. We weren’t familiar with that part of the country, so we thought it would be fun to drive the eleven-plus hours each way. Friends and family members said it would be a beautiful drive, and it was. I especially enjoyed driving through the winding hills of West Virginia. We had a blast, breaking up the trip with a stop in Huntington, West Virginia on the way down and Cincinnati, Ohio on the way back. Once in Greensboro, we took a side trip to Boone, North Carolina where our nephew went to school and Blowing Rock, North Carolina, home of Jan Karon, author of the Mitford books. We got to travel the famous Blue Ridge Parkway, and watch a thunderstorm coming into the area.

Walking into the convention center to check out the room I would be speaking in, I ran into Tim Keller, one of my heroes, introduced myself and shook his hand. We then ran into our senior pastor of more than 22 years Bob Smart. Later that night, we joined our former Youth and Family Pastor, and all

around great guy, David Keithley, who is now the lead pastor  at Hanna City Presbyterian Church, and several other friends from our presbytery at Hops Burger, the top rated burger place in the country for a great meal and fellowship.
Pastor David did his best to recruit people to my seminar the next morning, even offering free Duck Donuts!

I had prayed for 15 to attend, and I was thrilled to have double that amount in attendance. Many of you told me that you were going to pray for me, and I so very much appreciate that. I felt God’s presence and peace throughout the one hour seminar. The seminar was recorded and is available for purchase here, but there was a problem with the microphone battery, so unfortunately, the first part of the seminar was not recorded.
It was an honor to speak at the PCA General Assembly, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity. Thanks so much for your prayers and good wishes.


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10 Books I Plan to Read This Summer

The summer is a great time to get some reading in. I have several books on my “to be read” list (aka my “on deck circle”). Here are ten of them I hope to read this summer:

42 Faith: The Rest of the Jackie Robinson Story by Ed Henry

This book brings a different perspective to the well-known Jackie Robinson story. From Amazon: “Journalist and baseball lover Ed Henry reveals for the first time the backstory of faith that guided Jackie Robinson into not only the baseball record books but the annals of civil rights advancement as well. Through recently discovered sermons, interviews with Robinson’s family and friends, and even an unpublished book by the player himself, Henry details a side of Jackie’s humanity that few have taken the time to see.”

Work Matters: Lessons from Scripture by R. Paul Stevens

I recently started reading this book about work that was listed as recommended reading by Redeemer Presbyterian Church’s Center for Faith and Work. From Amazon: “In Work Matters marketplace theology expert R. Paul Stevens revisits more than twenty biblical accounts — from Genesis to Revelation — exploring through them the theological meaning of every sort of work, manual or intellectual, domestic or commercial. Taken together, his short, pithy reflections on these well-known Bible passages add up to a comprehensive, Bible-based theology of work — one that will be equally useful for seminars, classes, Bible studies, and individuals seeking to grasp more fully the theological dimensions of their daily labor.”

Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture by David Murray

I am a regular reader of David Murray’s HeadHeartHand blog and I appreciated his book Christians Get Depressed Too. From Amazon: “Drawing on personal experiences—and time spent counseling other men in the midst of burnout—David Murray offers weary men hope for the future, helping them identify the warning signs of burnout and offering practical strategies for developing patterns that are necessary for living a grace-paced life and reaching the finish line with their joy intact.”

Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

My wife Tammy and I are reading and discussing this book this summer. I first heard about it from the Center for Faith and Work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church. From Amazon: “In this book, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans show us how design thinking can help us create a life that is both meaningful and fulfilling, regardless of who or where we are, what we do or have done for a living, or how young or old we are. The same design thinking responsible for amazing technology, products, and spaces can be used to design and build your career and your life, a life of fulfillment and joy, constantly creative and productive, one that always holds the possibility of surprise.”

Working for Our Neighbor: A Lutheran Primer on Vocation, Economics, and Ordinary Life by Gene Veith

Gene Veith’s God at Work is one of the best books I read about integrating our faith and work. I’m looking forward to this new book from him. From Amazon: “In this elucidating work, Gene Edward Veith connects vocation to justification, good works, and Christian freedom—defining how the Lutheran contribution to economics can transfigure ordinary life, and work, with the powerful presence of God.”

Why the Reformation Still Matters by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester

I’ve read several of Michael Reeves books and seen him speak at the last two Ligonier National conferences. I also enjoyed Tim Chester’s book Gospel Centered Work. With this year being the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, this is a timely book to read. From Amazon: “In this accessible primer, Michael Reeves and Tim Chester answer eleven key questions raised by the Reformers—questions that remain critically important for the church today.”

Rediscovering the Holy Spirit: God’s Perfecting Presence in Creation, Redemption, and Everyday Life by Michael Horton

Over the years I’ve read several of Michael Horton’s books, seen him speak at conferences and enjoyed his White Horse Inn radio program. From Amazon: “In Rediscovering the Holy Spirit, author, pastor, and theologian Mike Horton introduces readers to the neglected person of the Holy Spirit, showing that the work of God’s Spirit is far more ordinary and common than we realize. Horton argues that we need to take a step back every now and again to focus on the Spirit himself—his person and work—in order to recognize him as someone other than Jesus or ourselves, much less something in creation. Through this contemplation we can gain a fresh dependence on the Holy Spirit in every area of our lives.”

The Mythical Leader: The Seven Myths of Leadership by Ron Edmondson

I enjoy reading pastor Ron Edmondson’s blog on leadership and am looking forward to this new book. From Amazon: “In The Mythical Leader, Edmondson exposes some of the most common misunderstandings of leadership, shares stories from his own experiences, and will help church leaders develop healthier patterns to improve their individual leadership.”

A Little Book on the Christian Life by John Calvin 

I’m looking forward to this new translation of Calvin’s classic book from Burk Parsons and Aaron Denlinger. From Amazon: “For centuries, disciples young and old have turned to this book for guidance in the Christian life. Today, it remains unique in its clear exposition of God’s calling for Christians to pursue holiness, endure suffering, and fulfill their callings. This is a book for every Christian to pick up, read, and apply.”

H3 Leadership: Be Humble. Stay Hungry. Always Hustle by Brad Lomenick

I enjoyed reading Brad Lomenick’s book The Catalyst Leader and regularly read his blog on leadership. From Amazon: “He categorizes 20 essential leadership habits organized into three distinct filters he calls “the 3 Hs”: Humble (Who am I?), Hungry (Where do I want to go?) and Hustle (How will I get there?). These powerful words describe the leader who is willing to work hard, get it done, and make sure it’s not about him or her; the leader who knows that influence is about developing the right habits for success. Lomenick provides a simple but effective guide on how to lead well in whatever capacity the reader may be in.”

These are the books I’m looking forward to reading or listening to this summer. How about you? What’s on your reading list?


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Encouragement in the Midst of Loss

Lately, I’ve become aware of a number of losses in my life. Perhaps this describes you in this season as well. This is not to be unexpected in a post-Genesis 3 fallen world. Still, there are many losses that I am aware of in recent days, including:

  • The news that a dear friend, who has bravely battled cancer for years, has gone into hospice care.
  • Saying good bye to dear friends from church as they move to Tennessee.
  • Saying good bye to two team members that, even though I had only worked with them for about four months, I very much enjoyed getting to know them and they will be missed.
  • Hearing that a dear woman from church has had a recurrence of cancer after more than twenty years.
  • Walking with dear friends from church as one of them walks the path of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • The upcoming one year anniversary of my father-in-law’s home-going.
  • Meeting a new team member who is walking with a brother battling cancer.
  • Hearing of a close relative’s loss of their dog that was dear to them.
  • Good friends who experienced three deaths in ten days, including two parents.

I hate cancer. I hate death. I hate good-byes.

And yet for the believer, we know that this life is as bad as it will get. We have much to look forward to. We have hope. Hope of no more cancer. Hope of no more tears. Hope of reuniting, with not only friends who have moved away, but of loved ones who have died. No more waiting on medical tests to find out if the cancer has spread. No more suffering.

John in Revelation 21:4 tells us:
He will wipe away every tear from their (yes our!) eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.      

But until Heaven, how are we to persevere in this fallen and broken world, when life is so hard and there is so much loss all around us? Consider some of this encouragement from Scripture:

  • For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  Romans 8:18
  • Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Romans 5:3-4
  • Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. John 14:1
  • Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10
  • Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  Psalm 23:4
  • But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.  1 Thessalonians 4:13-14
  • Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  John 14:27
  • Casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.  1 Peter 5:7
  • “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

And of course there are so many more passages from Scripture that provide us comfort and encouragement in the midst of loss. What other verses or passages from the Bible have provided you comfort in the midst of loss?

There are signs of new life as the Midwest embraces spring. As I write this, farmers are in their fields preparing their land for planting. Soon, there will be small little corn and bean plants in perfectly shaped rows emerging in our rich black soil. The redbuds and crabapple trees today are just stunning. There are new buds on our maple tree and fresh green growth on our evergreens around our patio. God is faithful. He will be with you, in the good times and bad.