Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Great Theology in the Gospel of John Chapter 10


I had the wonderful opportunity to study John 10-12 for a teaching opportunity at my church. This experience reminded me again of the difference between simply reading the Bible and studying the Bible, especially studying the Bible for the purpose of teaching it. In our daily reading of the Bible, we can miss such rich theology. That is why I appreciate what is called expository preaching (verse by verse through a book of the Bible), which is what my pastor does. In expository preaching, you pick up the theology and doctrines that are there in the text that you could easily overlook if you were preaching or listening to topical sermons, such as “5 Keys to a Great Marriage”.
Some of the doctrines you will encounter just in John 10 are:

  • Perseverance/preservation of the saints (eternal security)
  • Substitutionary atonement
  • Authority of Scripture
  • Limited atonement
  • Deity of Christ
  • Election

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A Prayer for the Holidays During COVID-19

Our Father in Heaven,

As we approach the holiday season of Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year, we are still living in a worldwide pandemic that none of us gave any thought to a year ago at this time. 2020 has been a year of suffering. Many of us continue to work from home, and some have sadly lost their jobs, or seen their businesses close during this time.   Some of us have been very ill and lost loved ones.  Some of our children are doing their school work at home. We have been feeling lonely, isolated and depressed as we spend most of our time at home to stay safe. We are thankful that we have homes to take shelter in.  Some of us have not gone back to church, instead watching our services online, as we try to protect ourselves and our family. We miss our church family. Father, we long to be around family and friends this holiday season, but fear getting the virus. I admit, that as the COVID cases rise in my area, I’m increasingly concerned to be around family and friends at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I will rest in the wisdom that You give me, and in Your providence and sovereignty.
We are encouraged that there has been positive news about vaccines which we pray will soon be available to people around the world. Much more, we rejoice as we look forward to celebrating the first coming of Jesus, and at the same time so look forward to His second coming.
So many of us see some family members only at this time of the year. Some of these gatherings have already been cancelled or changed from what they were in past years. Zoom family gatherings do not satisfy, but still we are thankful for that option. We long to embrace our loved ones, but know that we shouldn’t, as we look to protect not only ourselves, but our loved ones as well. Oh Father, how long will this suffering go on? How long?
Help us to not be downcast as others are, but to grow in our love for You and Your son Jesus as we approach and live through this holiday season, one that will be so different than any that we’ve ever lived through. Help us to rest in You as our refuge and fortress and trust Your steadfast character.
Help us to remember to be thankful for the many blessings that You have given us. You have given us the greatest gift of all – Jesus – who suffered greatly, taking the punishment for us, and giving us His righteousness. It is a gift. The greatest gift. We have done nothing – we can do nothing – to deserve it.
Father, we don’t know what 2021 will bring, but we are comforted that You do, and that You are in control of everything, and that is enough. We live in a sinful world, but Jesus is the vaccine.  He died in our place so that we might live.  We will ultimately be cured and never have fear of illness and death again.
In Jesus wonderful name we pray,
Amen


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When Life Goes Off the Rails: Do the Next Thing


We all go through those times in life when it seems like our lives are out of control, like a train that has gone off the rails. During those times it seems it’s all we can do to get through the day and do the very basics (eat, shower, sleep). We don’t really understand what is going on. Our lives are in turmoil, but around us, life goes on. Even in the midst of our suffering, others are experiencing joy.
Back on July 23, delayed by three months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my Dad had a needed mitral-clip heart procedure to fix a badly leaking mitral valve, at one of the top heart hospitals in the country. Although the valve team was not able to completely repair the leak, they installed two clips and estimated that they had improved the situation 40-50%. He left the hospital in good health on July 26, and we had high hopes for a better quality of life for him and more years to enjoy him. But for reasons we won’t know until heaven, he never experienced any benefits from the procedure, quickly declined and died on September 3.
Shortly after Dad’s funeral, we got the news that we were going to be blessed with a new puppy, a puppy we had been working with several breeders to get since the beginning of the year. Our feelings were mixed. We were happy to bring Clara, a beautiful Alaskan Malamute pup into our home, but we were grieving the sudden loss of Dad and run down physically and exhausted emotionally. It had been more than fifteen years since our last puppy, and we had forgotten how much work a new puppy was, and we struggled with the basics of taking care of her after we picked her up September 16. Continue reading


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A Prayer for the Election

Our Father in Heaven,

We pray for the upcoming national election on November 3. Our country – which includes our families, churches and friends – is so divided on the issues of the day (COVID-19 pandemic, the economy, racial issues, abortion, the Supreme Court, mail-in ballots, etc.). Our country is hurting from a pandemic that has taken so many lives along with all these other issues, and the hurting is demonstrated by those who have taken to the streets in both peaceful and violent protests. Many of us have never seen such division and hatred in our country. It seems that there is no longer any tolerance of opposing views, or “middle ground”. We pray that despite having differing views and disagreements on political candidates and other issues, we can come together in peace, not hatred. Continue reading


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Paying Tribute to My Heroes

Recently, I was listening to one of R.C. Sproul’s older teaching series Heroes of the Christian Faith. A few weeks later, I read Jeff Robinson’s excellent article “How to have Ministry Heroes without Plagiarizing Them”. That got me to thinking about the heroes in my life.
Growing up, my heroes tended to be sports figures. In baseball it was Mickey Mantle, in football it was O.J. Simpson and in basketball it was Wilt Chamberlain. Although these men achieved great things on the field or court, looking back at them now, their character left much to be desired (though Mantle did come to saving faith very late in his life). In high school my hero was Doug Collins, who played basketball at my hometown Illinois State University and would become an Olympic hero and the number one draft choice in the 1973 National Basketball Association draft.
One of the definitions of “hero” from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “a person admired for achievements and noble qualities”. Robinson in his article states that “Scripture certainly gives warrant to have heroes, to study and emulate men and women of the faith whose lives are so marked by humble, courageous Christ-honoring character and grace-enabled skill in living the Christian life.”
Before looking at my heroes, I want to set some ground rules around people that I am not going to include. First, Jesus would be my top hero (of course). I’m also not going to include my parents, siblings, or my wife Tammy, though they would certainly make the list as well. Given those qualifications, here are people that I consider to be heroes in my life, some of which I know well, and some I don’t: Continue reading


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Dealing with Disappointment

All of us have dreams for how we hope our lives turn out. Some young boys dream of being a major league baseball player and hitting a home run to win game seven of the World Series or sinking the winning putt on the 18th hole to win the Masters. OK, I admit it, those were my dreams. Other children may dream about being the President of the United States. Eventually most of our childhood dreams give way to reality, but we then focus on other dreams as adults. But how are we to respond when those dreams don’t come true?

I got to thinking about this as I was listening to Alistair Begg’s excellent teaching series The Hand of God on the life of Joseph and the providence of God. Specifically, it was his message “Lessons from the Dungeon, Part Two” when Begg was teaching about dealing with disappointment. If you remember the story, Joseph had interpreted the dream of the cup bearer of the king of Egypt, telling him that he would be getting out of the prison in three days and would be restored to his office. In Genesis 40:14-15, Joseph says to the cup bearer “Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house. For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit.” But verse Genesis 40:23 tells us “Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him”. As Joseph sat in the dungeon for more than two years, his dreams of getting out of prison were being dashed each and every day that went by. Continue reading


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The Privilege of Prayer


Have you ever heard someone say something like this, or perhaps you have said it yourself, “I don’t know what else to do, I guess I can pray for you”?  Rather than being something you have to settle for, praying for someone is actually the best gift that you could ever give them.
Have you ever considered just what a privilege it is to come before a Holy God in prayer? I think sometimes we take the ability to bring our requests before God, and Him bending down to listen, for granted.   Psalm 116:1-2 says:
I love the Lord, because he has heard
my voice and my pleas for mercy.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live. Continue reading


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Why I Love John MacArthur

In John Piper’s book entitled Why I Love the Apostle Paul: 30 Reasons he tells us about the profound impact the Apostle Paul has had on his life and ministry. In this article, I would like to do the same for John MacArthur, who has served 51 years at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. Imagine that – having the same pastor for 51 years! One of his accomplishments at Grace Community Church was in preaching through the entire New Testament, which he completed in 2011.  He is currently in the news because Los Angeles County is attempting to evict Pastor MacArthur’s Grace Community Church (GCC) from a parking lot it has leased since 1975—the latest in an ongoing battle between Grace and government authorities concerning GCC’s decision to defy coronavirus restrictions.
I first saw MacArthur speak at the Ligonier Ministries’ National Conference in 1997 when the theme was “Essential Truths of the Christian Faith”, and have seen him speak at that conference many times since. In addition, I have seen him speak at the Sing! 2018 Conference and on a book tour for his book A Tale of Two Sons (later retitled The Prodigal Son), one of my favorite books. I’ve read most of his books and often listen to his popular Grace to You radio program.
Whereas Piper provided 30 reasons for his love of the Apostle Paul, I’ll just list one for my love of John MacArthur. And that is simply because of his stand for the truth. MacArthur consistently lives out Romans 1:16:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
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Bible Translations: What Are They and Which Ones To Use?

There are so many versions of the Bible available to us today. How are you to determine which one is right for you?
When I first became a Christian, I read translations that were easier for me to understand. My wife Tammy grew up reading the King James Version (KJV), a version that I had difficulty understanding. So, I started out reading a Good News Bible (GNB) and The Living Bible (TLB). Those versions were just fine for me at that time in my life. In one church we attended they used the New American Standard Version (NASB), so I started using that translation. Eventually, I began reading the New International Version (NIV) until the English Standard Version (ESV) was released in 2001.
In this survey I read from January, 2017, the King James Version was the most read version of the Bible in America, with the New International Version and English Standard Version trailing far behind in second and third place.
With so many versions of the bible available to us, how are we to choose which one to read? The translation philosophy used may be important to know. Tim Challies gives this helpful breakdown of the main categories of translations “On the one side of the spectrum, we have what we might call word-for-word translations. On the other side, we have what we might call paraphrases, and somewhere in the middle, we would have thought-for-thought. Okay, so, word-for-word, thought-for-thought and paraphrases.”
Word-for-word translations, also known as formal equivalence, attempt to match the original language words with the closest English language counterpart. Thought-for-thought translations, also known as dynamic equivalence, attempt to pair the ideas behind each phrase or sentence with a similar idea in the English language. Paraphrased translations use modern language and idioms to try to capture the thought and essence behind the original text. Below are translations that fall into each of these categories: Continue reading


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Life Lessons Learned from Loss


My Dad went home to be with the Lord on September 3. You can read what is in effect my eulogy for him here.
Reflecting back on his loss of physical strength and independence and then on through the last week of his life, my sister, brother and I learned a few lessons – many of them closely related – that might help you. Here they are:
No Regrets – Several times during the last week of Dad’s life, my sister mentioned that she had no regrets. When our Mom died a little more than 24 years ago, it was sudden. She never recovered from heart surgery, and died two days later. She was on a ventilator and we couldn’t communicate with her. At the time some relationships were better than others, and there were some regrets. In Dad’s final days, we fortunately had a little more time to spend with him.
Leave Nothing Unsaid – Any time we leave a visit with an elderly parent or other loved one, we realize that it could be the last time. Of course, we know that a loved one doesn’t have to be elderly; none of us are guaranteed life for the next minute. During this time, we learned not to leave things unresolved. As an example, my relationship with my Dad throughout my life was complicated. We went through long periods of not talking during two parts of my life, time we could never get back. In January of this year, during a time when Dad spent time in three different hospitals, I felt prompted to ask for his forgiveness, which he graciously granted.
During the last week of Dad’s life, we were able to thank him for being such a great Dad and giving us such a good life. We are so glad that we had that opportunity.
Forgive Others – Similar to my example above, do you have unresolved issues with loved ones? You may not even recall what originally led to the break in the relationship. Why not take the step to try to mend the relationship, asking for forgiveness for anything you have done and forgiving the other person for any hurt they have caused you?  This doesn’t mean that you have to have a relationship with them going forward, but it’s time to lay that burden of bitterness down.
Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:13
Stay Connected with Extended Family – Our Dad and Mom were raised in the Chicago area, where much of their remaining family members still live. After we moved to central Illinois in the early 1960’s, we would often make the trip back to Chicago for holidays, weddings, etc. However, as time went by, we each started our own families and the trips became less frequent. After our Mom died in 1996, we rarely saw extended family members. Seeing some of them at Dad’s visitation and funeral brought us mixed feelings – joy in seeing loved family members, and sadness and regret that we have let so much time go by without trying to connect with them. My hope is that after this pandemic, and it is safe to travel and be around people again, we will be intentional and proactive about visiting with both sides of our family.
Tell Them You Love Them – This is the most important lesson of all. Don’t forget to tell your loved ones that you love them. During the pandemic, I started taking afternoon walks, which usually included a call to Dad. We would talk about politics, sports, the news of the day and my brother’s upcoming retirement. I would end each call telling Dad that I loved him. It was uncomfortable at first, as we didn’t grow up sharing our feelings like that, but it became more comfortable, and he would tell me that he loved me as well.
In the hospital during Dad’s final days, my sister, brother and I had the opportunity many times to tell Dad that we loved him. Even if your loved ones know that you love them, why not be intentional about telling them as often as you can?
I hope these lessons that we learned from walking with Dad in his final days will be of some help to you in your particular situation. What lessons that you have learned would you add to our list?