Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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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.
Continue reading

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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


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?


My Dad, My Friend

My Dad, William (Bill) Pence, has gone home to be with the Lord. After battling heart problems for many years, and significantly over the past eight years, he died on Thursday, September 3, at home, surrounded by his loving family. Death is truly the final enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26).  But we know that he is now in the presence of Jesus. The Apostle Paul tells us that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Jesus told the repentant thief on the cross that “today, you will be with me in paradise”. (Luke 23:43).
Dad was married to Rose, my mother for 41 years. He later married Pat, who he was married to for 23 years. He leaves behind Pat, her children and grandchildren,  my sister Lisa and her husband Jeff, my brother Mike and his wife Julie, and I and my wife Tammy, two sisters, Linda and her husband Brian, and Cindy, three granddaughters, Jenna and her husband Niles, Brooke and Jorri, two great-grandchildren, Darla and Conrad, family in the Chicago area and many friends.
Before he died, I was able to share the special memories below with him, something I didn’t have the opportunity to do with my Mom when she died after heart surgery twenty-four years ago. My sister, brother and I also had some sweet times together in the hospital telling him that we loved him and remembering favorite things in his life – his favorite trip, meal, song, author, favorite golf course that he played, etc. – and Face Timing with family members.
Here are some of the special memories that I shared with him – a lifetime of memories – in the last week of his life. I hope you enjoy reading these. Continue reading

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A Prayer for America

Father in Heaven,

We come to you this day asking for your help, for we know that our help comes from you:
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 121: 1-2  (Note:  Listen to Casting Crowns’ song – Praise You in This Storm)

Our country badly needs you, Father. We are a divided and hurting people. This year we have faced so much trouble. We have faced weather issues from tornadoes in the spring, to now wildfires and hurricanes. We pray for those who have lost family members and their homes as a result.

So many lives have been lost in our nation, and worldwide, during this pandemic. We pray for the many doctors who are working on cures and vaccines. We lift up the healthcare workers and caregivers to you for protection and strength.

We pray that our leaders would not politicize this issue, but instead work together to save lives and help those in need. We pray for family and friends to remain safe during this time, especially those who are most vulnerable. We pray that family, friends and churches would not be divided over issues such as wearing masks and keeping socially distant.

We pray for the many who have lost jobs or businesses because of the pandemic. We pray for the businesses that are slowly beginning to open and the workers who are returning to the workplace. Please keep them safe, Father. We pray for those who are returning to school, either in person or virtual. Keep them safe and healthy and give them perseverance and joy in teaching and learning.

Father you know the racial issues that have gripped our country. We pray that we would be good listeners during this time, so that we can make meaningful change.

We pray for the upcoming national election, for the presidential, congressional and state races. Grant us wisdom as we vote, and may your will be done.

Father this has been a most difficult year. Draw us near to you this day.

In Jesus name,

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Is Anything Too Hard for the Lord?

In Genesis chapter 17, we see that the LORD appeared to Abram, who was then 99 years old. In verse 16, the LORD told Abraham that he would give him a son by his wife Sarah, who was 90 years old. We read that Abraham then fell on his face and laughed to himself about how impossible it would be for a couple of their age to have a child.
Laughter shows up again in chapter 18 as the LORD and two other men appear to Abraham. Sarah, listening nearby, hears the LORD tell Abraham that he will return in a year and Sarah will have a son. Sarah laughed to herself about this impossibility because of her age, because she was way beyond her child-bearing years and had been barren up to this point.  The LORD then asked Abraham why Sarah laughed, asking “Is anything too hard for the LORD?”

Are there things in your life that you think are just impossible, even too hard for the LORD? What about? Continue reading

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The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

I think, in the words of Tom Petty, that great theologian/rock star, that waiting is one of the hardest things we have to do. Think of some of the many times we have to wait in life:

  • In line – at the grocery store, doctor’s office, ballpark, theatre, Disney World, etc.
  • In traffic, going to and from work Monday through Friday. For some of us, this represents hours each day.
  • For a job offer.
  • For medical test results.
  • For answers to prayer.
  • And in many more instances.

One of my good friends was waiting to hear back on a job offer. He had three interviews for the position and was told that they had hoped to make a decision, but at least a week had gone by. He wondered if he would even hear back from the employer, and was convinced that he wasn’t going to get an offer. He just wanted to hear one way or the other.
When we are waiting for something of significance (job offer, medical test results, you fill in the blank), doubt can set in. I’ve heard people say that they are hoping and praying for the best, but preparing for the worst. We are particularly prone to the attacks of the enemy at these times, as our minds go back and forth with how we are going to deal with things if this happens, or if this happens. Continue reading

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5 Thoughts on Money for the Christian

Jesus taught much on the subject of money. In fact, you may not know that he taught more often on money than He did on love or on heaven and hell combined. Since Jesus spent so much time on the subject of money, we should devote some time thinking about it as well.
Gene Veith, in his excellent book God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life, writes that the purpose of vocation is to love and serve our neighbor. How is the believer to apply the purpose of vocation to our use of money?
R.C. Sproul, in his book How Should I Think about Money? writes that one of the most important things to consider is how we allocate the resources that God has given to us. How do we make important and wise decisions about how we’re going to spend our money?
There is much that we could talk about in regards to money. In this article, I want to briefly look at just five aspects: Continue reading

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So, You Want to Start a Blog

This blog started about seven years ago, but it’s genesis was actually as a church newsletter that we started way back in September, 1998. From an initial four-page issue, Coram Deo would grow to a thirty-page paper and online newsletter by 2013. The focus of the newsletter (and the blog) was to look at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview. As a church newsletter, we included book, music and movie reviews, along with articles from our pastors and information about church events. In 2013, we transitioned from a church newsletter to the current blog format.  During the past seven years, we’ve seen slow, steady growth.
Blogging itself is not difficult. However, consistently doing it with excellence will take discipline and perseverance. Here are 5 thoughts I have for you if you are interested in starting your own blog: Continue reading