Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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Who Can You Be an Encouragement To?

This summer I studied the book of Philippians, using Steven Lawson’s excellent teaching series Rejoice in the Lord: Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. YI listened to a message in the series entitled “Kindred Spirit,” which covered Philippians 2:19 -24. In this passage, Paul writes about sending Timothy, a faithful co-worker, to the Philippians. Paul tells them that Timothy will be genuinely concerned for their welfare.

Paul writes in v. 20 that he has no one like Timothy. They had a close relationship. Timothy was his son in the faith. Timothy was a great encouragement to the Apostle Paul. Dr. Lawson tells us that we need a Timothy in our lives as well. Who encourages you? Who serves as a Timothy in your life? Is it your spouse, a family member, a friend, or someone in your church? Continue reading

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A Prayer for Thanksgiving Day

Again, we have come to that one day a year in our country which is set aside – in name at least – for being thankful. But as children of the King, we are always to be thankful. The Apostle Paul tells us to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). 1 Chronicles 16:34 tells us to give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

I love the holiday season, and Thanksgiving is really the kick-off for that festive time. Today, many will be gathering with family and friends, enjoying a turkey dinner and perhaps watching some football. Soon we might be joining many others searching for bargains as we begin our Christmas shopping and the decorating of our homes for Christmas. But before we get into the busyness of the season, let us take time to thank the Lord for all he has done for us this year. Paul tells us in Colossians 3:17 that whatever we do, in word or deed, we are to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Continue reading

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We are Stewards, Not Owners

Half way through my career I made a major change by changing departments. The department I went to (IT) was like another world, including having its own entire language that I was unfamiliar with. One of the words that was used often was “component”. I was familiar with stereo or car components, for example, but the way it was used in IT was different. It was used to describe a team, unit or piece of work. Responsibility for a component was given to what was referred to as a component steward.

But what is stewardship? R.C. Sproul has written that the concept in the New Testament that describes and defines what it means to be a servant before Christ is the word “stewardship”. Don Whitney goes further and writes that stewardship is the care and management of that which belongs to another. He tells us that while we often speak of things as “ours,” the reality is that all that we have and all we are belongs to another – God. Continue reading

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Reflections on Aging

When I was ending my career, the organization I worked at provided us a session with a well-known financial organization. We were told that we were leaving at a time when we were most likely in good health, had plenty of time and money. He called those the “Go Go Years”. He told us that as we get older and perhaps in not such good health, we would move into the “Slow Go Years”. And later yet, we would move into the “No Go Years”.
I find myself in the “Go Go Years”. Yet, an honest reflection tells me that I am now retired, both my wife and I have lost all of our parents, I am on Social Security and Medicare. I don’t often think about my decreasing life expectancy. No, in my mind – unless I look into the mirror – I’m about half of my true age. But there are times when I am reminded just what my true age is.
Here are a few of those times. Continue reading

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Oh the Things I’ve Seen!

We recently returned home from a trip to Europe which featured a Rhine River cruise. It was our first cruise. We saw many wonderful sites, such as the Alps in Switzerland, castles and cathedrals. It was our third, and possibly, our final trip to Europe, and it caused me to say to Tammy a few days after returning, “Oh the things we have seen”. Yes, this world is wonderful.
It got me to thinking about all the things that I have seen in my lifetime. Growing up, our family took car trips during the summer, so we got to see many of our states, and things like Niagara Falls, Disneyland and the Baseball Hall of Fame, among many other sites that I think back on. Unlike my cousin and two aunts who did get to see the Beatles in concert, I never did. But I did get to see three of the four members in concert, and even I’ve walked across Abbey Road. I’ve seen just about every music artist I’ve ever wanted to, some of them several times. I’ve seen Michael Jordan play several times, watched Doug Collins play in my hometown during his college years, saw my childhood hero Mickey Mantle hit a home run late in his career, watched Tiger Woods play several times, went to the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, played on some spectacular golf courses, and saw Mark McGuire hit home run number 60, when the single season record was 61. We’ve been to many theology conferences, heard wonderful speakers which includes my spiritual mentor R.C. Sproul dozens of times. Yes, oh the things I have seen! I have been blessed. Take just a few minutes to think of the wonderful things you have seen in your lifetime. Your list will look different from mine. What would your list look like? Continue reading

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A Prayer for Fall

Our Father in Heaven,

In recent days we have felt cool mornings and evenings, signaling for those in the Midwest the upcoming end of summer and the beginning of fall. It makes us aware of the long, dark and cold winter that will soon be upon us. Before that however, we get to enjoy a colorful fall season, with joyful fall festivals, sweaters, football, cider, pumpkins, raking leaves, and everything else that goes with this wonderful season. And we shouldn’t forget to notice the beauty of the changing sunlight and lengthening shadows.

It seems like it was just last week that I saw the first signs of the green corn and soybean plants breaking through the fields of our rich Illinois soil. But of course, it’s actually been much longer than that. Some of the fields have already been harvested, and those that remain are brown, and will soon be harvested and laid bare until next spring, should the Lord not return by then.

The leaves on the trees that I see on my afternoon walks are changing from green to red, orange and yellow each day. The burning bushes, and the red sunset maple in our back yard, planted in my mom’s memory now more than twenty-seven years ago, will soon be a spectacular show of red.

Father, you are so faithful. Each day the sun comes up in the morning, and sets in the evening. Throughout the year we get to experience the seasons of spring, summer, fall and winter. The great hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness” by Thomas Chisholm tells us:

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

We thank you for your faithfulness, your wonderful creation and for this fall season. We thank you for the new morning mercies you provide us:

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

In Jesus’ precious name I pray,


In Appreciation of My Pastor

I remember reading David Wells’ excellent 1993 book No Place for Truth: Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology, in which he wrote that the average pastor stayed at a church about three years. These days, the average is only slightly longer, about four years. This month, our church will celebrate 30 years of faithful service from our lead pastor, Bob Smart.
My wife Tammy and I started attending Christ Church (PCA), then known as Willowbeech Presbyterian Church, in December, 1994, the year after Pastor Smart began serving there. We were a small church at the time, with about 80 in attendance each Sunday. We met in a rental property at a business park that included a rock radio station on the floor above us. In fact, a large boom box that the radio station used at events was parked in the parking lot that we shared. As you can imagine, that raised some eyebrows from first-time visitors to the church!

At that time, Pastor Smart did it all – from wearing a headset to answer the phone (there was no full-time secretary), to emptying dirty diapers out of the nursery, to preaching on Sunday. There were no associate pastors, just a few faithful elders and deacons to help Pastor Smart lead the church. Over the years our church has seen steady growth, resulting in our move to a beautiful new church building in 1999, a new addition in 2023, and the addition of a few associate pastors over the years to help Pastor Smart lead the church.
Pastor Smart, who has encouraged many to pursue seminary education over the years, continued to grow himself, achieving a PhD. He has authored or edited several books, regularly teaches his Identity in Christ material, has taught pastors internationally and college students locally, and has gone on a number of missions trips. Through it all, for 30 years, he has remained faithful to the local church, preaching through all 66 books of the Bible.
The calling of a pastor is hard. It is not flashy or glamorous, but ordinary, as Michael Horton has written. There are no established hours, and a pastor is always on call, even on their days off. A pastor rejoices with those who rejoice and weeps with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Pastor Smart has faithfully prayed for his people, studied and preached, taught and counseled. His focus has consistently been on Word and prayer. He has preached the word in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2) and is worthy of double honor (1 Timothy 5:17).
Pastor Smart is also a very humble man, never wanting the attention on himself, but all glory to be given to his Savior. So that’s how I’ll end, praising God for using His servant for 30 years at our church.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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What are Crucial Conversations?

For the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of assisting one of the pastors at our church in leading a NXTGEN Pastors Cohort, comprised of seminary students, through a series of soft-skill modules. These modules cover subjects that they would not normally cover in their classes in seminary.
Recently, we went through the module on Crucial Conversations. Some of the material in the module came from the best-selling book Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler and Emily Gregory. The original edition of the book was published in 2002 and it continues to be popular today, now in its third edition. I remember that it was the “hot” business book in the organization that I worked at not long after it was published, and participating in a Crucial Conversations book club.
The authors describe a “crucial conversation” as a discussion between two or more people where:

  1. The stakes are high
  2. Opinions differ
  3. Emotions run strong
  4. The outcome significantly impacts their lives and there is significant risk of negative consequences

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We Should Always Be Growing 

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.  2 Peter 3:18 ESV

As I take my daily walk, I pass farm fields of sweet corn and soybeans. For the past few months, I’ve watched the fields transform from the time they were being prepared in the Spring, to the time the plants initially broke through the soil. Almost daily, I can see the plants, especially the corn, grow to the point that now, in late July, the corn is now well over my head with tassels on top flowing in the breeze. Continue reading

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A Prayer for a Mid-Summer Day

Father in Heaven,

As we begin this day sitting on our patio, the sun is just starting to rise over the trees and the birds are singing. In the distance, I can hear a dog occasionally barking, while our dog lays nearby. I can feel the humidity already in the air as we go through these “dog days of summer”, but I truly do love the warmth that summer brings.
Father I am so thankful for this new summer day. I don’t know what this day will bring, but You do, and in that I take comfort. As Matt Redman sings:
The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

“10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” Continue reading