Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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God’s Faithfulness

In late September our annual extended family vacation took us to Maine. My wife Tammy and I have been taking these vacations with one or both of her sister’s families for nearly our entire married life. These days, some of the nieces and nephews who were not even around for that first vacation to Turkey Creek Ranch in Theodosia, Missouri, are now married and have children.   The little boy in the photo is now 38, and we’re returning again to T-Creek this year, meeting up with 6 children under the age of 4.
The temperatures were cool as we landed at our first of two locations/homes in Maine, this one being in the small town of Northport. Our house overlooked beautiful Penobscot Bay. By walking on a narrow path (we were warned to avoid the poison ivy and deer ticks off the path), we could get to a wonderful place to watch the bay, including the ferry, sailboats and loons.
As I sat there looking out over the bay in those first days of our vacation, I was reminded of God’s faithfulness that we often take for granted. Each day the sun comes up in the morning and goes down in the evening. In fact, later in our vacation, some of our group went to the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park to be among the first in North America to see the sunrise. Continue reading

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Are We Too Preoccupied to Love Christ?


Think back to when you were first in love. You were completely devoted to that person. As you sat across the table from them you looked into their eyes hanging on every word they said. You laughed at every joke they told, whether it was funny or not. You touched their hand, and enjoyed the smell of their perfume or cologne. You wanted to know everything about them and to be fully known by them. Then, your smartphone buzzed. You quickly checked it to make sure it’s not an emergency. Then you think, maybe I better check what other calls and texts I’ve missed. All of a sudden, you’re no longer fully present. You’ve been pulled away from the person that you love and who is right in front of you to address what may be causing the buzzing on your phone.
When I was in seminary along with working 50+ hours a week, I was really stretched for time. After work, my wife and I would meet for a quick dinner before I would begin studying, but she could often tell my mind wasn’t on her. Even though I was sitting right in front of her, more than once she would tell me that I might be listening to her, but she knew I was thinking about all I had to do that evening.   Definitely preoccupied.
Isn’t this how our relationship with God becomes at times? When he first drew us to him we couldn’t get enough of him or his word. We just wanted to be in his presence, to learn all that we could about him and be known by him. Continue reading


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What Will Your Legacy Be?


 As I write this, I’ve just returned from a Celebration of Life service for Bob, a dear saint from our church. The service included touching remembrances from his three children and his only sibling, a brother. It’s obvious that Bob has left a wonderful legacy. It made me wonder about the legacy that we will leave with those whose lives we have touched.

Here are three key areas in which Bob’s life impacted others:

Family. Bob was married for 53 years. He and his wife had three children and fifteen grandchildren. It was heart-warming to hear of the ways that Bob showed his love to his family – by being present at their sporting events, going camping with them, allowing his grandchildren to pile stuffed animals on him while he was “sleeping”, by being a protective “big brother”, by stressing that family was more important than career and success, etc. He loved his family and it was clear that his family loved him very much as well. What kind of legacy are you leaving with your family? Are there relationships that you need to heal?

Faith. Bob and his brother were PK’s, or pastor’s kids. Bob graduated from seminary and had a strong faith that he modeled for his family as we heard in the remembrances from his children and brother. His Celebration of Life service was a Christ-centered one that included much loved hymns and scripture. Bob also sang in our church choir. Are you leading your family in the ways of the Lord? Are you leaving a legacy of faith for your family that could carry on for generations?

Vocation. In her comments, Bob’s daughter mentioned that she felt that her father’s greatest legacy was adoption. Bob helped facilitate thousands of adoptions. In fact, he made forty-two trips to China helping parents bring back new members of their family, some of whom attended the service. After the service I talked to a long-time friend of mine who benefitted from Bob’s adoption work.  They were one of the families that Bob went to China with to bring back their adopted child. Bob truly integrated his faith and touched many lives in his work. What kind of legacy are you leaving in your work? People will soon forget what seemed at the time to be outstanding results, but they will never forget how you affected their lives.

Bob was a beloved brother, son, uncle, father, grandfather and husband. As a believer, his family has confidence that they will see him again in glory. Until then, he has left a wonderful legacy, which should be an encouragement for us to do the same.


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Reflections on Church History Sites in Great Britain

A major 2018 Pew Research Center survey of religious beliefs and practices in Western Europe reported that Western Europe, where Protestant Christianity originated, and Catholicism has been based for most of its history, has become one of the world’s most secular regions. The survey shows that non-practicing Christians (defined, for the purposes of the report, as people who identify as Christians, but attend church services no more than a few times per year) make up the biggest share of the population across the region. In the United Kingdom, for example, there are roughly three times as many non-practicing Christians (55%) as there are church-attending Christians (18%) defined this way.
Recently, my wife Tammy and I, along with four family members, visited a number of sites in Great Britain over a twelve-day period. We were talking about why Christianity declines like it has in Great Britain. According to the Pew survey, some say they gradually drifted away from religion, stopped believing in religious teachings, or were alienated by scandals or church positions on social issues. Sadly, the United States may be headed in the same direction.
Our trip was not specifically a church history trip, but we did visit a few churches and came across other items from Great Britain church history that I wanted to share with you.  To prepare for the trip, I listened to Michael Reeves excellent teaching series from Ligonier Ministries The English Reformation and the Puritans. 

Here are a few brief reflections on what I saw on our trip. Continue reading


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25 Great Quotes from the First Half of New Morning Mercies by Paul Tripp

One of the books that I am using for my devotional reading this year is New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul Tripp. I’m really enjoying the book, and would like to share 25 of my favorite quotes through the first half of the year:

  1. God reminds us that this is not all there is, that we were created and re-created in Christ Jesus for eternity.
  2. Next time you face the unexpected, a moment of difficulty you really don’t want to go through, remember that such a moment doesn’t picture a God who has forgotten you, but one who is near to you and doing in you a very good thing.
  3. If you have been freed from needing success and acclaim to feel good about yourself, you know grace has visited you.
  4. Your hope is not to be found in your willingness and ability to endure, but in God’s unshakable, enduring commitment to never turn from his work of grace.
  5. Your hope of enduring is not to be found in your character or strength, but in your Lord’s.
  6. God will remain faithful even when you’re not, because his faithfulness rests on who he is, not on what you’re doing.
  7. Don’t be discouraged today. You can leave your “what-ifs” and “if-onlys” in the hands of the One who loves you and rules all things.
  8. There is no greater argument for our need for grace than the ease with which our hearts fall under the rule of things other than God.
  9. True lasting hope is never found horizontally. It’s only ever found vertically, at the feet of the Messiah, the One who is hope.
  10. Why tell yourself that you know what you need, when the One who created you knows better and has promised to deliver?
  11. All the glories of the created world together are meant to be one big finger that points you to the God of glory, who made each one of them and is alone able to give you life.
  12. You no longer have to hope and pray that someday you will measure up, because Jesus has measured up on your behalf. How could you hear better news than that?
  13. Sure, you’ll face difficulty. God is prying open your fingers so you’ll let go of your dreams, rest in his comforts, and take up his call.
  14. In grace, he leads you where you didn’t plan to go in order to produce in you what you couldn’t achieve on your own.
  15. God’s grace not only provides you with what you need, but also transforms you into what he in wisdom created you to be.
  16. Quit being paralyzed by your past. Grace offers you life in the present and a guarantee of a future.
  17. All of what I look back on and would like to redo has been fully covered by the blood of Jesus. I no longer need to carry the burden of the past on my shoulders, so I am free to fully give myself to what God has called me to in the here and now.
  18. He always gives freely what we need in order to do what he has called us to do.
  19. Prayer is abandoning my reliance on me and running toward the rest that can be found only when I rely on the power of God.
  20. Rest is only ever found in trusting the One who has everything figured out for your good and his glory.
  21. There aren’t two things in all of life more important than these—that grace has purchased for you a place in God’s family and that, because you are in his family, God rules over all things for your good.
  22. You and I will never find inner peace and rest by trying to figure it all out. Peace is found in resting in the wisdom and grace of the One who has it all figured out and rules it all for his glory and our good.
  23. When he calls, he goes with you. What he calls you to do, he empowers by his grace.
  24. We don’t obey to get his favor; we obey because his favor has fallen on us and transformed our hearts, giving us the willingness and power to obey.
  25. Only grace can cause you and me to abandon our confidence in our own performance and place our confidence in the perfectly acceptable righteousness of Jesus Christ.

If you are looking for a good devotional book, check out Paul Tripp’s New Morning Mercies: A Gospel Devotional.


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Leadership Lessons from a Mother of Triplets

We can learn leadership lessons every day from people in all vocations, including that of a mother. Russell Gehrlein, in his book Immanuel Labor—God’s Presence in Our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work writes that the Proverbs 31 woman was a role model not just for women, but for all workers. In her book Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God, Courtney Reisigg writes that she has learned that God is glorified in the mundane (boring, dull or monotonous) work as much as He is in the magnificent.

I’ve recently been learning leadership lessons from our niece Jana, a mother of triplets who were born at just 28 weeks. When a family member saw the above photo of Jana holding the three boys, she called her Wonder Woman. Indeed. Here are 7 lessons that we can learn from Jana (aka Wonder Woman) as she cares for Max, Lincoln and Zeke:

Preparation – Long before the triplets were born, Jana was preparing by reading books and talking to other mothers of triplets. Leaders need to prepare before taking on a formal leadership position. They should secure mentors, leaders that they trust and respect, read books on leadership, attend learning events and try to get into positions in which they can demonstrate leadership, even if they don’t yet have the title.

Trust God – Jana and her husband Tony trusted God to provide them children, even though the odds were against them as time went on, and God was faithful to them. (Read about their “Baby Journey”). Then, they had to trust God that the babies would be able to get to 28 weeks before birth, and again God was faithful. Christian leaders too have to trust in God – to prepare them for leadership, to secure a leadership position and for daily guidance as they lead their teams.

Efficient and organized – Leaders have much on their plates and have to be efficient and well organized or they will quickly become overwhelmed. As a mother, Jana is extremely organized and efficient. Imagine caring for three newborn babies. I would be overwhelmed with one, so seeing how Jana cares for three continually amazes (and tires) me. At this point in time, the boys need to eat every three hours. To get ready for the feeding, she prepares their bottles and changes their diapers. After feeding them, it’s “playtime”, which is basically trying to keep them awake for another half hour or so. And that’s every three hours.

Building her team – Leaders need to build their teams, As Jim Collins stated in his classic book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t, they need to get the right people on the bus (their team), the wrong people off the bus and the right people in the right seats. As you can imagine, Jana can use all of the help she and Tony can get to help them care for the boys. She needed to build a team of people who could assist them, especially during the daytime when Tony is at work. And of course, as a mother, she has to build her team with people she can trust. She has done an excellent job building a good team of family and friends that she can depend on.

Training her team – Training your team is a key aspect of leadership. Do you really think that the customer service at Chick Fil-A would be so consistently excellent if the team members had not received good training? Jana has had to train her team members – some of whom had never changed a diaper (Ahem…my wife and I) – on how to prepare a bottle, how and when to feed the boys, “play time”, how to wash bottles, swaddling, etc. In addition, she has to provide updated instruction to her team members as things change (feeding schedule changes, medication, etc.).

Planning – As a leader, I would plan for the following day late each afternoon. I would check my calendar and see what meetings were going to be held that I needed to prepare for, and what assignments were going to be due that day. Planning is critical to Jana’s leadership as well. She needs to know who is coming to assist her that day and at what time they are coming. She also considers if there is anything out of the ordinary that will take place that day, such as a doctor appointment, or if it is a day that she (a nurse) will be working.

Patience – A servant leader will demonstrate patience when things aren’t going according to plan. They will find out what the problem is, rather than “flying off the handle”. I’ve seen Jana show an incredible amount of patience when one of the boys doesn’t want to sleep, finish his bottle, or is just being fussy. And demonstrating patience is even harder when you get as little sleep as Jana does.  Along with patience, she loves to have fun with the boys and make them smile, which is a great trait in a leader.

These are 7 leadership lessons I’m learning from Jana. I’m sure that there will be more in the future. What leadership lessons have you learned from mothers?


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My Mid-Year Favorites

As I’ve done for a number of years now, I want to share with you my mid-year favorites from 2019 in a variety of categories. Except for books, these are all items that were released, or took place in 2019. For books, I include my favorite books that I read during 2019, regardless of when the book was published. Enjoy!  Please let me know what you think of my list, and also share some of your favorites.

Movies
Top Choice: Avengers: Endgame

Other films that I’ve enjoyed, in order are:
Toy Story 4
The Upside
The Biggest Little Farm
Amazing Grace
American Gospel: Christ Alone
Apollo 11
Free Solo
They Shall Not Grow Old
Tolkien
Stan and Ollie

Click on ‘Continue Reading’ to see my mid-year favorite albums, songs, books, blogs, podcasts, conferences, TV shows, concerts and new resources. Continue reading