Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


New Life in Christ: What Really Happens When You’re Born Again and Why It Matters by Steven Lawson. Baker Books. 224 pages. 2020
****

In this book, pastor Steven Lawson considers the new birth by looking at Jesus’s well-known encounter nighttime encounter with Nicodemus in John 3. I have seen the author preach on numerous occasions, and as Sinclair Ferguson writes in the “Foreword”, you may, as I did, hear his voice preaching as you read this book, which reads like one of his preaching series, and is a nice companion to his Ligonier Ministries teaching series The New Birth.
What does it mean to be born again? The author tells us that being born again means that God implants divine life within our spiritually dead heart. He tells us that there are two sides of the entrance into the kingdom of God. On one side is the person’s activity. The other side involves God’s activity. God must cause a person to be born again, which, in turn, produces saving faith. It is the new birth that enables us to receive Jesus Christ into our life. Similarly, R.C. Sproul would often say that “regeneration proceeds faith”.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review… and reviews of
~ Making a Difference: Impacting Culture and Society as a Christian by R.C. Sproul and
~ I Still Believe: A Memoir of Wreckage, Recovery, and Relentless Love. Russ and Tori Taff with Mark Smeby
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
I’M CURRENTLY READING…. Continue reading


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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Patrick Lencioni is one of my favorite business authors and this is one of the most helpful books that I continually go back to time and again. I would say it is my favorite “business book”, but it is actually helpful in any setting in which you work with a team – business, church, non-profit, sports, etc.
In this book Lencioni follows his usual practice of using a fictional account (fable) to make his points in an interesting manner, and then summarizing those points in the final portion (last 33 pages) of the book.
In the fable, Kathryn Peterson is a newly appointed CEO of Decision Tech, a technology company which has much potential. In fact, Kathryn will tell her staff multiple times:
“We have a more experienced and talented executive team than any of our competitors. We have more cash than they do. Thanks to Martin and his team, we have better core technology. And we have a more powerful board of directors. Yet in spite of all that, we are behind two of our competitors in terms of both revenue and customer growth.”
The problem with Decision Tech is that their executive staff is not displaying teamwork. In a series of off-site meetings, Kathryn leads the staff through the five dysfunctions of a team. She, as well as Lencioni in the final portion of the book, recommend ways for overcoming the dysfunctions.
This is an excellent book on team dynamics and teamwork. Being written as a fable allows the reader to get a vivid picture of how a team interacts and what it feels like to be part of a successful team. This is a quick read; the author’s model is simple and the book is full of practical advice which leaders can use in building good teams. I’ve included some helpful concepts Lencioni teaches in the book below: Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Book ReviewsPraying the Bible by Donald Whitney. Crossway. 114 pages. 2015
****

In this short book, the author, a respected seminary professor, writes that Christians often don’t pray simply because they do not feel like it. And he states that the reason they don’t feel like praying is that when they do pray, they tend to say the same old things about the same old things. He tells us that the problem is not us, but our method of prayer. The method of most Christians in prayer is to say the same old things about the same old things. Prayers without variety eventually become words without meaning. He writes that it’s normal to pray about the same old things because our lives tend to consist of the same old things. His solution to this problem is that when we pray, we should pray through a passage of Scripture, particularly a Psalm. He states that God gave the Psalms to us so that we would give the Psalms back to God, and that no other book of the Bible was inspired for that expressed purpose.
He suggests that we pick a Psalm (he provides us a method for determining which psalm to choose each day when he discusses “Psalms of the Day”), and simply go through the passage line by line, talking to God about whatever comes to mind as we read the text. By following this method, we will never run out of anything to say, and, best of all, we will never again say the same old things about the same old things. What we will be doing is taking words that originated in the heart and mind of God and circulating them through our heart and mind back to God. The author tells us that by this means God’s words become the wings of our prayers. When we pray through a passage of Scripture, we won’t be praying empty, repetitive phrases. If we pray in this way, in the long run our prayers will be far more biblical than if we just make up our own prayers. Without the Scripture to shape our prayers, we are far more likely to pray in unbiblical ways than if we pray the thoughts that occur to us as we read the Scripture.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and reviews of:

  • For a Continuing Church: The Roots of the Presbyterian Church in America by Sean Michael Lucas
  • The Hand of God: Finding His Care in All Circumstances by Alistair Begg

BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
I’M CURRENTLY READING…. Continue reading


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MY 5 ALL-TIME FAVORITE BOOKS


I love to read books in a variety of genres – theology, biography, sports, leadership, faith and work, professional development, etc. I’m pretty sure I got my love of reading from my parents, who both loved to read.

Previously I’ve shared 10 books that I think every leader should read. Now, I would like to share my 5 all-time favorite books, other than the Bible, of course. These are books that I go back to and re-read from time to time. Here are my top 5 books and my previously published reviews of them:

  1. Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper
  2. The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul
  3. Crazy Love by Francis Chan
  4. The Prodigal Son: An Astonishing Study of the Parable Jesus Told to Unveil God’s Grace for You by John MacArthur
  5. Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul

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How to Develop a Vision and Make it Stick

Have you ever been in an organization and not felt that there was a clear direction on where the organization was going? Or perhaps the organization has a stated vision, but it’s not well understood what the vision actually means. Leaders – whether they are in a Fortune 500 organization, church, non-profit or team – need to provide a vision for those they are leading. People need to know where their leader is taking them. John Maxwell has said that a leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.
But how do you develop a vision for your organization, and then once developed, how do you make that vision stick? I’ve been helped in this area by two books written by Andy Stanley – Visioneering: Your Guide for Discovering and Maintaining Personal Vision and Making Vision Stick. Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


Why I Love the Apostle Paul by John Piper: 30 Reasons. Crossway. 208 pages. 2019
****

In his latest book, in thirty short chapters divided into seven parts, John Piper gives us not a comprehensive overview of the Apostle Paul’s thought, but a highly personal book. No one has taken the author deeper into the mysteries of the gospel than Paul, who wrote thirteen books of the Bible, and much of the book of Acts is about his ministry. After the Lord Jesus himself, no one has won the author’s appreciation and admiration more. His aim in the book is to commend the Apostle Paul as a trustworthy witness. He wants us to be deeply and joyfully persuaded that he is admirable and trustworthy and that what he writes is true.
Over the thirty chapters, the author tells us about the profound impact the Apostle Paul has had on his life and ministry. Among the topics included are suffering, love, contentment, killing sin, Christian freedom, community, Gospel accuracy, God’s sovereignty, imperfection, cancer, joy, the poor and Romans 8:32. You can read the book through like a normal book, or choose to read it devotionally, covering a chapter a day for thirty days.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review… and reviews of:

  • Them: Why We Hate Each Other – And How to Heal by Ben Sasse
  • The New Man: Becoming a Man After God’s Heart by Dan Doriani

BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
I’M CURRENTLY READING…. Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


To Seek and to Save: Daily Reflections on the Road to the Cross by Sinclair Ferguson. The Good Book Company. 162 pages. 2020 
****

This book, by one of our most respected theologians, will remind readers of his excellent 2018 Advent devotional Love Came Down at Christmas: Daily Readings for Advent. In that book, the author took readers through 1 Corinthians 13. In this new book, he takes us through Luke’s Gospel, beginning with chapter 9, verse 51, in which Luke records all the events in Jesus’ life in the form of a journey to Jerusalem. This travelogue eventually brings us to Calvary and to the empty tomb. In his travelogue, Luke describes Jesus’ encounters with a wide variety of individuals and groups of people. The author tells us that there was something they all had in common: they were either drawn to him in their need, or repelled from him by their pride. No one was neutral.
In this series of short reflections for Lent, the author lets us listen in on most of these conversations. Each encounter will build up a picture of the journey’s real purpose; for, as he tells one man he meets along the way, Jesus is “the Son of Man [who] came to seek and to save the lost” (19:10). The key issues for all of those who encounter Jesus in Luke’s Gospel are these:

  • Do they know why he is on the road in the first place?
  • Will they follow him as his disciple?

The author tells us that this Lent, Jesus asks those same questions of us.
These readings will fit nicely in with your daily devotional readings. They will be equally helpful in preparing your heart for the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, or really at any other time. If you choose to use it for the former, you will start the readings on “Ash Wednesday”, which falls on February 26 in 2020. After each reading is a “Reflect” section with questions, and a time to “Respond” to what you have read.
I recommend this book for your personal or family devotional reading.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:

BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review… and reviews of
~ The Seamless Life: A Tapestry of Love & Learning, Worship and Work by Steven Garber
~ The Missionary Fellowship of William Carey by Michael A.G. Haykin
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
I’M CURRENTLY READING….

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