Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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4 Christmas Books I Recommend to You 

Over the years, many of the authors I enjoy have written books about Christmas. Here are four recent books about Christmas that I would recommend to you.

Child in the Manger: The True Meaning of Christmas – Sinclair Ferguson

Sinclair Ferguson is one of our day’s best Reformed theologians. I have read many of his books and heard him speak many times at the Ligonier National Conference. He has been a pastor and seminary professor in numerous churches and seminaries throughout the world, and is also a Ligonier Teaching Fellow. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed and was blessed by this book.
Dr. Ferguson writes that this book sets out to explore the question of the real meaning of Christmas. He tells us that when we find the answer, we realize that it isn’t only for the Christmas season. He states that at the center of history stands the person of Jesus Christ. He does so because he is at the center of God’s story. Christ who is the creator of all things has entered his own creation in order to become our Savior. That is what gives Christmas meaning. It is what gives history and our lives meaning too.
He writes that the heart of the Christmas message is a baby bound in swaddling bands and lying in a wooden manger, who is destined to be bound again later in life and laid upon wood on the cross of Calvary. He tells us that the meaning of Christmas is this: The Light of the world has come into the darkness of the world, in order to bring light into the darkness of our hearts, and to illuminate them with the grace of forgiveness. He tells us that Christmas is not coming, but it has already come. The Word already has been made flesh. He already has lived, bled, died, and risen again for us. Now all that remains is to receive him. For Jesus is the meaning of Christmas.

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  • More of this book review and reviews of
  • An Even Better Christmas: Joy and Peace That Last All Year by Matt Chandler
  • Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ – Timothy Keller
  • Christmas Playlist: Four Songs that bring you to the heart of Christmas – Alistair Begg

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


The Meaning of Marriage: A Couple’s Devotional: A Year of Daily Devotions by Tim Keller and Kathy Keller. Viking 392 pages. 2019
****

This is Tim Keller and Kathy Keller’s third devotional book, with previous books on the Psalms (The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms) and Proverbs (God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs), both of which were excellent and I used as a part of my devotional reading.
The Kellers wrote The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God in 2011. In the “Introduction” of this new devotional, Kathy Keller indicates that it is not necessary to have read the earlier book in order to benefit from this new devotional. She then recaps some of the basic themes of The Meaning of Marriage, such as:

  • The main problem every marriage faces is the self-centeredness in both spouse’s hearts, and
  • The essence of marriage is a covenant, a binding promise.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and reviews of:

  • Live in Grace, Walk in Love: A 365-Day Journey by Bob Goff
  • Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon, wife of Charles H. Spurgeon by Ray Rhodes Jr.

BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
I’M CURRENTLY READING….
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3 Advent Devotionals to Prepare Your Hearts to Celebrate the Birth of Jesus


Over the past three years, my wife Tammy and I have read these three Advent devotionals to prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of Jesus; we would commend them to you. Here is a brief review of each of them.

Come, Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional by Paul Tripp

This year, I’ve been enjoying Paul Tripp’s devotional New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional. In this 2017 book of daily Advent devotional readings, he writes that the Christmas story is the story of stories, but for some it suffers from our familiarity with it. He writes that when we are familiar with things, we tend not to celebrate them as we once did. Familiarity tends to rob us of our wonder. As a result, he writes that many of us aren’t gripped by the stunningly magnificent events and truths of the birth of Jesus anymore. Many of us are no longer gripped by wonder as we consider what this story tells us about the character and plan of God. And sadly, many of us are no longer humbled by what the incarnation of Jesus tells us about ourselves.
During the busy holiday season other things capture and control our hearts. When that happens however, little room remains for wonder and worship. He writes that familiarity often means that what is very important may no longer exercise important influence over us in the way it should. He tells us that he wrote this book with the hope and prayer that God would use it to recapture our attention and reactivate our awe. Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making by Andrew Peterson. B&H Books. 224 pages. 2019
****

Andrew Peterson is a talented singer, songwriter and author. I heard parts of this book, which I couldn’t put down, and to which he refers to as a “barrage of thoughts and anecdotes” at his breakout sessions at the 2018 and 2019 Sing! Getty Worship Conference in Nashville.  He writes that the book is a glimpse into his own faltering journey as a songwriter, storyteller, and Christian. He calls it a love song about the life that God has given him, and it’s one of my favorite books of the year.
As you read this book you feel like a friend is casually talking to you. The book includes biography – he refers a lot to failure, being a poor student and not applying himself, reading fantasy and science fiction, attending Bible College, being dropped by his record label, and getting a break by opening for the band Caedmon’s Call. He writes about the influence of Rich Mullins, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, the Rabbit Room community he is a part of, researching his family ancestry, the now 20 year Behold the Lamb of God tour, moving to a woodsy corner of Nashville with his wife and three children and they refer to as “the Warren” and where he built a stone wall, gardening, beekeeping, as well as the creative (songwriting, book writing, painting) process.
He tells us that we are all creative and that there is a lot of similarity in process no matter what our discipline is. He references a number of books and includes them (and others), on a helpful “Reading List” included at the end of the book.
I highlighted a number of passages as I read this book. Below are 15 of my favorite quotes:

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and reviews of:

  • Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making by Andrew Peterson
  • Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Last Stand of Payne Stewart: The Year Golf Changed Forever by Kevin Robbins

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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14 New and Upcoming Books You Might Be Interested In


There are a number of new and upcoming books, in a variety of genres, that I would like to share with you that you may be interested in.

Something Needs to Change: A Call to Make Your Life Count in a World of Urgent Need by David Platt

This book, by the author of Radical, is one of the best, and certainly the most challenging book I’ve read this year. Here’s my review. Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Something Needs to Change: A Call to Make Your Life Count in a World of Urgent Need by David Platt. Multnomah. 224 pages. 2019
****

In Something Needs to Change, you get exactly what you would expect out of a David Platt book – to be challenged biblically to get out of your comfort zone and take action. He takes a different approach in the writing of this book, one of the best I’ve read this year. He uses an experience – a trek through multiple trips with a few men on Himalayan trails – rather than basing the book on his sermons. On his trips, he came face to face with men, women, and children in urgent spiritual (those who have never heard of Jesus), and physical (illness, disease, hunger, trafficking), need, and tries to understand what it all means for his life. He knows that it must mean something, as certainly he’s not supposed to see and hear these things and then go on with business as usual in his life. I experienced the same feelings as I read this book about these urgent spiritual and physical needs.
In the book, we follow the author and his friends on their trek as they see faces and touch people. The region that he travels to includes about nine million people. Out of that nine million, there are probably less than one hundred followers of Jesus. He writes that the reality is that most of the people have never even heard of Jesus. The area is the birthplace of both Hinduism and Buddhism.  Throughout the book, the author shares scripture from Luke’s Gospel that he was reading on his trek, along with his journaling. Because the book is intended to be an experience on the Himalayan trails, the author includes a few questions for reflection at the end of each day of the trek to help the reader make the most of their own journey.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and reviews of…
~ 5 Minutes in Church History: An Introduction to the Stories of God’s Faithfulness in the History of the Church by Stephen J. Nichols
~ A Company of Heroes: Portraits from the Gospel’s Global Advance by Tim Keesee
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
I’M CURRENTLY READING….

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Dust to Glory: An Overview of the Bible

How well do you understand the “big picture” of the Bible? Not just the New Testament, but the entire Bible. I recently re-listened to Dust to Glory, R.C. Sproul’s 57-part teaching series on the Bible. I had listened to the series years ago when it was first available, and also taught an adult Sunday School class using the videos at my church.
I’ve written previously how much the ministry of Dr. Sproul meant to me. Re-listening to this series confirmed for me why. Here was someone who took difficult theological concepts and communicated them in a way that I could understand. Throughout these messages, Dr. Sproul brings his characteristic passion to the lectures as he goes over the major themes, events and people of the Bible. Dr. Sproul himself felt that Dust to Glory was the most important teaching tool that Ligonier Ministries ever produced. His hope was that Dust to Glory “will encourage, stimulate, and assist you to master the Scriptures so that the Scriptures may master you.”
The teaching series comes in both audio and video formats. You can purchase the entire series from Ligonier Ministries, or just the Old Testament or New Testament messages. At the above link you can also watch the first message free.  I would recommend purchasing the entire 57-part teaching series so that you can get a complete overview of God’s Story.
Don’t let cost keep you from this wonderful teaching series. Twice each year, Christianaudio offers this series for just $7.49 for each of the two parts, or just $14.98 for the 57, 23-minute messages as a part of their “Twice Yearly Sale”.
Not all books of the Bible receive equal treatment in Dust to Glory. For example, the “prison epistles” and the “general epistles” each get one lecture. On the other hand, the book of Revelation gets three lectures.
Dust to Glory would be an excellent addition to your home or church library. It’s a resource that you will want to go back to again and again.