Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Redeeming Your Time: 7 Biblical Principles for Being Purposeful, Present, and Wildly Productive by Jordan Raynor

Redeeming Your Time: 7 Biblical Principles for Being Purposeful, Present, and Wildly Productive by Jordan Raynor. WaterBrook. 240 pages. 2021
****

Like me, you may have already read a few books about productivity. I’ve read good books by Tim Challies and Matt Perman, and recently read Redeeming Your Time by Jordan Raynor (Called to Create, Master of One), which I commend to you.
Raynor tells us that the solution to our struggle with time management is found in Jesus Christ. He tells us that Jesus offers us peace before we do anything, and also that Jesus shows us how God would manage his time. Because he was infallible God, we can assume that Jesus managed his time perfectly, providing us with the ideal model to follow.  As far as what makes this book different from other time management/productivity books you’ve read, the author tells us that this book:

  • Accounts for how the Author of time managed his time.
  • Seeks to collect and connect the previously disconnected pieces of the time management puzzle.
  • Attempts to strike a unique balance between the theological, the theoretical, and the tactical. 

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown. Hazelden Publishing. 156 pages. 2010
***

This self-help book by Brené Brown, a research professor, is outside of my normal genre of reading. It was highly recommended by a few family members, so my wife Tammy and I decided to read and discuss the book.
The book is comprised of ten short chapters, each one covering a “Guide Post” toward living a wholehearted life. Each chapter ends with a “DIG Deep” section, including suggestions on how to “Get Deliberate”, “Get Inspired” and “Get Going”.
Brown writes that wholehearted living is not a onetime choice. It is a process, and she believes that it’s the journey of a lifetime. Cultivating a wholehearted life is not like trying to reach a destination. Brown writes that it is like walking toward a star in the sky. We never really arrive, but we certainly know that we’re heading in the right direction. She tells us that at the heart of wholeheartedness is worthy now. We are worthy of love and belonging now. Courage, compassion, and connection are the tools that we need to work our way through our journey.
The book covers a wide variety of subjects, such as vulnerability, belonging, shame, fear, courage, authenticity, perfectionism, resilience, spirituality, gratitude, creativity, play, work and laughter. Although the book is not written from a specifically Christian perspective, there is much to consider and ponder in the book. Being a perfectionist, that particular section was eye-opening for me.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review…
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ Providence by John Piper
I’M CURRENTLY READING…. Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Brave by Faith: God-Sized Confidence in a Post-Christian World by Alistair Begg. The Good Book Company. 98 pages. 2021
****

Pastor and author Alistair Begg tells us that secularism pushes back again and again against what the Bible says about sexual ethics, about salvation, about education, about the role and reach of the state, and about matters of public welfare. Public opinion has turned against Christians in America. Christians are suddenly a minority group within an increasingly secularized nation. We are finding out how it feels to be outsiders, and we don’t like it.
He tells us that the message of the book of Daniel is incredibly relevant for us in our generation. The message of Daniel is this: don’t be discouraged. You have not reached home. This isn’t it. And Jesus shall reign.
Begg uses the familiar first seven chapters of the book of Daniel to teach American Christians what it looks like to live as a Christian in a society that does not like what Christians believe, what we say, and how we live. He writes that we will be able to navigate our present moment to the extent that we realize that the God of the exiles in the sixth century BC has not changed in the intervening two and a half millennia. God is powerful, and God is sovereign, and even in the face of circumstances that appear to be prevailing against his people, we may trust him entirely.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review…
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ Providence by John Piper
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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Knowing God and Ourselves: Reading Calvin’s Institutes Devotionally by David B. Calhoun. Banner of Truth. 360 pages. 2016
****
I enjoyed two wonderful church history classes with Dr. Calhoun, who recently went home to be with the Lord, at the beginning of my time at Covenant Seminary.  For twenty-five years he taught a course on Calvin’s Institutes at Covenant Seminary. The Institutes of the Christian Religion is a manual, a book of basic instruction in the Christian religion. It is a book about Christian piety, about Christian discipleship, about loving and serving God.
The goal of the book is to help students, especially beginning students of Calvin’s Institutes to better understand what they are reading and to encourage them to persist in working through that important, but challenging book. Overall, Dr. Calhoun’s goal is to help the reader understand Calvin. Each chapter begins with the pages in the Institutes to read, a scripture text, a notable quote and a prayer. Each chapter ends “Knowing God and Ourselves”, a short application and meditation on Calvin’s content. Dr. Calhoun tells us that reading the Institutes devotionally is not merely one way of reading Calvin’s book, it is the only way to read it. Calvin intended his book to be a guide and a theological companion to the Bible.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review…
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ Providence by John Piper
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What are You Willing to Risk?

I tend to be pretty conservative when it comes to risk. I can remember years ago when our church was still renting property and were looking to build a church building. Some of the church leaders were on one side of the debate, saying that we needed to take a risk and trust that God would provide the funds. I was on the other side, and though I certainly believe in trusting God, my mind was wondering how we were possibly going to be able to pay the monthly payment on the building loan. Another example is the investment strategy that my wife Tammy and I have. We would like to make a fair return, but we are not willing to take a high degree of risk with our money.
In all walks of life, I tend to take well thought out, or informed, risks. I gather as much information as I can to make a well-informed decision. Over the years, I may have frustrated some by not taking more risk, or making decisions more quickly, but that’s the way I approach significant decisions. Continue reading


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20 Great Quotes from An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God’s Purpose for the Next Season of Life by Jeff Haanen

In An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God’s Purpose for the Next Season of Life, Jeff Haanen writes that there is a growing sense of uneasiness among Americans ages 50–70. Baby boomers, and even early Gen Xers, are asking new questions about life, work, calling, and purpose in retirement—questions that our society is largely unprepared to answer. This book helps the reader with those questions.
Haanen writes that the dominant paradigm of retirement today is about vacation—how to afford it, and then how to make the most of it. But Haanen suggests beginning retirement with a stretch of deep Sabbath rest in which to find God’s call for the next season of life.
Haanen tells us that a Christian perspective on retirement needs a restoration of work, rest, and service that matures over a lifetime. He addresses topics such as learning, mentoring, and reconnecting with family in retirement.
Haanen tells us that the church has been nearly silent on the topic of retirement, and then asks, “What would it look like for the Christian church in America to transform our narrative about retirement?”
Haanen includes helpful stories to illustrate his points throughout the book, and contrasts “Common” vs. “Uncommon” ideas about retirement. A “Discussion Guide” is available for free download, making this a good book to read and discuss with others.
This is an excellent resource that pastors can recommend for those who are retired or will soon be retired.
Below are 20 great quotes from the book: Continue reading


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Maturity: Growing Up and Going On in the Christian Life

20 More Great Quotes from Maturity: Growing Up and Going On in the Christian Life by Sinclair Ferguson

We recently looked at Sinclair Ferguson’s excellent new book Maturity; Growing Up and Going on the Christian Life. (Click to read the review). Here are 20 more excellent quotes from the book:

  1. If you become a Christian, you must both expect and be prepared for opposition.
  2. Growth in grace and the conquest of sin come only when we allow ourselves to be exposed before God, hide nothing from him, confess our wanderings, are ashamed of our own failure, and long for a clean heart and a new spirit (Psa. 51:10).
  3. We cannot embrace the cross, or, more accurately, embrace the Christ who died on it and now lives forever, without renouncing sin.
  4. Tests, trials, and temptations abound in the Christian life. If we are to grow to maturity, we must learn how to handle them.
  5. In temptation we seem to be offered a more abundant life but wrapped within its folds lies death.
  6. God works in our lives through temptation. So, for us times of temptation can be means, not of destruction, but of sanctification.
  7. In God’s purposes, when we are tempted, we discover the truth about ourselves; we learn to think less of ourselves and more of our Savior.
  8. The Lord has promised to hear us; he will not turn a deaf ear to our cries for help. The dependence that is thus produced in our hearts, as we later discover, is simply one further way in which he brings us through temptations to maturity. After all, he makes everything work together for our good.
  9. How easily our witness is marred and nullified because we fail to be the son or daughter, parent, husband, wife, colleague or boss that God has called us to be!
  10. What the gospel provides for us then is the armor which Christ himself wore in his battles with the enemy. When engaged in conflict with Satan those who are in Christ wear his armor.
  11. Wearing the breastplate of righteousness means knowing this: I can never be more justified than I was the first moment I trusted Christ. And I can never be any less justified than Jesus. Nor can I be one whit less justified than the greatest believer who has ever lived.
  12. The New Testament teaches us that suffering is part and parcel of the Christian life.
  13. God uses tribulations to separate the spiritual chaff in our lives from the spiritual wheat.
  14. The believer does not interpret events in his life by the wisdom of men but by the word and wisdom of God.
  15. Afflictions focus our attention on the things that really matter, and thus restore us to single-mindedness and recalibrate our love for Christ.
  16. How slow we are to learn that God is willing to go to any lengths to transform us. No matter what it costs he has set his heart on us. The cross proves his determination. He means to make us like his Son, Jesus Christ. For this is the goal of our maturity.
  17. When we go through seasons of suffering, we should not forget that we are living our Christian life on the battlefield on which Satan is at war with the kingdom of God.
  18. True service is always marked by a recognition that we live for and serve others, not ourselves.
  19. Clearly perseverance is a basic feature of Christian living. Persevering is as important as initiation; continuing is as important as beginning.
  20. All sin, every sin, sin in any shape or form must be put off.


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When Prayer Is a Struggle

When Prayer Is a Struggle: A Practical Guide for Overcoming Obstacles in Prayer by Kevin Halloran. P&R Publishing. 160 pages. 2021
****

To prepare to write this practical guide on prayer, the author examined his own struggles with prayer, and surveyed about a hundred other believers to learn theirs. He searched the scriptures, read many books on prayer and researched enduring practices for growing in prayer. The multiyear process transformed him. This book is the fruit of that process.
In the book he includes quotes and stories from believers, past and present, to show how they have overcome their struggles and grown in their love for God. He concludes each chapter with a prayer and helpful Questions for Reflection.
He begins this book by looking at each petition of the Lord’s Prayer. Among the other subjects covered in the book are ways for Scripture to guide us in prayer, guilt, steps for cultivating a gospel mindset in prayer, sinful motives in prayer, methods that can help us focus better in prayer, being intentional in taking advantage of the gift of prayer, simple systems to help you pray more faithfully, God-given ways to fight anxiety in prayer, and tactics for prayer in our busy lives.
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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe by Voddie Baucham. Salem Books. 271 pages. 2021
****

This book about Critical Social Justice (CSJ), by a respected pastor, is a book that I recommend all Christians read. Better yet, read and discuss it with others as I did. It’s the most important, and one of the best, books I’ve read so far this year.
Baucham begins by defining some of the important subjects of the book. He tells us that Critical Theory is not just an analytical tool, as some have suggested; it is a philosophy, a worldview. Critical Race Theory (CRT), is a subject that is in the news a lot lately, as we see parents at school board meetings, angry that their children are being taught CRT. CRT recognizes that racism is engrained in the fabric and system of the American society. Intersectionality is about the multiple layers of oppression minorities suffer.
Baucham tells us that a fault line has been quietly forming underneath our feet for a long time around the area of social justice, and the Church must be awake and aware of what it means and where it comes from. Otherwise, we will fall victim to it—as many leading Christian voices – many (individuals and organizations) which he names in the book – already have. He chose the fault line metaphor because he believes it not only describes the catastrophe, but also the aftermath. He tells us that the current moment is akin to two people standing on either side of a major fault line just before it shifts. When the shift comes, the ground will open up, a divide that was once invisible will become visible, and the two will find themselves on opposite sides of it. That is what is happening in our day. He wrote the book to clearly identify the two sides of the fault line and to urge the reader to choose wisely. He would like to say that the book is meant to help us avoid the impending catastrophe, but it is not. He believes the catastrophe is unavoidable. The ground is already shaking. Relationships are being ruined, reputations are being tarnished, careers are being destroyed, and entire denominations are in danger of being derailed. He writes that if we are to survive this catastrophe however, we must understand it. We must understand what the fault lines are. We must also know where they lie.

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15 More Great Quotes from Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just by Tim Keller

Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just by Tim Keller may be more relevant now than when it was first published in 2010, as our society (both believers and non-believers) is so deeply divided over the very definition of justice. You can read my review of the book here.
Here are 15 more great quotes from the book:

  • The most frequently cited Biblical motivation for doing justice is the grace of God in redemption.
  • If a person has grasped the meaning of God’s grace in his heart, he will do justice.
  • If he (believer) doesn’t care about the poor, it reveals that at best he doesn’t understand the grace he has experienced, and at worst he has not really encountered the saving mercy of God. Grace should make you just.
  • If you look down at the poor and stay aloof from their suffering, you have not really understood or experienced God’s grace.
  • When Christians who understand the gospel see a poor person, they realize they are looking into a mirror. Their hearts must go out to him or her without an ounce of superiority or indifference.

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