Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


Meeting Jesus: The “I Am” Sayings of Jesus by R.C. Sproul. Banner of Truth. 88 pages. 2019 
***

In this short book – the only one authored by R.C. Sproul that has been published by Banner of Truth – Dr. Sproul looks at looks at eight “I am” sayings of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of John which reveal his true identity and teach us the truth about him. Those sayings are:

  • The Bread of Life
  • The Light of the World
  • The Door
  • The Good Shepherd
  • The Resurrection and the Life
  • The Way, the Truth and the Life
  • The True Vine
  • Before Abraham Was, ‘I Am”

This book reads like the content may have been originally delivered as sermons, or as a teaching series from Ligonier Ministries. Interestingly, there is no “Introduction” or information about the author, as you would normally find in a book.
Sproul, who died in 2017, was a spiritual mentor for me. In this book, he characteristically delivers solid theological teaching in an easy-to-understand manner. Below are ten of my favorite quotes from the book:

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45 More Great Quotes from Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Suffers by Dane Ortlund

Every once in a while, a book comes along that just blows you away. Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund is one of those books. You can read my review of the book here. Here are 45 more great quotes from the book:

  1. The sins of those who belong to God open the floodgates of his heart of compassion for us. The dam breaks. It is not our loveliness that wins his love. It is our unloveliness.
  2. The atonement accomplished our salvation; intercession is the moment-by-moment application of that atoning work.
  3. The intercession of Christ is his heart connecting our heart to the Father’s heart.
  4. He knows us to the uttermost, and he saves us to the uttermost, because his heart is drawn out to us to the uttermost. We cannot sin our way out of his tender care.
  5. Our prayer life stinks most of the time. But what if you heard Jesus praying aloud for you in the next room? Few things would calm us more deeply.
  6. Our sinning goes to the uttermost. But his saving goes to the uttermost. And his saving always outpaces and overwhelms our sinning, because he always lives to intercede for us.
  7. An intercessor stands between two parties; an advocate doesn’t simply stand in between the two parties but steps over and joins the one party as he approaches the other. Jesus is not only an intercessor but an advocate.
  8. Yes, we fail Christ as his disciples. But his advocacy on our behalf rises higher than our sins. His advocacy speaks louder than our failures. All is taken care of.
  9. When we choose to sin—though we forsake our true identity, our Savior does not forsake us. These are the very moments when his heart erupts on our behalf in renewed advocacy in heaven with a resounding defense that silences all accusations, astonishes the angels, and celebrates the Father’s embrace of us in spite of all our messiness.
  10. Let Jesus draw you in through the loveliness of his heart. This is a heart that upbraids the impenitent with all the harshness that is appropriate, yet embraces the penitent with more openness than we are able to feel. It is a heart that walks us into the bright meadow of the felt love of God.
  11. The Son of God clothed himself with humanity and will never unclothe himself. He became a man and always will be.
  12. One implication of this truth of Christ’s permanent humanity is that when we see the feeling and passions and affections of the incarnate Christ toward sinners and sufferers as given to us in the four Gospels, we are seeing who Jesus is for us today.
  13. While Christ is a lion to the impenitent, he is a lamb to the penitent—the reduced, the open, the hungry, the desiring, the confessing, the self-effacing. He hates with righteous hatred all that plagues you.
  14. Christ’s heart for us means that he will be our never-failing friend.
  15. The Spirit takes what we read in the Bible and believe on paper about Jesus’s heart and moves it from theory to reality, from doctrine to experience.
  16. The Spirit has been given to us in order that we might know, way down deep, the endless grace of the heart of God.
  17. The Spirit’s role, in summary, is to turn our postcard apprehensions of Christ’s great heart of longing affection for us into an experience of sitting on the beach, in a lawn chair, drink in hand, enjoying the actual experience.
  18. When we see the heart of Christ, then, throughout the four Gospels, we are seeing the very compassion and tenderness of who God himself most deeply is.
  19. As you consider the Father’s heart for you, remember that he is the Father of mercies. He is not cautious in his tenderness toward you. He multiplies mercies matched to your every need, and there is nothing he would rather do.
  20. The bent of God’s heart is mercy. His glory is his goodness. His glory is his lowliness.
  21. The Christian life, from one angle, is the long journey of letting our natural assumption about who God is, over many decades, fall away, being slowly replaced with God’s own insistence on who he is.
  22. God’s thoughts are so much higher than ours that not only does he abundantly pardon the penitent; he has determined to bring his people into a future so glorious we can hardly bring ourselves to dare hope for it.
  23. The Christian life is a lifelong shedding of tepid thoughts of the goodness of God.
  24. He is a fountain of mercy. He is a billionaire in the currency of mercy, and the withdrawals we make as we sin our way through life cause his fortune to grow greater, not less.
  25. Christ was sent not to mend wounded people or wake sleepy people or advise confused people or inspire bored people or spur on lazy people or educate ignorant people, but to raise dead people.
  26. God is rich in mercy. He doesn’t withhold mercy from some kinds of sinners while extending it to others. Because mercy is who he is— “being rich in mercy”—his heart gushes forth mercy to sinners one and all.
  27. He doesn’t meet you halfway. His very nature is to engage death and bring life. He did that decisively once and for all at your conversion, but he continues to do it time and again in your sin and folly.
  28. The evidence of Christ’s mercy toward you is not your life. The evidence of his mercy toward you is his—mistreated, misunderstood, betrayed, abandoned. Eternally. In your place.
  29. If God sent his own Son to walk through the valley of condemnation, rejection, and hell, you can trust him as you walk through your own valleys on your way to heaven.
  30. Do you know what Jesus does with those who squander his mercy? He pours out more mercy. God is rich in mercy.
  31. The battle of the Christian life is to bring your own heart into alignment with Christ’s, that is, getting up each morning and replacing your natural orphan mind-set with a mind-set of full and free adoption into the family of God through the work of Christ your older brother, who loved you and gave himself for you out of the overflowing fullness of his gracious heart.
  32. A healthy Christian life is built on both the objective and the subjective sides of the gospel—the justification that flows from the work of Christ, and the love that flows from the heart of Christ.
  33. The end-time judgment that awaits all humans has, for those in Christ, already taken place. We who are in Christ no longer look to the future for judgment, but to the past; at the cross, we see our punishment happening, all our sins being punished in Jesus.
  34. The gospel is the invitation to let the heart of Christ calm us into joy, for we’ve already been discovered, included, brought in. We can bring our up-and-down moral performance into subjection to the settled fixedness of what Jesus feels about us.
  35. God didn’t meet us halfway. He refused to hold back, cautious, assessing our worth. That is not his heart. He and his Son took the initiative. On terms of grace and grace alone. In defiance of what we deserved.
  36. He didn’t simply leave heaven for me; he endured hell for me.
  37. His heart was gentle and lowly toward us when we were lost. Will his heart be anything different toward us now that we are found?
  38. If you are united to Christ, you are as good as in heaven already.
  39. We love until we are betrayed. Jesus continued to the cross despite betrayal. We love until we are forsaken. Jesus loved through forsakenness. We love up to a limit. Jesus loves to the end.
  40. One way we glorify God is by our obedience to him, our refusing to believe we know best and instead trusting that his way is the way of life.
  41. “So that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus”—what does that mean, for those in Christ? It means that one day God is going to walk us through the wardrobe into Narnia, and we will stand there, paralyzed with joy, wonder, astonishment, and relief.
  42. If his grace in kindness is “immeasurable,” then our failures can never outstrip his grace. Our moments of feeling utterly overwhelmed by life are where God’s heart lives. Our most haunted pockets of failure and regret are where his heart is drawn most unswervingly.
  43. In the coming age we will descend ever deeper into God’s grace in kindness, into his very heart, and the more we understand of it, the more we will see it to be beyond understanding. It is immeasurable.
  44. For those not in Christ, this life is the best it will ever get. For those in Christ, for whom Ephesians 2:7 is the eternal vista just around the next bend in the road, this life is the worst it will ever get.
  45. The Christian life boils down to two steps: 1. Go to Jesus. 2. See #1.


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Yours, Till Heaven: The Untold Love Story of Charles and Susie Spurgeon

Yours, Till Heaven: The Untold Love Story of Charles and Susie Spurgeon by Ray Rhodes Jr. Moody Publishers. 224 pages. 2021
****

I was looking forward to reading this book as I had previously enjoyed the author’s 2018 book Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon; Wife of Charles Spurgeon. This new book will be enjoyed by those who love the ministry of Charles Spurgeon and the author’s previous book, as well as those who enjoy reading books about positive examples of marriages.
The title of the book comes from how Charles would sometimes end his letters to Susie “Yours, till Heaven, and then”. As you will read, their love for each other was truly a love “till Heaven, and then.” In this well-researched volume, the author tells how their love weathered the storms of tragedy, controversy, affliction, separation, and the death of family members and friends, and finally their own roads parting with Charles’s death preceding Susie’s.
Susie, who was raised in London, was not initially impressed by Charles, a young pastor, who was raised in country towns. Charles’ initial concern was for Susie’s salvation. But just months later, they were engaged.
By the time of their marriage, Charles was a very popular Baptist pastor in London. The newlyweds honeymooned in Paris. In their first year of marriage, the couple had twin boys, Charles Jr. and Thomas, their only children in their thirty-six-year marriage. Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

The Nazarene: Forty Devotions on the Lyrical Life of Jesus by Michael Card. IVP. 168 pages. 2020
****    

It is hard to measure the impact of Michael Card in my life through his music, writing and teaching since first being introduced to his music via his 1984 Known by the Scars album when I was still a relatively new believer. A special highlight for me was our church being blessed to host him for two of his Biblical Imagination conferences/concerts several years ago, and my wife and I travelling to Ohio for another.
This new book is divided into four parts, with one part for each of the four Gospels, with ten devotions included in each part. Each devotion begins with a scripture passage(s) that the devotion aligns with, as well as the lyrics from one of Card’s songs from his Biblical Imagination series albums. Each devotion concludes with a key lyric from the song that Card comments on.
As you approach the book, you can choose to simply read the song lyrics, or as I did, listen to the song. You can also choose to read one devotional each day, or read several at a time, as they are relatively short. Listening to the songs and following along with the lyrics gave me a new appreciation for the skill in which Card brings scripture into his song lyrics. This is something that I have for too long taken for granted.

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BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


I Am Restored: How I Lost My Religion But Found My Faith by Lecrae. Zondervan. 192 pages. 2020
***

This well-written book is Lecrae’s follow-up to his 2016 book Unashamed (see my review of that book here). This new book expands on some of the topics the author touched on in his first book, such as trauma from sexual and physical abuse, and being abandoned by his father. The book also addresses criticism he received for collaborating with mainstream (non-Christian) rap artists, for speaking out about police brutality, beginning with the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, and his “loosening ties” with white evangelism. The book deals with serious issues such as trauma, loss of faith, deconstructing his faith, hurt from the church, politics, substance abuse, depression, and ultimately restoration. The book is a good companion to his Restoration album. See my review of the original album here, and the additional songs included on the expanded new Deluxe Edition here.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review…
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


Made for His Pleasure: Ten Benchmarks of a Vital Faith by Alistair Begg. Moody Publishers. 192 pages 2018
****

This is a revised and updated edition of the author’s 1996 book, which I read and enjoyed when it was originally published. In this book he looks at the subject of pleasing God in light of putting God first, spiritual fitness, prayer, sacrifice, relationships, vocation, suffering, the heedful life, intellectualism and materialism, humility, and evangelism. He writes that the list is not exhaustive, but selective, and represents something of his own spiritual pilgrimage. He tells us that we could think of the chapters of the book as signposts for the journey of life.
The author writes that we want to learn to be able to say with Paul, “We make it our goal to please him” (2 Cor. 5:9). All of our desires, decisions, aspirations, and affections should be governed by our prior determination to please God.
I highlighted a number of passages as I read this wonderful book, more in some chapters than in others, which you might expect. Below are a few of those passages I would like to share with you:

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


Becoming Elisabeth Elliot by Ellen Vaughn. B&H Books. 322 pages. 2020

****

In this well-written authorized biography, Ellen Vaughn tells the colorful tale of how Elisabeth “Betty” Elliot came to be, through her adventures in the jungles of Ecuador. A second volume will continue with the rest of her story.
By effectively using a good amount of Elliot’s own writings from her journals and letters (a practice Elliot began when she was only eleven), the reader gets pulled into her incredible story as a missionary, translator, wife, mother and author. Even though I knew some of the facts about this part of her life, I found that I couldn’t wait to get back to the book to continue reading.
The “Foreword” is written by Joni Eareckson Tada, who considers Elliot a hero, and calls her “the most remarkable Christian woman of the last century”.  Elliot herself saw Irish missionary and writer Amy Carmichael as a hero, writing that she was her first spiritual mother, someone who taught her the shape of godliness.
Elliot, who is referred to as Betty in the majority of the book, was born December 21, 1926 in Brussels, Belgium. The author writes that she was far from perfect and made plenty of mistakes. She writes that defining her core was a healthy willingness to die, stating that she really did see dying to self, and taking up her cross to follow Jesus—at all costs—as a biblical mandate to be obeyed.

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BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Joy in the Sorrow: How a Thriving Church (And Its Pastor) Learned to Suffer Well by Matt Chandler and Friends. The Good Book Company, 240 pages. 2019
****

David Roark, Communications and Resources Director at The Village Church, is the General Editor of this unique book. He writes that the hope of the book is to tell you that even though we will all suffer; we can find hope and purpose in that suffering. The book includes chapters from pastors and ministers and members, and former pastors and ministers and members, of The Village, a church located in Texas, where Matt Chandler is one the lead pastors.
Each chapter of the book represents someone’s story—and what God has shown that individual in and through their suffering—that has been a part of the church’s bigger story. Some of the chapters are written by people I was familiar with (Matt Chandler, his wife Lauren Chandler, hip-hop artist Tedashii and his wife Danielle, and writer Lore Ferguson Wilbert), and some were written by people from the church that I was not familiar with.

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BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Good News: The Gospel of Jesus Christ by John MacArthur. Reformation Trust Publishing. 143 pages. 2018
****

In this book about Jesus Christ and the Gospel, from one of our most respected pastors and authors, John MacArthur tells us that a right understanding of Jesus Christ is essential to understanding many other vital truths, particularly the gospel and salvation. He tells us that there is no good news apart from Christ, and how we answer the question “Who is Jesus?” has significant and ultimately permanent consequences. The right answer alone can lead to salvation.
The author addresses that there are even those who identify themselves as evangelicals that teach that there is more than one way to get to Heaven. He tells us that today the word evangelical is so ambiguous that it doesn’t really mean anything. A high percentage (between 45 and 65 percent of so-called evangelical Christians), are convinced that Jesus is not the only way to heaven. He writes that a “radically abridged and ambiguous view” of the gospel has captivated the church today. But there is no “back door” to heaven. If we don’t know the true God and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, we will suffer the fury of God. Jesus made it clear to people that they needed to repent and believe.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and a review of Are People Basically Good? (Crucial Questions Book 25) by R.C. Sproul
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

A Company of Heroes: Portraits from the Gospel’s Global Advance by Tim Keesee. Crossway. 284 pages. 2019
****

The author is the founder and executive director of Frontline Missions International. I’ve enjoyed and appreciated his excellent ten-part video series Dispatches from the Front. Much of this book has the feel of those videos as he travels around the world to visit believers. These believers are heroes to him, and they should be to us as well. They trusted him to tell their stories despite the risks they face as they live on mission in hard places. He has shared jungle paths, desert roads, and city streets on five continents with these believers. They are heroes for the ways in which they magnify the grace and power of the risen Christ. They are foot soldiers in the long campaign as Christ builds his church across the centuries and among all peoples. The author writes that every time he goes to another corner of the world and sees the church growing and the gospel changing lives, his view of God gets bigger.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and a review of Enjoy Your Prayer Life by Michael Reeves
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BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
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