Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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6 Thoughts on My Approach to Reading

I’ve always enjoyed reading, most likely getting my love of reading from my parents, both of whom loved books. My wife Tammy enjoys a good book as well, so on a nice evening in Illinois, with the sun going down, mosquitoes biting and the crickets chirping, you might just find us out on the patio with the glow from our Kindle and iPad screens illuminating our faces.
I expect to read about 75 books this year, in addition to my daily readings (more about them below). How many books you might read will depend on a number of factors, such as your love for reading and the amount of time you have available for reading.
Here are 6 thoughts on my approach to reading:

  1. I read books in a number of different genres, such as theology, biography, faith and work, personal and professional development, leadership and sports. I always have a list of books “on deck” to read next.   What I choose to read at a given time will depend on a number of factors such as:
  • What kind of book I just finished.
  • What kind of book I’m in the mood for.
  • Whether I am reading to prepare for a talk I am going to be giving or a class I’m going to be teaching.
  • Whether one of my favorite authors has a new book out. There’s nothing finer than finding a new release from a favorite author.
  1. I rarely will read a physical book. In fact, the only times I’ve read a physical book over the past several years has been if I was reading an advanced copy of a book or if I were reading a book that isn’t available in the Kindle format, usually a book from the Banner of Truth. I’m usually reading two books at a time, one on my Kindle, and the other an audiobook from either Audible (from whom I have a monthly subscription) or Christianaudio, who offers some excellent sales, most notably their Twice-Yearly sale where almost their entire inventory is available for just $7.49. Since I review all books that I read, I’ve found that for myself not all books are good to listen to in the audiobook format, though biographies are particularly good, especially if narrated by the author. In addition, the narrator (reader) of the audiobook can make a big difference. My favorite narrator is Maurice England. He’s got a great story of listening to in excess of 1,000 audiobooks during a 12-year career as a truck driver. Find out more about Maurice here.
  2. Reading for my blog. I am always reading two books for my blog – one general book and one specifically related to faith and work. Each week, I’ll share highlights from a chapter of the book in that week’s blog.
  3. Daily Readings. Each day, usually while riding my exercise bike, I’ll read a number of daily readings, including a chapter from the Bible, the daily reading from Tabletalk magazine, a book of prayers and a few devotionals.
  4. Re-reading of books. I remember listening to a podcast a few years ago when a pastor encouraged the listeners to read less books overall, but to read good books more often. Applying that advice, there are a number of books that I have read more than once. Among those books are Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, Crazy Love by Francis Chan, Prayer by Tim Keller, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell, and most recently The Gospel at Work by Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger.
  5. I want to share what I learn in the books that I read. As a result, I always write a review of the book. I’ll share the review in a number of places, including my blog, Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.

Do you have other thoughts about how you approach reading?

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NEW AND UPCOMING BOOKS

Here are several new or upcoming books, in a variety of genres, that I’m looking forward to (descriptions are courtesy of Amazon):

Believe It: My Journey of Success, Failure, and Overcoming the Odds by Nick Foles

To be published June 26.

“When the Philadelphia Eagles’ starting quarterback went down with a torn ACL in week 14 of the 2017 NFL season, many fans—and commentators—assumed the Eagles’ season was over.
Instead, Nick Foles came off the bench and, against all odds, led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl victory in history.
How did Nick get it done—winning MVP honors, silencing the critics, and shocking the world? How did the man who was on the verge of retiring just two seasons earlier stay optimistic and rally the team to an astounding win? How did he stay ready despite numerous trades and discouraging injuries, able to step up in the moment and perform at the top of his game?
Believe It offers a behind-the-scenes look at Nick’s unlikely path to the Super Bowl, the obstacles that threatened to hold him back, his rediscovery of his love for the game, and the faith that grounded him through it all. Learn from the way Nick handled the trials and tribulations that made him into the man he is today—and discover a path to your own success.” Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Book Reviews

Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus by Mark Dever. Crossway. 128 pages. 2017 
*** 

In this short book, pastor and author Mark Dever defines discipling as helping others to follow Jesus. ‏‏  Discipling is deliberately doing spiritual good to someone so that he or she will be more like Christ. He writes that before we can disciple others, we must become disciples. A disciple is a follower. And to be a disciple of Jesus means to follow Jesus. The goal of the book is to help the reader understand biblical discipling and to encourage you in your obedience to Christ.
The author writes that disciples disciple. Discipling of others is motivated by love and obedience. Discipling is a relationship in which we seek to do spiritual good for someone by initiating, teaching, correcting, modeling, loving, humbling ourselves, counseling, and influencing.
Biblical discipling largely occurs in and through the local church.  The author states that the New Testament ultimately charges the local church with responsibility for ensuring that members live up to their professions of faith and covenants with each other. He goes on to state that churches don’t need programs so much as they need cultures of discipling, cultures where each member prioritizes the spiritual health of others.
Discipling includes evangelism and conversion, and at its core, discipling is teaching. It is inviting someone to imitate you, making your trust in Christ an example to be followed.
He addresses helpful questions about how and who to disciple. He states that we should disciple Christians in the same church and of the same gender. Age should be a consideration, with an older saint usually discipling a younger one.  He states that the “how” of discipling is not that complicated. It’s about doing life together with other people as you all journey toward Christ.
I didn’t find that the last chapter (how the author finds, encourages and raises up leaders in his church), and the Conclusion by Jonathan Leeman (how the author exercises and gives away authority in his church) flowed as smoothly as the rest of the book. They almost felt tacked on.
A helpful Appendix includes books to use in discipling relationships. ‏

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ The Cost by Steven Lawson and Philippians For You by Steven Lawson
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB   ~ How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age by Jonathan Leeman
I’M CURRENTLY READING….
Continue reading


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MY FAVORITE AUTHORS

I’ve always enjoyed getting lost in a good book. I read books in a number of different genres, such as theology, Christian living, biography, faith and work, personal and professional development, leadership and sports, and have favorite authors in each genre. I define a “favorite author” as someone who when they release a new book it’s almost a given that I’ll want to read that book.

Here are my favorite authors in each of these genres, and some of my favorite books by those authors. I enjoy so many that putting this list together was much harder than I anticipated.

Theology/Christian Living

  • Sinclair Ferguson – The Whole Christ, Devoted to God
  • R.C. Sproul – The Holiness of God, Chosen by God, Reformation Study Bible (Editor)
  • Tim Keller – The Prodigal God, Prayer
  • Michael Card – Biblical Imagination series on the Gospels (4 books)
  • Jerry Bridges – The Joy of Fearing God, The Pursuit of Holiness
  • John Piper – Don’t Waste Your Life, Future Grace
  • John MacArthur – The Prodigal Son, The MacArthur Study Bible
  • Scott Sauls – From Weakness to Strength, Jesus Outside the Lines
  • Bryan Chapell –  Unlimited Grace, Christ-Centered Preaching
  • Kevin DeYoung – Taking God at His Word, Crazy Busy
  • Francis Chan – Crazy Love, Multiply
  • Michael Reeves – Rejoicing in Christ, Delighting in the Trinity
  • Scotty Smith – Objects of His Affection, Everyday Prayers
  • Steven Lawson – A Long Line of Godly Men Profile series
  • Albert Mohler – We Cannot Be Silent, The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down

Older authors that I enjoy are:

  • Martyn Lloyd-Jones – Spiritual Depression
  • Charles Spurgeon – Morning and Evening

Biography

  • Iain Murray – Life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones (two volumes), Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography
  • Eric Metaxas – Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, Amazing Grace

Faith and Work

  • Tim Keller – Every Good Endeavor
  • Gene Veith – God at Work
  • Hugh Whelchel – How Then Should We Work
  • Amy Sherman – Kingdom Calling
  • Os Guinness – The Call
  • Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger – The Gospel at Work
  • Tom Nelson – Work Matters
  • Matt Perman – What’s Best Next

Professional Development

  • John Maxwell –  The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, Intentional Living
  • Jim Collins – Good to Great, Great by Choice
  • Marcus Buckingham – Go Put Your Strengths to Work, StandOut 2.0
  • Patrick Lencioni – The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, The Advantage

Leadership

  • John Maxwell – The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, The 5 Levels of Leadership
  • Ken Blanchard – Lead Like Jesus; Servant Leadership in Action (Editor)
  • Albert Mohler – The Conviction to Lead

Sports

  • John Feinstein – A Good Walk Spoiled (and his other golf books)

General

  • Malcolm Gladwell – Outliers, The Tipping Point

These are my favorite authors, who are some of yours? 


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


I’ve long enjoyed playing and watching golf. This week, enjoy reviews of three recent golf books I’ve read.

Arnold Palmer: Homespun Stories of The King by Chris Rodell. Triumph Books. 240 pages. 2018
****

This is a book that golf fans, and in particular Arnold Palmer fans, will enjoy. The author, a Latrobe, Pennsylvania resident since 1992, interviewed more than 200 area neighbors and began each interview with a simple request: “Please tell me your best Arnold Palmer story.” Much of the book contains their answers to that question.
The author got to know Palmer when he was asked by ArnoldPalmer.com in 2005 to go through the boxes and assemble a day-by-day timeline of Palmer’s life. The book includes a part of that timeline, which Palmer fans will find of interest.
The author gives us a good understanding of what Latrobe is like. Correct that, though we have always heard that Palmer lived in Latrobe, he actually lived and died in neighboring Youngstown, a town of just 326 people.
Even though I’ve read several books by and about Palmer, the author gives us a unique look at him. He shows that he was really a great guy, just like we hope our sports heroes would be. He didn’t live in a gated community and incredibly would often answer the door of his home himself to sign an autograph or sign a photo for a fan. The book includes remembrances from CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz, who spoke at Palmer’s memorial service in 2016, former Pennsylvania Governor and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and many others. We hear about the letters that Palmer would send people, spending an unbelievable $100,000 in postage annually to mail them. It is estimated that he signed well over a million autographs in his lifetime. The author, who writes with a good amount of wit, states that plastic surgeons are less careful suturing scars on supermodels than Palmer was when signing an autograph.
I enjoyed reading about three rainbows that appeared after Palmer’s death, just as one did the night my father-in-law died two years ago. The first was when the plane that carried Palmer’s ashes began its ascent, the second appeared during the Palmer’s memorial service and the third materialized at the June 25 Westmoreland County Airshow held in tribute to Palmer.
I read this book quickly, not wanting to put it down. It’s a funny and at times quite touching tribute to the King.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:

BOOK REVIEWS ~ The First Major: The Inside Story of the 2016 Ryder Cup by John Feinstein and Tiger Woods by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down: The Lord’s Prayer as a Manifesto for Revolution by Albert Mohler
I’M CURRENTLY READING….
Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

BOOK REVIEWS:
When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. Moody Publishers. Originally published in 2009. 288 pages.
****

I’d been wanting to read this book for some time now. I don’t know if you are like me, but I always struggle about what to do when I see people begging on the street or sidewalk. Should I give them a handout? Will they use it for food or alcohol? Does it matter?
The authors present their thoughts in a well-organized manner, from the theoretical to application, in this practical and helpful book directed primarily at North American Christians. They begin with foundational concepts for helping the poor, and then build on those with principles and strategies, as they offer solid, practical and biblical advice on an important subject.
The authors state that there has been a growing interest by North American Christians and churches to help the poor. However, they write that in many instances those good intentions can actually make things worse for those in poverty, and hinder the work of alleviating poverty.
The authors assert that:

  1. North American Christians are not doing enough.
  2. When North American Christians do attend to poverty alleviation, it often does harm.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for more of this book review and:
BOOK REVIEW ~ Through My Father’s Eyes by Franklin Graham
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down: The Lord’s Prayer as a Manifesto for Revolution by Albert Mohler
I’M CURRENTLY READING…. Continue reading


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My Summer Reading List


I love to read and have a number of books in a variety of genres (theology, biography, leadership, faith and work) that I plan to read this summer. Here are ten books on my summer reading list:

Immanuel Labor: God’s Presence in Our Profession by Russell E. Gehrlein
I’ve enjoyed reading the author’s articles on the integration of faith and work and am looking forward to this book.
From the Amazon description:
“Here is a fresh, comprehensive, Christian perspective on work. This is a solid introduction to this critical subject. It is especially geared toward those in need of Gods guidance on finding the right career and how to integrate their faith with the job. It is well-grounded in scripture, contains numerous inspirational quotes from other Christian leaders, offers practical wisdom, and includes many personal illustrations. Topics consist of the value of everyday work, thorns and thistles, the eternal value of work, finding a job that fits, how we are to work, and implications for those in ministry. It includes a helpful index of three hundred scripture references and questions for group discussion or personal reflection. This book will expand your view of how God can use your unique abilities in the workplace and how his presence at work makes all the difference.”

The Affectionate Theology of Richard Sibbes by Mark Dever
Mark Dever is a respected author and the long-time pastor of Capital Hill Baptist Church.  I’ve enjoyed some of his previous books and hearing him speak at theology conferences.
From the Amazon description:
“In a time of political turmoil and religious upheaval, Richard Sibbes sought to consistently apply the riches of Reformation theology to his hearers’ lives. He emphasized the security of God’s covenant, the call for assurance of salvation, and the place of the heart in the Christian life. In The Affectionate Theology of Richard Sibbes, Dr. Mark Dever gives readers a penetrating look into the life and theology of this fascinating figure.”

Seven Leaders: Preachers and Pastors by Iain H. Murray
Iain Murray is co-founder of the Banner of Truth Trust. I enjoyed some of his previous books and hearing him speak at theology conferences.
From the Amazon description:
“Spiritual leaders lead people to heaven. Here in Seven Leaders are accounts of seven such men, together with the distinctive features of their lives in John Elias, the necessity of the power of the Holy Spirit; in Andrew Bonar, the reality of communion with Christ; in Archie Brown, the irresistibility of love; in Kenneth MacRae, the need for faithfulness to death; in Martyn Lloyd-Jones, theology and doctrine; in W. J. Grier, passing on the ‘sacred deposit’; and in John MacArthur, the governing authority of the word of God.
An Old Testament miracle once took place at a burial. We are told that when the deceased was ‘let down and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet’ (2 Kings 13:21).
Through books, the past can be touched, and the consequence may be as much of God as when Martin Luther handled the old writings of Jan Huss. Records of faithful servants of Christ still speak and can bring new life today.”

If There’s a God Why Are There Atheists?: Why Atheists Believe in Unbelief by R.C. Sproul
R.C. Sproul was my spiritual mentor for more than 30 years. He died in late 2017.
From the Amazon description:
“A common charge levelled against people with religious beliefs in general, and with Christian convictions in particular, is that their beliefs are motivated not by reasonable evidence but by psychological needs. In fact, many respected people, accepting the arguments of atheist thinkers, believe that psychology and the social sciences have explained away religion.
In this thoroughly revised and updated edition of If There’s a God, Why are There Atheists?, R.C. Sproul examines the arguments of four prominent atheists:
– Sigmund Freud: religion arises out of guilt and the fear of nature.
– Karl Marx: religion is used to keep the lower classes happy.
– Ludwig Feuerbach: religion is only wish–fulfilment.
– Friedrich Nietzsche: religion is rooted in man’s weakness.
Engaging with these thinkers’ works on a psychological as well as theological basis, Sproul shows that there are as many psychological and sociological explanations for unbelief as for belief – and that atheistic conclusions should not be accepted blindly.
For the believer who is troubled by doubts or who wants to respond intelligently to unbelievers, it offers clear, thought–provoking analysis. For the unbeliever who has an open mind, it offers stimulating debate, worthy of time and thought.”

Acts 1-12 For You: Charting the Birth of the Church by Albert Mohler
Albert Mohler is the President of the Southern Baptist Theology Seminary, host of the daily program The Briefing.
From the Amazon description:
“There is no more thrilling part of the Bible than the book of Acts, and no better guide to it than Albert Mohler. This first volume takes in the ascension of Jesus, the coming of the Spirit, the birth of the church, the start of persecution, the conversion of Saul, and the divine call to world-wide evangelism.
If you want to be fueled for Christian life and mission, you will want to read this book.
This Expository Guide takes you verse by verse through the text in an accessible and applied way. It is less academic than a traditional commentary and can be read cover-to-cover, used in personal devotions, used to lead small group studies, or used for sermon preparation. There is an accompanying Good Book Guide for small group Bible studies.”

Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music? Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock by Gregory Thornbury
I enjoyed Larry Norman’s ground-breaking music and am looking forward to reading this new book about him.
From the Amazon description:
“The riveting, untold story of the “Father of Christian Rock” and the conflicts that launched a billion-dollar industry at the dawn of America’s culture wars.
In 1969, in Capitol Records’ Hollywood studio, a blonde-haired troubadour named Larry Norman laid track for an album that would launch a new genre of music and one of the strangest, most interesting careers in modern rock. Having spent the bulk of the 1960s playing on bills with acts like the Who, Janis Joplin, and the Doors, Norman decided that he wanted to sing about the most countercultural subject of all: Jesus.
Billboard called Norman “the most important songwriter since Paul Simon,” and his music would go on to inspire members of bands as diverse as U2, The Pixies, Guns ‘N Roses, and more. To a young generation of Christians who wanted a way to be different in the American cultural scene, Larry was a godsend—spinning songs about one’s eternal soul as deftly as he did ones critiquing consumerism, middle-class values, and the Vietnam War. To the religious establishment, however, he was a thorn in the side; and to secular music fans, he was an enigma, constantly offering up Jesus to problems they didn’t think were problems. Paul McCartney himself once told Larry, “You could be famous if you’d just drop the God stuff,” a statement that would foreshadow Norman’s ultimate demise.
In Why Should the Devil Have all the Good Music?, Gregory Alan Thornbury draws on unparalleled access to Norman’s personal papers and archives to narrate the conflicts that defined the singer’s life, as he crisscrossed the developing fault lines between Evangelicals and mainstream American culture—friction that continues to this day.  What emerges is a twisting, engrossing story about ambition, art, friendship, betrayal, and the turns one’s life can take when you believe God is on your side.”

The Gospel at Work: How the Gospel Gives New Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs (Updated and Expanded Edition) by Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger
I read the first edition of this book twice, once in a Faith and Work Book Club with friends at work and am looking forward to this new edition.
From the Amazon description:
“Reclaim God’s vision for your life.
Many Christians fall victim to one of two main problems when it comes to work: either they are idle in their work, or they have made an idol of it. Both of these mindsets are deadly misunderstandings of how God intends for us to think about our employment.
In The Gospel at Work, Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert unpack the powerful ways in which the gospel can transform how we do what we do, releasing us from the cultural pressures of both an all-consuming devotion and a punch-in, punch-out mentality – in order to find the freedom of a work ethic rooted in serving Christ.
You’ll find answers to some of the tough questions that Christians in the workplace often ask:

  • What factors should matter most in choosing a job?
  • What gospel principles should shape my thinking about how to treat my boss, my co-workers, and my employees?
  • Is full-time Christian work more valuable than my job?
  • Is it okay to be motivated by money?
  • How do you prioritize – or balance – work, family and church responsibilities?

Solidly grounded in the gospel, The Gospel at Work confronts both our idleness at work and our idolatry of work with a challenge of its own – to remember that whom we work for is infinitely more important than what we do.”

Spurgeon on the Christian Life: Alive in Christ (Theologians on the Christian Life) by Michael Reeves
I’ve enjoyed a few of Michael Reeves earlier books and hearing him speak at theology conferences and am looking forward to this new volume from the Theologians on the Christian Life series. And can we ever read too many books about Spurgeon?
From the Amazon description:
“Charles Spurgeon, widely hailed as the “Prince of Preachers,” is well known for his powerful preaching, gifted mind, and compelling personality. Over the course of nearly four decades at London’s famous New Park Street Chapel and Metropolitan Tabernacle, Spurgeon preached and penned words that continue to resonate with God’s people today.
Organized around the main beliefs that undergirded his ministry—the centrality of Christ, the importance of the new birth, the indwelling of the Spirit, and the necessity of the Bible—this introduction to Spurgeon’s life and thought will challenge readers to live their lives for the glory of God.”

Lloyd-Jones on the Christian Life: Doctrine and Life as Fuel and Fire (Theologians on the Christian Life) by Jason C. Meyer
I’ve read a few books about the respected London pastor Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and am looking forward to this new volume from the Theologians on the Christian Life series.
From the Amazon description:
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, commonly referred to as “the Doctor,” had a successful career in medicine before abandoning it all to become a preacher in London. His sermons—displaying the life-changing power of biblical truth—diagnosed the spiritual condition of his congregation and prescribed the gospel remedy.
This study of Lloyd-Jones’s life will encourage and exhort readers to consider the role of the knowledge of God, the power of the Spirit, and the fullness of Christ in their daily lives, allowing them to discover the inseparable union of doctrine and the Christian life.”

Arnold Palmer: Homespun Stories of The King by Chris Rodell
I’ve read several books by and about Arnold Palmer, and am looking forward to reading this new book written by someone who knew him.
From the Amazon description:
“About 40 miles east of Pittsburgh is the small town of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, the place Arnold Palmer called home. The world knew Palmer as The King. But the Palmer Latrobe knew was funnier, goofier, saltier, and less grandiose than the one justifiably loved around the globe. In Arnold Palmer: Homespun Stories of the King, journalist, Latrobe resident, and accidental Palmer insider Chris Rodell draws upon over 100 interviews with the golf great conducted over 20 years, providing an intimate, charming, and at times irreverent glimpse at the icon outside the spotlight.”

This is my list (and I reserve the right to add other books too!). How about you? What do you plan to read this summer?