Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

Leave a comment

THIS & THAT: A Weekly Roundup of Favorite Articles and Quotes

  • New CBS Sitcom ‘Living Biblically’ Brings Faith to Primetime. Brett McCracken writes “Living Biblically wants to be a comedy that both Christians and atheists can watch and laugh at—one that provokes both sides without belittling or dismissing them. This is not an easy task, and we’ll see if the show maintains this balance, without feeling boring or neutered, for the rest of the season.”
  • Christian College Thanks God for Victory in 5-Year Religious Rights Battle. “In a stunning turn of events, and some would add an answer to prayer, Wheaton College won a five-year battle against the contraceptive mandate implemented under the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act.”
  • Wheaton College’s Courageous Stance Leads to Religious Liberty Victory. Joe Carter writes “Wheaton did the hard thing, the unpopular thing, because they refused to compromise on what the school stands for. For their boldness they deserve the praise and admiration of those of us who still believe that we answer to a higher authority than the federal government.”
  • Restoring the Justice System. America now boasts the highest rate of incarceration in the world, but even more alarming are the system’s endemic injustices. Minority communities are far more afflicted by the justice system, a reality that affects the psyches of the children who grow up in them. Additionally, our system treats you much better if you’re rich and guilty than if you are poor and innocent. Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy, my top book of 2017 believes these realities are fundamentally changing our world, and he’s devoted his life’s work to finding solutions.
  • Parental Rights: A Casualty of the Transgender Revolution. Andrew T. Walker writes “This case should never have risen to the level it did. That it even reached a judge is a clear example of Big Brother confusing its role with that of Mom and Dad. It sets a precedent that puts not only the natural family but the well-being of children at risk.”
  • Actual Girl Scout Cookies Marketing Meeting. John Crist breaks down Girl Scout Cookies and their marketing plan.

Courtesy of World Magazine

Continue reading


Leave a comment

FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

  • Why Do You Work? Stephen Nichols writes “The chief end of our work comes in verse 31: “May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works.” Our work has meaning. Our work points to the One in whose image we are made. As we work, we bring glory to God. As we work, God is delighted with us. Now we have stumbled upon our answer to why we work.”
  • Is Your Work Spiritual Enough? Art Lindsley writes “How many of us feel our work is not “spiritual” enough or doesn’t matter in God’s grand design? Understanding this concept of a “priesthood of all believers” can help us see how all our vocations bear great importance.”
  • Can Meaningful Work Truly Be Found? Hugh Whelchel writes “For the Christian, life without work is meaningless, but work must never become the meaning of one’s life. We must find our identity in Christ, not in our work. Our union with Christ transforms our hearts and gives us the desire to serve him out of gratitude as we engage the world through our work.”
  • Are Biblical Principles Shaping Your Values? Hugh Whelchel writes “The more we are “all in,” the more our thoughts and actions align with God’s principles, the more we can glorify God, serve the common good, and further his kingdom in this time and this place—in our particular season on this earth. And it is in the process of bringing more flourishing to the communities we serve that we flourish, too ( 29:7).”
  • Faith and Work Integration: Trendy or Essential? Mark D. Roberts writes “It’s not just trendy to seek to do everything in the Lord’s name, including those things that fill most of our waking hours. Doing our ordinary work in the Lord’s name is an essential, though often overlooked, element of our calling. So, whatever you do—whether managing staff, selling products, leading organizations, changing diapers, teaching children, building start-ups, preaching sermons, making films, writing books, molding clay, or cleaning houses—do everything, yes, everything, in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Three Books from R.C. Sproul That Were Foundational to My Spiritual Growth

In the 1980’s as a new believer there were three books by R.C. Sproul, my spiritual mentor, that were foundational to me – Holiness of God, Chosen by God and Pleasing God. Dr. Sproul died on December 14, 2017.  Since then I have gone back and re-read these three books and wanted to share my reviews of each book with you.

The Holiness of God by R. C. Sproul. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2nd Revised, Expanded Edition. 240 pages. 2000

The Holiness of God was the first book of R.C. Sproul’s that I read back in the mid-1980’s. I have since gone back and read it multiple times, and prior to his recent death heard him speak about this material several times. This book, and Sproul’s ministry, has had a profound impact on my spiritual growth. Here’s some of the most significant parts of the book.
He tells us that the one concept, the central idea he kept meeting in Scripture, was the idea that God is holy. He states that how we understand the person and character of God the Father affects every aspect of our lives.
The author tells us that only once in Scripture is an attribute of God elevated to the third degree, and mentioned three times in succession. The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy.
He uses Isaiah’s experience in Isaiah 6 to show that for the first time in his life Isaiah really understood who God was. At the same instant, for the first time Isaiah really understood who Isaiah was.
He waits awhile before defining what he means by the word holy. He tells us that when the Bible calls God holy, it means primarily that God is transcendentally separate. God is so far above and beyond us that He seems almost totally foreign to us. To be holy is to be “other,” to be different in a special way. He tells us that when we call things holy when they are not holy, we commit the sin of idolatry. To worship an idol involves calling something holy when it is not holy. What God does is always consistent with who God is. He always acts according to His holy character.
A famous quote of Sproul’s is that sin is cosmic treason. It is an act of supreme ingratitude toward the One to whom we owe everything, to the One who has given us life itself.
Many believe that there is an inconsistency between a harsh God in the Old Testament and a loving Jesus in the New Testament. But Sproul disagrees, indicating that far from being a history of a harsh God, the Old Testament is the record of a God who is extremely patient. He tells us that the most violent expression of God’s wrath and justice is actually seen in the New Testament, in the Cross.
The author writes that one of our basic problems is the confusion of justice and mercy. He states that it is impossible for anyone, anywhere, anytime to deserve grace. Grace by definition is undeserved. We will receive only justice or mercy from God. We never receive injustice from His hand. He tells us that the struggle we have with a holy God is rooted in the conflict between God’s righteousness and our unrighteousness. He states that God is just, and we are unjust. This tension creates fear, hostility, and anger within us toward God.
He writes that to be a saint means to be separated, but more than that. The saint also is to be involved in a vital process of sanctification. We are to be purified daily in the growing pursuit of holiness. Saints are people who are at one and the same time just, yet sinful. He tells us that God counts the believer as righteous even when in and of ourselves we are not righteous, and that this is the gospel.
He writes about the wrath of God, stating that a loving God who has no wrath is no God. Instead, he is an idol of our own making as much as if we carved Him out of stone.
He states that the failure of modern evangelicalism is the failure to understand the holiness of God. Helpless sinners can survive only by grace. We can love Him only because He first loved us.
Throughout, Sproul explains theological concepts in a way that is easy to understand. He also utilizes his gifts of story-telling and humor. This edition of the book includes helpful questions at the end of each chapter to help you reflect on what you have just learned.

Chosen by God by R. C. Sproul. Tyndale House Publishing. 196 pages. 2001 edition.

Chosen by God was the second book of R.C. Sproul’s that I read back in the mid-1980’s, following his classic The Holiness of God. This book has been used to convince many that the Reformed view of election is indeed the biblical view. The great Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon famously stated that Reformed theology is just a nickname for biblical Christianity.
John Calvin did not invent the doctrine of predestination. The author states that predestination is a doctrine that is plainly set forth in the Bible (Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:3-11), and that virtually all Christian churches have some formal doctrine of predestination. The question is which view of predestination to embrace. This book asserts that the Reformed view of predestination is the biblical view.
The author writes “The Reformed view asserts that the ultimate decision for salvation rests with God and not with man. It teaches that from all eternity God has chosen to intervene in the lives of some people and bring them to saving faith and has chosen not to do that for other people. From all eternity, without any prior view of our human behavior, God has chosen some unto election and others unto reprobation. The ultimate destiny of the individual is decided by God before that individual is even born and without depending ultimately upon the human choice.”
When we speak of divine sovereignty we are speaking about God’s authority and about God’s power. Human freedom and evil are under God’s sovereignty.
Grace is undeserved. God always reserves the right to have mercy upon whom he will have mercy. God may owe people justice, but never mercy. The saved get mercy and the unsaved get justice. Nobody gets injustice.
The author states that in the Reformed view of predestination God’s choice precedes man’s choice. We choose him only because he has first chosen us. He encourages us to not merely assume that you are not elect, but to make your election a matter of certainty.
He states that no true believer ever loses his salvation. To be sure, Christians fall at times seriously and radically, but never fully and finally. We persevere, not because of our strength but because of God’s grace that preserves us.
The author covers such weighty topics as man’s free will, sin, evil, grace, original sin, the Fall, double predestination and TULIP (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and the Perseverance of the Saints), all in his characteristic easy to understand manner.
The final chapter of the book is comprised of questions about predestination. Each chapter ends with a concise summary of the main points from the chapter as well as scripture verses for further study.

Pleasing God: Discovering the Meaning and Importance of Sanctification by R. C. Sproul.  David C. Cook, 210 pages. 2012 edition

Pleasing God was the third book of R.C. Sproul’s that I read as a new believer back in the 1980’s, following his classic books The Holiness of God and Chosen by God. Pleasing God is intended as a practical guide for Christian living, an attempt to provide help for the struggle in which we are involved.
While regeneration, the act of grace by which our eyes are opened to the things of God is an act that only God can perform and is instantaneous, our sanctification is takes place in stages. Regeneration is the beginning of our Christian journey. Sanctification is a process, a gradual process. Rebirth is instantaneous. Justification is instantaneous. But sanctification is a lifelong process. This growth in pleasing God is called sanctification, and that is what this wonderful book is about.
The author states that for Christians to make progress in sanctification, in learning to please God, they must have a clear idea of their goal. The goal, as Jesus stated it is “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). Seeking the kingdom and righteousness are the priorities of the Christian life.  To be righteous is to do everything that God calls us to do.
The author covers a number of topics in this book. He first looks at Martin Luther’s threefold battle in the Christian life – the Christian’s battle with the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Other topics covered in this volume include forgiveness, guilt, assurance, repentance, fruit bearing, a discussion on “carnal Christians”, pride, dishonesty, slothfulness, the importance of sound doctrine, and the role of the Holy Spirit.
The author writes that regeneration is the beginning of a journey. That journey is filled with successes and failures, with growth amid stumbling. He tells us that at times, the progress seems painfully slow, but progress is there. All Christians make progress that is made by the indwelling Holy Spirit, who refuses to allow us to stand still.
I always appreciated how Dr. Sproul could take difficult theological topics and communicate them in a very clear and easy to understand manner. This is a very readable book about the doctrine of sanctification.

If you are not familiar with Dr. Sproul’s ministry, I would recommend starting with these three books that were foundational for me.

Leave a comment


Victoria and Abdul, rated PG-13
** ½  

With the ending of season two of the excellent television series Victoria, if you want more to feed your Queen Victoria fix, you might want to check out this film. But it’s a very different Queen Victoria that you encounter in this film than the young Victoria portrayed by Jenna Coleman in the television series.
The film is directed by two-time Oscar nominee Stephen Frears (The Queen, The Grifters). Oscar nominee Lee Hall (Billy Elliot) wrote the screenplay based on the book Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant by Shrabani Basu. The film received two Oscar nominations – Daniel Phillips and Loulia Sheppard for Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling and Consolata Boyle for Best Achievement in Costume Design. The film tells about the unlikely friendship between the aging Queen Victoria and the 24-year-old Muslim from India, Abdul Karim, played by Ali Fazal. The film and book are based on diaries kept both by Queen Victoria and Karim.
As the film opens, Queen Victoria, played for the second time by Judi Dench (seven-time Oscar nominee and winner for Shakespeare in Love), is going through the motions. She is depressed, lonely, surly and has little patience for others. She is awoken and dressed by her staff. Her scheduled days are spent by attending endless event after event, and we see her dozing off during them. It has been thirty years since the death of her beloved husband, Prince Albert. She seems to have little reason to live and is disappointed by her nine children, especially son Bertie, the next in line for the throne, played by two-time Emmy winner Eddie Izzard (Eddie Izzard: Dressed to Kill).
In 1887, Abdul Karim, a prison clerk, chosen because he was tall, and Mohammed Buksh, played by Adeel Akhtar (The Night Manager), chosen because the originally chosen tall Indian was injured, make the 5,000-mile journey to England to present the Queen, who is also the Empress of India, with a gift to celebrate her Golden Jubilee, and 29th year of British rule in India. While Abdul is excited about the trip, Mohammed is not. He resents everything about the empire which overthrew his own government, and he just longs to return home.
As they arrive at Windsor Castle to present the gift to the Queen, they receive very specific instructions on how to approach the Queen, including not to make eye contact with Victoria. But Abdul does just that. This begins an unlikely friendship between the two, which lasts the remaining fifteen years of Victoria’s life.
Victoria first appoints Abdul to be her personal servant, though Mohammed remains a common servant. Adbul is a Muslim who tells Victoria about his world and culture. Throughout the film, we don’t always know if Abdul is being completely truthful with Victoria about his life or not. Soon, the lonely Victoria, the head of the Church of England, asks Abdul to become her spiritual teacher, or Munshi. We see him begin to teach her about the Koran, and to write in Hindi, all to the disgust of the Queen’s court, household and administration who decide that Abdul, whom they refer to as “the Hindu”, must go.
The solid supporting cast is led by Izzard as Bertie, Fenella Woolgar as Miss Phipps, the head royal housekeeper, Golden Globe nominee Michael Gambon (Path to War and Harry Potter films) as the Prime Minister Lord Salisbury, Paul Higgins as Doctor Reid and Tim Pigott-Smith as Sir Henry Ponsonby.
The movie is beautifully filmed, from the Taj Mahal to Windsor Castle, with impressive costumes. Judi Dench, as always, is fantastic in her role as Queen Victoria.
Content concerns include some adult language, including a few abuses of God’s and Jesus’s names. Some will also be concerned about how very positively and one dimensionally the Islam religion is portrayed in this film, and the inference that Queen Victoria converted to Islam near the end of her life.
Themes in the film include loneliness, friendship, racism, jealousy, and religion.
Victoria and Abdul will appeal to those wanting to know more about this little- known relationship between Victoria and Abdul over the last fifteen years of her life. The film is said to be “based on true events, mostly”, which leads one to wonder just how much of it is true.

Leave a comment


Surrounded by Michael W. Smith

Michael W. Smith has been a leader in the Contemporary Christian Music industry since his debut album in 1983, about the entire length of my Christian life. In addition to his pop albums, the talented artist has released several live worship and Christmas albums, along with a few instrumental albums, two albums of hymns, and even wrote music for Steve Taylor’s The Second Chance, a film he starred in. His 2001 album Worship has sold in excess of 2 million copies and the 2002 Worship Again has sold in excess of 1 million copies. He has won three Grammy Awards and an incredible 45 Dove Awards. Now 60 years old, Smith shows he is not slowing down.  Surrounded, his second album to be released this month, and twenty-fifth overall, is a live worship album recorded during an in-the-round performance November 2, 2017 at the Factory in Franklin, Tennessee.
Smith has said that the idea of doing another live worship project has been something he has been thinking about for a while. He feels God calling His Church together, every nation, every tribe, tongue, social class and denomination.
Like his other worship albums, the songs here are a mix of originals and covers. My only critique would have been for Smith to include more originals. If you have enjoyed Smith’s previous worship albums, you’ll enjoy this one as well.

Here are a few thoughts about each song on this excellent album. Continue reading



Sing! How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family and Church by Keith and Kristyn Getty. B&H Books. 176 pages. 2017

This excellent book written by respected modern hymn-writers Keith and Kristyn Getty is a gift to the church. It can be read individually or as a group. The authors include helpful suggestions on how churches can use the book. The book includes helpful discussion questions at the end of each chapter that readers will benefit from, whether the book is read individually or as a group. The book is intended to be practical, which it is, though not prescriptive.

The authors have five urgent goals for the book:
1 – To help pastors, musicians and congregations have a clear vision and understanding of why we sing.
2 – To help each of us realize the importance of what we sing and how those song choices affect our personal lives.
3 – To help us raise our families with an appetite for congregational singing and training in it.
4 – To help our churches become energized and more focused in their congregational singing.
5 – To help fire us to mission as we witness to others through the songs we sing.

The authors write that Martin Luther reinvigorated singing. Singing was the heart of the Reformation. They tell us that we were born to sing, and that we need to learn how to love to sing. Christian singing starts with the heart. It is prayer. Congregational singing is the ultimate choir. We should sing because we love God. We are commanded to sing, so we must do it, primarily with other believers.
The book looks at what we should sing and how we should sing. The Gospel compels us to sing. Worship comes as a response to revelation. We were created, commanded and compelled to sing. The songs we sing on Sunday become the soundtrack for our week.
We need good songs stored up in our hearts. We need to grow our appetite for good congregational singing. Sing to yourself throughout the week what you sang in church on Sunday. Continue reading

Leave a comment

THIS & THAT: A Weekly Roundup of Favorite Articles and Quotes

On Billy Graham:

Courtesy of World Magazine

  • What is the Will of God for My Life? R.C. Sproul writes “If you want to know the will of God in terms of what God authorizes, what God is pleased with, and what God will bless you for, again, the answer is found in His preceptive will, the law, which is clear.”

Continue reading