Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


42 Faith: The Rest of the Jackie Robinson Story by Ed Henry. Thomas Nelson. 240 pages. 2017
**** 

This book was released on the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s major league debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers as the first African American in Major League baseball. Many are already familiar with the key points of Robinson’s story through previous books and the 2013 film 42. What Henry’s book focuses on is the role of faith – of Robinson, his wife Rachel, Branch Rickey and Robinson’s and Rickey’s mothers – in Robinson’s story.
Henry looks at the unique relationship between Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson and how their respective Methodist faiths impacted them.  The book is well-researched, as the author met with Robinson’s widow Rachel, teammate Carl Erskine, visited the site of the former Ebbets Field, pulled a lot of information from Robinson’s unpublished memoir, as well as his sermons and speeches, to show how Robinson was open about how his faith helped him to deal with all that came his way (verbal and physical abuse, death threats, etc.).
Juan Williams offers a lengthy introduction about race and faith in America. Henry includes biographical sketches of Rickey and Robinson’s lives up until they met each other on a warm August day in Rickey’s office in Brooklyn.  Robinson wasn’t sure why he was there. He had been told that the Dodgers were starting a negro team, but that was just what he was told to get him to Rickey’s office.
Henry looks at the effect of Rickey’s faith (he was a Methodist, named after John Wesley) on his decision to move forward to bring Robinson to the major leagues. Henry writes that Rickey was impacted by discrimination against Charles Thomas, an African American on one of his Ohio Wesleyan teams, who was denied housing at a hotel when Ohio Wesleyan went to Indiana to play Notre Dame.  That may have influenced him towards the action he took in making Robinson the first African American player in the major leagues. Continue reading

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MY 2017 FAVORITES

As has been my practice for a number of years, I am sharing some of my favorites from 2017 in a variety of categories.  What about you? What were some of your favorites in these categories?

Television Series

Top Pick: Victoria

Others that I’ve enjoyed, in no particular order were:

  • This is Us
  • The Man in the High Castle
  • Broadchurch
  • The Crown

Podcasts

Top Pick: Albert Mohler’s The Briefing. Each weekday morning, Albert Mohler hosts a podcast providing worldview analysis about the leading news headlines and cultural conversations. This is required listening for me. Check out Dr. Mohler’s website here.

 

Blogs

Top Pick: Tim Challies’ Ala Carte. This is required reading for me each Monday through Saturday. Challies includes helpful Kindle deals, links to a good variety of helpful articles and a quote. Check out Tim’s website here.

Recommended Resources

Top Pick: The Whole Christ – Sinclair Ferguson

Other new resources released in 2017 that I would recommend are, in no particular order:

Luther: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer.  See my review of this excellent new documentary.

Dispatches from the Front. Episode 10: The Fourth Man. See my review of this excellent resource here.

The Lord’s Prayer by Albert Mohler. In this twelve-part series, Dr. Albert Mohler shows that the pattern of prayer Jesus provides is few in words, yet massive in meaning. His prayer reflects true theology and proper doxology – a perfect guide in our lives. I listened to this series as our book club at work was reading and discussing Tim Keller’s book Prayer.

Conference  

Top Pick: Ligonier Ministries National Conference: The Next 500 Years. Watch or listen to all of the messages here.

Ministry Highlights

  • Speaking on faith and work at the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) General Assembly in Greensboro, North Carolina.
  • Speaking on faith and work at the Lexington Community Church By the Way Conference in Lexington, Illinois.


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How I Spent Spring Break: 9 Reflections on the 2017 Ligonier National Conference

Almost every year since 1997, my wife Tammy and I have left the cold of the Illinois winter to head down to the sun and warmth of Central Florida to attend the annual Ligonier Ministries National Conference. This year’s conference, held March 9-11, was their 30th National Conference. It had a theme of “The Next 500 Years” and was being held on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Thus, many of the speakers referred to Martin Luther and his influence in their addresses. The conference was held in the wonderful facilities of the First Baptist Church in Orlando where it has been held most years, sold out months in advance, and featured an excellent lineup of speakers, including John MacArthur, Alistair Begg, Albert Mohler, Sinclair Ferguson, R.C. Sproul, Michael Horton and more.

As Ligonier President and CEO Chris Larson told the attendees at the beginning of the conference, “Pace Yourself”. The three-day conference can be exhausting. In total, there were 26 sessions you could attend, in addition to a prayer session, two mini-concerts, and a bookstore tour. I always purchase copies of the messages and listen to them multiple times in the months after the conference. Here are the daily highlight posts that Ligonier posted about the conference:

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Here are 9 reflections I have from this year’s conference: Continue reading


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20 Helpful Quotes on the Transgender Revolution from “We Cannot Be Silent” by Albert Mohler  

New Mohler bookWith the transgender “bathroom” issue in the news so much lately, I thought it would be good to share these 20 helpful quotes from Albert Mohler’s excellent 2015 book We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage & and the Very Meaning of Right & Wrong. 

  1. The ability to “transform” gender and have “gender reassignment surgery” is so new that it was not even considered a prominent part of the gay rights movement when it emerged in the 1960s.
  2. Arguing that we should draw a clear distinction between who an individual wants to go to bed with and who an individual wants to go to bed as requires the dismantling of an entire thought structure and worldview. This is why the transgender revolution, even more than the movement for gay liberation, undermines the most basic structures of society.
  3. The transgender revolution, however, undermines any understanding of human identity based in the Christian tradition, the trajectory of Western civilization, and the worldview that has shaped today’s world.
  4. The transgender revolution represents one of the most difficult pastoral challenges this generation of Christians will face.
  5. A biblical response to the transgender revolution will require the church to develop new skills of compassion and understanding as we encounter persons, both inside and outside our congregations, who are struggling.
  6. The movement makes a sharp distinction between gender with regards to an individual’s self-understanding and an individual’s sex, which refers to the biological sex determined at birth.
  7. As with the gay liberation movement, the transgender movement looked to liberal theologians who helped further their cause.
  8. Transforming the way children think of gender is actually central to the transgender movement. Oprah Winfrey, whose television show was viewed by millions of Americans, became a major advocate for transgender issues, particularly among children.
  9. If the gay liberation movement gained its greatest traction when it succeeded in convincing many Americans that its aims were nonthreatening, the opposite may be the case for the transgender revolutionaries.
  10. The transgender revolution presents a vexing dimension to the challenge Christian churches, families, and institutions will face regarding religious liberty.
  11. The reality is that there is no end to the transgender revolution; endurance is one of its central dynamics.
  12. The Christian response to the transgender movement must begin with Scripture.
  13. What differentiates the transgender movement is the intention to change one’s gender identity from one’s biological sex.
  14. We unflinchingly hold, therefore, that to be born male is to be male and that to be born female is to be female.
  15. We affirm that biological sex is a gift of God to every individual and to the human community to which that individual belongs.
  16. We must understand that the argument that says the brain is wired differently than the body does not justify reason for sex reassignment surgery or the transgender option. Rather, it testifies to the brokenness of creation and the effects of human sin. It is an opportunity for the Christian to respond with the message of the gospel and with the recognition that every Christian is a broken individual seeking wholeness in the only place it can be found—in obedience to Scripture under the lordship of Christ.
  17. If nothing else, the transgender revolution shows Christians that the gospel confronts ideologies, patterns of deception, and spiritual opposition in every generation.
  18. The church must also respond to the transgender movement by rejecting both the reality and the morality of gender reassignment surgery.
  19. Scripture itself attests to the fact that our bodies are not accidents that happen to us, but part of God’s intention for us.
  20. The gospel provides the only true remedy for sexual brokenness. The theological and pastoral challenges we face in the transgender revolution are indeed enormous, but they are not beyond the sufficiency of Christ’s cross and resurrection.


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50 Important Quotes from the book “We Cannot Be Silent” by Albert Mohler

New Mohler bookI recently read Albert Mohler’s outstanding new book We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrong, a very important book that I can’t recommend too highly. I highlighted many passages in the book. Below are 50 of the best quotes from the book:

  • When it comes to marriage and morality, Christians cannot be silent—not because we are morally superior, but because we know that God has a better plan for humanity than we would ever devise for ourselves.
  • We are facing nothing less than a comprehensive redefinition of life, love, liberty, and the very meaning of right and wrong.
  • There is no middle ground in the church’s engagement with homosexuality. Either churches will affirm the legitimacy of same-sex relationships and behaviors or they will not.
  • The Christian church has long been understood by the culture at large to be the guardian of what is right and righteous. But now the situation is fundamentally reversed. The culture generally identifies Christians as on the wrong side of morality.
  • The moral revolution is now so complete that those who will not join it are understood to be deficient, intolerant, and harmful to society.
  • Put bluntly, so long as sex between a man and a woman implied the possibility of pregnancy, there was a biological check on extramarital sexual activity. Once the Pill arrived, with all its promises of reproductive control, the biological check on sexual immorality that had shaped human existence from Adam and Eve forward was removed almost instantaneously.
  • It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of the separation of sex and babies from the moral equation.
  • Marriage was thus shifted from being a covenant into being a mere contract that should be considered in force only insofar and for so long as both parties feel equally committed to the contract.
  • In the end, we will almost surely have to concede that divorce will harm far more lives and cause far more direct damage than same-sex marriage.
  • The Pill allowed sex without babies, and the modern reproductive technologies allow babies without sex.
  • In previous centuries, non-marital cohabitation between a man and a woman was not only frowned upon, it was sometimes even illegal. In recent years, cohabitation before marriage has become not only expected but also a replacement for marriage itself.
  • Ultimately, seen in tandem, the contraceptive revolution, the arrival of no-fault divorce, the arrival of advanced reproductive technologies, and the social acceptance of extramarital sex and cohabitation are all evidence of the success of the sexual revolution and elements that have fueled the expansion of that revolution into terrain that the early sexual revolutionaries could never have imagined.
  • The logic of same-sex marriage cannot end with same-sex marriage. Once marriage can mean anything other than a heterosexual union, it can and must eventually mean everything—from polygamy to any number of other deviations from traditional marriage. It is just a matter of time and the progressive weakening of moral resolve.
  • In After the Ball, Kirk and Madsen set out a program that, in retrospect, was likely even more successful than they had dreamed. They demanded that American society embrace homosexuality as a normal sexual experience and view same-sex relationships on par with heterosexual marriage.
  • In one of the most successful aspects of their strategy, Kirk and Madsen petitioned the movement to “portray gays as victims, not as aggressive challengers.” Similarly, the two argued, “For all practical purposes, gays should be considered to have been born gay”.
  • Again, the most amazing aspect of this strategy is its overwhelming success. If anything, the momentum gained by the effort to normalize same-sex relationships during the last two decades has exceeded even the wildest aspirations of these early activists.
  • While Kirk and Madsen provided the homosexual movement with marching orders, the actual outworking of the progress of the homosexual agenda has been documented in Linda Hirshman’s Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution. As she argued, the public acceptance of homosexuality had to overcome what she called the “four horsemen” of moral judgment. Those arguing for the normalization of homosexuality and same-sex relationships had to overcome the pervasive judgment in American society a generation ago that homosexuals were “Crazy, Sinful, Criminal, and Subversive.”
  • The efforts of the activists have been so successful they have not only undone the original psychiatric judgment on homosexuality, but in some ways they have completely reversed the nation’s moral judgments. At least in American popular culture, to consider homosexuality to be morally suspect, in any way, or a form of mental illness is culturally dismissed. “Homophobia” is now the new mental illness and moral deficiency, while homosexuality is accepted as the new normal.
  • The normalization of same-sex relationships and behaviors could not have happened without a significant group of liberal Bible scholars, theologians, and religious leaders who were willing to declare that the church’s position on the sinfulness of homosexuality—a position that had existed for millennia—was in error and needed a major overhaul.
  • In the main, liberal Protestant denominations have moved away from biblical teachings on human sexuality to the acceptance of same-sex relationships, the affirmation of openly homosexual clergy, and, more recently, the authorization of clergy to perform same-sex marriages. This trajectory can be traced over and over again in denominations such as the Episcopal Church, The Disciples of Christ, the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church USA, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Each of these denominations, in their own way and on their own timetable, has made headlines and nationwide news by moving progressively to the left on these issues.
  • The leaders who moved to normalize homosexuality recognized that they needed both the culture and the courts on their side if their movement was to succeed. They persuaded the public by means other than the courts, but they still used the courts to add moral authority to their movement.
  • The effort to normalize same-sex relationships has succeeded most when it presents homosexuals as harmless neighbors, kindhearted friends, and contributing members of a happy society. The nation’s entertainment culture has provided Kirk and Madsen’s strategy the space it needed to thrive. A concerted effort to present a constant parade of happy, nonthreatening homosexuals in popular culture has undercut the notion that homosexuality is subversive to a healthy society.
  • For those who understand marriage to be the lifetime union of a man and a woman on the basis of Scripture, same-sex marriage presents a situation of daunting challenge. The reason for that is quite simple: our convictions about the nature of marriage preclude us from recognizing the union of a man and a man or a woman and a woman as a real marriage. In the Christian understanding, same-sex marriage is actually impossible, so we cannot recognize same-sex couples as legitimately married.
  • While the law may redefine marriage in a legal sense, Christians must continue to affirm that marriage, in the eyes of God, remains the union of a man and a woman.
  • The ability to “transform” gender and have “gender reassignment surgery” is so new that it was not even considered a prominent part of the gay rights movement when it emerged in the 1960s.
  • Arguing that we should draw a clear distinction between who an individual wants to go to bed with and who an individual wants to go to bed as requires the dismantling of an entire thought structure and worldview. This is why the transgender revolution, even more than the movement for gay liberation, undermines the most basic structures of society.
  • A biblical response to the transgender revolution will require the church to develop new skills of compassion and understanding as we encounter persons, both inside and outside our congregations, who are struggling.
  • The (transgender) movement makes a sharp distinction between gender with regards to an individual’s self-understanding and an individual’s sex, which refers to the biological sex determined at birth.
  • Transforming the way children think of gender is actually central to the transgender movement.
  • The reality is that there is no end to the transgender revolution; endurance is one of its central dynamics.
  • We unflinchingly hold, therefore, that to be born male is to be male and that to be born female is to be female. We affirm that biological sex is a gift of God to every individual and to the human community to which that individual belongs.
  • The church must also respond to the transgender movement by rejecting both the reality and the morality of gender reassignment surgery.
  • The gospel provides the only true remedy for sexual brokenness. The theological and pastoral challenges we face in the transgender revolution are indeed enormous, but they are not beyond the sufficiency of Christ’s cross and resurrection.
  • Conservative Christians far too quickly accuse the proponents of same-sex marriage of being the enemies of marriage, believing that marriage was in great shape before same-sex couples started clamoring for the legal recognition of their unions. This is intellectual dishonesty, and the record must be set straight. The previous damage to marriage can be traced to the intellectual, sexual, legal, and therapeutic subversion of marriage by heterosexuals.
  • As the defenders of traditional marriage have warned for many years, the legalization of same-sex marriage will necessarily open the door, in both logic and the law, to the recognition of polygamy and a multitude of other sexual relationships.
  • The Bible is straightforward in its depiction of sexual sin—from adultery to incest and bestiality to same-sex behaviors. The Bible’s honesty on these matters is an incredible gift to us.
  • The doctrine of redemption reminds us that every single human being—whether heterosexual or homosexual—is a sinner in need of the redemption that can only come through Christ.
  • While gender will remain in the new creation and in our glorified bodies, sexual activity will not. Sex is not nullified in the resurrection, but rather fulfilled.
  • The Christian’s faithfulness in marriage and faithful defense of marriage and gender is an act of Christian witness—indeed, one of the boldest acts of Christian witness in this secular age.
  • Biblical Christianity is the final wall of resistance to the homosexual agenda. In the end, that resistance comes down to the Bible itself. It is not an argument over what the biblical text says, but over the authority of the biblical text and the proper means of obeying it.
  • With the movement toward same-sex marriage and the normalization of homosexuality gaining momentum, some churches are running for cover. Yet our Christian responsibility is clear—we are to tell the truth about what God has revealed concerning human sexuality, gender, and marriage. No one said it was going to be easy.
  • Any sexual expression outside of that heterosexual marriage relationship is outlawed by God’s command. That fundamental truth runs counter not only to the homosexual agenda but to the rampant sexual immorality of the age. Indeed, the Bible has much more to say about illicit heterosexual activity than it does about homosexual acts.
  • Our response to persons involved in homosexuality must be marked by genuine compassion. But a central task of genuine compassion is telling the truth, and the Bible reveals a true message we must convey. Those contorting and subverting the Bible’s message are not responding to homosexuals with compassion. Lying is never compassionate—and ultimately leads to death.
  • Religious liberty simply evaporates as a fundamental right grounded in the U.S. Constitution, and recedes into the background in the wake of what is now a higher social commitment—sexual freedom.
  • Even while religious liberty is supposedly recognized and affirmed, it is often being transformed and minimized. The Obama administration provides a classic example of this. Numerous representatives of the administration, including President Obama himself, have shifted their language from “freedom of religion” to “freedom of worship.” Though these two phrases may appear to be very similar, freedom of worship is a severe and deadly reduction of freedom of religion. Religious freedom is not limited to what takes place within the confines of a church building and its worship. Freedom of worship marginalizes and ghettoizes Christian speech so that its liberties only exist within the confines of a church facility—but it does not guarantee a right to a public voice. Freedom of worship essentially muzzles the Christian in the public square.
  • We must recognize that as the sexual revolution gains more and more traction in the court of public opinion, the church will continue to be displaced in the larger culture.
  • The moral revolutionaries now demand us to shift our understanding of same-sex behaviors and relationships from the category of sin to the category of moral good.
  • A robust biblical theology should inform us to expect that those struggling with same-sex attraction who come to faith in Christ and repent of their sins will continue to struggle with some of those sins and impulses until Christ calls them home.
  • Christian faithfulness in our generation demands that we allow ourselves to genuinely love people even when we cannot endorse their lifestyle, grant recognition to the relationship they believe they deserve, or sanction their sin.
  • Should a Christian attend a same-sex wedding ceremony? The simple answer is no, but, of course, there are a number of complex issues we must think about here. Attending a wedding ceremony always signals moral approval. Attending a same-sex marriage ceremony is to grant a positive and public moral judgment to the union. At some point, that attendance will involve congratulating the couple for their union. There will be no way to claim moral neutrality when congratulating a couple upon their wedding. If you cannot congratulate the couple, how can you attend?
  • We cannot be silent, and we cannot join the moral revolution that stands in direct opposition to what we believe the Creator has designed, given, and intended for us. We cannot be silent, and we cannot fail to contend for marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
  • In one sense, everything has changed. And yet, nothing has changed. The cultural and legal landscape has changed, as we believe this will lead to very real harms to our neighbors. But our Christian responsibility has not changed. We are charged to uphold marriage as the union of a man and a woman and to speak the truth in love. We are also commanded to uphold the truth about marriage in our own lives, in our own marriages, in our own families, and in our own churches.
  • We are called to be the people of the truth, even when the truth is not popular and even when the truth is denied by the culture around us. Christians have found themselves in this position before, and we will again. God’s truth has not changed. The holy Scriptures have not changed. The gospel of Jesus Christ has not changed. The church’s mission has not changed. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow.


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

book reviews
Good News of Great JoyGood News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent by John Piper. Desiring God. 78 pages. 2013
****

In this short book of daily readings for Advent, John Piper writes that Advent is for adoring Jesus. It is an annual season of patient waiting, hopeful expectation, soul-searching, and calendar-watching marked by many. Advent is a tradition that developed over the course of the church’s history as a time of preparation for Christmas Day. He writes that many have found observing Advent to be personally enjoyable and spiritually profitable.

Piper tells us that the English word “Advent” is from the Latin adventus, which means “coming.” Although the advent primarily in view each December is the first coming of Jesus two millennia ago, Piper tells us that Jesus’s second coming gets drawn in as well, as the popular Christmas carol “Joy to the World” makes plain.

Advent begins the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ends Christmas Eve. Piper states that Christians throughout the world have their different ways of celebrating Advent, such as lighting candles, singing songs, eating candies, giving gifts and hanging wreaths.

My wife and I started reading these meditations yesterday (December 1), to help us prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus and to keep Him as the center of our celebrations and the greatest treasure of our Advent season. The readings are short and can be completed in just a few minutes each day. I would recommend reading them with your spouse or family, if possible. An Appendix on Old Testament shadows and the coming of Christ coordinates with the meditation for December 12.

New Mohler bookWe Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrong by R. Albert Mohler Jr. 256 pages, Thomas Nelson, 2015.
****

Albert Mohler, the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, and one of the leading voices in evangelicalism today, has written a very important book regardless of where the reader stands on these issues. He states that we are now witnesses to a revolution that is sweeping away a sexual morality and a definition of marriage that has existed for thousands of years. He writes about that moral revolution, how it happened and what it means for us, for our churches, and for our children.

He takes us through the moral revolution and its vast impact. He states that any consideration of the eclipse of marriage in the last century must take into account four massive developments: birth control and contraception, divorce, advanced reproductive technologies, and cohabitation.

He includes a very interesting chapter on the transgender revolution and spends a chapter asking what the Bible really says about sex. I found the chapter on the real and urgent challenges to religious liberty to be of particular interest, recognizing many of the recent examples from culture he writes about. He also includes a very helpful “Question and Answer” section, in which he looks at 30 questions pertaining to the moral revolution. He concludes the book with a “Word to the Reader”, written in response to the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage.

Mohler writes that when it comes to marriage and morality, Christians cannot be silent—not because they are morally superior, but because they know that God has a better plan for humanity than we would ever devise for ourselves. He wrote the book in the hope that the church will be found faithful, even in the midst of the storm.

This is a well-researched and written book. Mohler states that we are facing nothing less than a comprehensive redefinition of life, love, liberty, and the very meaning of right and wrong. He has covered some of this information in his excellent daily podcast “The Briefing”, which features an analysis of the leading news headlines and cultural conversations from a Christian worldview. I can’t think of a more important book that I have read this year and highly recommend it.

book news

  • Big Christianaudio Sale. I always look forward to this semi-annual sale from Christianaudio in which almost their entire inventory of audiobooks is priced at just $7.49. Hurry, though. The sale ends at midnight Pacific time on December 18.
  • The Whole ChristThe Whole Christ. I can’t keep up with all of the new books by Sinclair Ferguson – a wonderful problem to have! While I’m reading Child in the Manger, I’ll look forward to The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters, with a Foreword by Tim Keller, to be published by Crossway on January 31.
  • The Plausibility Problem. Tim Challies reviews Same-Sex Attraction and the Church: The Surprising Plausibility of the Celibate Life by Ed Shaw. He writes “Shaw’s book is just the latest in a number of excellent titles pushing Christians to better understand and serve those who experience same-sex attraction. It helpfully identifies specific concerns and shows how the Bible calls us to meet them in God’s way. It does all of this with a firm grounding in Scripture and without an ounce of compromise. I highly recommend it.”
  • Lessons from a Hospital Bed. Another new book I’m looking forward to in 2016 is Lessons from a Hospital Bed by John Piper. The 80-page book will be published on February 29.
  • Jesus is Never Mentioned in the Psalms, but Tim Keller Sees Him There. Jonathan Merritt talks to Tim Keller about the new book he wrote with wife Kathy, The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms. Listen to the Kellers discuss the new book with Eric Metaxas here.
  • Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent Check out this book of Advent readings from John Piper and Desiring God, the e-book version being free. Tammy and I are using this in our daily readings as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ.
  • Recovering Redemption by Matt ChandlerChristianaudio Free Audiobook of the Month. The free audiobook for December is Recovering Redemption by Matt Chandler and Michael Snetzer. Recovering Redemption, written with a pastor’s bold intensity and a counselor’s discerning insight, takes you deeply into Scripture to take you deeply inside yourself. The authors discover that the heart of all our problems is truly the problem of our hearts. But because of what God has done, and because of what God can do, the most confident, contented person you know could actually be you—redeemed through Jesus Christ.
  • Top 15 Books of 2015. Here’s the first of many “Best” lists that I’ll be sharing (including my own). This one is Tony Reinke. His top book is Happiness by Randy Alcorn.

Top 15 Books

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?

Studies in the Sermon on the MountStudies in the Sermon on the Mount by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

This book made a significant impact on my wife Tammy when she read and discussed it with friends thirty years ago. When I picked up my diploma the day after graduation ceremonies from Covenant Seminary last year I was given a copy of this book. After enjoying Lloyd-Jones book Spiritual Depression (and the sermons the book was taken from), I couldn’t wait to read this book, which is the printed form of sermons preached for the most part on successive Sunday mornings at Westminster Chapel in London. This week we look at Chapter 15: The Light of the World.

  • First of all let us look at its negative import or claim. It always represents itself in terms of light, and men who are interested in that kind of movement always refer to it as `enlightenment’. Knowledge, they say, is that which brings light, and, of course, in so many respects it does.
  • Scripture still proclaims- that the world as such is in a state of gross darkness, in spite of our having discovered all this great and new knowledge, we have failed to discover the most important thing of all, namely, what to do with our knowledge.
  • Is it not obvious that our Lord’s statement is still true, that the world is in a state of terrible darkness? Think of it in the realm of personal life and conduct and behavior.
  • There is obviously no light at all in this world apart from the light that is provided by Christian people and the Christian faith.
  • The darkness of the world has never been more evident than it is now, and here comes this astonishing and startling statement. That, then, is the negative implication of our text.
  • Now let us consider its positive implications. Its claim is that the ordinary Christian, though he may never have read any philosophy at all, knows and understands more about life than the greatest expert who is not a Christian.
  • Let us always remember that it is a statement concerning the ordinary, average Christian, not certain Christians only. It is applicable to all who rightly claim this name.
  • The Lord who said, `Ye are the light of the world,’ also said, `I am the light of the world.’ These two statements must always be taken together, since the Christian is only `the light of the world’ because of his relationship to Him who is-Himself `the light of the world’.
  • It is essential that we bear in mind both aspects of this matter. As those who believe the gospel we have received light and knowledge and instruction. But, in addition, it has become part of us. It has become our life, so that we thus become reflectors of it.
  • The light that is Christ Himself, the light that is ultimately God, is the light that is in the Christian.
  • Here is a man who has become a Christian; he lives in society, in his office or workshop. Because he is a Christian he immediately has a certain effect, a controlling effect, which we considered together earlier. It is only after that, that he has this specific and particular function of acting as light. In other words Scripture, in dealing with the Christian, always emphasizes first what he is, before it begins to speak of what he does.
  • Far too often we Christians tend to reverse the order. We have spoken in a very enlightened manner, but we have not always lived as the salt of the earth. Whether we like it or not, our lives should always be the first thing to speak; and if our lips speak more than our lives it will avail very little. So often the tragedy has been that people proclaim the gospel in words, but their whole life and demeanor has been a denial of it. The world does not pay much attention to them.
  • Let us never forget this order deliberately chosen by our Lord; `the salt of the earth’ before `the light of the world’. We are something before we begin to act as something. The two things should always go together, but the order and sequence should be the one which He sets down here.
  • Bearing that in mind, let us now look at it practically. How is the Christian to show that he is indeed `the light of the world’?
  • The first thing light does is to expose the darkness and the things that belong to darkness.
  • Light not only reveals the hidden things of darkness, it also explains the cause of the darkness.
  • The sole cause of the troubles of the world at this moment, from the personal to the international level, is nothing but man’s estrangement from God. That is the light which only Christians have, and which they can give to the world.
  • In spite of all the knowledge that has been amassed in the last two hundred years since the beginning of the enlightenment half-way through the eighteenth century, fallen man by nature still `loves darkness rather than light’. The result is that, though he knows what is right, he prefers and does what is evil.
  • Light not only exposes the darkness; it shows and provides the only way out of the darkness.
  • What man needs is not more light; he needs a nature that will love the light and hate the darkness-the exact opposite of his loving the darkness and hating the light.
  • The Christian is here to tell him that there is a way to God, a very simple one. It is to know one Person called Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
  • He gives us that new life, the life that loves the light and hates the darkness, instead of loving the darkness and hating the light.

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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

connecting faith and workInteresting Links about Faith and Work

  • Finding a Job that Fits. Listen to this message from R.C. Sproul.
  • 7 False Assumptions Made about Introverts. Ron Edmondson writes “There are a lot of false assumptions made when someone is introverted.”
  • 10 Things We All Want from Our Leaders. Dan Rockwell is one of my favorite leadership bloggers. He has the gift of being able to deliver helpful advice in posts of 300 words or less. Here he shares 12 things we wish our leaders would stop and 10 things we all want from our leaders.
  • Great Leaders Walk the Talk. Mark Miller writes “When we do what we say we’re going to do, when we walk the talk, this builds trust and confidence in our leadership. When we fail to Embody the Values, we erode or destroy our opportunity to lead. As leaders, we must be adept at building trust.” He shares 3 steps to embody the values.
  • Authenticity. In this “Minute with Maxwell”, John Maxwell discusses what it means to be authentic.
  • 13 Key Points on Being an Authentic Leader. Brad Lomenick writes “Here are 13 points on the importance and practice of being Authentic as a Leader. You might consider these “Authenticity Rules.” And in today’s leadership culture, it’s true that “Authenticity does actually rule.””
  • Cut it Out: The Secret to Winning. In this “Tuesday Tip”, Dr. Alan Zimmerman writes “If you’re a leader or a manger that means you’ve got to keep on training your employees. And if you’re an individual contributor, you’ve got to recognize that school is not out and it never will be.”
  • 13 Points on Being an Authentic Leader. Brad Lomenick writes “Here are 13 points on the importance and practice of being Authentic as a Leader. You might consider these “Authenticity Rules.” And in today’s leadership culture, it’s true that “Authenticity does actually rule.”
  • Preacher with a Skate Shoe Named After Him. Bethany Jenkins interviews Brian Sumner, a professional skateboarder and evangelist pastor originally from Liverpool, England. In 2013, he produced a short film, Foolishness, which John Piper called “the fullest 60-minute gospel word I’ve heard.” Sumner currently serves as city pastor of Rock Harbor Church in Huntington Beach, California, where he lives with his wife and their three children.
  • Evangelism in the Workplace: Is Sharing Your Faith Ever Appropriate? Bill Peel writes about whether evangelism in the workplace is appropriate.
  • Three Reasons Leaders Must Constantly Ask “Why”. Eric Geiger writes “Wise leaders constantly ask “why.” Not because they find joy in questioning everything but because they want to ensure the thinking beneath the decisions is sound and the motivations beneath the actions are pure. Instead of mindlessly executing, they think deeply about what is beneath the execution. Instead of simply implementing, they care about the theology and philosophy underneath the implementation.”
  • Mentorship. In this “Minute with Maxwell”, John Maxwell encourages us to reach out to multiple mentors.
  • A Heart Transplant. Mark Miller writes “To become a leader people want to follow is primarily an issue of the heart. The truth is, if your heart is not right, no one cares about your skills.”
  • Seeing Seamlessly. Steven Garber, who gave the commencement address at my graduation from Covenant Seminary, writes “Every vocation at its truest is a call to see things as they really are, to understand the reality of the world that is really there. In science, in art, in economics, in education, in politics, in law, at home and at play, in our work and in our worship, from the most public of our responsibilities to the most personal of our relationships, we are called to the vocation of seeing seamlessly.”
  • Business as a Moral Community. Drew Cleveland writes “Integrating faith with the demands of work is a challenge many Christians face.  Two men with a lot of insight on faith, business ethics, integrity, and leadership recently sat down to discuss this challenge: Al Erisman of Seattle Pacific University and Bill Pollard, retired CEO of ServiceMaster and professor emeritus at Wheaton College. They recorded a video conversation about the God-honoring business model, thoughts on Peter Drucker, and the struggles of godly leaders in corporate management.” 
  • 5 Leadership Questions about using Profiles and Assessments to Build a Team. This episode of the 5 Leadership Questions podcast looks at the best ways to use profiles and assessments (think Strengthsfinders, Myers-Briggs, etc.) to craft the best team.
  • Seven Signs Success Has Outgrown Your Character. Eric Geiger writes “When a leader’s competence outpaces a leader’s character, implosion is imminent. When skills surpass the process of sanctification, the trajectory is downward though everything looks great on the outside. It is often easier to see the speck in someone else’s eye than the plank in our own, so here are seven signs your success is outpacing your character.”
  • Top 30 Must-Read Posts On Leadership/July 2015. Paul Sohn shares this helpful list of articles.
  • The Top 10 Ways Leaders Erode Trust. Randy Conley shares this helpful list.

Quotes about Faith and WorkNo one wants to follow people who are constantly impressed with themselves. Andy Andrews

The world is full of leaders with impressive credentials who people choose not to follow. Mark Miller

Success is not counted by how high you have climbed but by how many people you brought with you. Coach K

  • Don’t tell me what you start. Tell me what you finish. Dan Rockwell

Toby Mac

The Conviction to Lead by Albert MohlerThe Conviction to Lead Book Club ~ Won’t you read along with us?

The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters by Albert Mohler

We’re reading this excellent book on leadership principles from a renowned agent of change, Albert Mohler. It is one of the best that I’ve read on leadership and is broken down into 25 relatively short chapters. Won’t you read along with us? This week we complete our overview of the book by looking at

CHAPTER 25 – The Leader’s Legacy

  • The leader unconcerned about leaving a legacy is a leader who will leave the job undone.
  • Every leader must understand that whatever we contribute, build, and dream can be lost more quickly than we can imagine.
  • The leader’s central concern with regard to legacy is the perpetuation of conviction.
  • The convictional leader strives to the end to see fundamental beliefs taken up by others, who will then join in the mission that grows out of those convictions.
  • The evidence indicates that most leaders are not very good at managing succession and most organizations do little more than hope for the best.
  1. The leader’s first task is to make certain that the organization’s core commitments and convictions are shared by those who will hire the new leader.
  2. Second, the leader bears the responsibility of building a leadership team of outstanding individuals who fully share the leader’s convictions and vision.
  3. Third, the leader must communicate these convictions to the organization’s various constituencies, laying a solid foundation for a healthy succession.
  4. Fourth, the leader should strive to drive the convictions and beliefs so deeply into the culture and ethos of the organization that alteration or abandonment is seen as betrayal.
  5. Fifth, this means that every hiring decision is a legacy decision.
  • The ideal of retirement seems to be a life of leisure and ease, occasionally interrupted by travel and entertainment. That is a fundamentally dangerous concept.
  • For Christians the issue should be redeployment rather than retirement.
  • John Piper puts this new vision of our lives into clear focus when he writes, Finishing life to the glory of Christ means resolutely resisting the typical American dream of retirement. It means being so satisfied with all that God promises to be for us in Christ that we are set free from the cravings that create so much emptiness and uselessness in retirement. Instead, knowing that we have an infinitely satisfying and everlasting inheritance in God just over the horizon of life makes us zealous in our few remaining years here to spend ourselves in the sacrifices of love, not the accumulation of comforts.
  • The legacy I aspire to is the perpetuation of conviction and the furtherance of a worthy mission—nothing less.
  • Your legacy is all that remains when you are gone. Do you have any idea what that legacy will be? Answering that question honestly is part of what it means to have the conviction to lead.