Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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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. ‏

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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
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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….
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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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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Book Reviews
How to Be a Perfect Christian: Your Comprehensive Guide to Flawless Spiritual Living. Multnomah. 208 pages. 2018
****

I’ve been enjoying the witty satire from The Babylon Bee for the past few years and had been looking forward to this book, which doesn’t disappoint. I had a smile on my face the entire time I was reading this book by Adam Ford and Kyle Mann as they give the reader tongue in cheek advice on how to be the perfect Christian.  As you work your way through the book on your journey to becoming the perfect Christian, you can get helpful updates by using The Babylon Bee’s proprietary “Holiness Progress Tracker 5000”.
The authors tell us how to find just the right church to join – one that is focused solely on you. They encourage you to find a church that emphasizes and cultivates the historical Christian virtues of convenience and comfort. The authors walk the reader through topics such as the church auditorium, worship service, worship leader, pastor, small groups, praying in public, the use of Christianese, serving (or not), your online presence (this section really nailed me), films to watch, the need to home school, vote Republican, etc. They do all of this in a humorous manner, but also in a way that hits pretty close to home at times.
Highly recommended for those who wish to be the perfect Christian!

Miracle in Shreveport: A Memoir of Baseball, Fatherhood, and The Stadium That Launched a Dream by David and Jason Benham with Tim Ellsworth. Thomas Nelson. 208 pages. 2018.
****

This true and inspirational story is about the dream of twin brothers David and Jason Benham.  Their dream was to play professional baseball. With their father’s pastoral salary, the family couldn’t take elaborate vacations growing up, so each year they would travel from their home in Garland, Texas to Atlanta, Georgia to visit their Mom’s family. On their route was Fair Grounds Field, home of the Shreveport Captains minor league team. As the family would pass by the stadium each year, their father Flip would lead them in prayer that God would one day allow his two boys to play in that very stadium as professionals and on the same team. Now that’s quite a dream. The boys and their father placed that dream in God’s hands. Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Devoted: Great Men and Their Godly Moms by Tim Challies. Challies. 128 pages. 2018
**** 

Tim Challies’ latest book, which celebrates mothers who were used to shape the men who changed the world, began as a series of articles. Rebecca Stark and Melissa Edgington added helpful “Questions for Reflection” for each chapter, and Edgington also adds “A Mother’s Reflection” at the end of each chapter.
He tells us that it may surprise us to learn how many of our Christian heroes were shaped by the attentiveness and godliness of their mothers. Even though they may have had fathers who were present, involved, and godly, they would insist that their primary spiritual influencer had been their mother. In this book, he takes a brief look at some of them. Below are a few items I highlighted about each of the remarkable women profiled in this short book:

The Hidden Strength of a Weak Mother – John Newton

  • Elizabeth consistently trained her son in Reformed theology.
  • Elizabeth prayed and hoped God would call him to ministry.
  • As biographer Jonathan Aitken says, “The spiritual lessons the boy had learned at his mother’s knee were never forgotten. They become the foundation for Newton’s eventual conversion and Christian commitment.”

The Prayer of a Godly Mother – Hudson Taylor

  • She determined to pray for her son until she came to a sense of assurance that God would save him.
  • Rightly would he be known as one of the great Christian missionaries. And his story cannot be told without giving due credit to the power of a praying mother.

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The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton, Lara Love Hardin, and Bryan Stevenson
****

I first became aware of Bryan Stevenson and the work on the Equal Justice Institute through Stevenson’s excellent book Just Mercy. Stevenson tells us that Anthony Ray Hinton was released from prison after spending nearly thirty years in solitary confinement on Alabama’s death row. Hinton is one of the longest-serving condemned prisoners facing execution in America to be proved innocent and released. Stevenson tells us that no one that he has represented has inspired him more than Hinton. Hinton tells his both heart-breaking and inspiring story in this book. It includes themes of survival, justice, perseverance, and forgiveness.
Hinton writes that he was working the night shift in a locked warehouse when the manager at a Quincy’s restaurant fifteen miles away was abducted, robbed, and shot. Hinton was mistakenly identified. The police claimed an old .38 caliber pistol owned by his mother was the weapon used. The State of Alabama claimed this gun was not only used in the Quincy’s robbery and attempted murder but also two other murders in the area where restaurant managers had been robbed at closing time, forced into coolers, and then murdered. Hinton was arrested and charged with the murders. Hinton was extremely close to his mother and his best friend Lester. They never doubted his innocence.
The prosecutor was McGregor. He was able to consolidate the cases, relate them to a third, and put the death penalty on the table. Perhacs, Hinton’s court appointed attorney did a poor job in defending him, especially in selecting an expert ballistics witness who was blind in one eye. Hinton was sentenced to death by electrocution. Providentially, by sentencing him to death, he would be guaranteed an appeal and some representation by his attorney. If he had been sentenced to life, he would have had to hire an attorney to appeal.
He tells his story of growing up in segregated schools in Praco, Alabama, before being bussed to a white school in Birmingham. He had been happy in Praco, but experienced racism in Birmingham. He was the youngest of ten children.
Everyone who lived in Praco either worked in the coal mines or for the mining company in some way. His father had worked in the coal mines until he got hit in the head and had to go live in an institution. After that, his mother was in charge of the family. She made sure that they went to church. He eventually ended up working the coal mines for five years.
His weakness was women. He attended church with his mother, and prayed for forgiveness, but was back with the women on Monday. He and his mother would later move to Burnwell, near Praco. He was the youngest child and it was expected that he would stay with his mother and help her out. He got in some trouble with the law by stealing a car. He eventually turned himself in and served a few months in a work release program in 1983.
Hinton was indicted for the murders by a grand jury on November 8, 1985. He insisted on his innocence, asking to take a polygraph test, which concluded that he was telling the truth – that he was innocent.
But it only took the jury two hours to find him guilty, and just forty-five minutes to determine his punishment, death. His prison cell on death row at Holman Prison was only five feet wide and about seven feet long. He writes that no one can understand what freedom means until they don’t have it. He writes that he was afraid every single day on death row. He also found a way to find joy every single day. He learned that fear and joy are both a choice.
It was during this time, that he turned his back on God for a few years. He felt that God had forsaken him, failed him and left him to die. He threw his Bible under his bed.  He felt a darkness in himself that he had never felt before as he imagined how he would kill McGregor if given the chance.
Perhacs would be replaced by Santha Soneberg, then Alan Black and later by Bryan Stevenson. He writes that there are some people you meet and you know they are going to change your life forever. Meeting Bryan Stevenson was like that for Hinton.
He writes of fifty-four people who were executed during the time he was on death row, and the terrible smell that was in the air afterwards. He got the warden to approve a book club on death row. Only six men were allowed to participate at a time, but the books were shared widely and discussed with those on death row.
He came to a point that he could forgive McGregor, indicating that his sins were between him and God. He also forgave the rest who lied leading to his arrest and conviction. He forgives because that’s how his mother raised him, and because he has a God who forgives. He would pass the time on death row in his imagination traveling to exotic locations, spending time with beautiful women and playing championship sports.
Hinton writes that “Until we have a way of ensuring that innocent men are never executed—until we account for the racism in our courts, in our prisons, and in our sentencing—the death penalty should be abolished.”
Stevenson would work with Hinton for more than fifteen years, eventually reaching the United States Supreme Court. Hinton writes that Stevenson cared about him so much that it moved him in a way that was beyond words. He knew that Stevenson was doing everything he could to save his life. He writes that there is no way he can repay him. His friend Lester visited him in prison every week that Hinton was in prison. Hinton writes that the world had changed, but Lester’s friendship always remained the same.
Today Hinton is grateful to be alive and grateful to be free. He is a voice for the men still on death row and for justice. He wants to end the death penalty.
He ends the book with a list of all who sit on death row as of March 2017. He writes that statistically, one out of every ten men on the list is innocent.

The Gospel According to God by John MacArthur. Crossway. 224 pages. 2018
****

This is respected pastor and Bible teacher John MacArthur’s fourth book in his The Gospel According to series. This book looks primarily at Isaiah 53, which he tells us includes the whole story of salvation in prophesy. He states that this is the most remarkable chapter in the Old Testament. Augustine called it the “Fifth Gospel”, and Luther thought that every Christian should memorize Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12.
The author tells us that Isaiah is the most quoted Old Testament prophet in the New Testament. His prophesies, written more than seven centuries before the birth of Jesus, were so accurate, that critics have claimed that multiple people had to have written the book.
There is a significant amount of doctrine included in Isaiah 53, including the penal, or substitutionary atonement of Jesus, the sovereign initiative of God and the justification of many. The author tells us that this is the doctrine of the Protestant Reformers, the Puritans and their heirs, but is challenged by some within the church today. For example, one writer has called the substitutionary atonement of Jesus “child abuse”.
The Ethiopian eunuch was reading from this chapter when Philip came upon him in Acts 8: 26-39. The chapter is a magnetic description of Christ’s sacrifice for sins. The author believes Isaiah 53 is the most important text in the Old Testament but tells us that many Jews are not familiar with it, as the passage is never read in their worship.
The author provides a brief overview of the entire book of Isaiah, the life, times and politics (kings) of Isaiah the prophet, a mysterious figure, and a detailed exposition of Isaiah 53. The book explains the prophetic words of Isaiah 53 verse by verse, highlighting connections to the history of Israel and to the New Testament.
This book is a wonderful, clear exposition of the prophesies of the suffering and glory of Jesus, the Suffering Servant, the Servant of God, who was slaughtered by God for us. A sermon of Charles Spurgeon “The Man of Sorrows” is included as an appendix.
The author has been a faithful expositor of God’s Word for fifty years. I highly recommend this book for not only believers, but also skeptics and those of the Jewish faith. The audiobook version is well-read by Bob Souer.

  • Christian Audio Free Audiobook of the Month. This month’s free is an excellent one, Reset by David Murray.
  • A Christian Case for Transgenderism? Andrew T. Walker writes “Unfortunately, Transforming isn’t a trustworthy guide to help the gender-confused individual understand their gender identity in relationship to the lordship of Christ. In fact, the book scuddles efforts at finding one’s true identity in Christ. Transforming, tragically, lies so far outside biblical Christianity that basic Christian truths and even the very words of Christ become unrecognizable.”
  • 2018 Christian Book Award Finalists. The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) named 58 finalists in eleven categories for their annual book awards. Nominees include books that I have read and recommend by John MacArthur, Robert Godfrey, Burk Parsons, Andy Crouch, and Keith and Kristyn Getty.

BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?

The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down: The Lord’s Prayer as a Manifesto for Revolution by Albert Mohler. 224 pages. 2018

In this new book, step by step, phrase by phrase, Dr. Mohler explains what the words in The Lord’s Prayer mean and how we are to pray them.

Here’s the notes from Chapter 4: Your Kingdom Come

  • The Lord’s Prayer is for revolutionaries, for men and women who want to see the kingdoms of this world give way to the kingdom of our Lord.
  • What is the kingdom of God? That question is one of the oldest and most hotly contested theological issues in the Christian church.
  • Among these attempts at explaining the kingdom of God, Augustine’s City of God has proven the most helpful and the most in line with the teachings of Scripture.
  • They demonstrated that in Scripture the kingdom of God must be understood as something that is already here on earth but not yet fully present. In other words, the kingdom of God has been inaugurated but not yet consummated.
  • In our current stage in redemptive history, therefore, God’s kingdom is made up of those who believe in Christ (God’s people) gathered in local churches across the world (God’s place) under the law of Christ and partaking of the new covenant (God’s rule and blessing).
  • Thus, while we are indeed in God’s kingdom, we still await God’s kingdom in its fullness. We still await the completion of the Great Commission. We still await the coming of the king and the destruction of all wickedness. We long for the day when we will no longer be the church militant, but the church triumphant.
  • God’s kingdom is essentially his reign over his people for their good and his glory. God’s reign is not just his absolute sovereignty; it is also a redemptive reign that transforms hearts and creates obedience.
  • Jesus is clearly referring to God’s revealed will. He is asking the Father to reshape the hearts of every single person such that God is obeyed and glorified by men on earth as the angels obey and glorify God in heaven.
  • Praying “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” also reorients our own sense of personal autonomy and sense of control over our own lives and situations. This petition causes us to forfeit all our personal claims of lordship and sovereignty over our lives. This petition expresses a humble resignation to and desire for the reign and rule of God. It is no longer “my will” that is preeminent, but his.
  • One of the reasons we must pray for God to advance his kingdom is because we, in and of ourselves, cannot cause the kingdom to come.
  • The rapid disappearance of cultural Christianity in our own time will mean that Christians may soon find themselves in a situation similar to that of the early church in Rome or the Confessing Church in Nazi Germany. Praying for the coming of God’s kingdom will be considered culturally and politically subversive.
  • So, what are we asking when we say “your kingdom come”? We are asking for something wonderful and something dangerous all at the same time.
  • This is indeed a radical prayer. We must not take this petition lightly. But, as we have seen, this petition also carries great hope.


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Halftime: Moving from Success to Significance by Bob Buford. Zondervan. 224 pages. 2011 Edition.
****

This book was recently recommended to a friend of mine by a leader we both respected who has recently retired. Being at the same stage of life as my friend, I decided to read the book as well. This is an updated and revised edition of the author’s best-selling book. It includes new stories, questions and answers, and a new chapter on doing “Halftime” if you can’t quit your job.
Using the analogy of a sports game (think football or basketball), the author tells us that the first half of our lives (usually our first 40 years or so), is when we focus most on our careers and less on others and significant causes. It is the time for following our dreams, chasing and acquiring success. It is also the season to develop our faith and learn more from the Bible about how to approach life. It is here that we learn, gain and earn.
“Halftime” is when you take stock of what you have accomplished thus far in your life and look for ways to move from success to significance. It’s a chance to dig more deeply into what you believe and evaluate whether your life is heading in a direction aligned with your beliefs.
The second half is the time when you can truly make a significant contribution to the world. The author states that the biggest mistake most of us make in the first half of our lives is not taking enough time for the things that are really important.  The second half is the season for us to use our gifts in service to others.
Throughout the book the author tells his personal story. His father died when he was in the fifth grade. His mother went on to found a successful radio and then later television company, which she would later turn over to him. His mother died in a hotel fire when the author was only 31. Later, the author would lose his only son at 24 years old in a drowning accident.
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