Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


Letters to the Church by Francis Chan. David C. Cook. 224 pages. 2018
****

I haven’t been challenged so much by a book since I first read Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love several years ago. This book has a lot of similarities to Crazy Love, as the author looks at what a church should be according to scripture and shows where the American church is lacking. I read the book in two days, and I’m sure I will read it many more times, just as I have Crazy Love. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year.
The author begins the book by discussing why he left Cornerstone Church eight years ago. He admits that he didn’t lead very well, and that leaving Cornerstone was not an easy decision. After some time overseas, he felt that the Lord was leading him to come back to America to plant churches. Five years ago, twenty years after planting Cornerstone out of a living room, he planted We Are Church  In San Francisco.
Each chapter, or letter, of the book addresses a different issue a church may or may not need to work on. The author writes that the book is about the most obvious commands repeated throughout the entire Bible. He tried to pay attention to the times when God seems most bothered by what His people were doing. He has tried to point out only the most obvious biblical truths about God’s desire for His Bride—truths that he writes none of us can afford to ignore. He states that he has written from the perspective of not worrying about the fallout from the book, but sought only to be faithful to God.
Throughout the book he provides encouraging examples of international churches. However, he writes that as he examines the state of the Christian Church today, he can’t help but think that God is displeased with many of the churches in America. He states that the more he studies the Gospels, the more he is convinced that those of us who live in the United States have a warped view of what it means to be a “Christian”, and it is for that reason our churches are in the state they are in.
The author uses a lot of scripture in this book. Aspects of church that he addresses in the book include devotion to scripture, prayer, unity, community, love, serving others, leadership, humility, suffering and children.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
More of this review…
BOOK REVIEW ~ The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down: The Lord’s Prayer as a Manifesto for Revolution by Albert Mohler
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age by Jonathan Leeman
I’M CURRENTLY READING….
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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Gay Girl, Good God by Jackie Hill Perry. B&H Books. 208 pages. 2018
****

Jackie Hill Perry is a 29-year-old writer, speaker and artist, who was born in St. Louis. She writes that she has written this book out of love for what a good God has done for her – loving her and giving her new life and a new heart. She tells us that what God has done to her soul is worth telling. It is to invite us into her worship.
The book is broken into three parts.
Part 1: Who I Was
The author tells us that she was attracted to girls before she knew how to spell her name. After discussing what took place in her second-grade classroom, she writes that in 2006 she was asked by a girl at a high school dance if she wanted to be her girlfriend. She said “no” at the time, but really wanted to. But when she thought of the girl she would think of spending eternity in hell. Her heart was saying “yes” but her conscience was saying “no”. Eventually she gave in, however. Satan told her to do what felt good. She trusted herself more than she trusted God. Sin was better than submission.
The author’s mother and her father, an employee at her mother’s restaurant met at an East St. Louis club in 1988. This would eventually lead to a pregnancy. The author’s mother considered aborting the child. The relationship between Jackie’s mother and father didn’t work out, and Jackie grew up without a father at home. He rarely visited and she was convinced that he didn’t love her. Jackie writes of him dying unexpectedly at a relatively young age.
Jackie was sexually abused by a teen-age family member in a dark basement. As she grew up, her experiences with men in her life were an absentee father and a sexually abusive relative.
As a lesbian, Jackie was manly, and her girlfriend wanted her to play the role of the stud in their relationship. She would have at least one other girlfriend.
At that time, Jackie was an enemy of God. But God was using her conscience. He was, as she called it, ‘hunting her’. In addition, a family member prayed for her. She realized that she would have to choose between God and her girlfriend. She writes about being saved in her room.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for more of this book review and:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ How Should I Think about Money? by R.C. Sproul
Morning and Evening: A New Edition of the Classic Devotional by Charles H. Spurgeon
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles and Free Audiobook!
BOOK CLUB ~ How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age by Jonathan Leeman
I’M CURRENTLY READING….
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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Book Reviews
Moses and the Burning Bush by R.C. Sproul. Reformation Trust Publishing. 96 pages. 2018
**** 

This short book by the late Dr. R.C. Sproul is based on one of his last teaching series of the same title. He writes that the burning bush has been a significant symbol throughout the history of the church, and for good reason. The account of the burning bush is a story about the holiness of God. He tells us that God Himself appeared, through the manifestation of His Presence in the bush and that what Moses experienced at the burning bush is what God’s people experience today: a holy, transcendent, all-consuming God who comes down to dwell with His people. He knows us.
This book considers the significance of the burning bush event, looking at Moses’ life leading up to that encounter and focusing on the knowledge of God that is revealed in that particular incident. In this book Dr. Sproul looks to answer the question of why the bush was burning and yet not being consumed.
Moses was the mediator of the old covenant. That office made Moses one of the most important people in the entire Old Testament. As a mediator, he stood between God and the people of Israel. Moses foreshadowed the greater Mediator who would come later—the Mediator of the new covenant, Christ Himself.
The author tells us that there are occasions in redemptive history where the invisible God makes Himself visible by some kind of manifestation. That is called a theophany, and it’s what we see with the burning bush. What Moses saw in this fire was a supernatural, visible manifestation of the glory of God. He had a momentary encounter with the Holy, and the closer he got, the more afraid he became.
The author tells us that he believes that the greatest weakness in our day is the virtual eclipse of the character of God, even within our churches.
The first thing that God reveals about Himself in that name is that He is personal.
The author addresses such topics as God’s self-existence, His transcendence and His aseity. Self-existence means that He depends on nothing and no one for His existence. Only God has the concept of self-existence. The author tells us that if God is self-existent, eternal, and pure, then He is, by definition, transcendent. When we consider the transcendence and aseity of our God, we will respond in worship and awe—just as Moses did at the burning bush.
The author tells us that the second most important act of redemption ever accomplished in history, and the second most difficult mission ever given by God to a human being, was the mission God gave to Moses.
The author tells us that in the burning bush we see the revelation of the person of God, of the power of God, and of the eternality of God. We see the revelation of the compassion of God, the redemption of God, and now, finally, the truth of God.
The author was known for his teaching on the holiness of God. This book is another wonderful look at that attribute of God.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEW ~ The Prayer of the Lord by R.C. Sproul
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB   ~ How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age by Jonathan Leeman
I’M CURRENTLY READING….

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Book Reviews

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

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

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