Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. IVP Books. 241 pages. 2016
****

I’m a big proponent of personality assessments, and have utilized several in the workplace, such as Myers-Briggs, Strengthsfinder and StandOut. I always find out more about myself and others through these tools. While many in my church have been proponents of the Enneagram for years, I really didn’t know anything about it. I found this book to be an excellent introduction to the Enneagram.
The authors of this book provide a brief history of the Enneagram, which some believe dates back to the 4th century. Among other callings, Ian Morgan Cron is an Enneagram teacher. Some of the material in the book comes from the lectures of co-author Suzanne Stabile, a master teacher of the Enneagram.
The Enneagram includes nine personality types or numbers that are grouped into three triads (anger, feeling, fear). Each type has a dynamic relationship with four other types, touching the two on either side (wing numbers), as well as two on other side of arrows.
Each type has one of the seven deadly sins attached to it. No types are better than any other. All have strengths and weaknesses. Your curse is the flipside of your blessing. For each type, your gift is also your curse. Your number is not what you do, but why you do it. The Enneagram takes into account the fluid nature of our personality. It is intended to help us on the journey back to our true selves.
The book covers each of the types, not in numerical order, but within its triad. As each type is covered, healthy and unhealthy examples of that type are given. Challenges for that type are given, as well as the go-to emotion for the type, and what the type looked like as a child. They also look at the type in relationships and at work, and address how each type handles stress and security. We are told how the “wing numbers” impact each type, and that each type has a signature communication style. For each type, examples from history are listed. The Enneagram takes into account the fluid nature of our personality. It is intended to help us on the journey back to our true selves.
As I heard about each type, I tried to figure out which one I was, as well as friends, family and colleagues at work. I tested as a “3 – The Performer”. The authors state that America is a country of “3’s”. They tell us to look for the type that describes who you currently are, not what you want to be.
I enjoyed sharing information about the book and the Enneagram test with team members at work and my family. We plan to do a debrief as a family on our upcoming vacation.
The book includes helpful stories that illustrate the points. A helpful “Spiritual Transformation” section is included at the end of each chapter.
For more information about the book, check out its official site, and their podcast, which is available on iTunes.

  • From Weakness to Strength: 8 Vulnerabilities That Can Bring Out the Best in Your Leadership. I’m looking forward to this new book from Scott Sauls, to be published October 1.
  • The Vanishing American Adult – Book Review.Eric Davis reviews Ben Sasse’s new book The Vanishing America Adult. He writes “I heartily recommend the book to parents and non-parents; to democrats and republicans, and anyone who wants to think intelligently and tangibly about raising a generation better than ours.”
  • The Mythical Leader: 7 Myths of Leadership. Skip Prichard interviews Ron Edmondson (one of my favorite leadership bloggers) about his excellent new book The Mythical Leader.
  • One More Time on Game of Thrones. Kevin DeYoung writes “I cannot imagine how anyone growing closer to the God of the Bible will want to see more sex and nudity, or that anyone has found shows like Game of Thronesto be a serious blessing in seeing and savoring Christ. We become what we behold. So let’s be careful little eyes what we see.”
  • Do You Read the Bible Like a Nonbeliever? John Piper writes “The most basic prayer we can pray about reading the Bible is that God would give us the desire to read this book. Not just the will— that would be next best — but the desire.

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


The Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones by Steven J. Lawson. Reformation Trust Publishing. 154 pages. 2016.   
****

In the latest edition of the A Long Line of Godly Men Profile series, the author, also the editor of the series and a passionate preacher himself, states that Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was perhaps most responsible for leading a return to expository preaching in the 20th century, and was one of the greatest preachers of any century. He preached at Westminster Chapel in London for 30 years, where 2,000 would gather each Lord’s Day, to hear his more than 4,000 sermons delivered during his time there. Those sermons, both in audio and written formats, continue to have great impact today, more than 36 years after his death.
The author looks at the life and preaching of Lloyd-Jones, known as “the Doctor”, a respected physician turned preacher. In a brief biographical sketch (see Iain Murray’s biographical works for a complete look at the Doctor’s life), the author tells us that Lloyd-Jones was born in 1899. He became a distinguished young physician with a promising career before he was born again at age 25. He then changed careers, and began his new calling as a Calvinist Methodist pastor in South Wales. Remembering how he had believed himself to be a Christian when he was not, he would preach as an evangelist. He preached with logic on fire, never telling jokes or stories in his sermons.  He refused to use church growth techniques.
Lloyd-Jones had great influence outside of England. His preaching at Westminster Seminary led to the still influential book Preaching and Preachers.  He founded the Banner of Truth Trust, which still publishes excellent books today. Lloyd-Jones had a passion for revival. He retired from Westminster in 1968 when diagnosed with colon cancer. After that, he edited his sermons into book form and spoke more widely. Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Book Reviews

Unscripted: The Unpredictable Moments That Make Life Extraordinary by Ernie Johnson Jr. Baker Books. 224 pages. 2017
****

The popular host of “Inside the NBA” shares unscripted moments in his life which he called “Blackberry Moments”. He encourages us to embrace these moments and the blessings in our lives. In this book, he includes some wonderful stories and memories from his personal and professional life and how God has worked in his life. Included in the book are excerpts from his writings (eulogy, poems, journals); his writing (and narration of the audiobook edition), is witty and humorous.
Family is extremely important to the author. He and his wife Cheryl have six children, including four that they have adopted, one that has special needs and two of whom who had endured the sex trafficking industry.
His father, Ernie Johnson Sr., was the best man in his wedding and his best friend. He was a pitcher in the major leagues and later the broadcaster of the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves. The two would work together in the booth for Braves games. Ernie Jr. gave the eulogy for his father in 2011. The text of that moving message is included here. His parents were married for 63 years. His father was the greatest influence on his life.
Ernie wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and play in the major leagues, but after getting cut from the University of Georgia baseball team as a sophomore, he pursued a career in the media. He would start doing the news, but would quickly move to sports.
He would meet his future wife Cheryl while she was working as a bank teller. She would later serve in a number of non-profit organizations in Atlanta.  He includes touching stories about son Michael with Muscular Dystrophy, his fascination with cars and his significant health issues.
He writes about hosting “Inside the NBA” for 25 years with Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley, and more recently with Shaquille O’Neill. Of particular interest was his decision to choose to attend his son’s high school graduation rather than broadcast an important seventh game of an NBA postseason series.
Raised Roman Catholic, Ernie writes of his faith being dormant. He was drawn to Christ in 1997 at Crossroads Church in Georgia (now known as 12Stone Church). Wife Cheryl would be drawn to Christ a few years later.
Ernie noticed a bump on his face one day while shaving. He would wait six months to have it looked at by a doctor, and would be diagnosed with stage 2 Follicular Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He would eventually go through six cycles of chemotherapy. Afterwards, he would have a new appreciation for life.
It was a joy to read this book and hear about how God has worked in Ernie’s life.

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke. 224 pages. Crossway. 2017
****

Look around, and many of the people you see will be looking down at their smartphone. It is amazing how smartphones have transformed our culture. This well-researched book by Tony Reinke is both an important one and a timely one.
More than a billion iPhones have been sold since Apple introduced it in 2007. Smartphones are now omnipresent. Amazingly, people check their smartphones about every four minutes they are awake.
The author looks at the positives (all the things they can do for us), and negatives (distractions, easier access to sexual sin, for example) of smartphones. The book is neither pro-smartphone, nor anti-smart phone. He encourages us to consider what impact the smartphone has had on our spiritual lives. He states that we might not know what our smartphones are doing to us, but we are being changed. He looks at the question of what is the best use of our smartphones in the flourishing of our life. The book is more diagnostic and worldview than it is application. The author states that the book will succeed only if we enjoy Christ more.
The author tells us that to look at our smartphone history is like piercing into our souls. Our smartphone habits expose our hearts.
He looks at a history of technology and offers a theology of technology. He shares that those addicted to smartphones are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety and have a harder time concentrating at work and sleeping. He looks at the spiritual dimensions and consequences of our digital addiction and distractions. For example, when texting while driving, we are twenty-seven times more likely to have an accident. He addresses topics such as online anger, approval addiction (likes, shares, followers) and the impact smartphones have had on our reading of books, including the Bible. Other topics he looks at are identity and idolatry (do we worship our smartphones, our online presence?), isolation, slander, and the fear of missing out or being left out. Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Learning to Love the Psalms by Robert Godfrey. Reformation Trust Publishing. 263 pages. 2017
****

The author, a respected seminary president and professor, mentions that over the past several years the Psalms have been his favorite book of the Bible. He begins the book by looking at the attractiveness of the Psalms and asks why the book of Psalms is not more important to Christians today. He states that the aim of the book is to help the reader understand and appreciate the Psalms at a new level.
He tells us that John Calvin believed that singing in worship should include only the words found in the Bible. Calvin was responsible for versifying the Psalms, and stated that the Psalms were an anatomy of all the parts of the soul.
The author states that the main theme of the Psalms is God’s goodness and unfailing love for the righteous. There are also multiple subordinate themes of the Psalms that he identifies. They are:

-The sinfulness of the righteous
-The mysteries of providence in the success of the wicked
-The mysteries of providence in the suffering of the righteous
-Confidence in God and the future despite difficulties

The author tells us that keeping these themes in mind will help the reader see the basic message of the Psalms more clearly.
We are told that many (73) of the Psalms are specifically credited to David. The Psalms are from the perspective of the King. The New Testament quotes the Psalms 376 times from 115 different Psalms. The author writes that Jesus “fills and fulfills” the Psalms, and that he loved the Psalms.
The author tells us that we need to understand the forms of Hebrew poetry. He mentions the groups, or groupings, of Psalms. There are five sections to the book of Psalms. For each he devotes seven chapters in this book. Each chapter includes an introduction, and then he looks at six or more psalms from that section in detail. He also gives us ten good questions to ask of each psalm.
The book includes helpful questions for reflection and discussion at the end of each chapter. I really enjoyed this excellent book, and I think anyone who would like to learn more about the book of Psalms will as well. Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

The Gospel According to Paul: Embracing the Good News at the Heart of Paul’s Teachings by John MacArthur. Thomas Nelson. 256 pages. 2017
****

I can’t think of anyone else that I would rather have write on the Gospel than John MacArthur. The 77-year-old pastor has faithfully served his church for more than 48 years. This is his third book in his The Gospel According To series, with previous books from the perspectives of Jesus and the Apostles.
The author writes that Paul was unlike any of the other apostles with his intelligence and academic credentials. Paul wrote more New Testament books than any other author. He consistently explained and defended the Gospel in his writings.
The author states that next to Jesus, Paul is the model for his pastoral ministry. Paul encourages us to imitate him and he imitated Christ.
The author reviews attacks on the Gospel (lordship salvation, etc.) he has addressed in some of his previous books. This book looks at the Gospel as Paul proclaims it in his writings; it also includes four appendices.
The author writes that the Gospel is under attack in our culture. It is also very much misunderstood by many. Most, if not all other religions besides Christianity, are works-based. They are about what we need to do. On the other hand, the Gospel is what God has already done for sinners. The Gospel is good news for sinners who can’t save themselves. But we first have to recognize that we are sinners and the helpless state of fallen humanity.
Paul has written that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. He also wrote that no one seeks after God. Yet many churches continue to design their worship experiences for the “seeker”.
Given sin, how can a man be made right with God? The author states that the Gospel is the answer to that question.
The author goes over Paul’s writing on justification by faith alone (Sola Fide), and that Christians are justified by grace through faith. Justification is a gift. Grace is why the Gospel is such good news.
The author discusses penal substitutionary atonement, which some liberal theologians find abhorrent. He writes about the Great Exchange (2 Corinthians 5:21) and the offense of the cross.
The author writes about the sovereignty of God in salvation, and that our salvation is entirely God’s work. Christ’s righteousness is imputed to sinners. Christ is our perfect substitute.
He also writes about such weighty topics as election, legalism and antinomianism in a manner that laypeople can easily understand them.
Highly recommended!

  • What I’m Reading. I found it interesting to see what Russell Moore has been reading lately.
  • 2017 Summer Reading List for Christians. David Qaoud shares 10 summer book recommendations. I’ve read most of these and have Reset and 12 Ways Your Smartphone is Changing You on my summer reading list.
  • A Stack of Books for the Season: Summer Reading List for 2017. Albert Mohler shares his summer reading list. He writes “The following is my list of ten recommended books for summer reading. This list must be seen for what it is — a recommendation of ten books I am eager to recommend — books that I found thought-provoking and fun. My summer list tends, quite naturally, to reveal what I most enjoy reading in the season. As usual, the list is weighted towards history and historical biography.”

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Book Reviews

The Legacy of Luther, edited by R. C. Sproul and Stephen J. Nichols. Reformation Trust Publishing. 303 pages. 2016
****

This is a wonderful volume to read as we celebrate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing of the Ninety-Five Theses (which are included in an appendix) to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, initiating the Protestant Reformation. This anthology of essays honoring Luther from some of the most respected Reformed theologians today looks at several aspects of the life, ministry and legacy of the great reformer.
This in-depth volume includes a Foreword by John MacArthur and chapters by respected pastors and theologians such as Sinclair Ferguson, Steven Lawson, David Calhoun (who I enjoyed two church history courses at Covenant Seminary with), Michael Horton, Robert Godfrey, Gene Veith, Derek Thomas and many others. These essays cover a wide variety of aspects of Luther’s life and ministry, including his life at home, his music, his doctrine of scripture, the doctrine of justification by faith alone, his doctrine of vocation, as a man of conflict, his later years, as a preacher, on the sacraments, and a final reflection from R.C. Sproul on Luther and the life of the pastor-theologian.
The legacy of Martin Luther is vast and varied, and this book offers an attempt to summarize that legacy. The book is written for, and can be enjoyed by, both those who have little knowledge of Luther, and also for those who know him well. The book is organized into three sections – Luther’s Life, Luther’s Thought and Luther’s Legacy.
I highly recommend this book as a way to get to know Luther – warts and all – as we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Reading Romans with Luther by R.J. Grunewald. Concordia Publishing. 136 pages. 2017
***

I was interested in reading this short book for several reasons. First, I enjoy reading books about the great Protestant Reformer Martin Luther, especially during this 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Second, Romans is my favorite book of the Bible, and it is also where I was in my reading through the Bible at the time this book was published. Third, I have enjoyed the author’s blog and looked forward to reading a book by him.
The author, a Lutheran pastor, states that the book is meant to introduce the reader to the work of Martin Luther, to explain his words in a way that removes some of the intimidation. He realizes that Luther’s works can be intimidating, and this book is meant to take some of that intimidation away and guide the reader into Luther’s works. The author wants you to look at this book as Luther for everyday life.
The book does not contain Luther’s entire commentary on Romans, but only pertinent paragraphs that go along with the themes outlined in the table of contents. Rather than providing a linear exploration of Luther’s commentary, the author has divided and rearranged it according to thematic teachings in Romans. Continue reading