Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Good News: The Gospel of Jesus Christ by John MacArthur. Reformation Trust Publishing. 143 pages. 2018
****

In this book about Jesus Christ and the Gospel, from one of our most respected pastors and authors, John MacArthur tells us that a right understanding of Jesus Christ is essential to understanding many other vital truths, particularly the gospel and salvation. He tells us that there is no good news apart from Christ, and how we answer the question “Who is Jesus?” has significant and ultimately permanent consequences. The right answer alone can lead to salvation.
The author addresses that there are even those who identify themselves as evangelicals that teach that there is more than one way to get to Heaven. He tells us that today the word evangelical is so ambiguous that it doesn’t really mean anything. A high percentage (between 45 and 65 percent of so-called evangelical Christians), are convinced that Jesus is not the only way to heaven. He writes that a “radically abridged and ambiguous view” of the gospel has captivated the church today. But there is no “back door” to heaven. If we don’t know the true God and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, we will suffer the fury of God. Jesus made it clear to people that they needed to repent and believe.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and a review of Are People Basically Good? (Crucial Questions Book 25) by R.C. Sproul
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
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A Company of Heroes: Portraits from the Gospel’s Global Advance by Tim Keesee. Crossway. 284 pages. 2019
****

The author is the founder and executive director of Frontline Missions International. I’ve enjoyed and appreciated his excellent ten-part video series Dispatches from the Front. Much of this book has the feel of those videos as he travels around the world to visit believers. These believers are heroes to him, and they should be to us as well. They trusted him to tell their stories despite the risks they face as they live on mission in hard places. He has shared jungle paths, desert roads, and city streets on five continents with these believers. They are heroes for the ways in which they magnify the grace and power of the risen Christ. They are foot soldiers in the long campaign as Christ builds his church across the centuries and among all peoples. The author writes that every time he goes to another corner of the world and sees the church growing and the gospel changing lives, his view of God gets bigger.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and a review of Enjoy Your Prayer Life by Michael Reeves
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


Uncommon Ground: Living Faithfully in a World of Difference, edited by Tim Keller and John Inazu. Thomas Nelson. 237 pages. 2020
***

Books in which a different author writes each chapter can be tricky. You might connect with one author and not another, and that’s just how I found this book. I found myself fully engaged with some chapters, while others were frankly a chore to get through.
I was attracted to the book by the fact that one of the editors, who also wrote a chapter, was Tim Keller, one of my favorite authors, and Lecrae, one of my favorite musical artists, also wrote one of the chapters. Among the contributors, I was also familiar with Sara Groves through her music, and Trillia Newbell through her writing and Tish Harrison Warren, through a book of hers my wife had recently read. The subject of the book caught my attention as we live in a very divided culture, including among those who identify as Christians.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and reviews of
~     The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created by Jane Leavy
~     Ben Hogan: An American Life by James Dodson
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
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Epic: An Around-the-World Journey through Christian History by Tim Challies. Zondervan. 175 pages. 2020
****

In this book, Tim Challies shows us a unique way to look at Christian history. Rather than just visiting historical sites, over the course of a year, he chose to focus on objects, key artifacts that had been preserved. His hope in approaching the project in this manner was that by listening to the small stories told by these remnants of Christian history he would begin to understand the larger story and its epic unfolding. In other words, he wanted to “experience” the history of Christianity.
As he planned for the project, which was generously funded for him, he had a few restrictions. First, he wanted to focus on objects rather than locations, buildings, or memorials as we often do when we go to historical sites. Second, he wanted to focus on objects that are available to the general public. In the book, you will read that he found exactly the kind of objects he had wanted to see. He discovered links to the past, historical artifacts he could see and study and sometimes even touch and hold, each telling him (and the reader), a different chapter of a much greater story.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and reviews of The Ten Commandments of Progressive Christianity by Michael Kruger and A Quiet Strength: The Life and Legacy of Jeannette M. Cathy by Trudy Cathy White
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
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Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund. Crossway. 224 pages. 2020
****

Every once in a while, a book comes along that just blows you away. Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund is one of those books. This was a book that I was influenced to read because so many people I respect were writing good things about it and recommending it. As a result, my wife and I read and discussed the book, which is comprised of relatively short chapters.
Ortlund tells us that the book is written for the discouraged, the frustrated, the weary, the disenchanted, the cynical, the empty. It is written, in other words, for normal Christians. In short, it is for sinners and sufferers.
In the book, the author simply asks what the Bible says about the heart of Christ, and considers the glory of his heart for our own up-and-down lives. The author takes either a Bible passage or a teaching from the Puritans (especially Thomas Goodwin), and considers what is being said about the heart of God and of Christ. He doesn’t focus centrally on what Christ has done, but instead who he is. The two matters are bound up together and indeed interdependent. But they are distinct. Letting Jesus set the terms, the author tells us that his surprising claim is that he is “gentle and lowly in heart.” The point in saying that Jesus is lowly is that he is accessible. He tells us that for all his resplendent glory and dazzling holiness, Jesus’ supreme uniqueness and otherness, no one in human history has ever been more approachable than Jesus Christ.
The message of the book is that we tend to project our natural expectations about who God is onto him instead of fighting to let the Bible surprise us into what God himself says. The book reads almost like a devotional. One way to approach it is to read a chapter a day over your morning coffee. Another is to read and discuss with others.
Here are 20 of my favorite quotes from the book:

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and reviews of…

  • The Gathering Storm: Secularism, Culture, and the Church by Albert Mohler
  • Before You Open Your Bible: Nine Heart Postures For Approaching God’s Word by Matt Smethurst

BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
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The Logic of God: 52 Christian Essentials for the Heart and Mind by Ravi Zacharias. HarperCollins Publishing. 275 pages. 2019 
****

This book of 52 readings from Ravi Zacharias, who went home to be with the Lord May 19, is a collection of his writings, most of which have never before been published in book form. They were selected for their perspective on the many ways God has provided us with evidence of His existence and how this “logic” gives life meaning, establishes the credibility of the Christian message, shows the weakness of modern intellectual movements, demonstrates the certainty of the claims of Jesus Christ, and validates biblical teaching and Christian apologetics. Each reading is preceded by a relevant quote from the Bible. Two other features to help the reader to reflect on important themes in the readings – “Reflection Questions”, and apply the lessons learned from the readings – “Personal Application”. The author recommends that, if possible, you spend a week with each “experience”, although you can also read like a standard “daily devotional” as I did.

Below are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and reviews of
~ Growing in Holiness by R.C. Sproul
~ Growing Up (With) R.C. by R.C. Sproul Jr
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


Every Moment Holy, Volume 1
****

I first heard about the Doug McKelvey’s fine book Every Moment Holy, Volume 1 when Andrew Peterson read a selection from it as he began his breakout session at the 2019 Sing! conference. Not long after, my wife gave me a copy of the liturgy “For the Loss of a Living Thing” after Molly, our fourteen-year-old Alaskan Malamute had died.
The book includes more than 100 liturgies for use in a number of different ways. Some are meant to be read by a “Leader” and the “People”, as in a traditional liturgical service or responsive reading, while others are intended for personal use, read either silently or aloud. Throughout the book you will also find more than 20 illustrations supplementing the liturgies from artist Ned Bustard.
This is not a traditional book intended to be read from beginning to end. Instead, I would recommend that you find a comfortable place to sit, grab your favorite beverage, and review the “Contents”, which are divided into eleven sections, such as “Liturgies of Labor & Vocation”, “Liturgies of Blessing & Celebration”, “Liturgies of Sorrow & Lament”, etc. Some of the liturgies will pertain to your current situation, while others will not. You may find that some of the liturgies that don’t fit your personal situation may be liturgies that you can share with others. For example, we shared three – “For a Moment of Frustration at a Child” and “For the Changing of Diapers I & II” – with our niece who has sixteen-month-old triplet boys. I’ve enjoyed reading the “Liturgies of the Hours” (“Daybreak, “Midday” and “Nightfall”), and my wife and I have started using “Liturgies for Table Blessings”. I look forward to continue exploring these liturgies for both routine and special situations.
I purchased the new softcover “Pocket Edition” of the book, which is a perfect size to carry with you.


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MORE BOOK REVIEWS ~
Walking from East to West: God in the Shadows by Ravi Zacharias
Becoming Us: Using the Enneagram to Create a Thriving Gospel-Centered Marriage by Beth McCord       and Jeff McCord
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
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The Range Bucket List: The Golf Adventure of a Lifetime by James Dodson. Simon & Schuster, 321 pages. 2017
****

James Dodson is my favorite golf writer. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed his previous golf books, and had been meaning to read this one, which he says is his “little love letter to the game of golf”, for some time now. He tells us about recently finding a small old notebook of his that contained a list of eleven “Things to Do in Golf.” From there, he developed his “Range Bucket List”, populated with things he still hoped to do in golf.
The book is filled with the joys and sorrows he experiences on his journey, as he tries to tie up some loose ends, completing a personal circle of sorts. He writes of a friend telling him that the game of golf is always waiting for us to return.
We read about his trip with his father to England and Scotland, working with Arnold Palmer as they wrote Palmer’s autobiography – the two most challenging and enjoyable years of his book writing life, and the start of a friendship he could never have imagined as a kid – and then later sharing his emotional last visit with Palmer before he died. We get introduced to his new wife Wendy, or his “golf wife” as he took to calling her. He writes of living in Pinehurst, his strange encounter with Donald Trump, and the story behind how CBS got the TV contract for the Masters tournament. You’ll read about Opti the Mystic (his father), living One-Derr, Grumpy, Glorious Goat Farms, and so much more.
I thoroughly enjoyed this delightful book. It is one of those books that you hate to see end.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ A Shelter in the Time of Storm: Meditations on God and Trouble by Paul Tripp and The Apostles’ Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits by Albert Mohler
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
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A Gentle Answer: Our ‘Secret Weapon’ in an Age of Us Against Them by Scott Sauls. Thomas Nelson. 224 pages. 2020
****

A Gentle Answer is Scott Sauls’ fifth book. I’ve read them all, and been both blessed and challenged by them. In this timely book, he tells us that whatever the subject may be—politics, sexuality, immigration, income gaps, women’s concerns, race, or any other social matters over which people have differences—angst, suspicion, outrage, and outright hate increasingly shape our response to the world around us. He states that this feels like a culture of suspicion, mistrust, and us-against-them. On the other hand, Jesus is a God of reconciliation and peace, not a God of hate or division or us-against-them. He is the God of the gentle answer. Jesus renounced outrage and advanced the power of a gentle answer throughout his ministry.
The author tells us that in our current cultural moment, outrage has become more expected than surprising, more normative than odd, more encouraged than discouraged, more rewarded than rejected. We form entire communities around our irritations and our hatreds. For our generation, hate has been commodified. It has been turned into an asset. His challenge to us is to decide whether we take offense and strike back, or instead, do we seek to extend kindness and offer a gentle answer? His hope is that because Jesus Christ offered a gentle answer instead of pouring out punishment and rejection for our offensive and sinful ways, we can offer gentle answers to those who behave offensively and sinfully toward us.
The book aims to answer the question, “What must happen in and around us so that we become the kind of people who offer a gentle answer?” The book is as much about what must happen to us and inside us (how to be angry and not sin, how to accept criticism, not to seek retaliation, etc.), as it is about what must be done by us to engage faithfully in a world of us-against-them.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and reviews of Can Science Explain Everything? by John Lennox and Have No Fear: Being Salt and Light Even When It’s Costly by John C. Lennox
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
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Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson. Penguin Books. 386 pages. 2013
****

I read this book when it was first published in 2013, and decided to read it again as I watched ESPN’s excellent documentary on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, The Last Dance. I read the book this time specifically to examine Jackson’s leadership, as he describes the eleven NBA Championships (rings) he won as the Head Coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers.
Jackson has been incredibly successful in professional basketball, winning two NBA Championships as a player with the New York Knicks, six as the Head Coach of the Chicago Bulls and five as the Head Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. The book includes some biographical information and takes us through his career as a player, coach and as the book ends, his at that time new role as the President of the New York Knicks, the one role in his career that he was not successful in. He played his college basketball at the University of North Dakota, where he was coached by future NBA Head Coaches Bill Fitch and Jimmy Rodgers. In a bit of trivia, way back in March, 1967, Jackson and North Dakota played in the NCAA College Division Midwest Regional Tournament at Horton Field House, hosted by Illinois State University, just down the street from where I live in my hometown of Normal, Illinois.
Jackson was raised by parents who were both pastors, but he describes his childhood as a time when he was “force-fed religious dogma by my parents” who were both Pentecostal ministers. As an adult, he began to search for spiritual practices that might work for him. In the book, he refers to his “deep-seated aversion to organized religion”. He speaks extensively in the book about Zen Buddhism, quoting teachers, and discussing aspects of Zen have been critical to him as a leader.
Regarding his leadership, Jackson points to the book Tribal Leadership, by Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright, which lays out five stages of tribal development, which they formulated after conducting extensive research on small to midsize organizations. In order to shift a culture from one stage to the next, Jackson tells us that you need to find the levers that are appropriate for that particular stage in the group’s development. Throughout the book, Jackson refers to his various teams and the tribal development stages they were in at the time.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and a review of Final Word: Why We Need the Bible by John MacArthur
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
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