Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller. Penguin Books. 332 pages. 2014.
****

This is perhaps the best book on prayer that I’ve read, and I’ve read several. I’ve already read and discussed it with others on two occasions. Our discussions would move slowly, as there is so much rich material on prayer in the fifteen chapters in this book. This book will challenge you and your prayer life.
Keller writes that prayer is both conversation and encounter with God. He tells us that these two concepts give us definition of prayer and a set of tools for deepening our prayer lives. He tells us that prayer is both awe and intimacy, struggle and reality. These will not happen every time we pray, but each should be a major component of our prayer over the course of our lives.
He writes of wanting a far better personal prayer life. As a result, he began to read widely and experiment in prayer. In his pursuit of a deeper prayer life, he deliberately avoided reading any new books on prayer. Instead, he went back to the historical texts of Christian theology that had formed him and began asking questions about prayer and the experience of God.
In addition, he made four practical changes to his life of private devotion. First, he took several months to go through the Psalms, summarizing each one. The second thing he did was always to put in a time of meditation as a transitional discipline between his Bible reading and his time of prayer. Third, he did all he could to pray morning and evening rather than only in the morning. Fourth, he began praying with greater expectation.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and a review of Embracing Your Identity in Christ: Renouncing Lies and Foolish Strategies by Robert Davis Smart
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
I’M CURRENTLY READING…. Continue reading

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader’s Eye-Opening Journey across the Life Line by Abby Johnson with Cindy Lambert. Tyndale Momentum. 276 pages. 2014 edition
****

This is the book upon which the powerful film Unplanned is based. Abby Johnson begins by telling us that her story is not a comfortable one to read. It’s not a comfortable one, but it’s honest and true. The film follows the book pretty closely, but as always, a book can give you much more of the story than can a two-hour film. So even if you have seen the film Unplanned, I would recommend that you still read this book.
The book takes us through Abby’s story from being recruited as a volunteer by Planned Parenthood while a junior on the Texas A&M campus through rising to the position of director of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas. She was attracted to Planned Parenthood believing that its purpose was primarily to prevent unwanted pregnancies, thereby reducing the number of abortions. That had been her goal. She wanted to help women in crisis.
The book begins with Abby’s own crisis moment in September, 2009, when she was called into the exam room to help the medical team with an abortion. Though she had been with Planned Parenthood for eight years, she had never been in the room when an abortion had taken place until that time. Those ten minutes would shake the foundation of her values, and change the course of her life. She realized that what she had told people for years, what she had believed and taught and defended, was a lie.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review… and reviews of “How to Ruin Your Life: and Starting Over When You Do” by Eric Geiger, and “The Prodigal Son: An Astonishing Study of the Parable Jesus Told to Unveil God’s Grace for You” by John F. MacArthur
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
I’M CURRENTLY READING….

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


Paul Simon: The Life by Robert Hillburn. Simon and Schuster. 449 pages. 2018
****

I’m a long-time fan of Paul Simon and was excited to see this major new biography of him by respected rock music writer Robert Hillburn. Unlike the recent new biography of Tiger Woods, Simon fully participated with the author via more than a hundred hours of interviews and did not insist on editorial control. The well-researched book saw the author interview Simon’s friends, family and colleagues.  The result is a fascinating look at one of America’s greatest songwriters
Simon was born in 1941 to Lou, a musician and Belle, a teacher.  He played baseball through high school and is a die-hard New York Yankees fan. The family was Jewish, but not very religious, nor is Simon, though references to the Bible have appeared in some of his more recent music, and he has written about science and faith.
Early musical influences for Simon were doo-wop music, Elvis Presley, the Everly Brother and folk music. Simon met Art Garfunkel in the 6th grade. They had some early success as Tom and Jerry, even appearing on American Bandstand.  Paul would write some of the songs they played and his father tended to be judgmental of them.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review…and reviews of Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music? Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock by Gregory Thornbury; Who is Jesus? by R.C. Sproul; Anchored in Hope: Security in the Storm by Donna Marie England
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…. Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Grand Central Publishing. 321 pages. 2017
****

This heartfelt book is about a friendship between two people who were in some ways very different from each other. The author, one of the greatest basketball players in the history of the game, writes of his nearly fifty-year friendship with John Wooden, arguably the greatest basketball coach ever, who died in 2010 at the age of 99. Wooden was white, a Midwesterner and a devout Christian, while Abdul-Jabbar is Black, from New York City and a devout Muslim.
The author states that Wooden was much more than a basketball guru. He was also his teacher, his friend, and, though he never told him, his role model. Their relationship had been born over basketball, but eventually that became the least important aspect of it. The author writes that among those things that he and Wooden had in common was the belief that playing basketball wasn’t the end, but rather the means to make our lives more fulfilling.  He states that their legacy as friends would be one of the most important and rewarding accomplishments of his life.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and a review of Shaped by God: Thinking and Feeling in Tune with the Psalms by John Piper
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…. Continue reading


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New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul David Tripp. Crossway. 384 pages. 2004
****

Each morning, Paul Tripp tweets three gospel thoughts about the Christian faith on Twitter. His goal with the tweets is to confront and comfort people with the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He wants people to see that the grace of the gospel is not so much about changing the religious aspect of their lives, but about everything in life that defines, identifies, and motivates them. Through his daily tweets, he is calling people to see the gospel as a window through which they are to look at everything in life.
Those daily tweets inspired this book of 365 daily devotional readings, a book I am using as a part of my daily readings this year. Each day’s reading opens with one of his gospel tweets, lightly edited, and then a meditation that expands on the tweet. The reading ends with a passage of scripture included under “For Further Study and Encouragement”.
The author writes that the devotional is a call for us to remember…

  • The horrible disaster of sin
  • Jesus, who stood in our place.
  • The transforming power of the grace we couldn’t have earned.
  • The destiny that is guaranteed to all of God’s blood-purchased children.
  • His sovereignty and his glory.
  • The remembering is spiritual war, and for this we need grace.

The title of the book is not only a reference to the way the Bible talks about grace, but also an allusion to the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness”, lyrics written by Thomas Chisholm and music by William M. Runyan:
Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
I look forward to reading through the daily readings in this book this coming year.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World by Rosaria Butterfield and Take Heart: Christian Courage in the Age of Unbelief by Matt Chandler
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…. Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


41: A Portrait of My Father by George W. Bush. Crown. 284 pages. 2014

****

George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st President of the United States was the only President in modern times not to write a memoir. His son, George W. Bush the 43rd President, has written this book that he says is not objective, but instead a love story from a son to his father. The book opens with an account of Bush the elder celebrating his 90th birthday with a parachute jump.
George H. W. Bush’s father was an accomplished golfer, United States Senator and investment banker. He started the family tradition of attending Yale. Bush’s mother, who died shortly after he lost his re-election bid to Bill Clinton, was a woman of strong faith.
Bush joined the Navy shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack, enlisting on his eighteenth birthday in 1942. He served for three years. During that time, he was shot down by the Japanese in the Pacific and rescued as the Japanese were trying to capture him. At age 78 he would return to the site and meet one of the Japanese soldiers that was there that day.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and a review of Love Does for Kids by Bob and Lindsey Goff
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 Review ~ IRRESISTIBLE FAITH by Scott Sauls

Irresistible Faith: Becoming the Kind of Christian the World Can’t Resist by Scott Sauls. Thomas Nelson. 224 pages. 2019
****

This is Pastor Scott Sauls’ fourth book. I always find his books challenging and quite helpful. Irresistible Faith is no exception. The “Foreword” is written by Bob Goff who writes that the book is an invitation for us to return to the most authentic version of our faith. It’s also an invitation to join, or create, an authentic community of people trying to go somewhere beautiful with their faith. He states that Scott has given us some beautiful reminders about what each of us needs and about the Someone we can trust to go with. Continue reading