Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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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.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
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
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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.

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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
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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

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
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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.

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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
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The Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy by Timothy Keller. Viking. 272 pages. 2018
****

The Prodigal Prophet is quite simply the best book I’ve read this year. It offers many insights that I never considered about the small (four chapter) book of Jonah, and makes helpful applications to our current culture. Depending on your political persuasion, and stance on the current immigration debate, chances are you may not agree with everything he writes.
Keller tells us “The book of Jonah yields many insights about God’s love for societies and people beyond the community of believers; about his opposition to toxic nationalism and disdain for other races; and about how to be “in mission” in the world despite the subtle and unavoidable power of idolatry in our own lives and hearts. Grasping these insights can make us bridge builders, peacemakers, and agents of reconciliation in the world. Such people are the need of the hour”.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review… and a review of Christ’s Call to Reform the Church: Timeless Demands from The Lord to His People by John MacArthur
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


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.

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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
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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
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