Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism by Jemar Tisby. Zondervan. 256 pages. 2019
****

This was a difficult book to read, as it should be. In his “Foreword”, Lecrae writes that the author challenges us to take history seriously and account for it. He warns us that the account we are about to read is sobering and challenging. I would add to this that it is heart-breaking. I believe that it is an account that all Christians should read, especially Christian leaders. It is a well-researched survey of racism in America, what the author refers to as more than 300 years of race-based discrimination. The author tells us that this history of racism and the church shows that the story is worse than most imagine. He states that the stories in the book tell the tale of racial oppression. It is up to the reader to determine whether the weight of historical evidence proves that the American church has been complicit with racism.  Although the entire history is essential to know, I focused on the author’s emphasis, that is, the role of the church in racism.
The author focus is primarily on Protestant churches, and when he talks about the “Religious Right”, he focuses on those white evangelicals that align with the Republican party. The book focuses on prominent figures, precipitous events, and well-known turning points in American history. He writes that, historically speaking, when faced with the choice between racism and equality, the American church has tended to practice a complicit Christianity rather than a courageous Christianity. Even if only a small portion of Christians committed the most notorious acts of racism, many more white Christians can be described as being complicit in creating and sustaining a racist society. Christians deliberately chose complicity with racism in the past, but the choice to confront racism remains a possibility today. The book is a call to abandon complicit Christianity and move toward courageous Christianity. The author tells us that it is time to practice courageous Christianity.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review…And reviews of Seven Leaders: Preachers and Pastors by Iain H. Murray, and How Can I Be Blessed? (Crucial Questions No. 24) by R.C. Sproul
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


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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13 New and Upcoming Books I’m Excited About

There are a number of new and upcoming books that I’m excited about.  I call it my ‘on deck circle’.  Here are 13 of them:

The Apostles’ Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits by Albert Mohler
From the Amazon description:
“In The Apostles’ Creed, renowned theologian and pastor R. Albert Mohler Jr. works line-by-line and phrase-by-phrase through each section of the Creed, explaining in clear terms what it means and how it equips Christians to live faithfully in a post-Christian culture. From understanding the nature of the Trinity and the miracle of the Incarnation to the world-shaking truth of the resurrection and the hope of Christ’s return, the theological heritage contained in this ancient statement has the power to shape us for vibrant and steadfast living today. The Apostles’ Creed shows us how.” Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

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”.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
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


The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton, Lara Love Hardin, and Bryan Stevenson
****

I first became aware of Bryan Stevenson and the work on the Equal Justice Institute through Stevenson’s excellent book Just Mercy. Stevenson tells us that Anthony Ray Hinton was released from prison after spending nearly thirty years in solitary confinement on Alabama’s death row. Hinton is one of the longest-serving condemned prisoners facing execution in America to be proved innocent and released. Stevenson tells us that no one that he has represented has inspired him more than Hinton. Hinton tells his both heart-breaking and inspiring story in this book. It includes themes of survival, justice, perseverance, and forgiveness.
Hinton writes that he was working the night shift in a locked warehouse when the manager at a Quincy’s restaurant fifteen miles away was abducted, robbed, and shot. Hinton was mistakenly identified. The police claimed an old .38 caliber pistol owned by his mother was the weapon used. The State of Alabama claimed this gun was not only used in the Quincy’s robbery and attempted murder but also two other murders in the area where restaurant managers had been robbed at closing time, forced into coolers, and then murdered. Hinton was arrested and charged with the murders. Hinton was extremely close to his mother and his best friend Lester. They never doubted his innocence.
The prosecutor was McGregor. He was able to consolidate the cases, relate them to a third, and put the death penalty on the table. Perhacs, Hinton’s court appointed attorney did a poor job in defending him, especially in selecting an expert ballistics witness who was blind in one eye. Hinton was sentenced to death by electrocution. Providentially, by sentencing him to death, he would be guaranteed an appeal and some representation by his attorney. If he had been sentenced to life, he would have had to hire an attorney to appeal.
He tells his story of growing up in segregated schools in Praco, Alabama, before being bussed to a white school in Birmingham. He had been happy in Praco, but experienced racism in Birmingham. He was the youngest of ten children.
Everyone who lived in Praco either worked in the coal mines or for the mining company in some way. His father had worked in the coal mines until he got hit in the head and had to go live in an institution. After that, his mother was in charge of the family. She made sure that they went to church. He eventually ended up working the coal mines for five years.
His weakness was women. He attended church with his mother, and prayed for forgiveness, but was back with the women on Monday. He and his mother would later move to Burnwell, near Praco. He was the youngest child and it was expected that he would stay with his mother and help her out. He got in some trouble with the law by stealing a car. He eventually turned himself in and served a few months in a work release program in 1983.
Hinton was indicted for the murders by a grand jury on November 8, 1985. He insisted on his innocence, asking to take a polygraph test, which concluded that he was telling the truth – that he was innocent.
But it only took the jury two hours to find him guilty, and just forty-five minutes to determine his punishment, death. His prison cell on death row at Holman Prison was only five feet wide and about seven feet long. He writes that no one can understand what freedom means until they don’t have it. He writes that he was afraid every single day on death row. He also found a way to find joy every single day. He learned that fear and joy are both a choice.
It was during this time, that he turned his back on God for a few years. He felt that God had forsaken him, failed him and left him to die. He threw his Bible under his bed.  He felt a darkness in himself that he had never felt before as he imagined how he would kill McGregor if given the chance.
Perhacs would be replaced by Santha Soneberg, then Alan Black and later by Bryan Stevenson. He writes that there are some people you meet and you know they are going to change your life forever. Meeting Bryan Stevenson was like that for Hinton.
He writes of fifty-four people who were executed during the time he was on death row, and the terrible smell that was in the air afterwards. He got the warden to approve a book club on death row. Only six men were allowed to participate at a time, but the books were shared widely and discussed with those on death row.
He came to a point that he could forgive McGregor, indicating that his sins were between him and God. He also forgave the rest who lied leading to his arrest and conviction. He forgives because that’s how his mother raised him, and because he has a God who forgives. He would pass the time on death row in his imagination traveling to exotic locations, spending time with beautiful women and playing championship sports.
Hinton writes that “Until we have a way of ensuring that innocent men are never executed—until we account for the racism in our courts, in our prisons, and in our sentencing—the death penalty should be abolished.”
Stevenson would work with Hinton for more than fifteen years, eventually reaching the United States Supreme Court. Hinton writes that Stevenson cared about him so much that it moved him in a way that was beyond words. He knew that Stevenson was doing everything he could to save his life. He writes that there is no way he can repay him. His friend Lester visited him in prison every week that Hinton was in prison. Hinton writes that the world had changed, but Lester’s friendship always remained the same.
Today Hinton is grateful to be alive and grateful to be free. He is a voice for the men still on death row and for justice. He wants to end the death penalty.
He ends the book with a list of all who sit on death row as of March 2017. He writes that statistically, one out of every ten men on the list is innocent.

The Gospel According to God by John MacArthur. Crossway. 224 pages. 2018
****

This is respected pastor and Bible teacher John MacArthur’s fourth book in his The Gospel According to series. This book looks primarily at Isaiah 53, which he tells us includes the whole story of salvation in prophesy. He states that this is the most remarkable chapter in the Old Testament. Augustine called it the “Fifth Gospel”, and Luther thought that every Christian should memorize Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12.
The author tells us that Isaiah is the most quoted Old Testament prophet in the New Testament. His prophesies, written more than seven centuries before the birth of Jesus, were so accurate, that critics have claimed that multiple people had to have written the book.
There is a significant amount of doctrine included in Isaiah 53, including the penal, or substitutionary atonement of Jesus, the sovereign initiative of God and the justification of many. The author tells us that this is the doctrine of the Protestant Reformers, the Puritans and their heirs, but is challenged by some within the church today. For example, one writer has called the substitutionary atonement of Jesus “child abuse”.
The Ethiopian eunuch was reading from this chapter when Philip came upon him in Acts 8: 26-39. The chapter is a magnetic description of Christ’s sacrifice for sins. The author believes Isaiah 53 is the most important text in the Old Testament but tells us that many Jews are not familiar with it, as the passage is never read in their worship.
The author provides a brief overview of the entire book of Isaiah, the life, times and politics (kings) of Isaiah the prophet, a mysterious figure, and a detailed exposition of Isaiah 53. The book explains the prophetic words of Isaiah 53 verse by verse, highlighting connections to the history of Israel and to the New Testament.
This book is a wonderful, clear exposition of the prophesies of the suffering and glory of Jesus, the Suffering Servant, the Servant of God, who was slaughtered by God for us. A sermon of Charles Spurgeon “The Man of Sorrows” is included as an appendix.
The author has been a faithful expositor of God’s Word for fifty years. I highly recommend this book for not only believers, but also skeptics and those of the Jewish faith. The audiobook version is well-read by Bob Souer.

  • Christian Audio Free Audiobook of the Month. This month’s free is an excellent one, Reset by David Murray.
  • A Christian Case for Transgenderism? Andrew T. Walker writes “Unfortunately, Transforming isn’t a trustworthy guide to help the gender-confused individual understand their gender identity in relationship to the lordship of Christ. In fact, the book scuddles efforts at finding one’s true identity in Christ. Transforming, tragically, lies so far outside biblical Christianity that basic Christian truths and even the very words of Christ become unrecognizable.”
  • 2018 Christian Book Award Finalists. The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) named 58 finalists in eleven categories for their annual book awards. Nominees include books that I have read and recommend by John MacArthur, Robert Godfrey, Burk Parsons, Andy Crouch, and Keith and Kristyn Getty.

BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?

The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down: The Lord’s Prayer as a Manifesto for Revolution by Albert Mohler. 224 pages. 2018

In this new book, step by step, phrase by phrase, Dr. Mohler explains what the words in The Lord’s Prayer mean and how we are to pray them.

Here’s the notes from Chapter 4: Your Kingdom Come

  • The Lord’s Prayer is for revolutionaries, for men and women who want to see the kingdoms of this world give way to the kingdom of our Lord.
  • What is the kingdom of God? That question is one of the oldest and most hotly contested theological issues in the Christian church.
  • Among these attempts at explaining the kingdom of God, Augustine’s City of God has proven the most helpful and the most in line with the teachings of Scripture.
  • They demonstrated that in Scripture the kingdom of God must be understood as something that is already here on earth but not yet fully present. In other words, the kingdom of God has been inaugurated but not yet consummated.
  • In our current stage in redemptive history, therefore, God’s kingdom is made up of those who believe in Christ (God’s people) gathered in local churches across the world (God’s place) under the law of Christ and partaking of the new covenant (God’s rule and blessing).
  • Thus, while we are indeed in God’s kingdom, we still await God’s kingdom in its fullness. We still await the completion of the Great Commission. We still await the coming of the king and the destruction of all wickedness. We long for the day when we will no longer be the church militant, but the church triumphant.
  • God’s kingdom is essentially his reign over his people for their good and his glory. God’s reign is not just his absolute sovereignty; it is also a redemptive reign that transforms hearts and creates obedience.
  • Jesus is clearly referring to God’s revealed will. He is asking the Father to reshape the hearts of every single person such that God is obeyed and glorified by men on earth as the angels obey and glorify God in heaven.
  • Praying “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” also reorients our own sense of personal autonomy and sense of control over our own lives and situations. This petition causes us to forfeit all our personal claims of lordship and sovereignty over our lives. This petition expresses a humble resignation to and desire for the reign and rule of God. It is no longer “my will” that is preeminent, but his.
  • One of the reasons we must pray for God to advance his kingdom is because we, in and of ourselves, cannot cause the kingdom to come.
  • The rapid disappearance of cultural Christianity in our own time will mean that Christians may soon find themselves in a situation similar to that of the early church in Rome or the Confessing Church in Nazi Germany. Praying for the coming of God’s kingdom will be considered culturally and politically subversive.
  • So, what are we asking when we say “your kingdom come”? We are asking for something wonderful and something dangerous all at the same time.
  • This is indeed a radical prayer. We must not take this petition lightly. But, as we have seen, this petition also carries great hope.


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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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