Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


Coronavirus and Christ by John Piper. Crossway. 112 pages. 2020
****

John Piper has written this book as the world is facing the global pandemic known as the coronavirus, or technically, “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated COVID-19). The short book has two main parts:

Part 1: The God Who Reigns over the Coronavirus
Part 2: What Is God Doing through the Coronavirus?

In Part 1, he writes that rather than playing the odds (that we don’t get the virus, suffer and possibly die), there is a better place to put our hope. We can stand on the Rock of certainty, rather than the sand of probabilities. That Rock is not fragile, nor is it sand. This book is the author’s invitation for the reader to join him on the solid Rock, Jesus Christ. His aim is to show why God in Christ is the Rock at this moment in history—in this pandemic of the coronavirus—and what it is like to stand on his mighty love. His prayer is that all who read this book would share the experience of the prophet Jeremiah: “Your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart” (Jer. 15:16).
He writes that the same sovereignty that could stop the coronavirus, yet doesn’t, is the very sovereignty that sustains the soul in it. God is all-governing and all-wise. He is sovereign over the coronavirus. He tells us that saying that God is all-governing means he is sovereign. His sovereignty means that he can do, and in fact does do, all that he decisively wills to do. When he decides for a thing to happen, it happens. Everything happens because God wills it to happen. The sovereignty of God is all-encompassing and all-pervasive. He holds absolute sway over this world.
He tells us that the coronavirus was sent by God. This is not a season for sentimental views of God. It is a bitter season. And God ordained it. God governs it. He will end it. If he wills, we will live. If not, we won’t. If we try to rescue God from his sovereignty over suffering, we sacrifice his sovereignty to turn all things for good. God is holy and righteous and good. And he is infinitely wise. Nothing surprises him, confuses him, or baffles him.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and a review of “Where is God in a Coronavirus World?” by John Lennox
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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3 Advent Devotionals to Prepare Your Hearts to Celebrate the Birth of Jesus


Over the past three years, my wife Tammy and I have read these three Advent devotionals to prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of Jesus; we would commend them to you. Here is a brief review of each of them.

Come, Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional by Paul Tripp

This year, I’ve been enjoying Paul Tripp’s devotional New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional. In this 2017 book of daily Advent devotional readings, he writes that the Christmas story is the story of stories, but for some it suffers from our familiarity with it. He writes that when we are familiar with things, we tend not to celebrate them as we once did. Familiarity tends to rob us of our wonder. As a result, he writes that many of us aren’t gripped by the stunningly magnificent events and truths of the birth of Jesus anymore. Many of us are no longer gripped by wonder as we consider what this story tells us about the character and plan of God. And sadly, many of us are no longer humbled by what the incarnation of Jesus tells us about ourselves.
During the busy holiday season other things capture and control our hearts. When that happens however, little room remains for wonder and worship. He writes that familiarity often means that what is very important may no longer exercise important influence over us in the way it should. He tells us that he wrote this book with the hope and prayer that God would use it to recapture our attention and reactivate our awe. Continue reading


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Reflections from the 2019 Sing! Getty Worship Conference


Recently, my wife Tammy and I attended the 2019 Sing! Getty Worship Conference, held in Nashville. This is a conference without parallel, as pastor John MacArthur stated. The Sing! Conference is a part of Keith and Kristyn Getty’s five-year initiative; a learning journey to help pastors, musicians and leaders build a Biblical understanding and creative vision for congregational singing in their churches. This article has some of the take-aways from the conference that we found helpful and enlightening, and thought you would too.  Tammy and I also attended the 2018 Sing! Conference. You can read my reflections from that conference here. Continue reading


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My Reflections of the 2019 Gospel Coalition National Conference

Last week my wife Tammy and I attended the 2019 Gospel Coalition Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. This was the first time we had attended this particular conference and it was a wonderful experience. Logistically, there are a number of hotels nearby the Indianapolis Convention Center (ours and others had walkways from the hotel to the convention center) and more than 200 restaurants in the surrounding area. About 7,200 people from around the world attended the conference, which had a theme of “Conversations with Jesus”. Each of the main messages was from a passage in the Gospels in which Jesus was interacting with people.   The video of all main sessions, and audio of all other sessions are available for FREE here:  https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/conference/2019-national-conference/

There was definitely an international flavor to the conference, as it was emphasized that the Gospel Coalition is not just a U.S. organization. There was a conference bookstore with thousands of titles at discounted prices (check out the Gospel Coalition’s new online bookstore), and an exhibit hall with in excess of 100 exhibitors representing ministries from around the world. A conference app was valuable in helping us to navigate the convention center and conference sessions.

The conference started with pre-conference sessions on Sunday evening and Monday morning, with the first main session beginning Monday afternoon. In addition to the eight main sessions, there were three breakout sessions you could sign up for. In addition, there were auxiliary events early morning, during meal breaks and late in the evening. Needless to say, we were pretty tired when we returned to our hotel each evening.

In addition to the excellent teaching, a highlight was the worship led by Matt Boswell.
We also enjoyed running into a lot of friends (from our presbytery, from ministries we support and one of my former professors from Covenant Seminary).
It was a great experience and we can’t wait for the 2020 Gospel Coalition National Conference.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from some of the sessions I attended. Continue reading


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6 Books I Recommend on Marriage

There are many good books that have been written for Christians on the subject of marriage, and more are being written all the time. I’ve read many of them over the years. Below are 6 of them that I can recommend to you:

The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God by Tim Keller with Kathy Keller

From the Amazon description:
“This book shows everyone—Christians, skeptics, singles, longtime married couples, and those about to be engaged—the vision of what marriage should be according to the Bible. Timothy Keller, with insights from Kathy, his wife of thirty-seven years, shows marriage to be a glorious relationship that is also misunderstood and mysterious. The Meaning of Marriage offers instruction on how to have a successful marriage, and is essential reading for anyone who wants to know God and love more deeply in this life.”

Here’s my review of the book. 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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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


Some Pastors and Teachers: Reflecting a Biblical Vision of What Every Minister is Called to Be by Sinclair Ferguson. Banner of Truth. 824 pages. 2017
****

Sinclair Ferguson is one of today’s most respected Reformed theologians. In fact the late R.C. Sproul called him his favorite theologian. Anytime Dr. Ferguson publishes a new book it is going to get my attention. This eight-hundred plus page volume is no ordinary book, and will be a welcome addition to any pastor’s library.
The book, which covers many of the themes and tasks of Christian ministry, is broken into five major sections, which include 39 chapters. The major sections are:

  1. Pastors and Teachers: Three Johns
  2. John Calvin: Pastor-Teacher
  3. Puritans: Pastors and Teachers
  4. The Pastor and Teaching
  5. The Pastor and Preaching

The title of the book comes from Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:11. The author tells us that many of these chapters were first published in relatively obscure places in the context of busy pastoral ministry. Now, he sees how the essays seem to self-select and rearrange themselves into a coherent whole. He hopes that these pages will encourage other pastors to stretch themselves beyond their normal pulpit or lectern preparation and accept invitations to study, speak and write on subjects outside of their norm.
He encourages pastors and teachers to utilize their gifts for fellow pastors. He sees this book as representing some of the gifts that the Lord has given him for others who have an interest in and a concern for the ministry of the gospel.
Although this is a massive volume, each chapter is an entity on its own. The author states that readers can enter and leave at any point they choose as no chapter is completely dependent on the previous chapter or any other chapter in the book. Though a seminary graduate, I’m a ruling elder not a preaching pastor. The arrangement of this book will allow me to focus on those sections that focus on teaching, rather than preaching, for example.
I look forward to benefiting from the wisdom contained in these pages for many years. This would be an excellent addition to any minister’s library. Continue reading