Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Living Dangerously in Retirement

Are you still working? When are you going to retire? I hear that often these days when I see people I worked with in the past but haven’t seen for a while, or from friends or members of my extended family. And the truth be told, many people that I have worked with have retired over the past few years. It’s hard to believe; one day you are the youngest on the staff and then seemingly in no time, you are the oldest.
But I’m not one who has ever counted down the years, weeks or days until retirement. I still love my job and the people I work with, and that makes a big difference. But I know that some people hate their jobs and can’t wait to retire, the ultimate “Is it Friday yet?”
How should Christians think about retirement? Is it all about taking it easy, traveling and playing golf? Or perhaps taking a part-time job and doing some volunteer work? John Piper has been helpful in shaping my thoughts on retirement. Here are three ideas for you to consider based on his writings in his little book entitled, Rethinking Retirement: Finishing Life for the Glory of Christ:

  1. The Bible doesn’t explicitly talk about retirement. We don’t, for example, read about Moses or the Apostle Paul retiring at age 65. Piper writes: “Finishing life to the glory of Christ means resolutely resisting the typical American dream of retirement.” I know this will be unpopular with some readers and some will object to this concept, feeling that they deserve a life of leisure after working in jobs for perhaps fifty years. But I believe that this thinking is culturally based and ultimately unbiblical. Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?
  2. Finish strong. I want to finish strong, and be like Paul when he wrote in II Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. I long to hear my Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”. On the occasion of his death not long ago, I wrote about Art Moser, my model for finishing strong. In my Divine Design Assessment completed in Dr. Douglass’s class at Covenant Seminary, I wrote about Art as one of the people in ministry I most admire. I served for years as an Elder with Art. I appreciated many things about him including his ability to finish strong. Well into his 80’s he was still mentoring young men, reading books and writing book reviews and articles for our church newsletter, which preceded this blog. May I say that Art “didn’t act his age”, and I mean that in the most positive and respectful way. Art modeled finishing strong for me – may I be like him as I finish my race.

Piper writes that finishing life to the glory of Christ means finishing life in a way that makes Christ look glorious. How about you? How do you plan to spend your final years to make a difference for Christ?

  1. Don’t Waste Your Retirement. John Piper’s excellent book Don’t Waste Your Life is one of my favorites, and one that I have read often. In that book Piper writes: “I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider a story from the February 1998 edition of Reader’s Digest, which tells about a couple who “took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30-foot trawler, play softball and collect shells.”  At first, when I read it I thought it might be a joke. A spoof on the American Dream. But it wasn’t. Tragically, this was the dream: Come to the end of your life—your one and only precious, God-given life—and let the last great work of your life before you give an account to your Creator be this: playing softball and collecting shells.  Picture them before Christ at the great Day of Judgment: ‘Look, Lord. See my shells.’ That is a tragedy. And people today are spending billions of dollars to persuade you to embrace that tragic dream. Over against that, I put my protest: Don’t buy it. Don’t waste your life.”

If we retire in our late 50’s or early to mid-60’s, hopefully we will have many years before our physical and mental powers fail. Piper challenges us to live those final years for the glory of Christ. If you are retired, or within a few years of retiring, how do you plan to live them in such a way as to show that Christ is your highest Treasure?
Lord willing, I hope to not waste my retirement. Completing my seminary education served to equip me theologically. In God’s providence, I hope to serve my Jesus and my church through teaching, mentoring and discipling during my retirement for as long as I am physically and mentally able.
Piper charges us to: “Live dangerously for the one who loved you and died for you in his thirties. Don’t throw your life away on the American dream of retirement.”  How do you plan to live dangerously in your last season of life for Christ?

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BOOK REVIEW: A Camaraderie of Confidence: The Fruit of Unfailing Faith in the Lives of Charles Spurgeon, George Müller, and Hudson Taylor (Swans Are Not Silent) by John Piper

BOOK REVIEW:  A Camaraderie of Confidence: The Fruit of Unfailing Faith in the Lives of Charles Spurgeon, George Müller, and Hudson Taylor (Swans Are Not Silent) by John Piper. Crossway. 128 pages. 2016 
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This is John Piper’s seventh book in his popular biography series entitled The Swans Are Not Silent. This time the swans he looks at are Charles Spurgeon, the greatest preacher of the nineteenth century, George Müller, the great lover of orphans and supporter of missions, and Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission. Piper writes that some of the things that bind them together are that they were “all contemporaries, based in England, knew each other, encouraged each other, and took inspiration from each other’s lives.”
Piper states that all three were clearly nineteenth-century men. All three of these men were part of British culture. He states that the mark of evangelicalism that linked the three most clearly to their age was their activism. He states that in addition to the depth of their theology and spirituality, all three were consummate doers. All three rejected debt as a way of running any Christian ministry.
Spurgeon loved Müller as a close comrade in ministry and as one of his heroes. Müller preached occasionally in Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle. Spurgeon’s praise for Müller was unparalleled for any man in his day. Perhaps only slightly less was Spurgeon’s admiration for Taylor.
Piper looks at each of his three subjects in separate sections of the book. He writes that theirs was a camaraderie of confidence in the goodness, glory, and power of God.  He states that the glory of God was always the preeminent issue in their lives.
If you are looking for short biographical sketches of some of the great heroes of the faith, I highly recommend each of Piper’s seven volumes in his Swans are Not Silent series.  Piper states that the series title comes from the story of Augustine’s retirement as the bishop of Hippo in North Africa in AD 426. He tells us that Augustine’s successor, Eraclius, contrasted himself with Augustine by saying, “The cricket chirps, the swan is silent.” When Piper says that the swans are not silent, he means that there are voices from church history that are still heard, and should be heard, in the ongoing history of the church. This series gives voice to some of those swans.


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

book reviews

A Peculiar Glory by John PiperA Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness by John Piper. Crossway. 304 pages. 2016
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This is Piper’s first major work since 2011’s Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian. His objective is to answer the questions of how are we to know that the Scriptures are the word of God, how can we trust the Bible, and what do the Scriptures claim for themselves. Piper’s main passion has been toward the non-scholarly. He asks how the common (non-seminary trained, non-scholar) Christian has a well-grounded trust in Scripture. How can they know for certain that the Bible is confirmed by the peculiar glory of God?

He begins with his own biographical story about the Bible. He asks the reader ‘on what do you stand?’ He writes that God was holding onto him by making the view compelling. Piper didn’t just hold a view of Scripture, he was held by His glory through His Word. He tells us that he went from being a teacher of the Bible in Bible College to a preacher of the Bible for 33 years at Bethlehem Baptist Church.

He then looks at what the Scriptures claim for themselves, and how we can know such claims are true. His concern is the Bible’s self-attestation, or the internal witness of the Holy Spirit. He then looks at what books make up the Scriptures. From there he looks at what the Scriptures claim for themselves through the Old Testament, Jesus and the Apostles. Piper writes that he believes in the inerrancy of the original manuscripts, though we do not have the original manuscripts at our disposal.

He then addresses the main questions that are listed above. He concludes the book with six chapters on how the Scriptures are confirmed by the peculiar glory of God.

Piper contends that God’s Glory and His Word are inseparable. He draws heavily from Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin, the Apostle Paul (specifically 2 Corinthians 4:3-6) and Westminster Larger Catechism question 4 to address the questions the book poses. He argues that the Bible exposes us to the glory of God and in that way gives us complete confidence that it is, indeed, God’s own word.

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Book Reviews

the-chief-exercise-of-prayer-by-john-calvinThe Chief Exercise of Faith: John Calvin on Prayer (From The Institutes) by John Calvin. Cross-Points.org. 84 pages. 2016
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This small book is an excerpt of Henry Beveridge’s 1845 translation of John Calvin’s classic work Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 20. The book is broken down into 52 individual sections. As an example, Section 2 is on prayer defined, its necessity and use.

Calvin covers many aspects of prayer in this short but exhaustive book on prayer. Here are ten of the topics or thoughts from Calvin that I highlighted as I read the book:

  1. The true object of prayer is to carry our thoughts directly to God, whether to celebrate his praise or implore his aid.
  2. God is to be invoked only in the name of Christ. We pray to God in the name of Christ alone.
  3. The Lord’s Prayer contains everything that we can or ought to ask of God.
  4. The rules of prayer. Let the first rule of right prayer then be, to have our heart and mind framed as becomes those who are entering into converse with God.
  5. One of the requisites of legitimate prayer is repentance.
  6. The suppression of all pride. He who comes into the presence of God to pray must divest himself of all vainglorious thoughts, lay aside all idea of worth; in short, discard all self- confidence, humbly giving God the whole glory, lest by arrogating anything, however little, to himself, vain pride cause him to turn away his face.
  7. The laws of prayer. It is also of importance to observe, that the four laws of prayer of which I have treated are not so rigorously enforced, as that God rejects the prayers in which he does not find perfect faith or repentance, accompanied with fervent zeal and wishes duly framed.
  8. Christ is the only Mediator between God and man. It is manifest sacrilege to offer prayer to others.
  9. The principle we must always hold is, that in all prayer, public and private, the tongue without the mind must be displeasing to God.
  10. An exposition of the Lord’s Prayer, which is divided into six petitions. Subdivision into two principal parts, the former referring to the glory of God, the latter to our salvation.

There is much wisdom from Calvin about the subject of prayer in these pages. Highly recommended. Continue reading


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Book Review: Living in the Light: Money, Sex and Power by John Piper

Living in the LightLiving in the Light: Money, Sex and Power by John Piper. The Good Book Company. 144 pages. 2016    
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This book was birthed from conference messages that the author delivered in 2015. Piper states that the main thesis of this book is that money, sex, and power, which began as God’s good gifts to humanity, have become dangerous because all human beings have exchanged the glory of God for images. In addition, money, sex, and power will be restored to their God-glorifying place by the redemption that God brought into the world through Jesus Christ. He approaches his subject with a strategy to define, defeat and deploy. He gives us definitions and foundations, dangers and how to defeat them, potentials and how to deploy them.

In defining money, he tells us that money is the symbolic representation of quantities of value. It becomes a moral issue because of the rightness or wrongness of what we pursue with this gift God has given us. We can pursue good, and we can pursue evil. We can use it to show that we value money more than Christ; or we can use it to show that we value Christ more than money.  He tells us that there is no link between having much money and knowing much happiness in this life—or the next.

In defining “sex” he means experiencing erotic stimulation; seeking to get the experience, or seeking to give the experience. He tells us that sex is a good gift from God in all those ways. He writes that our sexual sinning is rooted in the fact that we don’t treasure the glory of God as supremely desirable over all things. Jesus, Peter, Paul, John and the writer to the Hebrews all sound the note of danger that lies ahead for those who do not repent of sexual sin. He tells us that when it comes to our sex lives, the issue is this: Do we see the glory of God? Do we treasure the glory? Are we deeply content?

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Book Reviews

Anxious for NothingAnxious for Nothing: God’s Cure for the Cares of Your Soul by John MacArthur.   David C. Cook. 3rd edition. 224 pages. 2012
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John MacArthur is one of my favorite authors. I read this book recently on vacation, at just the right time. It covers themes such as contentment and anxiety. A few days before reading it we had flown out of O’Hare International Airport under a tornado warning. All day long I had been extremely anxious about the impending inclement weather and whether we would be able to get out of the Midwest on the way to our destination on the East Coast.  I couldn’t relax and just trust that God was in control. Contentment is another item that I struggle with, so this book was just perfect for me.

MacArthur states that the wrong way to handle the stresses of life is to worry about them. He indicates that worry at any time is a sin because it violates the clear biblical command. He states that we allow our daily concerns to turn into worry, and therefore sin, when our thoughts become focused on changing the future instead of doing our best to handle our present circumstances.

MacArthur indicates that he titled the book Anxious for Nothing because he wants the reader to know that we can overcome our anxieties. Each chapter and a special appendix at the end (“Psalms for the Anxious”, excerpts from the Psalms which are especially intended to attack anxiety) provide the reader specific biblical ways we can do just that.

MacArthur states that when we worry, we in effect are saying that we can believe God for the greater gift and then stumble and not believe Him for the lesser one. He goes on to state that a lack of joy for the believer is a sin.

He looks at Matthew 6 as Jesus’ great statement on worry and Philippians 4 as the Apostle Paul’s primary writing on how to avoid anxiety.  He states that those passages are the most comprehensive portions of Scripture dealing with anxiety and therefore foundational to understanding how God feels about anxiety and why He feels that way.

MacArthur looks at prayer as the foremost way to avoid anxiety, followed by right thinking and action.  We are to approach God with a thankful attitude, which will release us from fear and worry. This is a tangible demonstration of trusting our situation to God’s sovereign control. We also need to demonstrate humility, as only from humility comes the ability to truly hand over all our cares to God.

MacArthur states that to do a comprehensive study on what Scripture says about anxiety, we need to examine what it says about living by faith. Hebrews 11 and 12 are the faith chapters of the Bible. Chapter 11 gives a general definition of faith and a slew of Old Testament examples.

Another weight of sin that entangles the believer says MacArthur is doubt. Paul states that our protection again doubt is to “take up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Eph. 6:16).

MacArthur writes that when we have a problem facing us that we don’t know how to solve, we need to remember to praise God.  Remembering who God is and what He has done glorifies Him and strengthens our faith. To help us do that, he recommends that we read through the Psalms the next time we’re tempted to worry.

In discussing the role of the church in helping with anxiety he writes that the church does well as a whole when the shepherds and the sheep bond together to correct the wayward, encourage the worried, hold up the weak, be patient with the wearisome, and repay the wicked with love. He also discusses God’s peace, stating that it is not subject to circumstances.

He discusses complaining about our circumstances, an area I can certainly improve in. He states that it is a sin to complain against God, and we must see our complaints as such. He states that we are really complaining about God when we complain about our circumstances.

He states that two roadblocks to contentment are grumbling and disputing. He writes that the quality of the believer’s life is the platform of our personal testimony. A murmuring, discontented, grumbling, griping, and complaining Christian is never going to have a positive influence on others. He encourages the reader to try to make it through today without complaining about something. We should make a note each time we do complain. Unfortunately, we may be surprised to discover it has become a way of life for us.

He writes that until we realize that God is sovereign, ordering everything for His own holy purposes and the ultimate good of those who love Him, we can’t help but be discontent. We need to realize any circumstance we face is only temporary. We need to learn to be content by not taking our earthly circumstances too seriously. He suggests that we be confident in God’s sovereign providence, and don’t allow your circumstances to trouble you.

I found this to be a very helpful and practical book that I can highly recommend.
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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

  • Center for Faith and Work Podcast. I’m very excited about this new podcast from the Center for Faithcenter for faith and work and Work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. Listen in on weekly talks, lectures, and conversations about the intersection of theology and culture as it applies to our everyday work. Topics range from vocational-specific (business, law, arts, education, etc.) to practical resources regarding prayer, discernment, calling, and more.
  • Joy and the Power of a Dream. Steven Garber, who spoke at my Covenant Seminary graduation in May, 2014, writes that the film Joy “a remarkably insightful account of creativity and imagination and gumption and grit, together forming a vocation in the life of Joy Mangano, played by Jennifer Lawrence”.
  • The Fashion Brand with a Heart for Adoption. Bethany Jenkins interviews Sara Brinton about her work. Brinton is the leader of marketing for Noonday Collection, a socially responsible fashion brand, and believes that entrepreneurship can be a sustainable solution to poverty and injustice.
  • 6 Techniques for Getting the Most Out of Continuing Education. Dr. Alan Zimmerman writes “It’s never too late to make continuing education a center piece in your life.  These six strategies will help you tap into the power of continuing education.”
  • How Do You Define Success? John Maxwell writes “Success means having those closest to me love and respect me the most.”
  • 10 Ways to Increase Results in Meetings. One of my pet-peeves is poorly run meetings. They are frustrating and a waste of already busy people’s time. Selma Wilson offers these ten helpful ways to ensure your meetings have positive outcomes.
  • Labor of Love? Jamie Winship writes “What does it mean to work for the Lord on a daily basis? Do people who work wholeheartedly, as if they are serving the Lord, look any different from those who work hard just to get ahead in life? And if so, how?”
  • Work Is Worship. Enjoy this short video that shows that our work life is an act of worship.
  • Are Spiritual Disciplines Meant for My Work? Jessica Schaeffer writes “Keeping company with Jesus ought to be sustained throughout the day. He is not companion and Lord only when a Bible is open in the lap. We don’t leave him on the shelf with our devotional books and prayer journal.”
  • What the Image of God Means for Our Dignity and Work. Art Lindsay writes “Every person is created in the image of God, full of dignity, with unique talents and gifts to use for the glory of God in their work. One reason why so many Christians fail to discover their vocation is because they don’t fully understand what it means to be made in the image of God.”

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