Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

  • The Best Workers Are the Best Neighbors. Tom Nelson writes “Martin Luther said it well: “God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does.” A primary way God designed us to love our neighbors is for us to do our work well, and from our work to have the capacity to be generous to neighbors in need. When it comes to being a helpful neighbor, a slothful worker faces an uphill climb. On the other hand, the best workers make the best neighbors.”
  • Leaders and Loneliness. Scott Sauls writes “In the past two years, five of my friends who are pastors lost their ministries because of moral failure.”
  • Humility 101: Continuing Ed for Leaders. Bill Peel writes “To discover whether pride is edging out humility, give yourself a “fruit inspection.” The absence of fruit of the Spirit means something besides the Holy Spirit is guiding you, and could be setting you up for an unwanted spot on the evening news.”
  • If God’s a Worker, What Kind of Work Does He Do? Russell Gehrlein writes “how does God carry out this work today? Sometimes he works supernaturally. For example, he does redemptive and revelatory work through his Holy Spirit, in revealing our sin and leading us to Christ. However, it is also true that God has chosen to use human beings, both believers and nonbelievers, to do this work.
  • Why You Get Distracted at Work. Michael Hyatt writes “Interruptions are outside things that throw us off. Distractions are things we do to ourselves to derail us.”
  • Center for Faith and Work Podcast. Check out the new Center for Faith and work podcast that will run every Wednesday. Here is the initial episode “Taking Faith to Work”.
  • The Greatest Burden of Leadership. Tim Challies writes “I believe the greatest difficulty of all is the knowledge that I am leading poorly. It’s the knowledge that I am not leading as well as I could or as well as I wish I would. The burden of responsibility is light compared to the burden of insufficiency, inability, or just plain failure.If all those other weights are heavy, this is the one that threatens to be crushing.”

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Spurgeon - Preaching in AdversityBOOK REVIEW: Charles Spurgeon: Preaching Through Adversity by John Piper. Desiring God. 40 pages. 2015
*** ½

This is the second book I’ve read about Charles Spurgeon this year, and this short book by John Piper certainly has some similarities to Zack Eswine’s excellent Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for Those Who Suffer from Depression. Piper writes “The question for pastors is not, ‘How do you live through unremitting criticism and distrust and accusation and abandonment?’—but, How do you preach through it? How do you do heart work when the heart is under siege and ready to fall?”

Piper offers seven reasons why Spurgeon is a model saint for modern saints. He writes that Spurgeon knew the whole range of adversity that most preachers suffer—and a lot more.

He writes about the impact on Spurgeon of a tragedy that took place when he was preaching at age twenty-two, when someone shouted “Fire!” and seven people were killed in a stampede, with many injured. Spurgeon also dealt with a wife who at age thirty-three became a virtual invalid, could no longer have children, and seldom heard her husband preach for the next 27 years until his death.

Spurgeon himself suffered from gout, rheumatism, and Bright’s disease (inflammation of the kidneys). The diseases eventually took his life at age 57. In addition to the physical suffering, Spurgeon had to endure a lifetime of public ridicule and slander, sometimes of the most vicious kind.

Spurgeon also had recurrent battles with depression, which he said was his “worst feature”, but he saw three specific purposes of God in his struggle with depression. Piper writes that there are innumerable strategies of grace in the life of Spurgeon, and then shares a few of them.

This short book will be most helpful to pastors.

The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoungBOOK REVIEW: The Hole in Our Holiness Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness by Kevin DeYoung. Crossway. 160 pages. 2012. Audiobook read by Adam Verner.  
****

Over the past few years I’ve often pondered who would be the leaders in Reformed theology in the coming years. After all, R.C. Sproul and John MacArthur are in their mid-70’s and John Piper is 69. Sinclair Ferguson, Alistair Begg, Derek Thomas and Tim Keller are in their 60’s. Albert Mohler and Michael Horton are in their 50’s. Certainly Kevin DeYoung, who already has written several quality books at age 37, is in the mix to be among our future leaders, along with Matt Chandler and younger leaders such as Trip Lee.

I recently re-listened to this book, which was the first of DeYoung’s books I had read when it was first published in 2012. Some of the content in this book was similar to his excellent message “Do Not Love the World” from the recent Ligonier National Conference

DeYoung, who does an excellent job of using Scripture throughout the book to reinforce his points, writes that we tend to be neglectful of the pursuit of holiness, even though Jesus expects obedience from us. God saved us so that we may be holy. To be holy means to be separate, to be set apart from what is common. Holiness is a key theme in the Bible. In general, however, a concern for holiness is not apparent in most of our lives. Holiness is not an option for the believer. However, DeYoung points out that many Christians have given up on sanctification, a theological term for growing in our holiness.

Christians should not even have a hint of immorality in their lives. We are to be holy as God is holy. (1 Peter 1:15). But DeYoung writes that there is a gap between our love for the Gospel and our love for godliness.

Our pursuit of holiness does not diminish the fact that we are saved by faith alone. Justification is the root while holiness is the fruit. We should not confuse justification and sanctification. We shouldn’t confuse DeYoung’s discussion about personal holiness for legalism.

DeYoung discusses what holiness is (to be like God) and what it is not (worldliness). He discusses having a good or clean conscious and illustrates that with practical illustrations about boundaries in dating or the movies we watch.

He discusses the role of the law in the life of the believer and the so-called lordship salvation (we are saved by grace so can’t we live as we would like?). He states that we can please God, but only because of what He has done for us. Whenever we trust and obey God is pleased.

DeYoung writes that all sins are offensive to God, but some sins are worse than others. He asks if born again Christians can displease God and then answers by indicating that God is displeased when His people sin, and as a result He disciplines us.

The author looks at how the Holy Spirit works in our holiness and how the Gospel aids us in our holiness. We shouldn’t neglect the importance of our effort and work. We shouldn’t “Let go and let God”.

DeYoung includes a helpful section on union with Christ. It reminded me of one of my favorite professors, Dr. Phillip Douglas at Covenant Seminary, who covered this topic in his Spiritual and Ministry Formation course. DeYoung writes that the Christian life is a fight, but if you are in Christ, it is a fight you will win.

He offers helpful insights in discussing sexual immorality, talking about what we are doing and seeing. In today’s sex saturated culture sexual impurity seems normal to us. This is not so in the Scriptures. The sexually immoral are mentioned as not inheriting the kingdom of God in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. DeYoung defines sexual immorality as any sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman. Despite what our culture says, God says our bodies belong to Him.

Along with union with Christ is communion with Him. John Owen says that communion is mutual relations between us and God. We abide by obeying and obey as we abide. We commune with God by praying.

DeYoung closes the book by discussing the role of repentance in the pursuit of holiness. He states that it is more important where we are going than where we are now.

Throughout this helpful book DeYoung mentions the Puritans often. Other books that I have read and would recommend to you around this subject are R.C. Sproul’s Pleasing God and Jerry Bridges The Pursuit of Holiness.

Finally, enjoy this article from Tony Reinke of Desiring God featuring twenty helpful quotes from the book: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/20-quotes-from-the-hole-in-our-holiness

Book News

  • Christianaudio’s Free Audiobook of the Month. The October free audiobook of the month from Christianaudio is a good one. It is Follow Me by David Platt. Follow Me asks the key question: What does following Jesus really look like? Follow Me is a life and death message for all who claim the name of Christ. Jesus’ call to follow him is more than an invitation to pray a prayer. It is a summons to lose your life. And find new life in him.
  • IchthusICHTHUS. I’m looking forward to this new book by Sinclair Ferguson and Derek Thomas, to be published by Banner of Truth.
  • Happiness. David Murray reviews Randy Alcorn’s new book Happiness, giving it high praise, while raising a few concerns. Murray indicates that is his 2015 book of the year. High praise indeed.
  • 6 Great New Books for Kids. Tim Challies looks at six new books for children, including The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden by Kevin DeYoung.
  • New Mohler bookWe Cannot Be Silent. Albert Mohler’s new book We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrong, will be published October 27.
  • Why Every Student Should Read Martyn Lloyd-Jones. This article begins an occasional series on the SBTS blog, Why Every Student Should Read . . . This series is intended to spotlight and commend for further investigation pastors, teachers, theologians, books, sermons, and figures from church history as well as from the current evangelical scene.
  • Tim Keller’s Bookshelf. Here’s an interesting glimpse into the books that Tim Keller is reading.

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?

Studies in the Sermon on the MountStudies in the Sermon on the Mount by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

This book made a significant impact on my wife Tammy when she read and discussed it with friends thirty years ago. When I picked up my diploma the day after graduation ceremonies from Covenant Seminary last year I was given a copy of this book. After enjoying Lloyd-Jones book Spiritual Depression (and the sermons the book was taken from), I couldn’t wait to read this book, which is the printed form of sermons preached for the most part on successive Sunday mornings at Westminster Chapel in London. This week we look at Chapter 7: Righteousness and Blessedness:

  • In this particular statement in the Sermon on the Mount we are looking at another of the characteristics of the Christian, a further description of the Christian man.
  • If this verse is to you one of the most blessed statements of the whole of Scripture you can be quite certain you are a Christian; if it is not, then you had better examine the foundations again.
  • In this verse we have one of the most notable statements of the Christian gospel and everything that it has to give us. Let me describe it as the great charter for every seeking soul, the outstanding declaration of the Christian gospel to all who are unhappy about themselves and their spiritual state, and who long for an order and quality of life that they have not hitherto enjoyed. We can also describe it as one of the most typical statements of the gospel.
  • It emphasizes one of the most fundamental doctrines of the gospel, namely, that our salvation is entirely of grace or by grace, that it is entirely the free gift of God.
  • According to the Scriptures happiness is never something that should be sought directly; it is always something that results from seeking something else.
  • Whenever you put happiness before righteousness, you will be doomed to misery. That is the great message of the Bible from beginning to end.
  • Oh, the tragedy that we do not follow the simple teaching and instruction of the Word of God, but are always coveting and seeking this experience which we hope we are going to have.
  • The desire for righteousness, the act of hungering and thirsting for it, means ultimately the desire to be free from sin in all its forms and in its every manifestation.
  • It means a desire to be free from sin, because sin separates us from God. Therefore, positively, it means a desire to be right with God; it also means of necessity a desire to be free from the power of sin.
  • It means a desire to be free from the very desire for sin, because we find that the man who truly examines himself in the light of the Scriptures not only discovers that he is in the bondage of sin; still more horrible is the fact that he likes it, that he wants it. Even after he has seen it is wrong, he still wants it.
  • The man who hungers and thirsts after righteousness is a man who wants to get rid of that desire for sin, not only outside, but inside as well.
  • To hunger and thirst after righteousness is to desire to be free from self in all its horrible manifestations, in all its forms.
  • To hunger and thirst after righteousness is nothing but the longing to be positively holy.
  • It means that one’s supreme desire in life is to know God and to be in fellowship with Him, to walk with God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in the light.
  • To be in fellowship with God means to be walking with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the light, in that blessed purity and holiness. The man who hungers and thirsts after righteousness is the man who longs for that above everything else.
  • To hunger and thirst really means to be desperate, to be starving, to feel life is ebbing out, to realize my urgent need of help.
  • If you really are hungering and thirsting after righteousness you will be filled.
  • Hunger and thirst after righteousness, long to be like Christ, and then you will have that and the blessedness.
  • How does it happen? It happens-and this is the glory of the gospel-it happens immediately, thank God. But, it is also a continuing process. The Holy Spirit, as already shown, begins within us His great work of delivering us from the power of sin and from the pollution of sin. We have to hunger and thirst for this deliverance, from the power and from the pollution. And if you hunger and thirst for that you will get it.
  • But of course, finally, this promise is fulfilled perfectly and absolutely in eternity. There is a day coming when all who are in Christ and belong to Him shall stand in the presence of God, faultless, blameless, without spot and without wrinkle.
  • You see the Christian is one who at one and the same time is hungering and thirsting, and yet he is filled. And the more he is filled the more he hungers and thirsts. That is the blessedness of this Christian life.
  • It goes on. You reach a certain stage in sanctification, but you do not rest upon that for the rest of your life. You go on changing from glory into glory `till in heaven we take our place’.
  • It goes on and on; perfect, yet not perfect; hungering, thirsting, yet filled and satisfied, but longing for more, never having enough because it is so glorious and so wondrous; fully satisfied by Him and yet a supreme desire to `know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.’

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Book Reviews and News

Book Reviews
What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung. Crossway. 160 pages. 2015.
****

Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, and one of the leading young voices in Reformed circles, has written a very readable book from a pastoral heart, on a hot topic in our culture today. Up front, he tells us that this is a Christian book that has the focus of defending a traditional view of marriage.

He writes: “Is homosexual activity a sin that must be repented of, forsaken, and forgiven, or, given the right context and commitment, can we consider same-sex sexual intimacy a blessing worth celebrating and solemnizing? That is the question this book seeks to answer.”

He is open in stating that he believes same-sex sexual intimacy is a sin. “Along with most Christians around the globe and virtually every Christian in the first nineteen-and-a-half centuries of church history, I believe the Bible places homosexual behavior—no matter the level of commitment or mutual affection—in the category of sexual immorality.” Why the author believes this is the subject of the book.

The book is divided into a few major parts:  Part 1, consists of five chapters which examine the five most relevant and most debated biblical texts related to homosexuality. In part 2, DeYoung focuses on seven of the most common objections to this traditional view of sexual morality. A final chapter tries to explain what is at stake in the debate. Three appendices follow the main portion of the book.

DeYoung states that we must reinterpret our experiences through the Bible, rather than letting our experiences dictate what the Bible can and cannot mean. He encourages the reader, whatever their presuppositions may be, to keep three things open as they read the book: their heads, heart, and Bible.

In looking at Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, he suggests six reasons why we cannot set aside these passages, but should instead view these prohibitions as an expression of God’s unchanging moral will.

In addressing the key New Testament text on this subject, he writes:  “The most detailed and significant treatment of homosexuality is found in the first chapter of the most important letter in the history of the world. Romans 1 reinforces with unambiguous clarity all that we’ve seen up to this point from the Old Testament; namely, that homosexual practice is a serious sin and a violation of God’s created order.”

In addressing some of the common objections in part two, he writes:  “We cannot count same-sex behavior as an indifferent matter. Of course, homosexuality isn’t the only sin in the world, nor is it the most critical one to address in many church contexts. But if 1 Corinthians 6 is right, it’s not an overstatement to say that solemnizing same-sex sexual behavior—like supporting any form of sexual immorality—runs the risk of leading people to hell.”

DeYoung states that the biblical teaching is consistent and unambiguous, that homosexual activity is not God’s will for his people. In addressing the objections, he states how the revisionist authors look at the issue and texts in question.

He challenges the reader to consider what is at stake in moving away from the standard view of marriage:

  • The moral logic of monogamy
  • The integrity of Christian sexual ethics
  • The authority of the Bible
  • The grand narrative of Scripture

DeYoung states “The path which leads to the affirmation of homosexual behavior is a journey which inevitably leaves behind a clear, inerrant Bible, and picks up from liberalism a number of assumptions about the importance of individual authority and cultural credibility.”

The book concludes with three appendices:

  1. What about Same-Sex Marriage?
  2. Same-Sex Attraction: Three Building Blocks
  3. The Church and Homosexuality: Ten Commitments

He includes a helpful annotated bibliography for those who want to keep exploring what the Bible says about homosexuality.

The publisher is offering a Study Guide for the book at crossway.org/DeYoung2015.

Certainly not everyone will agree with the conclusions in this important book. It is a well-written, pastoral, and I believe biblically based view of this important issue.

 generous justiceThe Generous Justice Book Club

Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just by Tim Keller

This book, which I had read when it was first published, was listed under recommended reading in Matt Perman’s fine book What’s Best Next. Tammy and I are reading it and being challenged on every page. Won’t you read along with us? This week we look at Chapter 6: How Should We Do Justice?

Doing justice is an important part of living the Christian life in the world. What I have wrestled with for many years since is the question of how to practically answer this call today.

  • God does not want us to merely give the poor perfunctory help, but to ponder long and hard about how to improve their entire situation.
  • Doing justice, then, requires constant, sustained reflection and circumspection.
  • If you are a Christian, and you refrain from committing adultery or using profanity or missing church, but you don’t do the hard work of thinking through how to do justice in every area of life—you are failing to live justly and righteously.
  • Vulnerable people need multiple levels of help. We will call these layers relief, development, and social reform. Relief is direct aid to meet immediate physical, material, and economic needs.
  • The next level is development. This means giving an individual, family, or entire community what they need to move beyond dependency on relief into a condition of economic self-sufficiency.
  • Wright then lays out a good list of what is entailed in helping a poor family or individual climb out of a state of constant dependency. It includes education, job creation and training, job search skills, and financial counseling as well as helping a family into home ownership.
  • When John Perkins explained his philosophy of ministry, he always named three basic factors. One he called “relocation,” though others have called it “reneighboring a community.” Perkins advocated that those helping the neighborhood live in it. Perkins also spoke of “redistribution,” something others have called “reweaving a community.”
  • There is a third important factor in John Perkins’s strategy for rebuilding poor communities. He names it “racial reconciliation.”
  • What is best for the poor community—a nonpaternalistic partnership of people from different races and social locations—was also one of the gifts that the gospel makes possible.
  • We must not miss the profound message of this account—that human pride and lust for power leads to racial and national division, strife, and hatred.
  • Partnership and friendship across racial barriers within the church is one of the signs of the presence and power of the gospel.
  • Racial prejudice is wrong because it is a denial of the very principle that all human beings are equally sinful and saved by only the grace of God.
  • Social reform moves beyond the relief of immediate needs and dependency and seeks to change the conditions and social structures that aggravate or cause that dependency.
  • Many Christians resist the idea that social systems need to be dealt with directly. They prefer the idea that “society is changed one heart at a time,” and so they concentrate on only evangelism and individual social work. This is naïve.
  • Doing justice in poor communities includes direct relief, individual development, community development, racial reconciliation, and social reform.
  • Churches in poor neighborhoods can serve as healing communities.
  • Christians can form organizations that serve as healers of communities.
  • Finally, churches encourage people to be organizers for just communities.
  • What should you do if you and your church are not in located in areas of poverty or dire need? You or your church should begin by discovering the needs in your locale. Another thing that your church can do is to make a connection to churches and ministries that are resident and effective in poorer neighborhoods and poorer countries.
  • You can’t love people in word only (cf. 1 John 3:16-17) and therefore you can’t love people as you are doing evangelism and discipleship without meeting practical and material needs through deeds.
  • As soon as a church engages in holistic ministry, however, it will run up against a number of practical policy issues. Often people with the same basic vision for justice will disagree on the specific answers to the following questions:
  1. How much should we help?
  2. Whom should we help?
  3. Under what conditions does your help proceed or end?
  4. In what way do we help?
  5. From where should we help?
  • As Christians do justice, they must face the important practical issue of how justice relates to their other duties as believers. In particular, what is the relationship between the call to help the needy and the Biblical command to evangelize?
  • I propose a different way to understand evangelism and social justice. They should exist in an asymmetrical, inseparable relationship.
  • Deeds of mercy and justice should be done out of love, not simply as a means to the end of evangelism. And yet there is no better way for Christians to lay a foundation for evangelism than by doing justice.
  • Doing justice necessitates a striking a series of balances. It means ministering in both word and deed, through the local church and as individual agents dispersed throughout the world. It means engaging in relief, and development, and reform.

Counter Culture by David PlattReading Together ~ Week 8

Counter Culture: A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture in a World of Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Abortion, Persecution, Orphans and Pornography by David Platt.

David Platt, author of Radical, has written an important new book. So important, I believe, that rather than doing one book review, I’m going to review the content chapter by chapter. Note, all of Platt’s royalties from this book will go toward promoting the glory of Christ in all nations.

Each chapter concludes by offering some initial suggestions for practical requests you can pray in light of these issues, potential ways you might engage culture with the gospel, and biblical truths we must proclaim regarding every one of these issues. These suggestions will also direct you to a website www.counterculturebook.com/resources, where you can explore more specific steps you might take.

This week we look at CHAPTER 8: UNITY IN DIVERSITY: THE GOSPEL AND ETHNICITY

  • I feel inadequate to write this book on so many levels, but that inadequacy may be felt most in this chapter, for even as I have sought to develop friendships, foster partnerships, and forge initiatives that promote unity across ethnic lines, I know there is so much more that needs to be done in my own life and in the church of which I am a part.
  • Instead of being strictly tied to biology, ethnicity is much more fluid, factoring in social, cultural, lingual, historical, and even religious characteristics.
  • it makes no sense, then, to categorize our own country as a nation of black, white, brown, or other “races.” Instead, we are a nation of increasingly diverse people groups. We are Anglo Americans, African Americans, Latin Americans, Asian Americans, and more. These categories can be subdivided further based upon other ethnolinguistic factors, leading us to realize that we are a nation of unique people groups with diverse histories from different lands with distinct customs and even languages.
  • For in the beginning, sin separated man and woman from God and also from one another. This sin stood (and stands) at the root of ethnic pride and prejudice. When Christ went to the cross, he conquered sin, making the way for people to be free from its hold and restored to God. In so doing, he paved the way for all people to be reconciled to one another. Followers of Christ thus have one “Father” as one “family” in one “household,” with no “dividing wall of hostility” based upon ethnic diversity.
  • if the God of the Bible possesses particular compassion for the immigrant, even equating him or her with the orphan and the widow, and if the cross of Christ is designed to compel outreach across ethnic divisions, then how much more should we as the people of God care for immigrants from other countries in our midst?
  • First and foremost the gospel reminds us that when we are talking about immigrants (legal or illegal), we are talking about men and women made in God’s image and pursued by his grace. Consequently, followers of Christ must see immigrants not as problems to be solved but as people to be loved. The gospel compels us in our culture to decry any and all forms of oppression, exploitation, bigotry, or harassment of immigrants, regardless of their legal status. These are men and women for whom Christ died, and their dignity is no greater or lesser than our own.
  • We have a responsibility before God as citizens under a government to work together to establish and enforce just laws that address immigration. Among other things, such laws should involve securing our borders, holding business owners accountable for hiring practices, and taking essential steps that ensure fairness to taxpaying citizens of our country. Likewise, we have a responsibility before God as citizens under a government to work together to refute and remove unjust laws that oppress immigrants.[95] Failing to act in either of these ways would be to settle for injustice, which would put us out of sync with the gospel.
  • Christians are migrants on this earth, and the more we get involved in the lives of immigrants, the better we will understand the gospel.

QUOTE: Be careful what books you read, for as water tastes of the soil it runs through,
so does the soul taste of the authors that a man reads. John Trapp

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