Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Why the Reformation Still Matters by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester

Why the Reformation Still Matters by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester. Crossway. 224 pages. 2016
****

The authors write that at the heart the Reformation was a dispute about how we know God and how we can be right with him. Our eternal future was at stake, a choice between heaven and hell. For the Reformers there was no need more pressing than assurance in the face of divine judgment, and there was no act more loving than to proclaim a message of grace that granted eternal life to those who responded with faith. Though many will tell you that the Reformation doesn’t matter or even was a bad idea, the authors tell us otherwise. They state that the Reformation still matters because eternal life still matters. In addition, the Reformation still matters because the debates between Catholics and Protestants have not gone away.

The authors outline some key emphases of the Reformation and explore their contemporary relevance. Subjects covered by the authors include the sacraments, the preaching of the Word, sin, grace, the cross, union with Christ, the Holy Spirit, the church, vocation, Purgatory, indulgences, justification, and the authority of scripture in comparison with the authority of the church and tradition. Continue reading

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation by Michael Reeves.  B&H Publishing Group. 211 pages. 2013 
**** 

The author, who has written extensively on the Protestant Reformation, states that the Reformation was a revolution, and revolutions not only fight for something, they also fight against something, in the case of the Reformation, this was the old world of medieval Roman Catholicism.  He states that most Christians at the time were looking for the improvement, but not the overthrow, of their religion. They were not looking for radical change, only a clearing-up of acknowledged abuses.  He tells us that the Reformation was not principally a negative movement about moving away from Rome, but a positive movement about moving towards the gospel.
In this fast-moving history, the author, using his knowledge and wit to introduce us to John Wycliffe (who organized a translation of the Latin Vulgate Bible into English), indulgences, Luther nailing his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church on All Saints’ Eve, Swiss Reformer Ulrich Zwingli, the Anabaptists, Mennonites, John Calvin and his ministry in Geneva, and William Tyndale, whose life’s work was translating the Bible from its original Greek and Hebrew into English.
He writes about John Knox, the history of the English Reformation, including the Puritans, who thought that the Reformation was a good thing that was not yet complete. We are introduced to the preacher Richard Sibbes, the Westminster Assembly and John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress. And much, much more.
The author asks if the Reformation is over. He writes that Roman Catholicism continues its belief in purgatory and indulgences, sure signs that the traditional Catholic doctrine of justification is at work. He states that without doubt, there has been something of a change in Rome, but concerning those theological issues that caused the Reformation, no doctrine has been rescinded. As a result, while attempts to foster greater Christian unity must be applauded, it must also be recognized that, as things stand, the Reformation is anything but over. Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke. 224 pages. Crossway. 2017
****

Look around, and many of the people you see will be looking down at their smartphone. It is amazing how smartphones have transformed our culture. This well-researched book by Tony Reinke is both an important one and a timely one.
More than a billion iPhones have been sold since Apple introduced it in 2007. Smartphones are now omnipresent. Amazingly, people check their smartphones about every four minutes they are awake.
The author looks at the positives (all the things they can do for us), and negatives (distractions, easier access to sexual sin, for example) of smartphones. The book is neither pro-smartphone, nor anti-smart phone. He encourages us to consider what impact the smartphone has had on our spiritual lives. He states that we might not know what our smartphones are doing to us, but we are being changed. He looks at the question of what is the best use of our smartphones in the flourishing of our life. The book is more diagnostic and worldview than it is application. The author states that the book will succeed only if we enjoy Christ more.
The author tells us that to look at our smartphone history is like piercing into our souls. Our smartphone habits expose our hearts.
He looks at a history of technology and offers a theology of technology. He shares that those addicted to smartphones are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety and have a harder time concentrating at work and sleeping. He looks at the spiritual dimensions and consequences of our digital addiction and distractions. For example, when texting while driving, we are twenty-seven times more likely to have an accident. He addresses topics such as online anger, approval addiction (likes, shares, followers) and the impact smartphones have had on our reading of books, including the Bible. Other topics he looks at are identity and idolatry (do we worship our smartphones, our online presence?), isolation, slander, and the fear of missing out or being left out. Continue reading


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10 Books I Plan to Read This Summer

The summer is a great time to get some reading in. I have several books on my “to be read” list (aka my “on deck circle”). Here are ten of them I hope to read this summer:

42 Faith: The Rest of the Jackie Robinson Story by Ed Henry

This book brings a different perspective to the well-known Jackie Robinson story. From Amazon: “Journalist and baseball lover Ed Henry reveals for the first time the backstory of faith that guided Jackie Robinson into not only the baseball record books but the annals of civil rights advancement as well. Through recently discovered sermons, interviews with Robinson’s family and friends, and even an unpublished book by the player himself, Henry details a side of Jackie’s humanity that few have taken the time to see.”

Work Matters: Lessons from Scripture by R. Paul Stevens

I recently started reading this book about work that was listed as recommended reading by Redeemer Presbyterian Church’s Center for Faith and Work. From Amazon: “In Work Matters marketplace theology expert R. Paul Stevens revisits more than twenty biblical accounts — from Genesis to Revelation — exploring through them the theological meaning of every sort of work, manual or intellectual, domestic or commercial. Taken together, his short, pithy reflections on these well-known Bible passages add up to a comprehensive, Bible-based theology of work — one that will be equally useful for seminars, classes, Bible studies, and individuals seeking to grasp more fully the theological dimensions of their daily labor.”

Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture by David Murray

I am a regular reader of David Murray’s HeadHeartHand blog and I appreciated his book Christians Get Depressed Too. From Amazon: “Drawing on personal experiences—and time spent counseling other men in the midst of burnout—David Murray offers weary men hope for the future, helping them identify the warning signs of burnout and offering practical strategies for developing patterns that are necessary for living a grace-paced life and reaching the finish line with their joy intact.”

Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

My wife Tammy and I are reading and discussing this book this summer. I first heard about it from the Center for Faith and Work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church. From Amazon: “In this book, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans show us how design thinking can help us create a life that is both meaningful and fulfilling, regardless of who or where we are, what we do or have done for a living, or how young or old we are. The same design thinking responsible for amazing technology, products, and spaces can be used to design and build your career and your life, a life of fulfillment and joy, constantly creative and productive, one that always holds the possibility of surprise.”

Working for Our Neighbor: A Lutheran Primer on Vocation, Economics, and Ordinary Life by Gene Veith

Gene Veith’s God at Work is one of the best books I read about integrating our faith and work. I’m looking forward to this new book from him. From Amazon: “In this elucidating work, Gene Edward Veith connects vocation to justification, good works, and Christian freedom—defining how the Lutheran contribution to economics can transfigure ordinary life, and work, with the powerful presence of God.”

Why the Reformation Still Matters by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester

I’ve read several of Michael Reeves books and seen him speak at the last two Ligonier National conferences. I also enjoyed Tim Chester’s book Gospel Centered Work. With this year being the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, this is a timely book to read. From Amazon: “In this accessible primer, Michael Reeves and Tim Chester answer eleven key questions raised by the Reformers—questions that remain critically important for the church today.”

Rediscovering the Holy Spirit: God’s Perfecting Presence in Creation, Redemption, and Everyday Life by Michael Horton

Over the years I’ve read several of Michael Horton’s books, seen him speak at conferences and enjoyed his White Horse Inn radio program. From Amazon: “In Rediscovering the Holy Spirit, author, pastor, and theologian Mike Horton introduces readers to the neglected person of the Holy Spirit, showing that the work of God’s Spirit is far more ordinary and common than we realize. Horton argues that we need to take a step back every now and again to focus on the Spirit himself—his person and work—in order to recognize him as someone other than Jesus or ourselves, much less something in creation. Through this contemplation we can gain a fresh dependence on the Holy Spirit in every area of our lives.”

The Mythical Leader: The Seven Myths of Leadership by Ron Edmondson

I enjoy reading pastor Ron Edmondson’s blog on leadership and am looking forward to this new book. From Amazon: “In The Mythical Leader, Edmondson exposes some of the most common misunderstandings of leadership, shares stories from his own experiences, and will help church leaders develop healthier patterns to improve their individual leadership.”

A Little Book on the Christian Life by John Calvin 

I’m looking forward to this new translation of Calvin’s classic book from Burk Parsons and Aaron Denlinger. From Amazon: “For centuries, disciples young and old have turned to this book for guidance in the Christian life. Today, it remains unique in its clear exposition of God’s calling for Christians to pursue holiness, endure suffering, and fulfill their callings. This is a book for every Christian to pick up, read, and apply.”

H3 Leadership: Be Humble. Stay Hungry. Always Hustle by Brad Lomenick

I enjoyed reading Brad Lomenick’s book The Catalyst Leader and regularly read his blog on leadership. From Amazon: “He categorizes 20 essential leadership habits organized into three distinct filters he calls “the 3 Hs”: Humble (Who am I?), Hungry (Where do I want to go?) and Hustle (How will I get there?). These powerful words describe the leader who is willing to work hard, get it done, and make sure it’s not about him or her; the leader who knows that influence is about developing the right habits for success. Lomenick provides a simple but effective guide on how to lead well in whatever capacity the reader may be in.”

These are the books I’m looking forward to reading or listening to this summer. How about you? What’s on your reading list?


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BOOK REVIEW: Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith by Michael Reeves

BOOK REVIEW:  Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith by Michael Reeves. IVP Academic. 135 pages. 2012
****  

I was introduced to the author at the 2016 Ligonier National Conference, and then again at the 2017 Conference. He writes that this book will be about growing in our enjoyment of God and seeing how God’s triune Being makes all His ways beautiful.  He tells us that it is only when we grasp what it means for God to be a Trinity that we really sense the beauty, the overflowing kindness, the heart-grabbing loveliness of God.
He writes that Christianity is not primarily about lifestyle change; it is about knowing God. To know and grow to enjoy Him is what we are saved for.  He tells us that the triune nature of God affects everything from how we listen to music to how we pray: it makes for happier marriages, warmer dealings with others, better church life; it gives Christians assurance, shapes holiness and transforms the very way we look at the world around us.
He writes that the word “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible. But he aims to show us in this wonderful book that through and through, the Trinity is a scriptural truth. He does this in a very readable manner, including helpful sidebar articles and artwork, taking us through meditations on the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He tells us that with our God, we are dealing with three real and distinct persons, the Father, the Son and the Spirit.
He writes that the Father is who He is by virtue of his relationship with the Son, and that the Son would not be the Son without his Father. He has His very being from the Father.  He tells us further that the Father, Son and Spirit, while distinct persons, are absolutely inseparable from each other.
Why is it important that we understand the Trinity? Reeves writes, “What is your Christian life like? What is the shape of your gospel, your faith? In the end, it will all depend on what you think God is like. Who God is drives everything.”
Studying the Trinity can be difficult. Reeves gives us an excellent introduction to the subject. Highly recommended!