Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


Paul McCartney The Lyrics 1956 to the Present by Paul McCartney and Paul Muldoon. Liveright. 905 pages. 2021
****

This book is the result of approximately 50 hours of conversations about Paul McCartney’s songs over 24 sessions between McCartney and Paul Muldoon that took place between 2015 and 2020. In all, 154 of McCartney’s songs are included in the book. The lyrics of the songs are included, along with McCartney’s thoughts about the song, including what specifics lyrics were about, and how the song came to be. Many rare photographs are included in the book. McCartney wrote the Foreword and Muldoon the Introduction.
Along the way, you’ll find out interesting information such as:
•“Here, There and Everywhere” is McCartney’s favorite of his songs.
• He would include “I Saw Her Standing There” among his best work.
• McCartney’s parent’s attitudes weren’t religious, but they were good people and they showed McCartney and his brother a good way. In school and in church, he was given more formal religion, but he writes that his own sense of goodness, of a certain kind of spirituality, had already come from home. Today, he is not particularly religious in any conventional sense, but rather believes in the idea that there is some sort of higher force that can help us.
• 98% of his songs come from a musical idea, not a lyrical idea.
McCartney states that the life he has led – as a musician, performer, singer, songwriter – is incredible. He still feels like he’s just playing at it.
The book, which is beautifully put together, includes some adult language sprinkled throughout. Although in excess of 900 pages, the book is not intimidating, as the lyrics and photos included make the book read much shorter.
The book is a joy for McCartney/Beatles fans, and is a good companion to the six-part McCartney 3,2,1 television series McCartney did with Rick Rubin.


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The Dawn of Redeeming Grace: Daily Devotions for Advent by Sinclair Ferguson. The Good Book Company. 160 pages. 2021

****

Sinclair Ferguson follows up his 2018 Advent devotional Love Came Down at Christmas with The Dawn of Redeeming Grace, based on the first two chapters of Matthew’s Gospel. Ferguson tells us that Advent is all about the new beginning God has made possible by sending his Son for us and that Matthew’s opening words are good news for anyone who needs a new beginning.
Each of the twenty-four devotions ends with the lyrics of a hymn and a prayer. I enjoyed reading and discussing this book with my wife Tammy and also with a group of friends this past Christmas. I would recommend it to you for your devotional reading during the next Advent season.
As Christmas approaches, the author invites us to join him in exploring what Matthew says about those days that marked the dawn of redeeming grace and about how Christ’s light breaks into our lives today.

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

40 Days of Grace by Paul Tripp. 96 pages. Crossway. 2020
***

One of my favorite books of devotional readings is Paul Tripp’s New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional. 40 Days of Grace is one of four small books of forty devotionals that have been taken from that book. The other books are 40 Days of Faith, Hope and Love. My recommendation would be to read the original New Morning Mercies, rather than these individual books.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from 40 Days of Grace:

  • Grace is the bottomless, treasure-laden mine of divine help. There simply is nothing comparable to God’s amazing grace.
  • Grace is more than just a story, it’s more than just a theology, and it’s more than just a powerful force—no, grace is a person, and his name is Jesus.
  • You no longer have to hope and pray that someday you will measure up, because Jesus has measured up on your behalf.
  • If you find more joy in serving God than yourself, you know that grace has entered your door, because only grace has the power to rescue you from you.
  • You measure up in his eyes even on those days when you don’t measure up, because Jesus measured up on your behalf.
  • God has welcomed you into his arms, but he’s not satisfied. He will not leave his work of redemption until every heart of every one of his children has been fully transformed by his powerful grace.
  • Only grace can cause you and me to abandon our confidence in our own performance and place our confidence in the perfectly acceptable righteousness of Jesus Christ.
  • Real freedom is only ever found when God’s grace liberates you to live for one infinitely greater than you.
  • Just as in the first moment we believed, we are always completely dependent on the grace of the Savior for every spiritual need.
  • Grace forces you to feel the pain of your regrets, but never asks you to pay for them, because the price has already been paid by Jesus.
  • We’re all still a bit of a mess; that’s why we need God’s grace today as much as we needed it the first day we believed.
  • On your very worst day and on your very best day, you are blessed with pleasures that come right from the hand of God. That tells you that you don’t get these pleasures because you’ve earned or deserved them, but because he is a God of grace.
  • Grace means that when God calls you, he goes with you, supplying what you need for the task at hand.

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  • Bryan Chapell Devotional. Daily Grace: 365 Daily Devotions Reflecting God’s Unlimited Grace is a new book of daily devotional readings by Bryan Chapell who served as President of Covenant Theological Seminary and more recently as Senior Pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria, Illinois.
  • Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold. My wife Tammy recently published a book about HOW to study the Bible. The book is available on Amazon in both a Kindle and paperback edition. She writes “Maybe you’ve read the Bible but want to dig deeper and know God and know yourself better. Throughout the book I use the analogy of making a quilt to show how the Bible is telling one big story about what God is doing in the world through Christ. Quilting takes much patience and precision, just like studying the Bible, but the end result is well worth it.”
  • 23 Tips from 23 Years of Book Reading. As an avid reader, I appreciated these reading tips from Tony Reinke.

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

Providence by John Piper

The providence of God is his purposeful sovereignty by which he will be completely successful in the achievement of his ultimate goal for the universe. God’s providence carries his plans into action, guides all things toward his ultimate goal, and leads to the final consummation.

John Piper draws on a lifetime of theological reflection, biblical study, and practical ministry to lead readers on a stunning tour of the sightings of God’s providence—from Genesis to Revelation—to discover the all-encompassing reality of God’s purposeful sovereignty over all of creation and all of history.

Exploring the goal, nature, and extent of God’s purposes for the world, Piper offers an invitation to know the God who holds all things in his hands yet remains intimately involved in the lives of his people.

You can download the PDF of the book free from Desiring God.

Watch this six-minute video as John Piper talks about the book, and this interview with Dr. Joe Rigney of Bethlehem College & Seminary.

This week we look at Chapter 23: A Bath of Truth and the Gift of Birth. Here are a few takeaways from the chapter:

  • Christ walked into death of his own accord. And he walked out of his own accord.
  • The praise of the glory of Christ, manifest supremely in dying and destroying death for his people, was the plan of the ages, and the purpose of all that has ever come to pass in the all-encompassing providence of God.
  • It belongs to God, and God alone, to have absolute sway over life and death.
  • Conception and birth are in the hands of the Lord.


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

R.C. Sproul: A Life by Stephen Nichols. Crossway. 402 pages. 2021
****

R.C. Sproul, who went home to be with the Lord in December, 2017, was a spiritual mentor for me. Though I only met him when he signed books for me at Ligonier conferences over the years, he taught me Reformed theology through his books, teaching series and conferences. I was excited when I heard that Stephen Nichols was writing this first biography of Dr. Sproul, and purposely read it slowly, not wanting it to end. Nichols used the access he had – interviews with Sproul specifically for the biography, interviews with Sproul’s wife Vesta, access to Sproul’s personal library and personal notebooks, as well as access to people who knew him for decades and knew him best – to write a thorough a loving biography of Sproul.
Nichols’ biography takes us through Sproul’s life – from being called Sonny from the day he came home from the hospital, to drawing his final breath in a Florida hospital surrounded by family as the last notes of his “Highland Hymn” played on a CD player.
Nichols writes of Sproul, who thought of himself as a “battlefield theologian”, founding the Ligonier Valley Study Center in 1971 near Pittsburgh before moving Ligonier Ministries to Orlando, of meeting and marrying Vesta and being mentored by John Gerstner. He spends time quoting from some of Sproul’s more than one hundred books, including his classic The Holiness of God. He writes about Sproul’s work on the subject of the inerrancy of the Bible and the controversy over the doctrine of justification that arose with ECT (“Evangelicals and Catholics Together”) in 1994, the latter of which cost him friendships with J.I. Packer and Charles Colson. Sproul would say that ECT was the most painful part of his whole career.
The heart of Sproul’s ministry was teaching people who God is. Martin Luther was a mentor for him as much as John Gerstner, and as much a friend to him as was James Boice and John MacArthur.
Nichols looks at Sproul’s legacy and contributions. For me, the thing that I most appreciate about Sproul was his ability to take difficult theological topics and present them in a way in which I could understand them. Nichols writes that Sproul took the complex and made it clear and understandable, without distortion. He made it compelling. He was persuasive.

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

The God of the Garden: Thoughts on Creation, Culture, and the Kingdom by Andrew Peterson. B&H Books. 209 pages. 2021
****

In this wonderfully written, and vulnerable book, Andrew Peterson takes us on journeys – from Illinois to Florida to England to Scandinavia to Nashville to the Abbey of Gethsemani to the Holy Land in Israel. He writes about his depression and being mad at God, his love of footpaths in England and his not so much love for American subdivisions. Along the way he writes about trees – two maples, the Thinking Tree, the Big Oak, an olive tree, and others – and books that are important to him – Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry and The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.
Each chapter begins with a quote from William Wordsworth’s poem “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”. Some of Peterson’s song lyrics and drawings are sprinkled throughout the book, which was written at his home in Nashville called The Warren, in the Chapter House.
The book addresses going back home, suffering and healing, the beauty of a garden and trees, and the emptiness of subdivisions. He writes that few things are more wonderful to him than a graceful integration of nature and culture, which is essentially what a garden is. He tells us that if we integrated the loveliness of creation with the flourishing of human culture, we would be that much closer to a vision of the New Creation. His hope is to see the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, even in the way we plan our streets and footpaths and communities.
Like his 2019 book Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making, this was a wonderful book that I didn’t want to put down and looked forward to getting back to.


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Deeper: Real Change for Real Sinners by Dane Ortlund. Crossway. 193 pages. 2021
****

This excellent book by Dane Ortlund, author of Gentle and Lowly, is a part of the Union Series. A concise edition of the book, titled How Does God Change Us? is also available. My wife Tammy and I heard the author speak about the book at a seminar at the recent 2021 Sing! Conference.
Ortlund tells us that this is a book about growing in Christ, or using the theological term, sanctification. His resounding theme in the book is that the Christian life is at heart a matter not of doing more or behaving better but of going deeper.  He tells us that growing in Christ is not improving or adding or experiencing but deepening. Implicit in the notion of deepening is that we already have what we need. Christian growth is bringing what we do and say and even feel into line with what, in fact, we already are. The nine chapters of the book are not sequential steps in growing; they are different facets of the one diamond of growth.
The author tells us that the book is for the frustrated. The exhausted. Those on the brink. Those on the verge of giving up any real progress in their Christian growth, which could be the majority of us. He encourages us not to consume this book but to reflect our way through it. I found that to be a good approach. Much like Gentle and Lowly, I read this book slowly.
Among the topics covered in the book include self-despair, union with Christ, the Bible, prayer, the Holy Spirit, mortification of sin and the Psalms. Throughout the book the author shares quotes from figures from the past such as C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Martin Luther, Robert Murray McCheyne and others.

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BOOK REVIEW:
In the Lord I Take Refuge: 150 Daily Devotions Through the Psalms by Dane Ortlund. Crossway. 417 pages. 2021
****

Dane Ortlund, author of Gentle and Lowly, writes that the purpose of this book is to foster communion with God amid all the ups and downs of daily life in this fallen world. The devotional content is meant to facilitate fellowship with God in the words of the Psalms.
In the Lord I Take Refuge includes the text of the book of Psalms, with a short devotional reading after each Psalm. The book works well by reading one Psalm and devotion each day. If you are looking for a good book to add to your daily devotional time, I would recommend this devotional on the book of Psalms.
Below are some of my favorite quotes from the devotional readings:

  • Will the trials still to come in our lives prove us to be deep-rooted trees, incapable of being blown over, or will they show us to be chaff, blown away by the slightest breeze?
  • Jesus allowed himself to be truly overwhelmed by his enemies. The result is that believers can be confident that every overwhelming experience they face is from a loving Father to help them.
  • When we are brought into the dark valleys of life as we journey through this fallen world, we have, and we need, one thing: God. And we can know that we have the Lord with us, moment by moment, because he sent his own Son to walk through this world’s sorrows.
  • Sin is universal. No one is exempt. But grace is universally available. No one need be exempt. All that is required is a trusting faith in Jesus Christ, the living embodiment of the salvation that came out of Israel.

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Is God Really in Control? Trusting God in a World of Terrorism, Tsunamis, and Personal Tragedy by Jerry Bridges. NavPress. 160 pages. 2006
*** ½

I recently read and discussed this book with a few friends. God brought this older book by a trusted author along at just the right time, as a few of us were dealing with significant adversity in our lives.
Bridges tells us that the book is written for the average person who has not necessarily experienced major catastrophe, but who does frequently encounter the typical adversities and heartaches of life. The purpose of the book is twofold: First, he desires to glorify God by acknowledging His sovereignty and His goodness. And second, he desires to encourage God’s people by demonstrating from Scripture that God is in control of their lives, that He does indeed love them, and that He works out all the circumstances of their lives for their ultimate good.
The author tells us that in the arena of adversity, the Scriptures teach us three essential truths about God-truths we must believe if we are to trust Him in adversity. They are:

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Saved from What? by R.C. Sproul. Reformation Trust Publishing. 120 pages. 2021
****

I read this book when it was first published in 2002, and again recently when it was republished. As he did in all of his teaching, in this book Dr. Sproul takes difficult theological topics and presents them in a manner in which the average person in the pew can understand.
He tells us that the Bible uses the term salvation in many ways. The common thread that is found in the many uses is that, at root, salvation means rescue or deliverance from some calamity or catastrophe. The ultimate salvation that any human being can ever experience is rescue from the wrath that is to come. He goes on to say that he believes that the greatest point of unbelief in our culture and in our church today is an unbelief in the wrath of God and in His certain promise of judgment for the human race. What every human being needs to be saved from is God, and Jesus is the Savior who saves us from the wrath that

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


How Can I Live by Faith? (Crucial Questions) by R.C. Sproul. Reformation Trust Publishing. 71 pages. 2020
*** ½

This is one of the newest books in R.C. Sproul’s Crucial Questions series, all of which are free in the digital edition. Here is a list of all of the books in the Crucial Questions series. These books/booklets offer clear answers to the most common and difficult questions about the Christian faith.
Dr. Sproul tells us that trust in God, faith in Christ alone for salvation, is at the center of the Christian religion, and it is a key part of the Christian life to learn how to live out that trust in a life of faith. He writes that our God is utterly trustworthy, and to not believe Him is irrational.
Sproul writes that the cardinal doctrine of the Protestant Reformation was the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Through justification, God can be both just and the justifier of the one who believes in Jesus. The Apostle Paul tells us that we are justified by a righteousness that is not our own. It is an alien righteousness. It is the righteousness of Jesus, and Jesus’ righteousness becomes the basis for our justification. Sproul writes that if we are to be justified, we must both get rid of our unjustness and acquire justice. These two things must happen, and the gospel says that both are provided by Christ. When Jesus died on the cross, He died for our sins, to pay the punishment for our wickedness. At the moment we place our trust in Jesus, His righteousness is transferred to our account before God. Jesus takes our unrighteousness and gives us His righteousness in the sight of God. This double transfer can take place only through trusting in Christ. We are justified by Christ and by Christ alone. Sproul tells us that is a summary of the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone.

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