Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Journey to the Cross: A 40-Day Lenten Devotional by Paul Tripp. Crossway. 184 pages. 2021 
****

 

I’ve enjoyed several of Paul Tripp’s devotionals over the past few years, my favorite being his New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional. His latest devotional gives us 40 readings, some in poetry form, leading up to Easter. Each reading begins a short statement, which may have originally been one of the author’s tweets. He suggests using this devotional as your stimulus and guide as you stop, consider, mourn, confess, pray, and give your heart to thanksgiving.
Through these readings, and the “Reflection Questions” included at the end of each selection, we follow Jesus on his journey to the cross. The author writes that the horrible, public sacrifice of Jesus should ignite not only our celebration, but also our mourning.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review…
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ Providence by John Piper
I’M CURRENTLY READING…. Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

The Characters of Easter: The Villains, Heroes, Cowards, and Crooks Who Witnessed History’s Biggest Miracle by Daniel Darling. Moody Publishers. 208 pages. 2021
****

Daniel Darling follows up his popular The Characters of Christmas book (see my review of that book here), with a similar book about the characters of Easter. The book is easy to read and engaging, but don’t mistake that for this being a simple book that you will not learn from. Darling offers much information about the history of the period and the background of the characters that you might not have previously been aware of. Like the previous book, I read and discussed this one with a group of men I’ve been meeting with to read and discuss books for many years now. Also like the previous book, this book includes study questions at the end of each chapter, along with suggested hymns and songs related to the chapter that are helpful whether you are reading the book individually or with a group.
The author tells us that Jesus took upon Himself your sins so you could enjoy intimacy with your Father, and that Easter means those who are in Christ will be made alive, spiritually and physically. By looking at unlikely disciples, unprepared civil authorities, and unscrupulous religious leaders in this book, we can learn more about the setting in which Jesus lived and died, and we will gain a great love for God’s long and sure plan of salvation and rescue.
I highly recommend this book to you. Below, I’ve provided two takeaways from each of the chapters of the book:

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BOOK CLUB ~ Providence by John Piper
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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


My Heart Cries Out: Gospel Meditations for Everyday Life by Paul Tripp. Crossway. 256 pages. 2019
****

After reading a few other devotional books by Paul Tripp (New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional, Come, Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional, and A Shelter in the Time of Storm: Meditations on God and Trouble), I looked forward to reading his latest book of devotional readings. This book includes 120 meditations written in the form of poetry, accompanied by beautiful photography by Tim Kellner. For the book, Kellner traveled to ten countries and five continents. The photography selections are meant to reflect the content and themes contained within the poetry. After each meditation, there is a related Bible verse, questions and a Bible passage for further study and encouragement on the subject matter of the meditation.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review…
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BOOK CLUB ~ Providence by John Piper
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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


Just Jones: Sometimes a Thing Is Impossible . . . Until It Is Actually Done by Andy Andrews. Thomas Nelson. 272 pages. 2020
***

Just Jones is the third book in the Noticer trilogy, following 2009’s The Noticer and 2013’s The Noticer Returns. The books are partly non-fiction (Andy Andrews and his wife Polly are included, and the majority of the book takes place in Orange Beach, Alabama, where Andrews lives), and mostly fiction, revolving around a mysterious old man name Jones. Not Mr. Jones. Just Jones.
Jones is an interesting character. He shows up and disappears without notice. He can make things happen that are beyond belief. He is a noticer. He notices things that other people overlook, most of which are in plain sight. He notices things about situations and people that produce perspective, or a broader view. Throughout the book, Jones also shares his personal philosophies on a variety of subjects.
The book begins with a confusing “Prologue”, which is later made clear. We then meet 27-year-old Keely, who is in a Florida jail cell with Jones. Keely is in jail on a charge of drunk and disorderly, along with hitting a police officer. We never find out why Jones is in jail. Jones calls Andy to pick him up from jail. They haven’t seen each other for six or seven years.

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BOOK CLUB ~ Providence by John Piper
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Don’t Hibernate: Stand the Test of Time

I listened to Alistair Begg’s excellent teaching series The Hand of God about the life of Joseph and God’s providence. It’s one of my favorite sermon series, and there is a corresponding revised book of the same title.   John Piper has also released a new book entitled “Providence”.
Toward the end of Pastor Begg’s series, and the end of Joseph’s life, is a message titled “Famous Last Words”. Joseph, who has led an incredible life, is now 110 years old and has stood the test of time. Begg then asks us if we are going to buy into the mythology that what we do in life is kill ourselves for as long as we can, to line the nest in which we plan to hibernate, so that the whole of life is just a preparation for hibernation. Or, will we, like Joseph, stand the test of time?
Perhaps you are already retired, or are close to it. Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


Made for His Pleasure: Ten Benchmarks of a Vital Faith by Alistair Begg. Moody Publishers. 192 pages 2018
****

This is a revised and updated edition of the author’s 1996 book, which I read and enjoyed when it was originally published. In this book he looks at the subject of pleasing God in light of putting God first, spiritual fitness, prayer, sacrifice, relationships, vocation, suffering, the heedful life, intellectualism and materialism, humility, and evangelism. He writes that the list is not exhaustive, but selective, and represents something of his own spiritual pilgrimage. He tells us that we could think of the chapters of the book as signposts for the journey of life.
The author writes that we want to learn to be able to say with Paul, “We make it our goal to please him” (2 Cor. 5:9). All of our desires, decisions, aspirations, and affections should be governed by our prior determination to please God.
I highlighted a number of passages as I read this wonderful book, more in some chapters than in others, which you might expect. Below are a few of those passages I would like to share with you:

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God Works All Things for Good

I’ve recently been listening to Alistair Begg’s excellent series on Esther and the doctrine of the providence of God (The Unseen God, Volume 1), and would highly recommend it to you. You can listen to it on the Truth for Life website here http://www.truthforlife.org/resources/series/unseen-god-volume-1-esther/, or on the Truth for Life podcast, which you can subscribe to on iTunes. It got me to thinking about how God has orchestrated events in my life, my wife Tammy’s life and my sister-in-law Teri’s life that were difficult and painful at the time, but upon reflection have turned out for good. The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines God’s works of providence as “His most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing of all his creatures and all their actions”.  The providence of God is simply God’s involvement in the world. Jerry Bridges defines providence as God’s “constant care for and His absolute rule over all His creation for His own glory and the good of His people.”

Below are five events that I would like to share with you that clearly show the hand of God in our lives:

  • Three years into our marriage Tammy was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After having it removed it would later return and she had surgery again a little more than four years later. Prior to the surgery, Tammy had achieved her CPA (Certified Professional Accountant) designation and had a career goal of as she calls it, “the 3 C’s – cash, car and clothes.” But her illness significantly changed her perspective on life and she turned to a life of volunteerism: A Catholic Worker house, a soup kitchen, hospice, our church and now as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), among others.
  • I experienced some difficult and challenging circumstances at work about ten years ago. Those circumstances, and John Piper’s book Don’t Waste Your Life (along with the Bible which is the book that has the greatest impact on my life) were used to lead me to re-apply at Covenant Theological Seminary, eventually graduating last May.
  • Tammy and I started a church newsletter in September, 1998. We produced it monthly until the end of 2013. By 2013, the newsletter was averaging in excess of 30 pages! God then worked in events that led us to stop producing it as a church newsletter and change instead to a blog format with a greater reach. Now the blog has a much larger readership than the church newsletter ever had.
  • Those same events led my wife to leave a position she held for more than nineteen years. After seeking the Lord’s direction for her life for about a year, she felt called to apply to be a CASA, an assignment she has recently started.
  • My sister-in-law Teri, one of our guest bloggers, ran into difficult circumstances in a position that she had loved for years. Her energy and voice gave out after many years of teaching and she knew the Lord was saying she was done teaching the program. Her heart was still in it, but she could no longer do well what was required to maintain the program. This eventually led to her leaving that position, with much sadness. About a year later, after seeking the Lord’s direction, she was called to be the Director of the Spoon River Pregnancy Center – http://www.spoonriverpregnancycenter.com/.

These situations, and many more over the years, have resulted in pain, tears and strained relationships. But the Lord has used these difficult circumstances for good. I love the story of Joseph (and Alistair Begg’s excellent book on Joseph and God’s Providence – The Hand of God: Finding His Care in All Circumstances). One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Genesis 50:20, which says in part:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.

So don’t lose heart dear people if you are going through dark days and circumstances that you never thought you would. God is in charge and He uses all things for good for His people:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)