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

GRIPING VS. CONTENTMENT:

  • 4 Major Gripes Heard Around the Office. Dr. Alan Zimmerman writes “As a speaker in hundreds of companies, I’ve kept a record of the gripes I hear people utter. After all, it’s my job as a speaker/trainer/coach to turn those things around. These are the four most commonly heard gripes these days.”
  • What is Biblical Contentment? Dave Kraft writes “Contentment has less to do with the amount of, or intensity, of the activity you are involved in and more to do with your mind-set. Who are you truly trusting to see things happen in your life, relationships, work and ministry–yourself or God?”

VOCATION AND CALLING:

  • “Job Crafting”: Cultivating Our Vocation at Work. Stevan Becker writes “Cultivating our vocation is a matter of listening to God in the particulars of our work situation and discovering the unique things we’ve been created to do. Cultivating our job may mean taking what we have to work with and recreating
  • How to Glorify God at Work. John Piper writes “The point is: Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink or work, do all to make God look as great as he really is.”
  • Your Calling Actually Isn’t About You. Sharon Hodde Miller writes “At some point, a self-centered calling conflicts with God-centered callings, because God-centered callings always lead to a cross. God-centered callings involve suffering, sacrifice, and looking like a fool, because this is the path of the Savior we follow. If your calling is about your image or your reputation or your comfort and convenience, it will eventually diverge from the path of Christ. At some point, God will ask you to do something that isn’t about you or doesn’t feel good or requires you to suffer, and you will have to make a choice.”
  • Help Me Teach the Bible on Work. The latest episode in Nancy Guthrie’s “Help Me Teach the Bible” is with Peter Orr on work.
  • Top Reasons Why a Long Commute May Be Worth It. Hugh Whelchel writes “Work is necessary for a meaningful life, but we must not make our work themeaning for our existence. As Christians, we must find our identity in Christ, not in our work. Yet, work is the major way we respond to God’s call on our lives. So, no matter the length of your commute, be encouraged that what you do today at work matters!”

REAL LIFE EXAMPLES:

  • God Works in Advertising, Too. Stevan Becker writes “God is intimately involved in our work. He cares about the details. He’s doing his work through the work of our hands—even in the “secular” sales and advertising space. No matter what you do for work, stop and pray through your projects, both the big ones and the small ones. Pray that he will be glorified as you serve him in all you do.”
  • Everybody Matters Podcast: Mark Sawyier of Bonfyre. This episode of the Everybody Matters Podcast features a discussion with Mark Sawyier of Bonfyre, a company who has created a workplace culture platform that is helping organizations engage, include and inspire their people.

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Music Reviews
Hard Cuts: Songs from the H A R D L O V E Sessions (EP) – NEEDTOBREATHE
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NEEDTOBREATHE has stated that one of the hardest parts about finishing their chart-topping 2016 album H A R D L O V E was determining which songs had to be cut to get down to the twelve songs for the album. This new EP contains six songs, two of them alternate versions of “Hard Love”, along with four songs that were cut from the original album.
The EP contains two new versions of “Hard Love”, one featuring Serena Ryder and one featuring Andra Day. Along with the version featuring Lauren Daigle from The Shack: Music From and Inspired By, this makes three versions of the song released since the album was released last year, which seems to be a bit of an overkill.
Below are brief comments on the other four songs:
Waiting – This song was produced by Dave Tozer and NEEDTOBREATHE, and written by Bear and Bo Rinehart. It is a keyboard driven song with a strong drum beat, backing vocals and a good guitar solo. He is haunted by a woman, who keeps him waiting, shaking, trembling, and chasing mistakes that he made. It’s my least favorite of the new songs.
Count on Me – This song was produced by Dave Tozer and NEEDTOBREATHE, and written by Tozer, Bear and Bo Rinehart. This song features a strong drum beat, keys and some backing vocals. Thematically it is similar to “Brother” from their excellent Rivers in the Wasteland album. It features encouraging lyrics.
Everybody needs a pick me up
You can count on me
 
Walking on Water – The last two songs of the four new ones were my favorites, starting with “Walking on Water”. This song will appeal to the band’s Christian fan base as it will remind them of Peter walking on the water to Jesus in Matthew 14. It starts slowly and then builds powerfully and joyfully on the chorus with a with a strong drum beat and backing vocals. There’s no turning back.
Can’t see nothing at all
But Your outstretched arms
Help me believe it
Though I falter
You got me walking on water

Cages – This song was produced by Ed Cash and NEEDTOBREATHE and written by Bear and Bo Rinehart. It’s another song that the band’s Christian fan base will resonate with. It starts as a piano-driven song, with light drums. He was looking for attention, was needing redemption but all he got was cages. It then builds powerfully with drums and guitar. They reference their 2009 album The Outsiders, stating that they’re a band of outsiders.
I’m in a prison for a man gone wrong
But I’ve found a future, this is not my home     
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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Book Reviews

The Legacy of Luther, edited by R. C. Sproul and Stephen J. Nichols. Reformation Trust Publishing. 303 pages. 2016
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This is a wonderful volume to read as we celebrate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing of the Ninety-Five Theses (which are included in an appendix) to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, initiating the Protestant Reformation. This anthology of essays honoring Luther from some of the most respected Reformed theologians today looks at several aspects of the life, ministry and legacy of the great reformer.
This in-depth volume includes a Foreword by John MacArthur and chapters by respected pastors and theologians such as Sinclair Ferguson, Steven Lawson, David Calhoun (who I enjoyed two church history courses at Covenant Seminary with), Michael Horton, Robert Godfrey, Gene Veith, Derek Thomas and many others. These essays cover a wide variety of aspects of Luther’s life and ministry, including his life at home, his music, his doctrine of scripture, the doctrine of justification by faith alone, his doctrine of vocation, as a man of conflict, his later years, as a preacher, on the sacraments, and a final reflection from R.C. Sproul on Luther and the life of the pastor-theologian.
The legacy of Martin Luther is vast and varied, and this book offers an attempt to summarize that legacy. The book is written for, and can be enjoyed by, both those who have little knowledge of Luther, and also for those who know him well. The book is organized into three sections – Luther’s Life, Luther’s Thought and Luther’s Legacy.
I highly recommend this book as a way to get to know Luther – warts and all – as we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Reading Romans with Luther by R.J. Grunewald. Concordia Publishing. 136 pages. 2017
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I was interested in reading this short book for several reasons. First, I enjoy reading books about the great Protestant Reformer Martin Luther, especially during this 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Second, Romans is my favorite book of the Bible, and it is also where I was in my reading through the Bible at the time this book was published. Third, I have enjoyed the author’s blog and looked forward to reading a book by him.
The author, a Lutheran pastor, states that the book is meant to introduce the reader to the work of Martin Luther, to explain his words in a way that removes some of the intimidation. He realizes that Luther’s works can be intimidating, and this book is meant to take some of that intimidation away and guide the reader into Luther’s works. The author wants you to look at this book as Luther for everyday life.
The book does not contain Luther’s entire commentary on Romans, but only pertinent paragraphs that go along with the themes outlined in the table of contents. Rather than providing a linear exploration of Luther’s commentary, the author has divided and rearranged it according to thematic teachings in Romans. Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEW AND 15 HELPFUL QUOTES FROM ‘SURPRISED BY SUFFERING’ BY R. C. SPROUL

BOOK REVIEW:

Surprised by Suffering: The Role of Pain and Death in The Christian Life (revised and expanded) by R. C. Sproul. Reformation Trust Publishing. 2010
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The author states that his purpose in writing this book is that the reader would not be surprised when suffering comes into their life. He wants us to see that suffering is not uncommon nor random. It is sent by our heavenly Father, who is both sovereign and loving and for our ultimate good. He also wants the reader to understand that suffering is a vocation, a calling from God, which may be a new concept for many readers.
I first read this book when it was published in 1988. This 2010 edition features a new chapter on God’s sovereignty in relation to suffering, as well as new Scripture and subject indexes.
Dr. Sproul says that contrary to what we often hear people say, the promise of God is not that He will never give us more weight than we want to carry. Rather, the promise of God is that He will never put more on us than we can bear. He states that to suffer without Christ is to risk being totally and completely crushed. He has often wondered (and me as well), how people cope with the trials of life without the strength found in Him.
He states that we must accept the fact that God sometimes says “no” when we pray for relief from suffering. Sometimes He calls us to suffer and die even if we want to claim the contrary.
A statement that could be surprising, or even shocking, is that for anyone who believes in the God of providence, ultimately there are no tragedies. He writes that those who understand God’s sovereignty have joy even in the midst of suffering for they see that their suffering is not without purpose.
He goes on to tell us that the chief concern of Scripture is how we will die. When Scripture speaks of the “how” of death, the focus is on the spiritual state of the person at the time of their death, and this is reduced to only two options. We either die in faith or we die in our sins. According to Christ, the worst possible thing that can befall us is to die in our sins.
The author states that the Bible teaches three states of human life. There is life as we know it on earth. There is the final state of our future resurrected bodies. And there is what happens to us between the moment of our deaths and the final resurrection. This period is known as the intermediate state. He goes on to describe the New Jerusalem from Revelation 21.  He tells us that our divine vocation is not ultimately to suffering, but to a hope that triumphs over suffering. It is the hope of our future inheritance with Christ.
The author tells us that the hope of eternal joy in the presence of Christ, a hope that sustains us in the midst of temporary suffering, is the legacy of Jesus Christ. It is the promise of God to all who put their trust in Him.
This is a practical book about our vocation of suffering and the hope of the believer to spend eternity with God in His Heaven. The book includes a helpful appendix of questions and answers related to the topic.

15 HELPFUL QUOTES:

  1. Suffering is one of the most significant challenges to any believer’s faith.
  2. What is difficult to bear without Christ is made far more bearable with Christ. What is a heavy burden to carry alone becomes a far lighter burden to carry with His help.
  3. It is when we view our suffering as meaningless-without purpose-that we are tempted to despair.
  4. No one was ever called by God to greater suffering than God’s only begotten Son.
  5. If I hope in anything or anyone less than the One who has power over suffering and, ultimately, death, I am doomed to final disappointment. Suffering will drive me to hopelessness.
  6. We say that we believe that God is sovereign, but when we wrestle with events in our lives that are troublesome, bad things that happen to us, tragedies that befall us, we begin to question either the sovereignty of God or the goodness of God.
  7. The day of death is the greatest day that a Christian can ever experience in this world because that is the day he goes home, the day he walks across the threshold, the day he enters the Father’s house. That is the day of ultimate triumph for the Christian in this world, and yet it is a day we fear and a day that we postpone as long as we possibly can because we don’t really believe that the day of our death is better than the day of our birth.
  8. The bottom-line assumption for anyone who believes in the God of providence is that ultimately there are no tragedies. God has promised that all things that happen-all pain, all suffering, all tragedies-are but for a moment, and that He works in and through these events for the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28).
  9. Those who understand God’s sovereignty have joy even in the midst of suffering, a joy reflected on their very faces, for they see that their suffering is not without purpose.
  10. When God issues a call to us, it is always a holy call. The vocation of dying is a sacred vocation. To understand that is one of the most important lessons a Christian can ever learn. When the summons comes, we can respond in many ways. We can become angry, bitter, or terrified. But if we see it as a call from God and not a threat from Satan, we are far more prepared to cope with its difficulties.
  11. The goal of the vocation of death is heaven itself. But there is no route to heaven except through this valley.
  12. If we love people, we will warn them of the consequences of dying in their sins.
  13. The great lie is the one that declares there is no last judgment. Yet if Jesus of Nazareth taught anything, He emphatically taught that there would be a last judgment.
  14. Paul spoke of death as gain. We tend to think of death as loss. To be sure, the death of a loved one involves a loss for those who are left behind. But for the one who passes from this world to heaven, it is a gain.
  15. Our divine vocation is not ultimately to suffering, but to a hope that triumphs over suffering. It is the hope of our future inheritance with Christ.


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How I Spent Spring Break: 9 Reflections on the 2017 Ligonier National Conference

Almost every year since 1997, my wife Tammy and I have left the cold of the Illinois winter to head down to the sun and warmth of Central Florida to attend the annual Ligonier Ministries National Conference. This year’s conference, held March 9-11, was their 30th National Conference. It had a theme of “The Next 500 Years” and was being held on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Thus, many of the speakers referred to Martin Luther and his influence in their addresses. The conference was held in the wonderful facilities of the First Baptist Church in Orlando where it has been held most years, sold out months in advance, and featured an excellent lineup of speakers, including John MacArthur, Alistair Begg, Albert Mohler, Sinclair Ferguson, R.C. Sproul, Michael Horton and more.

As Ligonier President and CEO Chris Larson told the attendees at the beginning of the conference, “Pace Yourself”. The three-day conference can be exhausting. In total, there were 26 sessions you could attend, in addition to a prayer session, two mini-concerts, and a bookstore tour. I always purchase copies of the messages and listen to them multiple times in the months after the conference. Here are the daily highlight posts that Ligonier posted about the conference:

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Here are 9 reflections I have from this year’s conference: Continue reading


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Prepare Your Hearts for Easter

Easter-Sunrise2As we remember our Lord’s crucifixion and approach the celebration of the resurrection of our Lord, I wanted to share these helpful resources to prepare our hearts.

1. Easter is Coming Soon. Tony Reinke shares this short book you can download here Easter Changes Everything: A Theological Devotional.

2. Download the new FREE book of Holy Week devotions from John Piper and ten contributors: Your Sorrow Will Turn to Joy ~ Morning & Evening Meditations for Holy Week.

3. Why a Statement on Christ Matters Now: The Ligonier Statement on Christology. Stephen Nichols writes “In times of confusion, we need clarity and conviction. To that end, Ligonier has released The Word Made Flesh: The Ligonier Statement on Christology.”   

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Reflections from the 2016 Ligonier Ministries National Conference

The GospelFor twenty years now beginning in February 1997, we have left the cold winter of Illinois (two of the past three years leaving home in blizzard conditions), and made our way to sunny and warm Orlando, Florida, to join more than 4,000 others to attend the Ligonier Ministries National Conference. It’s the week and event I most look forward to each year. Although it has occasionally been held elsewhere, the traditional home of the conference has been First Baptist Church of Orlando. Since it was not available last year as the church was undergoing renovations, we were treated to a beautiful new sanctuary which changed from pews to theater seating. Among many other nice changes, the sanctuary also has a more intimate feeling as the use of stadium seating was added on the ground level.

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This year’s conference with a theme of “The Gospel”, did not include Ligonier Teaching Fellows Sinclair Ferguson and R.C. Sproul Jr. The remainder of the Teaching Fellows were there (Robert Godfrey, Steven Lawson, Steven Nichols and newly named Teaching Fellows Albert Mohler and Derek Thomas), along with R.C. Sproul. In addition, Ian Hamilton and Michael Reeves, two wonderful speakers that I was not familiar with prior to seeing that they were going to be a part of this conference, were among the speakers. The conference also included a “Youth Seminar”, which I, many years from being a youth, greatly benefited from. In fact, I was so moved by Tim Keesee’s message, that I purchased and read his amazing book Dispatches from the Front: Stories of Gospel Advance in the World’s Difficult Places before we arrived home from Orlando. Watch for my review soon.

One of my highlights each years is the conference Book Store which contained over 800 resources and where you can get your books signed by the authors. The major releases for Ligonier this year were:

  • IMG_0430The revised and updated Reformation Study Bible (RSB) released in the New King James Version (NKJV). The RSB was released in the English Standard Version (ESV) at last year’s conference.
  • Steven Lawson’s new book on Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
  • R.C. Sproul’s 100th book; a children’s book dedicated to three of his grandsons, two of whom joined him on the platform and got a wonderful hug from grandpa.

Supplementing the Book Store were a number of exhibitor booths. I stopped by the Covenant Seminary booth and visited briefly with John Patton, Covenant’s Director of Admissions about some of the students currently at Covenant from our church. I also stopped by the booth of John Barros, and picked up a copy of the 2011 anti-abortion film 180 movie for my sister-in-law who leads a Pregnancy Resource Center.

We were pleasantly surprised to run into long-time friends Bill and Sarah who were attending the conference with friends. Bill is a fellow elder at our church. At the same time we missed, and were praying for, fellow elder Don and his wife Angela. We had attended the conference with them the two previous years, and they had planned to attend again, but Angela is now battling a recurrence of breast cancer and leukemia, and they had to change their plans to attend so that Angela could fight the cancers. Please pray for them in this battle.

If you have not attended a Ligonier National Conference, it can be an endurance test if you try to attend every one of the 25 sessions over two and a half days, in addition to the mini-concert with Jan Mulder and a prayer session led by Ian Hamilton. You get a tremendous amount of value and excellent teaching at a very reasonable price. I always purchase a copy of the messages to take back home with me and listen to multiple times. But here’s some good news! You can watch or listen to all of the 25 sessions from the conference free here.

Below are links to helpful recaps from Ligonier.org of each day of the conference:

Day 1 The conference started Thursday morning with a “Pre-Conference” looking at creation, the first Adam and God’s design for male and female. A highlight for me was the Book Store tour given by Derek Thomas, something that Sinclair Ferguson normally does, late Thursday evening after a long day of teaching. As hundreds enjoyed ice cream sandwiches, Thomas highlighted nine books from the Book Store that he would recommend everyone read, including Calvin’s Institutes, and Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray.

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Day 2 This day began with the Ligonier Ministry Partners Annual Meeting, in which we got an update on the many worldwide initiatives the ministry is working on. Later, Stephen Nichols and R.C. Sproul introduced the Ligonier Statement on Christology , a copy of which was given to all attendees. On this evening, R.C. Sproul was being inducted into the Religious Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame. We were able to watch his filmed acceptance speech about the same time it was being played at their event in Nashville.

Day 3 The conference ended early Saturday afternoon with R.C. Sproul delivering a powerful message on the transforming power of the Gospel. Sproul, who survived two strokes since the 2015 National Conference, received a moving standing ovation as he came to deliver his message. One quote that I found of interest was his belief that less than 5% of ordained ministers in America believe Romans 1:16, which states that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation.

LigonierThe conference ended with a Ligonier tradition, the singing of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” by the attendees.  Throughout the conference we were led in singing some of the great hymns of the faith by Randall Van Meggelen. I can’t do justice to what it is like to hear more than 4,000 singing these hymns accompanied by a beautiful pipe organ. Tammy loves to watch the hearing impaired section ‘sing’ the hymns ~ especially their signs for ‘crown Him Lord of all’ when we sang All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.

The 2017 National Conference will be held March 9-11, 2017. It will be Ligonier’s 30th National Conference, and it will also be on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The theme will be “The Next 500 Years: Reformation 500 and Beyond”. In addition to R.C. Sproul and the Ligonier Teaching Fellows, the speakers will include Alistair Begg, Michael Reeves and Michael Horton. Ligonier CEO Chris Larson indicated that he expects the conference, which is open now for registration, to sell out by August. Hope you can join us next year!