Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism by Jemar Tisby. Zondervan. 256 pages. 2019
****

This was a difficult book to read, as it should be. In his “Foreword”, Lecrae writes that the author challenges us to take history seriously and account for it. He warns us that the account we are about to read is sobering and challenging. I would add to this that it is heart-breaking. I believe that it is an account that all Christians should read, especially Christian leaders. It is a well-researched survey of racism in America, what the author refers to as more than 300 years of race-based discrimination. The author tells us that this history of racism and the church shows that the story is worse than most imagine. He states that the stories in the book tell the tale of racial oppression. It is up to the reader to determine whether the weight of historical evidence proves that the American church has been complicit with racism.  Although the entire history is essential to know, I focused on the author’s emphasis, that is, the role of the church in racism.
The author focus is primarily on Protestant churches, and when he talks about the “Religious Right”, he focuses on those white evangelicals that align with the Republican party. The book focuses on prominent figures, precipitous events, and well-known turning points in American history. He writes that, historically speaking, when faced with the choice between racism and equality, the American church has tended to practice a complicit Christianity rather than a courageous Christianity. Even if only a small portion of Christians committed the most notorious acts of racism, many more white Christians can be described as being complicit in creating and sustaining a racist society. Christians deliberately chose complicity with racism in the past, but the choice to confront racism remains a possibility today. The book is a call to abandon complicit Christianity and move toward courageous Christianity. The author tells us that it is time to practice courageous Christianity.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review…And reviews of Seven Leaders: Preachers and Pastors by Iain H. Murray, and How Can I Be Blessed? (Crucial Questions No. 24) by R.C. Sproul
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
I’M CURRENTLY READING…. Continue reading

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Two New Crucial Questions Books from R.C. Sproul (Free in the Kindle Edition)

Reformation Trust Publishing recently released two new books in R.C. Sproul’s Crucial Questions series. Here is the complete listing of all 30 books in the series.

Below are reviews of the two new books in the series – How Does God’s Law Apply to Me? and Does God Exist? Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


Paul Simon: The Life by Robert Hillburn. Simon and Schuster. 449 pages. 2018
****

I’m a long-time fan of Paul Simon and was excited to see this major new biography of him by respected rock music writer Robert Hillburn. Unlike the recent new biography of Tiger Woods, Simon fully participated with the author via more than a hundred hours of interviews and did not insist on editorial control. The well-researched book saw the author interview Simon’s friends, family and colleagues.  The result is a fascinating look at one of America’s greatest songwriters
Simon was born in 1941 to Lou, a musician and Belle, a teacher.  He played baseball through high school and is a die-hard New York Yankees fan. The family was Jewish, but not very religious, nor is Simon, though references to the Bible have appeared in some of his more recent music, and he has written about science and faith.
Early musical influences for Simon were doo-wop music, Elvis Presley, the Everly Brother and folk music. Simon met Art Garfunkel in the 6th grade. They had some early success as Tom and Jerry, even appearing on American Bandstand.  Paul would write some of the songs they played and his father tended to be judgmental of them.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review…and reviews of Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music? Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock by Gregory Thornbury; Who is Jesus? by R.C. Sproul; Anchored in Hope: Security in the Storm by Donna Marie England
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age by Jonathan Leeman
I’M CURRENTLY READING…. Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Book Reviews
Moses and the Burning Bush by R.C. Sproul. Reformation Trust Publishing. 96 pages. 2018
**** 

This short book by the late Dr. R.C. Sproul is based on one of his last teaching series of the same title. He writes that the burning bush has been a significant symbol throughout the history of the church, and for good reason. The account of the burning bush is a story about the holiness of God. He tells us that God Himself appeared, through the manifestation of His Presence in the bush and that what Moses experienced at the burning bush is what God’s people experience today: a holy, transcendent, all-consuming God who comes down to dwell with His people. He knows us.
This book considers the significance of the burning bush event, looking at Moses’ life leading up to that encounter and focusing on the knowledge of God that is revealed in that particular incident. In this book Dr. Sproul looks to answer the question of why the bush was burning and yet not being consumed.
Moses was the mediator of the old covenant. That office made Moses one of the most important people in the entire Old Testament. As a mediator, he stood between God and the people of Israel. Moses foreshadowed the greater Mediator who would come later—the Mediator of the new covenant, Christ Himself.
The author tells us that there are occasions in redemptive history where the invisible God makes Himself visible by some kind of manifestation. That is called a theophany, and it’s what we see with the burning bush. What Moses saw in this fire was a supernatural, visible manifestation of the glory of God. He had a momentary encounter with the Holy, and the closer he got, the more afraid he became.
The author tells us that he believes that the greatest weakness in our day is the virtual eclipse of the character of God, even within our churches.
The first thing that God reveals about Himself in that name is that He is personal.
The author addresses such topics as God’s self-existence, His transcendence and His aseity. Self-existence means that He depends on nothing and no one for His existence. Only God has the concept of self-existence. The author tells us that if God is self-existent, eternal, and pure, then He is, by definition, transcendent. When we consider the transcendence and aseity of our God, we will respond in worship and awe—just as Moses did at the burning bush.
The author tells us that the second most important act of redemption ever accomplished in history, and the second most difficult mission ever given by God to a human being, was the mission God gave to Moses.
The author tells us that in the burning bush we see the revelation of the person of God, of the power of God, and of the eternality of God. We see the revelation of the compassion of God, the redemption of God, and now, finally, the truth of God.
The author was known for his teaching on the holiness of God. This book is another wonderful look at that attribute of God.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEW ~ The Prayer of the Lord by R.C. Sproul
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB   ~ How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age by Jonathan Leeman
I’M CURRENTLY READING….

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3 Free E-Books from R.C. Sproul

Here are the last three Crucial Questions booklets from R.C. Sproul that were published before his death in December.

How Can I Be Right with God? (Crucial Questions No. 26) by R.C. Sproul. Reformation Trust Publishing. 69 pages. 2017
****

The late Dr. R.C. Sproul writes that the gospel tells us how we can be right with God. In this short book looking at the doctrine of justification. That doctrine explains how we, as unjust people, can be reconciled to a just and holy God. Justification takes place when God declares a person to be just in His sight.
The author tells us that the good news of the gospel is that we don’t have to wait until we become perfectly righteous before God will consider us and declare us righteous. We are made and declared righteous by virtue of God’s imputing to us the righteousness of Christ. Christ’s righteousness and merit are attributed to us while we are still sinners.
God declares us just, not because He looks at us and sees our righteousness, but because He sees the righteousness of Christ. God counts the righteousness of Christ for us, and does not count our own sins against us.
The author compares the Reformed view and the Roman Catholic views. In the Reformed view, the righteousness of Christ is imputed by faith to the believer. In the Roman Catholic view, the righteousness of Christ is infused into someone via the sacraments. That person must then cooperate with this infusion of grace in order to become truly righteous.
We are told that faith is the instrument by which we are linked to the righteousness of Christ. Faith is the conduit through which His righteousness is given to us. The instant someone has true faith, God declares them justified and imputes to them all of the merit of Christ, so that all that Christ is and all that He has accomplished becomes his.
The author tells us that throughout, the Bible describes the relationship between a holy God and unholy people as a relationship of estrangement. However, when we are justified, we have peace with God that is forever.

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Three Books from R.C. Sproul That Were Foundational to My Spiritual Growth

In the 1980’s as a new believer there were three books by R.C. Sproul, my spiritual mentor, that were foundational to me – Holiness of God, Chosen by God and Pleasing God. Dr. Sproul died on December 14, 2017.  Since then I have gone back and re-read these three books and wanted to share my reviews of each book with you.

The Holiness of God by R. C. Sproul. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2nd Revised, Expanded Edition. 240 pages. 2000
****

The Holiness of God was the first book of R.C. Sproul’s that I read back in the mid-1980’s. I have since gone back and read it multiple times, and prior to his recent death heard him speak about this material several times. This book, and Sproul’s ministry, has had a profound impact on my spiritual growth. Here’s some of the most significant parts of the book.
He tells us that the one concept, the central idea he kept meeting in Scripture, was the idea that God is holy. He states that how we understand the person and character of God the Father affects every aspect of our lives.
The author tells us that only once in Scripture is an attribute of God elevated to the third degree, and mentioned three times in succession. The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy.
He uses Isaiah’s experience in Isaiah 6 to show that for the first time in his life Isaiah really understood who God was. At the same instant, for the first time Isaiah really understood who Isaiah was.
He waits awhile before defining what he means by the word holy. He tells us that when the Bible calls God holy, it means primarily that God is transcendentally separate. God is so far above and beyond us that He seems almost totally foreign to us. To be holy is to be “other,” to be different in a special way. He tells us that when we call things holy when they are not holy, we commit the sin of idolatry. To worship an idol involves calling something holy when it is not holy. What God does is always consistent with who God is. He always acts according to His holy character.
A famous quote of Sproul’s is that sin is cosmic treason. It is an act of supreme ingratitude toward the One to whom we owe everything, to the One who has given us life itself.
Many believe that there is an inconsistency between a harsh God in the Old Testament and a loving Jesus in the New Testament. But Sproul disagrees, indicating that far from being a history of a harsh God, the Old Testament is the record of a God who is extremely patient. He tells us that the most violent expression of God’s wrath and justice is actually seen in the New Testament, in the Cross.
The author writes that one of our basic problems is the confusion of justice and mercy. He states that it is impossible for anyone, anywhere, anytime to deserve grace. Grace by definition is undeserved. We will receive only justice or mercy from God. We never receive injustice from His hand. He tells us that the struggle we have with a holy God is rooted in the conflict between God’s righteousness and our unrighteousness. He states that God is just, and we are unjust. This tension creates fear, hostility, and anger within us toward God.
He writes that to be a saint means to be separated, but more than that. The saint also is to be involved in a vital process of sanctification. We are to be purified daily in the growing pursuit of holiness. Saints are people who are at one and the same time just, yet sinful. He tells us that God counts the believer as righteous even when in and of ourselves we are not righteous, and that this is the gospel.
He writes about the wrath of God, stating that a loving God who has no wrath is no God. Instead, he is an idol of our own making as much as if we carved Him out of stone.
He states that the failure of modern evangelicalism is the failure to understand the holiness of God. Helpless sinners can survive only by grace. We can love Him only because He first loved us.
Throughout, Sproul explains theological concepts in a way that is easy to understand. He also utilizes his gifts of story-telling and humor. This edition of the book includes helpful questions at the end of each chapter to help you reflect on what you have just learned.

Chosen by God by R. C. Sproul. Tyndale House Publishing. 196 pages. 2001 edition.
****

Chosen by God was the second book of R.C. Sproul’s that I read back in the mid-1980’s, following his classic The Holiness of God. This book has been used to convince many that the Reformed view of election is indeed the biblical view. The great Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon famously stated that Reformed theology is just a nickname for biblical Christianity.
John Calvin did not invent the doctrine of predestination. The author states that predestination is a doctrine that is plainly set forth in the Bible (Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:3-11), and that virtually all Christian churches have some formal doctrine of predestination. The question is which view of predestination to embrace. This book asserts that the Reformed view of predestination is the biblical view.
The author writes “The Reformed view asserts that the ultimate decision for salvation rests with God and not with man. It teaches that from all eternity God has chosen to intervene in the lives of some people and bring them to saving faith and has chosen not to do that for other people. From all eternity, without any prior view of our human behavior, God has chosen some unto election and others unto reprobation. The ultimate destiny of the individual is decided by God before that individual is even born and without depending ultimately upon the human choice.”
When we speak of divine sovereignty we are speaking about God’s authority and about God’s power. Human freedom and evil are under God’s sovereignty.
Grace is undeserved. God always reserves the right to have mercy upon whom he will have mercy. God may owe people justice, but never mercy. The saved get mercy and the unsaved get justice. Nobody gets injustice.
The author states that in the Reformed view of predestination God’s choice precedes man’s choice. We choose him only because he has first chosen us. He encourages us to not merely assume that you are not elect, but to make your election a matter of certainty.
He states that no true believer ever loses his salvation. To be sure, Christians fall at times seriously and radically, but never fully and finally. We persevere, not because of our strength but because of God’s grace that preserves us.
The author covers such weighty topics as man’s free will, sin, evil, grace, original sin, the Fall, double predestination and TULIP (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and the Perseverance of the Saints), all in his characteristic easy to understand manner.
The final chapter of the book is comprised of questions about predestination. Each chapter ends with a concise summary of the main points from the chapter as well as scripture verses for further study.

Pleasing God: Discovering the Meaning and Importance of Sanctification by R. C. Sproul.  David C. Cook, 210 pages. 2012 edition
**** 

Pleasing God was the third book of R.C. Sproul’s that I read as a new believer back in the 1980’s, following his classic books The Holiness of God and Chosen by God. Pleasing God is intended as a practical guide for Christian living, an attempt to provide help for the struggle in which we are involved.
While regeneration, the act of grace by which our eyes are opened to the things of God is an act that only God can perform and is instantaneous, our sanctification is takes place in stages. Regeneration is the beginning of our Christian journey. Sanctification is a process, a gradual process. Rebirth is instantaneous. Justification is instantaneous. But sanctification is a lifelong process. This growth in pleasing God is called sanctification, and that is what this wonderful book is about.
The author states that for Christians to make progress in sanctification, in learning to please God, they must have a clear idea of their goal. The goal, as Jesus stated it is “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). Seeking the kingdom and righteousness are the priorities of the Christian life.  To be righteous is to do everything that God calls us to do.
The author covers a number of topics in this book. He first looks at Martin Luther’s threefold battle in the Christian life – the Christian’s battle with the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Other topics covered in this volume include forgiveness, guilt, assurance, repentance, fruit bearing, a discussion on “carnal Christians”, pride, dishonesty, slothfulness, the importance of sound doctrine, and the role of the Holy Spirit.
The author writes that regeneration is the beginning of a journey. That journey is filled with successes and failures, with growth amid stumbling. He tells us that at times, the progress seems painfully slow, but progress is there. All Christians make progress that is made by the indwelling Holy Spirit, who refuses to allow us to stand still.
I always appreciated how Dr. Sproul could take difficult theological topics and communicate them in a very clear and easy to understand manner. This is a very readable book about the doctrine of sanctification.

If you are not familiar with Dr. Sproul’s ministry, I would recommend starting with these three books that were foundational for me.


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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

Starting the New Year:

  • 4 Christian Principles for Making New Year’s Resolutions. Burk Parsons writes “We would therefore do well to consider (Jonathan) Edwards’ prefatory remarks as we seek to glorify God and enjoy Him forever in our churches, our homes, and our hearts.”
  • Bible Reading Plans for 2018. Nathan W. Bingham has compiled a list of helpful Bible reading plans for you to choose from.
  • Get a Basic Overview of the Bible. R.C. Sproul writes “Virtually every Christian at some point has resolved to read the entire Bible. If we believe the Bible is the Word of God, it’s natural not to want to miss a word of it.”
  • 7 New Year Resolutions That Could Change Our World. Ron Edmondson writes “Whether or not you do New Year resolutions, we could all stand to improve some things in our life. And, if we do, I’m confident we could also improve the life of others.”
  • Keep Technology in Its Proper Place in 2018. Andy Crouch writes “The proper place for technology won’t be exactly the same for every family, and it isn’t the same at every season of our lives. Figuring out the proper place for technology in our particular family and stage of life requires discernment rather than a simple formula.”
  • Ask God to Rebuild What is Broken. Marshall Segal writes “If God can rebuild a relationship with us ripped apart by sin, and replant and revive souls like ours dead in sin, what new thing could he do in your life this year — in your family, in your workplace, in your neighborhood, in our nation, in you?”
  • A Gospel-Shaped 2018. Scotty Smith prays “Heavenly Father, whether or not 2018 is going to be a “happy” New Year, remains to be seen. But as in 2017, there won’t be a day this year you’ll fail to send us new mercies and give us sufficient grace. You’ll steadfastly delight in us, and rejoice over us with singing, no matter the happenstance, circumstances, or providences. Because of Jesus’ finished work, your love for us is irrepressible, immeasurable, and inexhaustible. That will be the most predictable and reliable truth in 2018. Hallelujah!”
  • New Year, New Beginnings: The Importance of Considering Our Ways. Melissa Kruger writes “There’s something refreshing about beginning a new year. It’s a time to reflect on the past year and refocus our goals for the upcoming year. I find it helpful to get away for an hour or two and spend some time in prayer, asking the Lord to guide me as I consider the time he’s given.”
  • A New Year, A New Bible Reading Plan. In this episode of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast, John Piper responds to the question Can you make a case for the discipline? Name the plan you use. Explain why you like it. Explain the pace of reading. And maybe what you’ve learned after doing this for so many years.”
  • Marry the Bible This Year. David Mathis writesMarrying the Bible is not a sequestering pursuit. As God fills us with the spiritual life and joy He imparts to us through His word, He will put a word in our mouth and make our meal all the more filling as we pass it around to others. The dominoes will begin falling as the word of God comes into its central, initiating, energizing place in our souls.”
  • Another New Year Knocks. Marshall Segal writes “The reason many of us feel so insecure and anxious at the end of another year is that we’ve taken gifts meant to lead us to God, and looked to them for the strength, hope, clarity, and purpose only God can give.”
  • On New Year’s Resolutions, Slow Progess, and the Grace of God. Scott Sauls writes “So, perhaps the first thing to do, then, is to begin doing what Jesus taught all of us to do—to ask our Father in heaven to give us the Spirit (Luke 11:13).”
  • Should Christians Make New Year’s Resolutions? In this four-minute video Hershael York believes it is right to make New Year’s Resolutions about the way that they intend to live.

Courtesy of World Magazine

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