Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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In Appreciation of R.C. Sproul: How the Lord Used His Ministry in My Life

It’s hard to put into words the impact that R.C. Sproul, who died today, has had on my life. I was introduced to Dr. Sproul’s ministry more than 30 years ago when Dr. John Shively gave me one of Dr. Sproul’s teaching series on cassette tape. I believe it was titled Objections Answered, though I can’t be 100% sure. We listened to the messages on those tapes in the car on the way back from Lafayette, Indiana. I was amazed. Here was someone who took difficult theological concepts and communicated them in a way that I could understand them.  From cassette tapes to CD’s to digital podcasts, that was one of R.C.’s greatest gifts.

The first of R.C.’s books that I read was his 1985 classic The Holiness of God. That book had a profound impact on me. I was hooked. Since then, the Lord has used R.C.’s ministry in a powerful way in my life. We began subscribing to TABLETALK  magazine, and saw him speak many times in conferences, the first being in Wheaton, Illinois in the 1980’s. We attended Ligonier Ministries Regional conferences in St. Louis, Missouri, Lexington, Kentucky and Grand Rapids, Michigan and Detroit, Michigan. Since 1997, we rarely missed Ligonier’s National Conference in Orlando. Attending the National Conference always felt like experiencing a little taste of Heaven for me. I most enjoyed the “Question and Answer” sessions at those conferences. R.C. was gifted with an incredible mind and he used it to defend the Gospel from false teaching and the heresy of the hour. I also loved his stories, some of which I’ve heard dozens of times, as well as his laugh.

At almost every conference we attended, I would stand in line and have R.C. sign his latest book for me. A few times I mentioned how much I appreciated his ministry. It was clear that he was uncomfortable with what could be perceived as hero worship, and wanted all glory to go to God. And that’s how I will end this tribute, by giving all glory to God for equipping R.C. Sproul, and positively impacting me, my wife and hundreds of thousands of others who will miss him, his ministry and teaching deeply.  We are happy that he is now in the presence of his Savior, greeted with “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

Let’s remember Dr. Sproul by watching this two-minute video of him preaching the Gospel throughout the years.

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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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