Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

  • Do Blue Collar Workers Fit Our Theology of Vocation? Daniel Darling writes “If we are not careful we can create a kind of second class system by elevating those whose vocations seem more praiseworthy—white collars or creative such as artists, engineers, lawyers, and CEOs—over and above the blue collar, “dirty jobs” professions that so employ so many of our people.”
  • How Should I Apply My Gifts in the Workplace? Art Lindsley writes “Remember, you are uniquely gifted with talents that help you find fulfillment and that bless others. These gifts can be applied in a number of different jobs or careers. Focus less on finding a specific career or job than on finding an environment in which you can regularly (not perfectly) use your gifts in the way God designed you. Perhaps it’s your current circumstances! Even unexpected gifts can transfer into unexpected jobs and roles in life. Be open!”
  • 5 Traits That Set Great Leaders Apart from the Pack. Ellie Walburg writes “What sets apart good leaders from great leaders? Is it political savvy and the ability to maneuver their way to the top? Is it the number of connections they have? Is it their ability to speak well and motivate people? While all these things may be helpful to varying degrees, leadership goes much deeper than that, to the very core of a who a person is.”
  • 7 Things to Do If You Don’t Like Your Job. Chuck Lawless states that many people are in work roles that they don’t enjoy. If that is where you are, perhaps these suggestions will help you look at your job differently.
  • Peter: The Servant Leader. John MacArthur writes “Restraint, humility, and servanthood aren’t obvious leadership qualities in the corporate world. Nor are they character traits that readily spring to mind for modern churches focused on growth and vision. But Christ prioritized those three qualities as he cultivated future leaders of the Christian church, most notably Peter.”
  • Chick-fil-A VP: The Advice I Give My Own Children — How to Start a Career. Dee Ann Turner writes “My three sons began receiving career advice from me before they even started high school. It was both the curse and the blessing of having a Mother who spent time as the Vice President of Talent and the Vice President of Human Resources at Chick-fil-A. As they matured, I tried to impress upon them the importance of character, competency and chemistry in their professional lives. These are the top tips I shared with them in advising them on starting and growing their careers.”
  • 4 Practical Reasons Character Must Trump Competence. Eric Geiger writes “When inviting others to join your team, both character and competence matter. They are both important. A person of integrity who is not skilled for the role will only grow frustrated while frustrating everyone else. So competence is important, but character is more so.”
  • The Value of Our Work. On this episode of Unlimited Grace, Doug Chamberlain interviews Bryan Chapell about the value of our work.
  • What are You Gifted to Do? Art Lindsley writes “Our gifts are things we do well because God has gifted us to do them. We enjoy doing them because God has created us to experience life and joy through our own unique gifts, and in this way, we experience flourishing.”
  • Christians in the Profession of Arms. Russell Gehrlein writes “Serving in the military was, and is, godly work. And God is definitely present in it.”
  • Global Leadership Summit Podcast. In this episode, Patrick Lencioni compares “smart” vs. “healthy” organizations, making the case that organizational health is the greatest competitive advantage in business. He then unpacks the four disciplines necessary to building organizational health.
  • Catch and Release: A Necessary Strategy for the Modern Leader. Steve Graves writes “As for me, my faith helps me live with catch and release because I trust that God is in control. I will do the best I can to keep my best people, but if something outside of my control happens and an employee leaves, that’s okay.”

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Book Reviews
The Gospel According to DanielThe Gospel According to Daniel by Bryan Chapell. Baker Books 226 pages. 2014
****

Dr. Bryan Chapell was the President of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis during most of my time there. He wrote the notes for the book of Daniel in the Gospel Transformation Bible, and recently completed a preaching series on Daniel at Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria, Illinois, where he is senior pastor. You can download the sermons from their website. Usually, a book based on a sermon series is published after the sermons are preached. In this instance, over a period of months, I enjoyed listening to the sermon of each chapter in Daniel, and then reading the corresponding chapter of this theologically rich book, which includes helpful, practical illustrations.

The author writes that he desires to help others see the presence of the gospel throughout all of Scripture. Some may not feel that Christ is present in the Old Testament. Dr. Chapell aims to show where every text stands in relation to the ultimate revelation of the person and/or work of Christ.

He tells us that in the first half of the book of Daniel (largely biographical), we are tempted to make Daniel the object of our worship (“be like Daniel”). But by doing so, we neglect Daniel’s own message that God is the hero. The second half of the book which contains prophetic content can also lead to error if we make Daniel primarily the subject of our debates of end-times issues. Again, the author tells us, that if we do that we neglect Daniel’s message that God will rescue his people from the miseries of their sin by the work of the Messiah.

The author skillfully leads the reader through both the well-known biographical first half of the book and also the sometimes hard to understand prophetic second half. I thoroughly enjoyed studying the wonderful book of Daniel with Dr. Chapell and highly recommend his book to you.

OnwardOnward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel by Russell Moore. B&H Books. 240 pages. 2015.
****

Russell Moore is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He is one of the leading young voices in evangelicalism today. In this important book, one of my favorites for 2015, he writes that the shaking of American culture isn’t a sign that God has given up on American Christianity. Rather, it may be a sign that God is rescuing American Christianity from itself. Moore is optimistic, indicating that pessimism is for losers. He admits that the American church faces difficulties, but also unprecedented opportunities. He writes that the message of the Kingdom is to “Make way for the coming of the Lord”. He states that now is the time for the church to reclaim its mission.

He writes that our culture was at one time more closely aligned with Christian values, if not necessarily the Christian Gospel. We are no longer the “Moral Majority”, if we ever really were. Our beliefs (sexual ethics, for example), are now very strange to our culture. He admits that in the short term we have lost the culture war on sexual and family issues. He states that we were never given a mission by Christ to promote values (as in “family values”), but to speak instead of sin, righteousness and the judgment of Christ and His Kingdom.

He writes that we must put our priorities where Jesus put them. He states that increasingly, the American culture doesn’t see Christianity as the real America. But the church needs to be salt and light to the culture. A worldly church, or an “almost gospel” is no good for this world. He states that the Kingdom of God should shape our vision of what and who matters, indicating that both left and right wing Christians can equally distort the Gospel. He writes of balancing evangelism and discipleship with justice, indicating that human dignity is about the Kingdom of God.

He writes about Jesus being a “gentle steamroller” as he called people to repentance. He discusses a manner of culture engagement that involves convictional kindness. He states that kindness should not be confused with niceness. Kindness doesn’t avoid conflict. Rather, it engages conflict with a goal of reconciliation.

The book lays out a plan for engaging a culture that is not only indifferent to Christianity, but at times openly hostile to it. It is written with convictional kindness and with a pastor’s heart. Highly recommended.

book news

  • Why We Should Read Books. Aimee Byrd writes “For anyone who doesn’t read many books anymore or who thinks we have all we need on the Internet, I wanted to share a few reasons why we should still read books.”
  • Unashamed. Pre-order Lecrae’s first book, Unashamed, which will be released May 3.
  • Alistair Begg’s Endorsement of Child in the Manger. Watch this short video of Alistair Begg’s endorsement of this excellent book by Sinclair Ferguson.

Ian Hamilton Quote

Studies in the Sermon on the MountStudies in the Sermon on the Mount BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

This book made a significant impact on my wife Tammy when she read and discussed it with friends thirty years ago. When I picked up my diploma the day after graduation ceremonies from Covenant Seminary last year I was given a copy of this book. After enjoying Lloyd-Jones book Spiritual Depression (and the sermons the book was taken from), I couldn’t wait to read this book, which is the printed form of sermons preached for the most part on successive Sunday mornings at Westminster Chapel in London. This week we look at Chapter 21: Thou Shalt Not Kill

  • Verses 2I-26 we have the first of this series of six examples which our Lord gives of His interpretation of the law of God over and against that of the scribes and Pharisees.
  • The contrast, therefore, is not between the law given through Moses and the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ; it is a contrast, rather, between the false interpretation of the law of Moses, and the true presentation of the law given by our Lord Himself.
  • He presents us with six contrasts, each of which is introduced by the formula: `Ye have heard it was said by them of old time… but I say unto you.’
  • The Pharisees, by putting these two things together in juxtaposition, had reduced the import of this commandment `Thou shalt not kill’ to just a question of committing actual murder. By immediately adding the second to the first they had weakened the whole injunction.
  • The second thing they did was to reduce and confine the sanctions with which this prohibition was associated, to mere punishment at the hands of the civil magistrates.
  • That was their full and complete interpretation of the great commandment which says: Thou shalt not kill. In other words they had evacuated it of its truly great content and had reduced it merely to a question of murder. Furthermore, they did not mention the judgment of God at all. It is only the judgment of the local court that seems to matter.
  • It is possible for us to face the law of God as we find it in the Bible, but so to interpret and define it, as to make it something which we can keep very easily because we only keep it negatively. So we may persuade ourselves that all is well.
  • The first principle is that what matters is not merely the letter of the law but the spirit.
  • The true way of understanding `Thou shalt not kill’ is this: `Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.’
  • Anger in the heart towards any human being, and especially to those who belong to the household of faith, is, according to our Lord, something that is as reprehensible in the sight of God as murder.
  • Not only must we not feel this causeless anger; we must never even be guilty of expressions of contempt.
  • Contempt, a feeling of scorn and derision, is the very spirit that ultimately leads to murder.
  • Killing does not only mean destroying life physically, it means still more trying to destroy the spirit and the soul, destroying the person in any shape or form.
  • Our anger must only be against sin; we must never feel angry with the sinner, but only full of sorrow and compassion for him.
  • Our Lord’s anger was always a righteous indignation, it was a holy anger, an expression of the wrath of God Himself.
  • God hates evil. God’s anger is displayed against it, and His wrath will be poured out upon it.
  • The holier we become, the more anger we shall feel against sin.
  • We must never feel angry with a person as such; we must draw a distinction between the person himself and what he does.
  • Let us now go on to the second statement. Our attitude is meant to be not negative, but positive. Not only are we not to harbor murder and evil thoughts in our heart against another; but the commandment not to kill really means we should take positive steps to put ourselves right with our brother.
  • We have to reach the stage in which there shall be nothing wrong even in spirit between our brother and ourselves.
  • In the sight of God there is no value whatsoever in an act of worship if we harbor a known sin.
  • We must not only think in terms of our brother whom we are offending, or with whom there is something wrong, we must always think of ourselves before God.
  • His terms are very easy. They are just this, that I face and acknowledge this sin and confess it utterly and absolutely, that I stop any self-defense or self-justification, though there was provocation from this other person. I must just confess and admit it without any reservation to God. If there is something in actual practice that I can do about it I must do it at once. Then He will tell me that all is right.

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Book Reviews
Adoption by Russell MooreAdoption: What Joseph of Nazareth Can Teach Us About This Counterculture Choice by Russell Moore. Crossway. 64 pages. 2015

****

This short book was first published as Chapter 3: “Joseph of Nazareth vs. Planned Parenthood: What’s at Stake When We Talk about Adoption,” in Moore’s 2009 book Adopted for Life.

Moore asks what it would mean if our churches and families were known as the people who adopt babies—and toddlers, and children, and teenagers. What if Christians were known, once again, as the people who take in orphans, and make of them beloved sons and daughters? He writes that all of us have a stake in the adoption issue, because Jesus does.

Moore tells us that there’s rarely much room in the inn of the contemporary Christian imagination for Joseph, especially among conservative Protestants like him. But, he tells us, Joseph serves as a model to follow as we see what’s at stake in the issue of adoption because Joseph, after all, is an adoptive father. Moore writes that as Joseph images the Father of the fatherless, he shows us how adoption is more than charity. It’s spiritual warfare.

Moore writes that the demonic powers (Pharaoh, Herod and Planned Parenthood) hate babies because they hate Jesus. When they destroy “the least of these” (Matt. 25:40, 45), the most vulnerable among us, they’re destroying a picture of Jesus himself, of the child delivered by the woman who crushes their head (Gen. 3:15). Moore states, it’s easy to shake our heads in disgust at Pharaoh or Herod or Planned Parenthood. But it’s not as easy to see the ways in which we ourselves often have a Pharaoh-like view of children rather than a Christ-like view. Moore writes that the protection of children isn’t charity, its spiritual warfare. He states that all of us, as followers of Christ, are called to protect children.

Moore writes that an orphan-protecting adoption culture is countercultural—and always has been. An adoption culture in our churches advances the cause of life, even beyond the individual lives of the children adopted. Imagine if Christian churches were known as the places where unwanted babies become beloved children.

Moore states that if we follow in the way of Joseph, perhaps we’ll see a battalion of new church-sponsored clinics for pregnant women in crisis situations. Perhaps we’ll train God-called women in our churches to counsel confused young women, counselors able and equipped to provide an alternative to the slick but deadly propaganda of the abortion profiteers. If we walk in Joseph’s way, perhaps we’ll see pastors who will prophetically call on Christians to oppose the death culture by rescuing babies and children through adoption.

Moore writes that although Planned Parenthood thinks “Choice on Earth” is the message of Christmas, we know better, or at least we should. He encourages us to follow the footsteps of the other man at the manger, the quiet one.

Book News

  • Killing ReaganKilling Reagan. The latest book in the Killing series (Lincoln, Kennedy, Jesus and Patton) from Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency will be released September 22.
  • Parables by John MacArthurNew John MacArthur Book. John MacArthur’s next book will be Parables: The Mysteries of God’s Kingdom Revealed Through the Stories Jesus Told, which will be released October 27.

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

Prayer BOOK CLUB

Tim Keller's New Book on PrayerPrayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller

Christians are taught in their churches and schools that prayer is the most powerful way to experience God. But few receive instruction or guidance in how to make prayer genuinely meaningful. In Prayer, renowned pastor Timothy Keller delves into the many facets of this everyday act. Won’t you read along with Tammy and me? This week we look at Chapter 4 ~ Conversing with God.

  • We have learned that prayer is both an instinct and a spiritual gift. As an instinct, prayer is a response to our innate but fragmentary knowledge of God.
  • As a gift of the Spirit, however, prayer becomes the continuation of a conversation God has started.
  • Christian prayer is fellowship with the personal God who befriends us through speech. The biblical pattern entails meditating on the words of Scripture until we respond to God with our entire being, saying, “Give me an undivided heart, that . . . I may praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart” (Ps 86:11–12).
  • Timothy Ward’s book Words of Life argues that God’s words are identical with his actions.104 He quotes Genesis 1:3, “‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”
  • God’s words, however, cannot fail their purposes because, for God, speaking and acting are the same thing.
  • When the Bible talks of God’s Word, then, it is talking of “God’s active presence in the world.”
  • “Thus (we may say) God has invested himself with his words, or we could say that God has so identified himself with his words that whatever someone does to God’s words . . . they do to God himself. . . . God’s . . . verbal actions are a kind of extension of himself.
  • If God’s words are his personal, active presence, then to put your trust in God’s words is to put your trust in God. “Communication from God is therefore communion with God, when met with a response of trust from us.”
  • The conclusion is clear. God acts through his words, the Word is “alive and active” (Heb 4:12), and therefore the way to have God dynamically active in our lives is through the Bible. To understand the Scripture is not simply to get information about God. If attended to with trust and faith, the Bible is the way to actually hear God speaking and also to meet God himself.
  • We know who we are praying to only if we first learn it in the Bible. And we know how we should be praying only by getting our vocabulary from the Bible.
  • Our prayers should arise out of immersion in the Scripture. We should “plunge ourselves into the sea” of God’s language, the Bible. We should listen, study, think, reflect, and ponder the Scriptures until there is an answering response in our hearts and minds.
  • That response to God’s speech is then truly prayer and should be given to God.
  • Your prayer must be firmly connected to and grounded in your reading of the Word. This wedding of the Bible and prayer anchors your life down in the real God.
  • The Psalms reveal a great range in the modes of prayer.
  • We would never produce the full range of biblical prayer if we were initiating prayer according to our own inner needs and psychology. It can only be produced if we are responding in prayer according to who God is as revealed in the Scripture.
  • In every case the nature of the prayer is determined by the character of God, who is at once our friend, father, lover, shepherd, and king.
  • We must not decide how to pray based on what types of prayer are the most effective for producing the experiences and feelings we want. We pray in response to God himself. God’s Word to us contains this range of discourse—and only if we respond to his Word will our own prayer life be as rich and varied.
  • We should not decide how to pray based on the experiences and feelings we want. Instead, we should do everything possible to behold our God as he is, and prayer will follow. The more clearly we grasp who God is, the more our prayer is shaped and determined accordingly.
  • The lesson here is not that God never guides our thoughts or prompts us to choose wise courses of action, but that we cannot be sure he is speaking to us unless we read it in the Scripture.
  • David wanted to build God a house, but God said, “No, I will build you a house.”
  • David wanted to build God a place that displayed his glory. God said, in effect, that he had a counterproposal. He would establish David’s royal family line and it would ultimately reveal God’s glory in a more permanent, far-reaching, and universal way.
  • The Word of God created within David the desire, drive, and strength to pray. The principle: God speaks to us in his Word, and we respond in prayer, entering into the divine conversation, into communion with God.
  • One of David’s descendants will take up a kingdom and never relinquish it, because of the divine power of his indestructible life
  • We who believe in him will ourselves become God’s “house”—a temple of living stones indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
  • God’s Word of power “dwells richly” in all believers, giving them hearts to praise, sing, and pray to God with a joy and reality that neither David nor John the Baptist could know
  • David found the heart to pray when he received God’s Word of promise—that he would establish his throne and build him a house. Christians, however, have an infinitely greater Word of promise. God will not merely build us a house, he will make us his house. He will fill us with his presence, beauty, and glory. Every time Christians merely remember who they are in Christ, that great word comes home to us and we will find, over and over again, a heart to pray.

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount BOOK CLUB

Studies in the Sermon on the MountStudies in the Sermon on the Mount by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

This book made a significant impact on my wife Tammy when she read and discussed it with friends thirty years ago. When I picked up my diploma the day after graduation ceremonies from Covenant Seminary last year I was given a copy of this book. After enjoying Lloyd-Jones book Spiritual Depression (and the sermons the book was taken from), I couldn’t wait to read this book, which is the printed form of sermons preached for the most part on successive Sunday mornings at Westminster Chapel in London. This week we look at CHAPTER TWO: GENERAL VIEW AND ANALYSIS

  • No part of this Sermon can be understood truly except in the light of the whole.
  • The whole is greater than a collection of the parts, and we must never lose sight of this wholeness.
  • Unless we have understood and grasped the Sermon on the Mount as a whole, we cannot understand properly any one of its particular injunctions.
  • Everything in this Sermon, if we treat it rightly, and if we are to derive benefit from considering it, must be taken in its setting; and, as I have just been emphasizing, the order in which the statements come in the Sermon is really of supreme importance. The Beatitudes do not come at the end, they come at the beginning, and I do not hesitate to say that unless we are perfectly clear about them we should go no further.
  • There is a kind of logical sequence in this Sermon. Not only that, there is certainly a spiritual order and sequence. Our Lord does not say these things accidentally; the whole thing is deliberate. Certain postulates are laid down, and on the basis of those, certain other things follow.
  • Never discuss any particular injunction of the Sermon with a person until I am perfectly happy and clear in my mind that that person is a Christian. It is wrong to ask anybody who is not first a Christian to try to live or practise the Sermon on the Mount. To expect Christian conduct from a person who is not born again is heresy.
  • We always tend to forget that every New Testament letter was written to Christians and not to non-Christians; and the appeals in terms of ethics in every Epistle are always addressed only to those who are believers, to those who are new men and women in Christ Jesus. This Sermon on the Mount is exactly the same.
  • The Sermon is divided up into general and particular. The general part of the Sermon occupies v. 3 to v. 16. There you have certain broad statements with regard to the Christian. Then the remainder of the Sermon is concerned with particular aspects of his life and conduct. First the general theme, and then an illustration of this theme in particular.
  • But we can sub-divide it a little further for the sake of convenience. In V. 3-10 you have the character of the Christian described in and of itself.
  • Then v. ii, 12, I would say, show us the character of the Christian as proved by the reaction of the world to him.
  • v. 13-I6 is an account of the relationship of the Christian to the world, or, if you prefer it, these verses are descriptive of the function of the Christian in society and in the world,
  • There, then, is a general account of the Christian.
  • From there on, I suggest, we come to what I may call the particular examples and illustrations of how such a man lives in a world like this. Here we can sub-divide like this. In v. 17-48 we have the Christian facing the law of God and its demands.
  • Then we are told of his relationship towards such matters as murder, adultery and divorce; then how he should speak and then his position with regard to the whole question of retaliation and self-defence, and his attitude towards his neighbour.
  • The whole of chapter vi, I suggest,’ relates to the Christian as living his life in the presence of God, in active submission to Him, and in entire dependence upon Him.
  • Chapter vii can be regarded in general as an account of the Christian as one who lives always under the judgment of God, and in the fear of God.
  • Certain things always characterize the Christian, and these are certainly the three most important principles. The Christian is a man who of necessity must be concerned about keeping God’s law.
  • Again one of the essential and most obvious things about a Christian is that he is a man who lives always realizing he is in the presence of God. The world does not live in this way; that is the big difference between the Christian and the non-Christian.
  • The third thing is equally true and fundamental. The Christian is a man who always walks in the fear of God-not craven fear, because `perfect love casteth out’ that fear. Not only does he approach God in terms of the Epistle to the Hebrews, `with reverence and godly fear’, but he lives his whole life like that.
  • Let me now lay down a number of controlling principles which should govern the interpretation of this Sermon.
  • What is of supreme importance is that we must always remember that the Sermon on the Mount is a description of character and not a code of ethics or of morals.
  • The Christian, while he puts his emphasis upon the spirit, is also concerned about the letter. But he is not concerned only about the letter, and he must never consider the letter apart from the spirit.
  • If you find yourself arguing with the Sermon on the Mount at any point, it means either that there is something wrong with you or else that your interpretation of the Sermon is wrong.
  • If you criticize this Sermon at any point you are really saying a great deal about yourself.
  • Finally, if you regard any particular injunction in this Sermon as impossible, once more your interpretation and understanding of it must be wrong.
  • There was a time when the designation applied to the Christian was that he was a `God-fearing’ man. I do not think you can ever improve on that-a `God-fearing’ man. It is a wonderful description of the true Christian.
  • So we must not only take the injunctions of the Sermon seriously. We must also check our particular interpretation in the light of the principles I have given.
  • I maintain again that if only every Christian in the Church today were living the Sermon on the Mount, the great revival for which we are praying and longing would already have started.

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