Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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Book Reviews
When Is It Right to Die?  A Comforting and Surprising Look at Death and Dying by Joni Eareckson Tada. Zondervan Updated Edition. 208 pages. 2018

There are few people I respect more than Joni Eareckson Tada. She has had tremendous influence since a diving accident left her in a wheelchair fifty years ago. I’ve read many of her books and seen her speak at conferences. This is a revised edition of a book that she wrote 25 years ago. Much has changed during that time. When the book was first written, some of what is covered in this helpful new edition was only theoretical.
The book goes beyond the theoretical to the practical. Joni helps us make the moral judgments we will all be faced with. She brings what she and her family have learned from going through the dying process with her father. She writes about her own periods of depression, suicidal thoughts, severe pain and also breast cancer.
She writes about physician assisted suicide, which is now legal in five states in the U.S. She recalls the case of Terri Schiavo case, who was deemed to be in a “persistent vegetative state”, and other stories from the headlines, but indicates that most of these stories never make the headlines. She shares heart-breaking letters that have been sent to her.
Joni tells us that 44,000 people commit suicide in the U.S. each year, and many, many more attempt it, in addition to those who take advantage of states that provide physician’s assisted suicide. Why the increase in those taking their own life? Joni states that it is often due to pain and no hope for relief. This much and no more.
She shares several answers that people give as to when it is right to die (when it’s too expensive to live, mercy, pain, etc.). She writes that unfortunately 38% of evangelicals support in certain cases “mercy killing”. She defines the various terms in the conversation (euthanasia, physician’s assisted suicide, etc.).
Scripture says that death is the final enemy. Joni writes that you have the right to live. She writes how your decision for life matters to others, to yourself and to the enemy, and to God.
She shows from the Bible that God is opposed to mercy killing, but that it is acceptable to let dying people die. The act of dying does not need to be prolonged. End of life decisions are difficult. She recommends an Advanced Care Directive, as opposed to a Living Will. She recommends that you assist your loved ones by documenting your wishes and revisit them often. Ask God to give you wisdom on these important decisions. Continue reading




Sing! How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family and Church by Keith and Kristyn Getty. B&H Books. 176 pages. 2017

This excellent book written by respected modern hymn-writers Keith and Kristyn Getty is a gift to the church. It can be read individually or as a group. The authors include helpful suggestions on how churches can use the book. The book includes helpful discussion questions at the end of each chapter that readers will benefit from, whether the book is read individually or as a group. The book is intended to be practical, which it is, though not prescriptive.

The authors have five urgent goals for the book:
1 – To help pastors, musicians and congregations have a clear vision and understanding of why we sing.
2 – To help each of us realize the importance of what we sing and how those song choices affect our personal lives.
3 – To help us raise our families with an appetite for congregational singing and training in it.
4 – To help our churches become energized and more focused in their congregational singing.
5 – To help fire us to mission as we witness to others through the songs we sing.

The authors write that Martin Luther reinvigorated singing. Singing was the heart of the Reformation. They tell us that we were born to sing, and that we need to learn how to love to sing. Christian singing starts with the heart. It is prayer. Congregational singing is the ultimate choir. We should sing because we love God. We are commanded to sing, so we must do it, primarily with other believers.
The book looks at what we should sing and how we should sing. The Gospel compels us to sing. Worship comes as a response to revelation. We were created, commanded and compelled to sing. The songs we sing on Sunday become the soundtrack for our week.
We need good songs stored up in our hearts. We need to grow our appetite for good congregational singing. Sing to yourself throughout the week what you sang in church on Sunday. Continue reading

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42 Faith: The Rest of the Jackie Robinson Story by Ed Henry. Thomas Nelson. 240 pages. 2017

This book was released on the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s major league debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers as the first African American in Major League baseball. Many are already familiar with the key points of Robinson’s story through previous books and the 2013 film 42. What Henry’s book focuses on is the role of faith – of Robinson, his wife Rachel, Branch Rickey and Robinson’s and Rickey’s mothers – in Robinson’s story.
Henry looks at the unique relationship between Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson and how their respective Methodist faiths impacted them.  The book is well-researched, as the author met with Robinson’s widow Rachel, teammate Carl Erskine, visited the site of the former Ebbets Field, pulled a lot of information from Robinson’s unpublished memoir, as well as his sermons and speeches, to show how Robinson was open about how his faith helped him to deal with all that came his way (verbal and physical abuse, death threats, etc.).
Juan Williams offers a lengthy introduction about race and faith in America. Henry includes biographical sketches of Rickey and Robinson’s lives up until they met each other on a warm August day in Rickey’s office in Brooklyn.  Robinson wasn’t sure why he was there. He had been told that the Dodgers were starting a negro team, but that was just what he was told to get him to Rickey’s office.
Henry looks at the effect of Rickey’s faith (he was a Methodist, named after John Wesley) on his decision to move forward to bring Robinson to the major leagues. Henry writes that Rickey was impacted by discrimination against Charles Thomas, an African American on one of his Ohio Wesleyan teams, who was denied housing at a hotel when Ohio Wesleyan went to Indiana to play Notre Dame.  That may have influenced him towards the action he took in making Robinson the first African American player in the major leagues. Continue reading