Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


God and the Transgender Debate: What does the Bible actually say about gender identity? by Andrew T. Walker. The Good Book Company. 145 pages. 2017
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In the Foreword, Albert Mohler writes that the transgender revolution represents one of the most difficult pastoral challenges that churches in this generation will face. He states that the sexual revolution poses challenges that are not simply going to disappear. The church must be ready to meet these challenges with biblical fidelity and Christ-like compassion.
The author states that all of us need an answer to questions such as: Can a man become a woman? Can a woman become a man? How and when should children be confronted with the debates about gender? What are we to do with children who are a member of one biological sex but feel as though they were born in the wrong body? What do we say to someone experiencing these feelings and desires? How do we love and help those who are deeply hurting?  This short, but helpful, book is intended to help with those questions.
Making sure we understand the terms involved is important. The author defines gender identity as a person’s self-perception of whether they are male or female, masculine or feminine.  He states that when someone experiences distress, inner anguish, or discomfort from sensing a conflict between their gender identity and their biological sex, that person is experiencing gender dysphoria—a mismatch between the gender that matches their biological sex and the gender that they feel themselves to be. He writes that it is crucial to understand that this is a genuine and unchosen experience. It is never something that someone should just “get over”.
Is gender dysphoria sinful? He writes that to feel that your body is one sex and your self is a different gender is not sinful. However, deciding to let that feeling rule—to feed that feeling so that it becomes the way you see yourself and the way you identify yourself and the way you act—is sinful, because it is deciding that your feelings will have authority over you, and will define what is right and what is wrong.  He states that experiencing gender dysphoria does not mean you are not a Christian. Someone can embrace a transgender identity, or find their identity in Christ, but not both.
He writes that people who identify as transgender report disproportionately higher rates of mental-health problems than the rest of the general population, including depression, suicide, and thoughts of suicide. Continue reading

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


The Miracle of Dunkirk: The True Story of Operation Dynamo by Walter Lord.  Open Road Media (Reprint edition). 370 pages. 2017
***

I read this book after watching Christopher Nolan’s excellent film Dunkirk. This is a very detailed and well-researched (written source materials, more than 500 interviews) book. I appreciated the book, but some may get lost in all of the details.
The book tells the amazing story of approximately 400,000 Allied troops that were trapped against the coast near the French port of Dunkirk. Hitler’s advancing tanks were only ten miles away. On May 26, “Operation Dynamo” began. By June 4, more than 338,000 men had been evacuated safely to England in one of the great rescues of all time. It was a crucial turning point in World War II.
The book tells the reader the backstory of Dunkirk, and fills in the gaps that the movie viewers may have had. How did the troops get to the beach and into an evacuation situation in the first place? I read about the surrender of the Belgian Army, and the at times contentious relationship between the British and French.
There were many challenges in evacuating the troops across the English Channel to Dover. There was the difficulty of loading at water’s edge. Once loaded, the departing boats faced bombings from the air by the Germans, running into underwater mines or encountering German torpedo boats.
It was Captain Tennant who came up with the idea of using the eastern mole or breakwater of Dunkirk harbor as an improvised pier. A steady stream of destroyers, minesweepers, ferries, and other steamers would ease alongside the mole, load troops, and then head for England.  Dinghies, rowboats, and launches would load at water’s edge and ferry the troops to small ships waiting offshore. These would then ferry the men to the growing fleet of destroyers, minesweepers, and packets lying still farther out. When filled, these would head for Dover. It was a practical, workable scheme, but it was also very slow.
The author writes about a mass of dots coming over the horizon that filled the sea on May 30. The dots were all heading toward Dunkirk. The “dots” were every kind of boat manned by regular British citizens, many without any navigational equipment or experienced captains. They were joining in the rescue effort for Operation Dynamo.
The author states that there were several miracles of Dunkirk.

  1. The weather. The English Channel is usually rough, and rarely behaves for very long. Yet a calm sea was essential to the evacuation, and during the nine days of Dunkirk the Channel was a millpond. He writes that “old-timers” still say they have never seen it so smooth.
  2. Hitler’s order of May 24, halting his tanks just as they were closing in for the kill.
  3. Another miracle was provided by the German bombers. The German planes rarely strafed the crowded beaches. They never used fragmentation bombs. They never attacked tempting targets like Dover or Ramsgate.

He writes that whatever the reasons, these lapses allowed additional thousands of men to come home.
Britain lost 2,472 guns and 63,879 vehicles were abandoned, but 224,686 men returned home safely.  The rescue electrified the people of Britain, welded them together, gave them a sense of purpose that the war had previously lacked.  The author writes about the sense of national participation that Dunkirk aroused.
When the evacuation began, Churchill thought 30,000 might be saved. In the end, over 338,000 were landed in England, with another 4,000 lifted to Cherbourg and other French ports still in Allied hands. Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. IVP Books. 241 pages. 2016
****

I’m a big proponent of personality assessments, and have utilized several in the workplace, such as Myers-Briggs, Strengthsfinder and StandOut. I always find out more about myself and others through these tools. While many in my church have been proponents of the Enneagram for years, I really didn’t know anything about it. I found this book to be an excellent introduction to the Enneagram.
The authors of this book provide a brief history of the Enneagram, which some believe dates back to the 4th century. Among other callings, Ian Morgan Cron is an Enneagram teacher. Some of the material in the book comes from the lectures of co-author Suzanne Stabile, a master teacher of the Enneagram.
The Enneagram includes nine personality types or numbers that are grouped into three triads (anger, feeling, fear). Each type has a dynamic relationship with four other types, touching the two on either side (wing numbers), as well as two on other side of arrows.
Each type has one of the seven deadly sins attached to it. No types are better than any other. All have strengths and weaknesses. Your curse is the flipside of your blessing. For each type, your gift is also your curse. Your number is not what you do, but why you do it. The Enneagram takes into account the fluid nature of our personality. It is intended to help us on the journey back to our true selves.
The book covers each of the types, not in numerical order, but within its triad. As each type is covered, healthy and unhealthy examples of that type are given. Challenges for that type are given, as well as the go-to emotion for the type, and what the type looked like as a child. They also look at the type in relationships and at work, and address how each type handles stress and security. We are told how the “wing numbers” impact each type, and that each type has a signature communication style. For each type, examples from history are listed. The Enneagram takes into account the fluid nature of our personality. It is intended to help us on the journey back to our true selves.
As I heard about each type, I tried to figure out which one I was, as well as friends, family and colleagues at work. I tested as a “3 – The Performer”. The authors state that America is a country of “3’s”. They tell us to look for the type that describes who you currently are, not what you want to be.
I enjoyed sharing information about the book and the Enneagram test with team members at work and my family. We plan to do a debrief as a family on our upcoming vacation.
The book includes helpful stories that illustrate the points. A helpful “Spiritual Transformation” section is included at the end of each chapter.
For more information about the book, check out its official site, and their podcast, which is available on iTunes.

  • From Weakness to Strength: 8 Vulnerabilities That Can Bring Out the Best in Your Leadership. I’m looking forward to this new book from Scott Sauls, to be published October 1.
  • The Vanishing American Adult – Book Review.Eric Davis reviews Ben Sasse’s new book The Vanishing America Adult. He writes “I heartily recommend the book to parents and non-parents; to democrats and republicans, and anyone who wants to think intelligently and tangibly about raising a generation better than ours.”
  • The Mythical Leader: 7 Myths of Leadership. Skip Prichard interviews Ron Edmondson (one of my favorite leadership bloggers) about his excellent new book The Mythical Leader.
  • One More Time on Game of Thrones. Kevin DeYoung writes “I cannot imagine how anyone growing closer to the God of the Bible will want to see more sex and nudity, or that anyone has found shows like Game of Thronesto be a serious blessing in seeing and savoring Christ. We become what we behold. So let’s be careful little eyes what we see.”
  • Do You Read the Bible Like a Nonbeliever? John Piper writes “The most basic prayer we can pray about reading the Bible is that God would give us the desire to read this book. Not just the will— that would be next best — but the desire.

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


The Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones by Steven J. Lawson. Reformation Trust Publishing. 154 pages. 2016.   
****

In the latest edition of the A Long Line of Godly Men Profile series, the author, also the editor of the series and a passionate preacher himself, states that Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was perhaps most responsible for leading a return to expository preaching in the 20th century, and was one of the greatest preachers of any century. He preached at Westminster Chapel in London for 30 years, where 2,000 would gather each Lord’s Day, to hear his more than 4,000 sermons delivered during his time there. Those sermons, both in audio and written formats, continue to have great impact today, more than 36 years after his death.
The author looks at the life and preaching of Lloyd-Jones, known as “the Doctor”, a respected physician turned preacher. In a brief biographical sketch (see Iain Murray’s biographical works for a complete look at the Doctor’s life), the author tells us that Lloyd-Jones was born in 1899. He became a distinguished young physician with a promising career before he was born again at age 25. He then changed careers, and began his new calling as a Calvinist Methodist pastor in South Wales. Remembering how he had believed himself to be a Christian when he was not, he would preach as an evangelist. He preached with logic on fire, never telling jokes or stories in his sermons.  He refused to use church growth techniques.
Lloyd-Jones had great influence outside of England. His preaching at Westminster Seminary led to the still influential book Preaching and Preachers.  He founded the Banner of Truth Trust, which still publishes excellent books today. Lloyd-Jones had a passion for revival. He retired from Westminster in 1968 when diagnosed with colon cancer. After that, he edited his sermons into book form and spoke more widely. Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Book Reviews

Unscripted: The Unpredictable Moments That Make Life Extraordinary by Ernie Johnson Jr. Baker Books. 224 pages. 2017
****

The popular host of “Inside the NBA” shares unscripted moments in his life which he called “Blackberry Moments”. He encourages us to embrace these moments and the blessings in our lives. In this book, he includes some wonderful stories and memories from his personal and professional life and how God has worked in his life. Included in the book are excerpts from his writings (eulogy, poems, journals); his writing (and narration of the audiobook edition), is witty and humorous.
Family is extremely important to the author. He and his wife Cheryl have six children, including four that they have adopted, one that has special needs and two of whom who had endured the sex trafficking industry.
His father, Ernie Johnson Sr., was the best man in his wedding and his best friend. He was a pitcher in the major leagues and later the broadcaster of the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves. The two would work together in the booth for Braves games. Ernie Jr. gave the eulogy for his father in 2011. The text of that moving message is included here. His parents were married for 63 years. His father was the greatest influence on his life.
Ernie wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and play in the major leagues, but after getting cut from the University of Georgia baseball team as a sophomore, he pursued a career in the media. He would start doing the news, but would quickly move to sports.
He would meet his future wife Cheryl while she was working as a bank teller. She would later serve in a number of non-profit organizations in Atlanta.  He includes touching stories about son Michael with Muscular Dystrophy, his fascination with cars and his significant health issues.
He writes about hosting “Inside the NBA” for 25 years with Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley, and more recently with Shaquille O’Neill. Of particular interest was his decision to choose to attend his son’s high school graduation rather than broadcast an important seventh game of an NBA postseason series.
Raised Roman Catholic, Ernie writes of his faith being dormant. He was drawn to Christ in 1997 at Crossroads Church in Georgia (now known as 12Stone Church). Wife Cheryl would be drawn to Christ a few years later.
Ernie noticed a bump on his face one day while shaving. He would wait six months to have it looked at by a doctor, and would be diagnosed with stage 2 Follicular Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He would eventually go through six cycles of chemotherapy. Afterwards, he would have a new appreciation for life.
It was a joy to read this book and hear about how God has worked in Ernie’s life.

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