Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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Why the Reformation Still Matters by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester

Why the Reformation Still Matters by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester. Crossway. 224 pages. 2016

The authors write that at the heart the Reformation was a dispute about how we know God and how we can be right with him. Our eternal future was at stake, a choice between heaven and hell. For the Reformers there was no need more pressing than assurance in the face of divine judgment, and there was no act more loving than to proclaim a message of grace that granted eternal life to those who responded with faith. Though many will tell you that the Reformation doesn’t matter or even was a bad idea, the authors tell us otherwise. They state that the Reformation still matters because eternal life still matters. In addition, the Reformation still matters because the debates between Catholics and Protestants have not gone away.

The authors outline some key emphases of the Reformation and explore their contemporary relevance. Subjects covered by the authors include the sacraments, the preaching of the Word, sin, grace, the cross, union with Christ, the Holy Spirit, the church, vocation, Purgatory, indulgences, justification, and the authority of scripture in comparison with the authority of the church and tradition. Continue reading

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10 Books I Plan to Read This Summer

The summer is a great time to get some reading in. I have several books on my “to be read” list (aka my “on deck circle”). Here are ten of them I hope to read this summer:

42 Faith: The Rest of the Jackie Robinson Story by Ed Henry

This book brings a different perspective to the well-known Jackie Robinson story. From Amazon: “Journalist and baseball lover Ed Henry reveals for the first time the backstory of faith that guided Jackie Robinson into not only the baseball record books but the annals of civil rights advancement as well. Through recently discovered sermons, interviews with Robinson’s family and friends, and even an unpublished book by the player himself, Henry details a side of Jackie’s humanity that few have taken the time to see.”

Work Matters: Lessons from Scripture by R. Paul Stevens

I recently started reading this book about work that was listed as recommended reading by Redeemer Presbyterian Church’s Center for Faith and Work. From Amazon: “In Work Matters marketplace theology expert R. Paul Stevens revisits more than twenty biblical accounts — from Genesis to Revelation — exploring through them the theological meaning of every sort of work, manual or intellectual, domestic or commercial. Taken together, his short, pithy reflections on these well-known Bible passages add up to a comprehensive, Bible-based theology of work — one that will be equally useful for seminars, classes, Bible studies, and individuals seeking to grasp more fully the theological dimensions of their daily labor.”

Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture by David Murray

I am a regular reader of David Murray’s HeadHeartHand blog and I appreciated his book Christians Get Depressed Too. From Amazon: “Drawing on personal experiences—and time spent counseling other men in the midst of burnout—David Murray offers weary men hope for the future, helping them identify the warning signs of burnout and offering practical strategies for developing patterns that are necessary for living a grace-paced life and reaching the finish line with their joy intact.”

Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

My wife Tammy and I are reading and discussing this book this summer. I first heard about it from the Center for Faith and Work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church. From Amazon: “In this book, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans show us how design thinking can help us create a life that is both meaningful and fulfilling, regardless of who or where we are, what we do or have done for a living, or how young or old we are. The same design thinking responsible for amazing technology, products, and spaces can be used to design and build your career and your life, a life of fulfillment and joy, constantly creative and productive, one that always holds the possibility of surprise.”

Working for Our Neighbor: A Lutheran Primer on Vocation, Economics, and Ordinary Life by Gene Veith

Gene Veith’s God at Work is one of the best books I read about integrating our faith and work. I’m looking forward to this new book from him. From Amazon: “In this elucidating work, Gene Edward Veith connects vocation to justification, good works, and Christian freedom—defining how the Lutheran contribution to economics can transfigure ordinary life, and work, with the powerful presence of God.”

Why the Reformation Still Matters by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester

I’ve read several of Michael Reeves books and seen him speak at the last two Ligonier National conferences. I also enjoyed Tim Chester’s book Gospel Centered Work. With this year being the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, this is a timely book to read. From Amazon: “In this accessible primer, Michael Reeves and Tim Chester answer eleven key questions raised by the Reformers—questions that remain critically important for the church today.”

Rediscovering the Holy Spirit: God’s Perfecting Presence in Creation, Redemption, and Everyday Life by Michael Horton

Over the years I’ve read several of Michael Horton’s books, seen him speak at conferences and enjoyed his White Horse Inn radio program. From Amazon: “In Rediscovering the Holy Spirit, author, pastor, and theologian Mike Horton introduces readers to the neglected person of the Holy Spirit, showing that the work of God’s Spirit is far more ordinary and common than we realize. Horton argues that we need to take a step back every now and again to focus on the Spirit himself—his person and work—in order to recognize him as someone other than Jesus or ourselves, much less something in creation. Through this contemplation we can gain a fresh dependence on the Holy Spirit in every area of our lives.”

The Mythical Leader: The Seven Myths of Leadership by Ron Edmondson

I enjoy reading pastor Ron Edmondson’s blog on leadership and am looking forward to this new book. From Amazon: “In The Mythical Leader, Edmondson exposes some of the most common misunderstandings of leadership, shares stories from his own experiences, and will help church leaders develop healthier patterns to improve their individual leadership.”

A Little Book on the Christian Life by John Calvin 

I’m looking forward to this new translation of Calvin’s classic book from Burk Parsons and Aaron Denlinger. From Amazon: “For centuries, disciples young and old have turned to this book for guidance in the Christian life. Today, it remains unique in its clear exposition of God’s calling for Christians to pursue holiness, endure suffering, and fulfill their callings. This is a book for every Christian to pick up, read, and apply.”

H3 Leadership: Be Humble. Stay Hungry. Always Hustle by Brad Lomenick

I enjoyed reading Brad Lomenick’s book The Catalyst Leader and regularly read his blog on leadership. From Amazon: “He categorizes 20 essential leadership habits organized into three distinct filters he calls “the 3 Hs”: Humble (Who am I?), Hungry (Where do I want to go?) and Hustle (How will I get there?). These powerful words describe the leader who is willing to work hard, get it done, and make sure it’s not about him or her; the leader who knows that influence is about developing the right habits for success. Lomenick provides a simple but effective guide on how to lead well in whatever capacity the reader may be in.”

These are the books I’m looking forward to reading or listening to this summer. How about you? What’s on your reading list?

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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Gospel Centered Work by Tim ChesterBook Review ~

Gospel-Centered Work: Becoming the Worker God Wants You to Be by Tim Chester. The Good Book Company. 2013. 111 pages

Dr. Tim Chester is a director of the Porterbrook Seminary, and a leader of The Crowded House, a church planting network. I’ve read several “For You” books written by Tim Keller from The Good Book Company, and this is the first book of Tim Chester’s that I’ve read. It’s an excellent resource for those looking to connect their faith and work, a passion of mine.

Although you can read the book by yourself as I did, I would recommend reading it with someone else or better yet in a group. I think you will get even more out of the book by doing that. Each chapter contains the following helpful sections:

Consider this. A scenario—often based on a real-life situation—which raises some kind of dilemma or frustration in our working lives.

Biblical background. A relevant Bible passage together with some questions to help you think it through.

Read all about it. A discussion of the principle, both in terms of its theological underpinning and its contemporary application.

Questions for reflection. Questions that can be used for group discussion or personal reflection.

Ideas for action. Some ideas or an exercise to help people think through the application of the principle to their own situation.

Chester asks the reader to consider what it means to live for Jesus in the workplace, and states that we need to connect Sunday morning and Monday morning.

Many think that work is a necessary evil we have to endure. But Chester states that work is commended in the Bible as a good thing. It is both a privilege and a blessing. That is why we find satisfaction and fulfilment in work.

Chester talks about working as if Jesus were your boss, something that John Piper first helped me think through years ago and was emphasized more recently in the fine book The Gospel at Work by Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert. Chester writes that Christians have rediscovered that work can be done for the glory of God, stating that we glorify God when we give credit to Him for what we achieve, rather than claiming the credit for ourselves.

I appreciated Chester’s discussion of work and rest. He writes “Some people rest to work—the only value they see in rest is making work more productive. Some people work to rest—the only value in work is earning an income to enjoy leisure. But according to the Bible, work is good and rest is good.” He wants to help us achieve a balance between work and rest.

He addresses a number of helpful topics related to work, such as busyness, conflict, being a witness for God in the workplace, and ways in which churches can support Christian workers. A few suggestions that I appreciated on the last topic were:

  • Visit people in their workplace to see where they work, meet their colleagues and pray for them in context.
  • Have a regular “window on the workplace” when you gather as a church, in which someone talks about their work and shares prayer needs.
  • Send a regular email to workers in their workplace with a brief “thought for the day”.
  • Routinely include application to the workplace in sermons and Bible studies.

This was an excellent biblically based look at work. Highly recommended.

Faith and Work News:

  • Work as Worship. See this excellent four-minute video about seeing work as worship and connecting our faith and work.
  • Making Work Meaningful. Matt Perman shares and 18-minute TEDx talk by Ryan Hartwig, co-author of Teams that Thrive. It’s called “The Myth of Meaningful Work.” The talk closes with closes with four suggestions for helping people bring meaning back into their work.
  • Kingdom Calling by Amy L. ShermanSeeking the Prosperity of Our Neighbors. Amy Sherman, author of the excellent book Kingdom Calling (which is the next Faith and Work book we will be reading and sharing highlights on the blog), explains how why recognizing our vocational power is so important when seeking the good of our cities.
  • 10 Ways to Find More Energy Today. Dan Rockwell shares this helpful list.
  • Vocation Resource Lists. The Center for Faith and Work has produced helpful new vocational resource lists for you to find compelling reads and other resources that will reenergize your mind and spirit toward the gospel’s power for transforming your work.
  • From Farm to Fork to Keyboard. Bethany Jenkins visits with Abigail Murrish, an agricultural writer passionate about encouraging people to know their food, eat well, and show hospitality. Since her time at Purdue University, Abigail has appreciated talking with farmers (versus about them) to understand difficult agricultural issues and grow in her knowledge of the Christian call to steward creation.
  • Delegation. In this month’s podcast, Andy Stanley explores an easy and effective way to delegate.
  • Catalytic Meetings. Mark Miller writes “To create catalytic meetings, here are five ideas guaranteed to make things happen.”
  • The Road to Character by David BrooksHow Should I Choose a Career? Using the example of Francis Perkins from David Brooks’ book The Road to Character, Jeff Haanen writes “Having a vocation is not about fulfilling a personal desire or want, in the sense of avoiding pain and seeking pleasure. It’s opening yourself to be used by God as He chooses.”
  • Four Ways to Express Love to the People You Lead. Eric Geiger writes “To serve the team well, you must know those you are leading. You must know how members on the team feel valued and appreciated. How do those on the team feel most valued and appreciated? Is it time, words of affirmation, acts of service, or gifts?”
  • Introducing The 5 Leadership Questions Podcast. Barnabas Piper writes “The 5 Leadership Questions podcast is new from LifeWay’s leadership development team. Each episode co-hosts Barnabas Piper and Todd Adkins will ask five questions of different guests or about different leadership topics. The aim of the podcast is to inform and encourage Christian leaders whether they serve in the pastorate, the business world, non-profits, or on a volunteer basis.”
  • Where Imagination and Innovation Meet. In his keynote address at the 2014 Center for Faith and Work conference, Tim Keller walked us through how the hope of the gospel is not only the source of our imagination, but the fuel and anchor we need to drive our imagination into innovative terrain. Making Unpopular Decisions. Dan Rockwell shares some good tips to think about when making those unpopular decisions.
  • The Influence of Business Leaders’ Faithfulness (Lessons from Ruth). Eileen Sommi writes “I have known some good men and women in positions of influence who are not only able to run successful businesses, but also affect others in significant ways by their faith, compassion, generosity, and goodness. They see beyond the profit margin and take advantage of their position and success to bless others. They see their work as a blessing from God and want to give back and be used by him for his purposes.
  • You Don’t Have to Plan Everything. Jon Bloom writes “God doesn’t want or intend us to plan everything. He is working a highly detailed plan and he wants us to follow his lead — perhaps more than we are today. Let us ask ourselves if and where we may be leaning too much on our own understanding in pursuing God’s kingdom advance.”
  • 10 Good Questions for Leaders to Ask Themselves. Brad Lomenick offers these helpful questions in this short read.
  • The Most Critical Part of Leadership – And 80% Miss It! Megan Pacheco writes “Many business experts argue there is one aspect of leadership that is more predictive of exceptional performance than any other factor. Understanding it and operating by it will transform any individual and every person and organization they influence. What is that leadership silver bullet? Purpose.”
  • Boss vs. LeaderManagement vs. Leadership. Many people use these terms interchangeably. David Mead writes “There’s a difference between management and leadership. Management is about doing stuff – the day to day operations needed for the tactical things to get done. Leadership, on the other hand, is about people.”
  • Six Places Leaders are Developed. Eric Geiger writes “From a Christian perspective, leadership development is not constrained to one environment. Because the whole world is His, leadership development can happen in a plethora of places. Because He continually matures His people, God will use anything to conform us more to the image of His Son.”
  • Standing on the Shoulders of Giants. John Maxwell writes “We all need other people. When you’re open to learning from others, you set yourself up for the kind of success that can lead to significance.”
  • Skills Can Kill: 4 Dangers of (Only) Skills Based Leadership. Eric Geiger states that both character and competence are essential for leaders. He then writes “When people think of developing leaders, they often think in terms of necessary skills that need to be acquired. Often leadership development degenerates into only skill-based training. While skills are important, there are four dangerous outcomes of only developing skills.
  • Holding down a job or fulfilling a calling? Dave Kraft writes “The purpose of this post is to simply get your mind and heart cranking on asking yourself if you have, or are pursuing, a job or a true calling from God.
  • 5 Ways to Help the “Least of These” in the Church. Raleigh Sadler writes “How can the local church be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ if we aren’t being his eyes and ears, too? How can we love someone if we don’t even know they exist? Here are five places to start.”
  • A CEO’s Revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job: Joy at Work by Dennis Bakke. Joy at Work by Dennis Bakke, co-founder and CEO of AES, an energy company, offers a model for the 21st-century company that wants to treat its people with respect, give them unprecedented responsibility, and hold them strictly accountable because it’s the right thing to do – not just because it makes good business sense.
  • Every Square InchBruce Ashford on the Gospel and Every Square Inch. Bethany Jenkins visits with Bruce Ashford, provost and dean of faculty as well as professor of theology and culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, author of Every Square Inch: An Introduction to Cultural Engagement for Christians.
  • Everybody Matters Podcast: Richard Sheridan. Richard Sheridan is the CEO and Chief Storyteller of Menlo Innovations, a company that builds custom software, whose mission is to “end human suffering in the world as it relates to technology.”  This week’s episode of the Everybody Matters podcast features a conversation with Rich about joy, Menlo’s culture, building great teams and his ongoing leadership journey.
  • Growth. In this “Minute with Maxwell”, John Maxwell talks about the word “Growth”
  • Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make. Mark Miller shares ten mistakes that leaders make. Can you think of others?
  • You’ve Got 3 Choices When Your Job Gets You Down. Dr. Alan Zimmerman writes “No matter how bad things are, no matter how awful your job or your life may be, you always have three choices.  You can LIVE with it; you can LOBBY to change it, or you can LEAVE.  And just knowing you have a choice makes all the difference in the world. Make sure you understand each of your three options.”

 Faith and Work Quotes:

  • Our primary calling as followers of Christ is by him, to him, and for him. Our secondary calling, considering who God is as sovereign, is that everyone, everywhere, and in everything should think, speak, live and act entirely for him. Os Guinness
  • Luther wrote ”The works of monks and priests, however holy and arduous they be, do not differ one whit in the sight of God from the works of the rustic laborer in the field or the woman going about her household tasks, but that all works are measured before God by faith alone.” Os Guinness
  • When I take one day out of every seven to focus on worship, fellowship, and rest, I am far more capable and motivated in the six that remain. Tim Challies
  • Success is never owned, it’s rented and rent is due every day. Coach K
  • Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God. Coach K
  • Leaders maintain positive environments when they deal with negative issues quickly, decisively and compassionately. Dan Rockwell
  • Every leader is in a tug-of-war…the real question is who are you pulling against, your own people or the competition? Mark Miller

 Book Clubs – Won’t you read along with us?

The Conviction to Lead by Albert MohlerThe Conviction to Lead Book Club

The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters by Albert Mohler

We’re reading this excellent book on leadership principles from a renowned agent of change, Albert Mohler. It is one of the best that I’ve read on leadership and is broken down into 25 relatively short chapters. Won’t you read along with us? This week we look at:

Chapter 22 ~ The Leader and Time

  • Most leaders know that time is precious and that it is, in a sense, not on our side.
  • Leaders understand that time is working against them, and that success or failure depends upon the right deployment and stewardship of time.
  • Drucker advised leaders to carefully analyze where their time goes, convinced (rightly) that much of the executive’s time was wasted on peripheral matters. Wisely, he also urged leaders to allocate significant discretionary time for the thinking and planning that are central to leadership.
  • The first thing we learn about time in the Bible is that God created it and that time is contrasted with eternity.
  • The Christian leader understands his calling in terms of God’s eternal purposes and plan.
  • We are not limited to the horizon of earthly time. We want our lives to serve an eternal purpose.
  • The second truth the Christian leader knows is that our time is in God’s hands.
  • The Christian leader knows that a day of judgment is coming, when every minute of our lives will be exposed to God’s righteous judgment. That is a sobering thought, but it underlines the importance of our faithfulness in the stewardship of the time we are given.
  • So how are we to exercise the faithful stewardship of time? The first task, as Peter Drucker reminds us, is to be honest about how we use it. Time-wasters, he advises, “abound in the life of every executive.”
  • The effective leader learns how to be available at the right times—the times that will make the most difference.
  • Leadership by conviction affirms the reality that leadership is an intellectual enterprise. It is more than intellectual, of course, but never less. And intellectual work requires large blocks of uninterrupted time. Planning, strategy, conception, analysis, evaluation—all of these are intellectual activities. Add to these the task of framing messages and the ongoing responsibility to continue learning.
  • Faithful leaders know that time has to be protected or it will be lost. Once lost, it can never be regained. This requires hard decisions and maturity.
  • The leader’s stewardship of time fits within the context of the leader’s life and times.
  • Some of us do our best thinking in the morning, while others do better at night. As Drucker advised, lean into your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses.
  • When the leader has discretion, he should plan the stewardship of time so that strengths are maximized and weaknesses are minimized.
  • The faithful leader knows that time must be measured against the backdrop of God’s eternal character and purposes. Everything humans build will one day be reduced to ruins, but our lives and our leadership will, in Christ, have eternal consequences and impact.
  • The leader knows a time to work and a time to rest, a time to plan and a time to act, a time to read and a time to speak, a time to play and a time to fight.