Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


Leave a comment

My Reflections of the 2019 Gospel Coalition National Conference

Last week my wife Tammy and I attended the 2019 Gospel Coalition Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. This was the first time we had attended this particular conference and it was a wonderful experience. Logistically, there are a number of hotels nearby the Indianapolis Convention Center (ours and others had walkways from the hotel to the convention center) and more than 200 restaurants in the surrounding area. About 7,200 people from around the world attended the conference, which had a theme of “Conversations with Jesus”. Each of the main messages was from a passage in the Gospels in which Jesus was interacting with people.   The video of all main sessions, and audio of all other sessions are available for FREE here:  https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/conference/2019-national-conference/

There was definitely an international flavor to the conference, as it was emphasized that the Gospel Coalition is not just a U.S. organization. There was a conference bookstore with thousands of titles at discounted prices (check out the Gospel Coalition’s new online bookstore), and an exhibit hall with in excess of 100 exhibitors representing ministries from around the world. A conference app was valuable in helping us to navigate the convention center and conference sessions.

The conference started with pre-conference sessions on Sunday evening and Monday morning, with the first main session beginning Monday afternoon. In addition to the eight main sessions, there were three breakout sessions you could sign up for. In addition, there were auxiliary events early morning, during meal breaks and late in the evening. Needless to say, we were pretty tired when we returned to our hotel each evening.

In addition to the excellent teaching, a highlight was the worship led by Matt Boswell.
We also enjoyed running into a lot of friends (from our presbytery, from ministries we support and one of my former professors from Covenant Seminary).
It was a great experience and we can’t wait for the 2020 Gospel Coalition National Conference.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from some of the sessions I attended. Continue reading

Advertisements


Leave a comment

30 Great Quotes from God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs by Tim Keller with Kathy Keller

Tim and Kathy Keller followed The Songs of Jesus, their excellent devotional book on the Psalms, with a second devotional book, God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life on the Proverbs. I would recommend both of these books for your daily devotional reading. Here are 30 great quotes from God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life:

  • According to Jesus, all words—good and bad—are indicators of our heart.
  • The more our heart is fixed on the Lord and nothing else for our joy, hope, salvation, worth, and safety, the more our words will resemble wise speech.
  • Gossip is like cancer to the body of Christ.
  • While God’s door to hear contrition is never shut, our window of opportunity to produce it can be.

Continue reading


1 Comment

20 More Great Quotes from ‘The Prodigal Prophet’ by Tim Keller

The Prodigal Prophet is quite simply the best book I’ve read this year. I recently shared my review and 20 of the best quotes from the book. Below are 20 more great quotes from the book:

  1. To work against social injustice and to call people to repentance before God interlock theologically.
  2. When you say, “I won’t serve you, God, if you don’t give me X,” then X is your true bottom line, your highest love, your real god, the thing you most trust and rest in.
  3. When Christian believers care more for their own interests and security than for the good and salvation of other races and ethnicities, they are sinning like Jonah. If they value the economic and military flourishing of their country over the good of the human race and the furtherance of God’s work in the world, they are sinning like Jonah. Their identity is more rooted in their race and nationality than in being saved sinners and children of God.
  4. We are reading and using the Bible rightly only when it humbles us, critiques us, and encourages us with God’s love and grace despite our flaws.
  5. We learn from Jonah that understanding God’s grace—and being changed by it—always requires a long journey with successive stages.
  6. As long as there is something more important than God to your heart, you will be, like Jonah, both fragile and self-righteous. Whatever it is, it will create pride and an inclination to look down upon those who do not have it. It will also create fear and insecurity. It is the basis for your happiness, and if anything threatens it, you will be overwhelmed with anger, anxiety, and despair.
  7. Jesus is the prophet Jonah should have been. Yet, of course, he is infinitely more than that.
  8. Christian identity is received, not achieved.
  9. Here we see God’s righteousness and love working together. He is both too holy and too loving to either destroy Jonah or to allow Jonah to remain as he is, and God is also too holy and too loving to allow us to remain as we are.
  10. One of the main reasons that we trust God too little is because we trust our own wisdom too much. We think we know far better than God how our lives should go and what will make us happy.
  11. Life in the world is filled with storms—with difficulties and suffering—some of which we have directly brought on ourselves but many of which we have not. In either case, God can work out his good purposes in our lives through the storms that come upon us (Romans 8:28).
  12. There’s love at the heart of our storms. If you turn to God through faith in Christ, he won’t let you sink. Why not? Because the only storm that can really destroy—the storm of divine justice and judgment on sin and evil—will never come upon you. Jesus bowed his head into that ultimate storm, willingly, for you.
  13. A God who suffers pain, injustice, and death for us is a God worthy of our worship.
  14. One of the main concerns of the book of Jonah is that believers should respect and love their neighbors, including those of a different race and religion.
  15. Individual Christians can and should be involved politically, as a way of loving our neighbors. Nevertheless, while individual Christians must do this, they should not identify the church itself with one set of public policies or one political party as the Christian one.
  16. Jonah resents God’s mercy given to racial “others.” His race and nation have become not merely good things that he loves but idols.
  17. It is common for us to insist that everyone “respect difference”—allow people to be themselves—but in the very next moment we show complete disrespect for anyone who diverges from our cherished beliefs. We sneer at people more liberal than us as social justice warriors; we disdain those more conservative than us as hateful bigots.
  18. What makes a person a Christian is not our love for God, which is always imperfect, but God’s love for us.
  19. To ground your identity in your own efforts and accomplishments—even in the amount of love you have for Jesus—is to have an unstable, fragile identity.
  20. When you become a Christian you don’t stop being Chinese or European, but now your race and nation don’t define you as fully as they did. You do not rely on them for worth and honor in the same way. You are a Christian first and Chinese or European second.


Leave a comment

BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

The Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy by Timothy Keller. Viking. 272 pages. 2018
****

The Prodigal Prophet is quite simply the best book I’ve read this year. It offers many insights that I never considered about the small (four chapter) book of Jonah, and makes helpful applications to our current culture. Depending on your political persuasion, and stance on the current immigration debate, chances are you may not agree with everything he writes.
Keller tells us “The book of Jonah yields many insights about God’s love for societies and people beyond the community of believers; about his opposition to toxic nationalism and disdain for other races; and about how to be “in mission” in the world despite the subtle and unavoidable power of idolatry in our own lives and hearts. Grasping these insights can make us bridge builders, peacemakers, and agents of reconciliation in the world. Such people are the need of the hour”.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review… and a review of Christ’s Call to Reform the Church: Timeless Demands from The Lord to His People by John MacArthur
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age by Jonathan Leeman
I’M CURRENTLY READING….

Continue reading


Leave a comment

NEW AND UPCOMING BOOKS

Here are several new or upcoming books, in a variety of genres, that I’m looking forward to (descriptions are courtesy of Amazon):

Believe It: My Journey of Success, Failure, and Overcoming the Odds by Nick Foles

To be published June 26.

“When the Philadelphia Eagles’ starting quarterback went down with a torn ACL in week 14 of the 2017 NFL season, many fans—and commentators—assumed the Eagles’ season was over.
Instead, Nick Foles came off the bench and, against all odds, led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl victory in history.
How did Nick get it done—winning MVP honors, silencing the critics, and shocking the world? How did the man who was on the verge of retiring just two seasons earlier stay optimistic and rally the team to an astounding win? How did he stay ready despite numerous trades and discouraging injuries, able to step up in the moment and perform at the top of his game?
Believe It offers a behind-the-scenes look at Nick’s unlikely path to the Super Bowl, the obstacles that threatened to hold him back, his rediscovery of his love for the game, and the faith that grounded him through it all. Learn from the way Nick handled the trials and tribulations that made him into the man he is today—and discover a path to your own success.” Continue reading


Leave a comment

Book Review: Making Sense of God by Timothy Keller

book_review
Making Sense of God, An Invitation to the Skeptical – Tim KellerMaking Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical by Timothy Keller. Viking. 336 pages. 2016
****  

This book is considered to be a prequel to Tim Keller’s excellent 2008 book Reason for God. The author wrote the book to bring secular readers to a place where they might find it even sensible and desirable to explore the extensive foundations for the truth of Christianity. He compares the beliefs and claims of Christianity with the beliefs and claims of the secular view, asking which one makes more sense of a complex world and human experience. He challenges both the assumption that the world is getting more secular and the belief that secular, nonreligious people are basing their view of life mainly on reason. He then compares and contrasts how Christianity and secularism seek to provide meaning, satisfaction, freedom, identity, a moral compass, and hope—all things so crucial that we cannot live life without them.
Who is the book written for? The author states that if you think Christianity doesn’t hold much promise of making sense to a thinking person, then the book is written for you. In addition, if you have friends or family who feel this way, the book will be of interest for you and them as well.
He gives us two reasons to read the book. The first is practical. He first states not whether religion is true, but only to make the case that it is by no means a dying force. The second reason is a personal one. He writes that if you are experiencing unquiet and dissatisfaction in your life, they may be signs of a need for God that is there but which is not recognized as such.
This is a weighty read, not one that you will read through quickly. Of the many topics that he covered, the two that I got the most out of were his discussions of identity and particularly the problem that morals pose for secular people.
The author includes a list of five books for further reading that will give readers a good overview of Christian beliefs presented in the context of most contemporary arguments for and against their validity.
This was one of the best books I read in 2016, and I highly recommend it.  Click on this link to read more reviews of Tim Keller’s books. Continue reading


7 Comments

Why I Would Recommend You Don’t Go See the Movie “The Shack”

the-shackKnowing that I enjoy going to the movies, I’ve already had many friends ask me if I was planning to see the upcoming film adaptation of William P. Young’s best-selling 2007 novel The Shack. When I tell them that I’m not going due to serious theological issues in the book, they usually respond that they don’t know or care too much about theological issues, they just loved the book.

Several years ago, when it seemed like everyone I talked to was reading the book (the book has sold an incredible 22 million copies to date), I decided to read it myself. I wanted to see why it was resonating with so many people, even some of my friends who didn’t regularly attend church. And while the book can speak to those who have experienced a tragedy or lost a loved one, I had serious concerns about the way the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) were portrayed.

To help you be discerning as you consider whether or not to watch the film or read the book (as interest in the book has been rekindled with the release of the film), I offer the below perspectives from three respected Christians teachers.

  1. Tim Keller. In this article Tim Keller writes “But here is my main problem with the book. Anyone who is strongly influenced by the imaginative world of The Shack will be totally unprepared for the far more multi-dimensional and complex God that you actually meet when you read the Bible.”
  2. Tim Challies. In this article (which also links to his lengthy review of the book), Tim Challies writes “The Shack presents God in human flesh. It makes the infinite finite, the invisible visible, the omnipotent impotent, the all-present local, the spiritual material. In its visual portrayal of God it diminishes, it obfuscates, it blasphemes, it lies. Even though I would watch the film to help others interpret it and to bring correction to error, I would still be subjecting myself to a false, blasphemous portrayal of God. I cannot allow myself to watch it even for that purpose. I cannot and will not watch or review it.”
  3. Randy Alcorn. Randy Alcorn writes “Unfortunately, increasingly few people these days are well grounded in the Word and have both the knowledge and the discernment to filter out the bad while embracing the good. That means that some people, perhaps many, will fail to recognize the book’s theological weaknesses, and therefore be vulnerable to embracing them, even if unconsciously. Sadly, I personally know some who have been led down a path of universalism through their understanding of the book and what they have heard the author say, either publicly or privately.”

I know these comments won’t be popular with many. Please seriously consider them when making your decision about whether you will see this film. And if you disagree with what is written here, please let me know and why.  Also, if you need good materials that address the topics in the movie such as “Where was God when I lost my loved one?” I would be glad to give you some recommendations.

Blessings!