Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


Inexpressible: Hesed and the Mystery of God’s Lovingkindness by Michael Card. IVP Books. 176 pages. 2018
****

Respected musician, Bible teacher and author Michael Card has been working on this book about hesed for ten years.  It is a word that many will not be familiar with, but which he writes that it is tempting to say is the most important word in the Hebrew Scriptures. Though a book that he thought would take one year to write took much longer, he tells us that understanding hesed is actually a lifelong journey, and that none of us will ever get to the end of it in this life.
He first encountered the word hesed while working through the laments of the Old Testament. He describes hesed as being an untranslatable, three-letter, two-syllable word. Early in the book he gives us what he describes as an initial, ever-incomplete working definition of hesed:

When the person from whom I have a right to expect nothing gives me everything.

In this book, which I thoroughly enjoyed, he looks at the word hesed in its immediate context in a number of passages and tries to understand what the meaning was for the author at that particular point in time. He states that a good case can be made for the claim that hesed has the largest range of meaning of any word in the Hebrew language, and perhaps in any language. It occurs nearly 250 times in the Hebrew Bible throughout all of the three major divisions—the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings, with the majority of occurrences (127) in the Psalms. He tells us that the vast range of hesed is also made evident by the staggering number of English words translators employ in their effort to render it (which he details in an appendix). For example, the King James Version of the Bible uses fourteen different words for hesed. He tells us that a single word is rarely enough in a given context to express all that hesed means, so Bible translators are forced to pile on adjectives.
The author tells us that the purpose of this journey is not to become preoccupied with a single word. Instead, he wants us to hesed as a key that can open a door into an entire world—the world of God’s own heart, the world of loving our neighbor and perhaps even our enemies.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and reviews of
~ The Daring Mission of William Tyndale
by Steven J. Lawson
~ With All Due Respect: Defending America with Grit and Grace
by Nikki Haley
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
I’M CURRENTLY READING…. Continue reading


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New and Upcoming Books that You Might Be Interested In

I love to read, and there are several new and upcoming books by some of my favorite authors that I’m excited about, and that you might be interested in as well. Here are a few brief comments about each of them.

The Enneagram Collection by Beth McCord

Beth McCord follows up her best-selling book Becoming Us: Using the Enneagram to Create a Thriving Gospel-Centered Marriage (written with husband Jeff), with The Enneagram Collection, individual books for each of the Enneagram types.
From the Amazon description:
“Each book teaches about the strengths, challenges, and opportunities for that personality type in order to lead to a more meaningful life, lasting relationships, and a deeper understanding of God and yourself.”

To Seek and to Save: Daily Reflections on the Road to the Cross by Sinclair Ferguson

Respected theologian Sinclair Ferguson follows up his Christmas devotional Love Came Down at Christmas: Daily Readings for Advent, with a devotional for Lent.    From the Amazon description:
“Each day you’ll be invited to:
• Read a passage of Luke’s Gospel and a short meditation by Sinclair Ferguson
• Reflect on a thought-provoking question
• Respond in prayer and praise as you journal”

Click on ‘Continue Reading’ to read about these upcoming books:


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My Review of DOLITTLE

Dolittle, rated PG
***

Dolittle, based on the children’s books of Hugh Lofting, is an enjoyable film, starring Robert Downey Jr. in his first non-Iron Man role since 2014’s The Judge. The film is directed by Oscar winner Stephen Gaghan (Traffic), who wrote the screenplay with Dan Gregor (How I Met Your Mother), Doug Mand (How I Met Your Mother) and Thomas Shepherd. The film had an estimated budget of $175 million. The film’s release date has been delayed a few times, and it had 21 days of expensive reshoots after poor test screenings. The film is getting pummeled by the critics (getting a score of “16” on Rotten Tomatoes.com as I write this), but we enjoyed the film.
The film begins with an animated prologue that gives us the backstory of Dr. John Dolittle, played by two-time Oscar nominee Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man films, Tropic Thunder, Chaplin), and his beloved wife Lily, played by Kasia Smutniak in live-action flashbacks. They presided over Dolittle Manor, a large sanctuary in the English countryside where they cared for – and communicated with – animals. But one day Lily, a master explorer, went out on a voyage at sea while Dolittle cared for the animals, and her ship wrecked in a storm and she died. After Lily’s death, Dolittle closed the doors of the sanctuary and fell into a deep depression.
Seven years later, Dolittle is living as a recluse in Dolittle Manor, avoiding all contact with humans while surrounded by a small band of loyal animal friends: Continue reading


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My Review of THE AERONAUTS

The Aeronauts, rated PG
***

The Aeronauts is a beautifully filmed and well-acted movie inspired by true events (see “Spoiler Alert” below on the “true events” claim). Just out of the theatres, the movie is now showing for free on Amazon Prime.  The film is directed by Tom Harper. Harper wrote the film with Jack Thorne (Wonder).
The film is set in September, 1862 in England. James Glaisher, played by Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything, The Danish Girl, Fantastic Beast films) is a scientist who believes that it is possible to predict the weather. For this claim, he is laughed and scoffed at by his peers. Amelia Wren, played by Oscar nominee Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) is a widowed balloon pilot.
The film uses flashbacks to flesh out the main character’s back stories. Glaisher and Wren eventually agree to team up to attempt to go higher than the previous 23,000-foot altitude record, and we see them take off in front of a large crowd.
The film, which includes a lot of CGI (computer generated imagery) would have best been seen on the big screen. We see amazing shots of London as the balloon climbs through the clouds. There is then a terrifying scene as the balloon is tossed violently as it goes through a thunderstorm. Continue reading


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My Review of 1917

1917, rated R
****

1917 is a powerful and intense film set in World War I. It is loosely based on a story the director’s grandfather told him as a child (Alfred H. Mendes served as a message runner with the British Army during WWI). The film is directed by Oscar and Golden Globe winner Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road). Mendes wrote the film with Krysty Wilson-Cairns.  The film recently won two Golden Globes: for Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Director for Mendes.  The film also received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score – Motion Picture for fourteen-time Oscar nominee Thomas Newman (American Beauty, Little Women, Finding Nemo). The film had a budget of approximately $100 million.
The film takes place in April of 1917 during Operation Alberich in northern France at the height of World War I. With radio lines down, two young British soldiers Lance Corporal Blake, played by Dean-Charles Chapman, and Lance Corporal Schofield, played by George MacKay, are given an assignment by General Erinmore, played by Oscar winner Colin Firth (The King’s Speech), to make a dangerous trek on foot across No Man’s Land, the area separating British and German troops, to deliver a critical message. The message is to stand down on a planned British attack on a supposedly retreating Germany army. Intelligence has suggested that the retreat by the Germans is a trap, and the planned British attack could result in the deaths of 1,600 British soldiers, including Blake’s brother. With miles of enemy territory to cross and not much time, their mission to pass the message to another company to call off the next day’s attack seems more like a suicide mission.
Will Blake and Schofield be able to reach the British troops to deliver the letter to the British Colonel in time to stop the planned attack? Continue reading


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My Review of JUST MERCY

Just Mercy, rated PG-13
****

Just Mercy is a powerful and emotional film about the work of Bryan Stevenson, based on his book “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption”.  (I would highly recommend the book. Here is my review).
The film is directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12, The Glass Castle), who also wrote the film with Andrew Lanham (The Glass Castle, The Shack), based on Stevenson’s book.
Emmy nominee Michael B. Jordan (Fahrenheit 451, Black Panther, Fruitvale Station), portrays Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer who has just graduated from Harvard Law School. Rather than taking a position with a large law firm, which is what his mother would have wanted, he has a desire to help the poor. He moves to Alabama in 1988 to start the Equal Justice Initiative, where he works with local advocate Eva Ansley, played by Oscar winner Brie Larson (Room, Captain Marvel, The Glass Castle, Short Term 12) in a relatively small role. Stevenson visits the Holman State Prison in Monroeville, Alabama, the home of Harper Lee, author of the book “To Kill a Mockingbird”. He meets six men on death row, one of whom is Walter “Johnny D” McMillian, played by Oscar winner Jamie Foxx (Ray, Collateral).  He was convicted of murdering a young white woman, even though there were two dozen witnesses who indicate that they were with him, or saw him, during the time of the murder, and thus he could not have been the killer. But Walter was found guilty by a jury of 11 white men and one black man, based on the testimony of convicted criminal Ralph Myers, played by Tim Blake Nelson (O, Brother, Where Art Thou?). Stevenson is interested in helping McMillian, but Walter is suspicious of lawyers who take the money his family pays them and are never seen again. Stevenson will have to first of all, win over Walter as well as his family. Then, he will have to work through the systemic racism and corruption he encounters in law enforcement and the justice system in Monroe County.
In the prison cells on either side of Walter on Death Row are Anthony Ray Hinton, played by O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Straight Outta Compton) and Herbert Richardson, played by Rob Morgan (Mudbound). Note: Hinton has written an excellent book “The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row”. Here is my review).
The film includes a significant amount of Christian content (prayer, a church scene, hymns). Themes in the film include injustice, racism, faith and faithfulness, corruption and mercy. Content concerns include some adult language, including language of a racist nature. The music in the film by Joel P. West (Short Term 12), is effective. The film features strong performances by Foxx and Jordan. The film moves along relatively slowly and is dialogue based, but that is not a criticism.
Just Mercy is a powerful film based on the true-life story of Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer who specializes in defending people on Death Row. The film is emotional and at times heart breaking. This is an important film that you need to see.


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35 Great Quotes from the Second Half of New Morning Mercies by Paul Tripp

One of the books that I used for my devotional reading in 2019 was New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul Tripp. I really enjoyed the book, and earlier shared 25 Great Quotes from the First Half of New Morning Mercies. Here are 35 great quotes from the second half of the book:

  1. When you’re weary with the battle, remember that the One who is your strength never takes a break, never needs sleep, never grows weary.
  2. Perhaps it’s not such a bad thing to come to the end of your rope if at the end of your rope you find a strong and willing Savior.
  3. God will call you to do what you cannot do, but will provide everything you need to do it.
  4. Hope for the believer is not a dream of what could be, but a confident expectation of a guaranteed result that shapes his life.
  5. When nothing else or no one else in your life remains and is faithful, you can rest assured that God will be both.
  6. How could we ever fail to respond in mercy to others when we have been given mercy that is renewed with each new morning?
  7. Why do we resist serving one another when the Lord of all things willingly came and served us even to the point of his death?
  8. Remember, what is out of your control exists under the careful control of the One who is all-knowing, all-wise, all-good.
  9. If you’re God’s child, the gospel isn’t an aspect of your life, it is your life; that is, it is the window through which you look at everything.
  10. It is true that when Jesus takes up residence in us, everything in life changes. Nothing remains the same.
  11. Why fear when God has already given you, in Christ, everything you need to be what you’re supposed to be and to do what you’re called to do?
  12. Grace means that when God calls you, he goes with you, supplying what you need for the task at hand.
  13. Hope is more than wishing things will work out. It is resting in the God who holds all things in his wise and powerful hands.
  14. I may not understand what is happening and I may not know what is coming around the corner, but I know that God does and that he controls it all.
  15. When you have hope that is guaranteed, you live with confidence and courage that you would otherwise not have.
  16. He is just as faithful to all of his promises on your very worst day as he is on your very best day.
  17. You will face loss, trouble, and disappointment, but nothing has the power to separate you from your Redeemer’s unrelenting love.
  18. Corporate worship is designed to make you thankful, not just for possessions and accomplishments, but for what you’ve been given in Christ.
  19. The reality is that if we followed Jesus for a thousand years, we would need his grace as much for the next day as we did the first day that we believed.
  20. The God of glory and grace, who calls his people to do his will on earth, always goes with them as they obey his calling. He never sends without going too.
  21. We were created to work, and not just for the good of our own lives, but in willing and joyful submission to the One who created us.
  22. Until grace has completed its work, we will tend to find work more of a burden than a calling and a joy.
  23. The life we couldn’t live, he lived for us. The death we should have died, he died for us. The new life we need, he gives to us.
  24. Peace is found in trusting the person who controls all the things that you don’t understand and who knows no mystery because he has planned it all.
  25. If your faith does not reshape your life, it is not true faith.
  26. Corporate worship is designed to remind you of your identity in Christ so that you won’t waste your time looking for identity elsewhere.
  27. It’s so easy to forget that God loves and accepts you no less on your worst day than he does on your best day.
  28. He does not wait for us to come to him; he comes to us. It is the way of grace.
  29. Today you can give way to fear-producing “what-ifs” or rest in the sovereign care of your wise and gracious Savior King.
  30. Corporate worship is designed to keep you humble by reminding you of your need and thankful by reminding you of God’s gift.
  31. God hasn’t promised to deliver what you desire, but he has committed himself to meet every one of your needs.
  32. It is only when God is in his rightful place of rule in our hearts that people are in their appropriate place in our lives.
  33. Worship is the inescapable occupation of every human being. The question is not if we worship, but what we give our hearts to worship.
  34. It is only when God is in his rightful place in my heart that I desire to live in a way that pleases him.
  35. On your very worst day and on your very best day, you are blessed with pleasures that come right from the hand of God.

If you are looking for a good devotional book, check out Paul Tripp’s New Morning Mercies: A Gospel Devotional.