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.

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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”

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4 Christmas Books I Recommend to You 

Over the years, many of the authors I enjoy have written books about Christmas. Here are four recent books about Christmas that I would recommend to you.

Child in the Manger: The True Meaning of Christmas – Sinclair Ferguson

Sinclair Ferguson is one of our day’s best Reformed theologians. I have read many of his books and heard him speak many times at the Ligonier National Conference. He has been a pastor and seminary professor in numerous churches and seminaries throughout the world, and is also a Ligonier Teaching Fellow. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed and was blessed by this book.
Dr. Ferguson writes that this book sets out to explore the question of the real meaning of Christmas. He tells us that when we find the answer, we realize that it isn’t only for the Christmas season. He states that at the center of history stands the person of Jesus Christ. He does so because he is at the center of God’s story. Christ who is the creator of all things has entered his own creation in order to become our Savior. That is what gives Christmas meaning. It is what gives history and our lives meaning too.
He writes that the heart of the Christmas message is a baby bound in swaddling bands and lying in a wooden manger, who is destined to be bound again later in life and laid upon wood on the cross of Calvary. He tells us that the meaning of Christmas is this: The Light of the world has come into the darkness of the world, in order to bring light into the darkness of our hearts, and to illuminate them with the grace of forgiveness. He tells us that Christmas is not coming, but it has already come. The Word already has been made flesh. He already has lived, bled, died, and risen again for us. Now all that remains is to receive him. For Jesus is the meaning of Christmas.

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  • More of this book review and reviews of
  • An Even Better Christmas: Joy and Peace That Last All Year by Matt Chandler
  • Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ – Timothy Keller
  • Christmas Playlist: Four Songs that bring you to the heart of Christmas – Alistair Begg

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


The Meaning of Marriage: A Couple’s Devotional: A Year of Daily Devotions by Tim Keller and Kathy Keller. Viking 392 pages. 2019
****

This is Tim Keller and Kathy Keller’s third devotional book, with previous books on the Psalms (The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms) and Proverbs (God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs), both of which were excellent and I used as a part of my devotional reading.
The Kellers wrote The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God in 2011. In the “Introduction” of this new devotional, Kathy Keller indicates that it is not necessary to have read the earlier book in order to benefit from this new devotional. She then recaps some of the basic themes of The Meaning of Marriage, such as:

  • The main problem every marriage faces is the self-centeredness in both spouse’s hearts, and
  • The essence of marriage is a covenant, a binding promise.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and reviews of:

  • Live in Grace, Walk in Love: A 365-Day Journey by Bob Goff
  • Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon, wife of Charles H. Spurgeon by Ray Rhodes Jr.

BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
I’M CURRENTLY READING….
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3 Advent Devotionals to Prepare Your Hearts to Celebrate the Birth of Jesus


Over the past three years, my wife Tammy and I have read these three Advent devotionals to prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of Jesus; we would commend them to you. Here is a brief review of each of them.

Come, Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional by Paul Tripp

This year, I’ve been enjoying Paul Tripp’s devotional New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional. In this 2017 book of daily Advent devotional readings, he writes that the Christmas story is the story of stories, but for some it suffers from our familiarity with it. He writes that when we are familiar with things, we tend not to celebrate them as we once did. Familiarity tends to rob us of our wonder. As a result, he writes that many of us aren’t gripped by the stunningly magnificent events and truths of the birth of Jesus anymore. Many of us are no longer gripped by wonder as we consider what this story tells us about the character and plan of God. And sadly, many of us are no longer humbled by what the incarnation of Jesus tells us about ourselves.
During the busy holiday season other things capture and control our hearts. When that happens however, little room remains for wonder and worship. He writes that familiarity often means that what is very important may no longer exercise important influence over us in the way it should. He tells us that he wrote this book with the hope and prayer that God would use it to recapture our attention and reactivate our awe. Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making by Andrew Peterson. B&H Books. 224 pages. 2019
****

Andrew Peterson is a talented singer, songwriter and author. I heard parts of this book, which I couldn’t put down, and to which he refers to as a “barrage of thoughts and anecdotes” at his breakout sessions at the 2018 and 2019 Sing! Getty Worship Conference in Nashville.  He writes that the book is a glimpse into his own faltering journey as a songwriter, storyteller, and Christian. He calls it a love song about the life that God has given him, and it’s one of my favorite books of the year.
As you read this book you feel like a friend is casually talking to you. The book includes biography – he refers a lot to failure, being a poor student and not applying himself, reading fantasy and science fiction, attending Bible College, being dropped by his record label, and getting a break by opening for the band Caedmon’s Call. He writes about the influence of Rich Mullins, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, the Rabbit Room community he is a part of, researching his family ancestry, the now 20 year Behold the Lamb of God tour, moving to a woodsy corner of Nashville with his wife and three children and they refer to as “the Warren” and where he built a stone wall, gardening, beekeeping, as well as the creative (songwriting, book writing, painting) process.
He tells us that we are all creative and that there is a lot of similarity in process no matter what our discipline is. He references a number of books and includes them (and others), on a helpful “Reading List” included at the end of the book.
I highlighted a number of passages as I read this book. Below are 15 of my favorite quotes:

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and reviews of:

  • Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making by Andrew Peterson
  • Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Last Stand of Payne Stewart: The Year Golf Changed Forever by Kevin Robbins

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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14 New and Upcoming Books You Might Be Interested In


There are a number of new and upcoming books, in a variety of genres, that I would like to share with you that you may be interested in.

Something Needs to Change: A Call to Make Your Life Count in a World of Urgent Need by David Platt

This book, by the author of Radical, is one of the best, and certainly the most challenging book I’ve read this year. Here’s my review. Continue reading