Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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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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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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The Expository Genius of John Calvin (A Long Line of Godly Men Series Book 1) by Steven J. LawsonBook Review ~

The Expository Genius of John Calvin (A Long Line of Godly Men Series Book 1) by Steven J. Lawson. Reformation Trust. 133 pages. 2007.

On a recent trip to Europe we stopped in Geneva for the afternoon and visited St. Peter’s Cathedral (Cathedrale St-Pierre) in the heart of Geneva’s Old Town, where John Calvin served for 25 years. Over the next two days in Paris I read this book, including a wonderful afternoon spent on a bench along the Seine River.

This book was the first in a series that examines the varied ministries of noted men from church history. Lawson states that Calvin “was a driving force so significant that his influence shaped the church and Western culture beyond that of any other theologian or pastor.”

Lawson writes that apart from the biblical authors themselves, Calvin stands today as the most influential minister of the Word of God the world has ever seen. He states that by overwhelming consent, he remains the greatest biblical commentator of all time.

Lawson begins the book with a brief biography of Calvin, whose father, a financial administrator for the Catholic bishop of the Noyon diocese, raised his son to enter the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church. When his father died, the 21-year-old Calvin moved back to Paris to pursue his first love, the study of literature, especially the classics. He later returned to Bourges, where he completed his legal studies and received his doctor of laws degree. It was while he was studying at Bourges that Calvin came in direct contact with the biblical truths of the Reformation.

Calvin went to Basel, Switzerland (1534-1536), and began writing his magnum opus, Institutes of the Christian Religion. Calvin’s Institutes would become the defining masterpiece of Protestant theology, according to Lawson the single most important book to be written during the Reformation.

Calvin was first appointed professor of sacred Scripture in Geneva, then, four months later, pastor of Saint Pierre Cathedral. Calvin and Farel immediately began working to reform the church in Geneva. Their attempts to fence the Lord’s Table by excommunication resulted in their banishment from the city in 1538.

Calvin went into exile to Strasbourg where he pastored a congregation of some five hundred French-speaking refugees in Strasbourg. He also taught the New Testament in the local theological institute, wrote his first commentary (on Romans), and published the second edition of the Institutes.

During these years in Strasbourg, Calvin also found a wife, Idelette Stordeur, a member of his congregation. An Anabaptist widow, she had a son and a daughter from her first marriage. They married in 1540, when Calvin was 31. Idelette would die of tuberculosis in 1549.

Meanwhile, the City Council of Geneva found itself in much struggle, and called for Calvin to return as the city’s pastor. Calvin re-entered the city on September 13, 1541, never to relocate again. In Geneva, he made his mark as the Reformed church leader and the Reformation’s brightest light.

Upon his return, Calvin hit the town preaching, reassuming his pulpit ministry precisely where he had left off three years earlier-in the very next verse of his earlier exposition.

The rest of the book has Lawson reviewing the distinctives of Calvin’s preaching. They are:

  1. Biblical authorityCathedrale St-Pierre
  2. Divine Presence
  3. Pulpit priority
  4. Sequential Exposition
  5. Diligent Mind
  6. Devoted heart
  7. Relentless will
  8. Direct beginning
  9. Extemporaneous delivery
  10. Scriptural context
  11. Stated theme
  12. Specific text
  13. Exegetical precision
  14. Literal interpretation
  15. Cross-references
  16. Persuasive reasoning
  17. Reasonable deductions
  18. Familiar wordsIMG_0096
  19. Vivid expressions
  20. Provocative questions.
  21. Simple Restatements
  22. Limited quotations
  23. Unspoken outline
  24. Seamless transitions
  25. Focused intensity
  26. Pastoral exhortation
  27. Personal examination
  28. Loving rebuke
  29. Polemic confrontation
  30. Succinct summation
  31. Pressing appeal
  32. Climatic prayer

The book concludes with two appendices:

Appendix A: John Calvin’s Verse Distribution for Sermon Series

Appendix B: John Calvin’s Unspoken Outline of Job 21:13-15 Organized by T. H. L. Parker

I have read several of the books in this series of short biographies (Luther, Owen, Whitefield, Spurgeon), and plan to read books on Tyndale, Knox, Watts and Edwards. I enjoyed this look at Calvin’s expository preaching, which will be most appreciated by those who preach the Word.


Song of the WeekWatchin’ Over Me by James Taylor

“Watchin’ Over Me” is from James Taylor’s new chart topping album Before This World, his first album of new material since 2002’s October Road. It is one of my favorite songs on the album as Taylor sings of appreciation for those who helped him during his times of drug addiction.
Watchin’ over me when I was high
Holdin’ my hand and wipin’ my eye
Watchin’ me cheat, watchin’ me lie
Oh watchin’ over me
Lookin’ back over on the damage I done
Made no kind of plan to be carryin’ on
Thought I might ought to been dead and gone
I said oh the damage done

How’m I gonna pay that debt I oweBefore This World - James Taylor
Big red Jesus on the radio
Down on my knees after the show
I said oh the debt I owe

I learned my lesson again
Well, I learned my lesson again
Only one way to surrender
Learned my lesson again
Got to return it to sender
Leave a little light in the window
Got to remember my friend

Guess I got to say it’s a lovely day
Nice enough to know it could ever be so
Ready man, steady man, here I’m gonna go
I said, oh, the lovely day

musicnewsHymns We Should Sing More Often: Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah. Kevin DeYoung continues his series which “aims to remind us (or introduce for the first time) excellent hymns that are probably not included in most church’s musical canon.”

Brother. NEEDTOBREATHE recently appeared on Good Morning America to perform their song “Brother” with Gavin DeGraw.

No One Like Our God. Here’s a video of an acoustic version of Matt Redman’s song from Abbey Road.

Uncomfortable. Andy Mineo’s new album Uncomfortable is scheduled to be released September 18. Definitely one of my most anticipated albums of the year.

  • U2 Short Film “Song for Someone” With Woody Harrelson. Directed by Vincent Haycock, cinematography by Steve Annis and produced by Pete Vitale & Park Pictures, “Song for Someone” features Woody Harrelson as a man being released from prison after years of incarceration and features his daughter Zoe Harrelson. The piece thematically links to RECTIFY, SundanceTV’s Peabody award-winning series that follows the story of Daniel Holden and his family as they struggle to move forward after Daniel’s release from 19 years on death row.

music quoteQuotes from Musicians:

  • There are more animal shelters than there are shelters for women and children who need refuge from abuse. Andy Mineo
  • No, they did not take his life–he laid it down. And the chains of death could never hope to hold him, so in the night my hope lives on. Andrew Peterson
  • Worship helps us let the ‘throne set the tone’ for our lives – a declaration and a reminder that Jesus is Lord, and everything is in His hands. Matt Redman