Friday, August 29, 2014

Psalm 145:21

Psalm 145:21
      My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD,
      and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

Psalm 145 ends in the same manner in which it began: praise.  Throughout these verses David has rattled off truth after truth that displays why he is so enamored with the God of Israel.  The fact that God is great and, therefore, greatly to be praised is the mantra of this psalmist throughout this psalm.  But David is not satisfied with simply his own heart being stirred to song for the beauty and majesty and faithfulness of his God, as wonderful as that surely is.  He desires that God receive the worship that is due him, worship from all that is his. 

The psalm closes with the psalmist’s promise to praise Yahweh (rsv speak the praise of the Lord) and a call for all people everywhere to bless his holy name for ever (see 106:47). All flesh usually means all human beings; here, in line with every living thing in verse 16b (see also verse 10a), perhaps it means “all creatures” (neb, njb, njv). Let all flesh does not introduce a request for permission but is a third-person imperative. Verse 21b may be rendered in some languages as “Everything that God has created should praise him for ever.”[1]

There are two things that are worth noting.  “All flesh” could be, and quite likely is, pointing to not just man and woman but to all of God’s creation.  In the beginning, God did not just create man and woman.  Not only that, while humans have the unique blessing of being created in God’s image, all of creation was declared good(i.e. without defect and thus without sin) by the one who makes good things.  When God stood back from his handiwork he said it was good, in fact it was very good and operated in the manner and to the purpose for which it was created.  While humans have a unique responsibility due to being image bearers of our great God, we do not have a unique calling to bring forth praise and proclaim the excellence of God.  All of creation exists to declare the wonders of the Lord.  Everything exists to praise and honor the one who is ultimately and immanently worthy of boundless praise.

And second, David’s “Let all flesh” is not a request.  This is not David begging.  It is not a plea.  It is a beckon, a summons.  David is beckoning all that will hear to Cmon!  Come and worship this great King!  Extol him!  Praise him!  Tell of his excellent greatness!  David is summonsing the XXX of the King to XXX what is due and you almost hear a hint of incredulity in his voice.  You can almost hear in David’s words a, “Why am I even having to encourage you in this?  It is the very purpose for which you were made!”
God- the benevolent Sovereign, the just Judge, the merciful Father- deserves all praise, all honor, all glory, for all time.  There is not one second of one day where God is not due 100% allegiance, 100% adoration, 100% adulation.  David is saying as much.  Psalm 145 begins with David expressing why he worships the God of Israel and ends by imploring all creatures of our God and King to render to him the praise that he deserves.  There will come a day when all covenant creatures of our great God will bow their knee and confess his Lordship and glory over all.  In that day, all of God’s creation will be released from the bondage to which it is presently subjected and will fulfill the purpose for which it was created: to give to God unadulterated and ceaseless praise and honor for all of eternity.

And we will be a part of that creation that praises and honors and enjoys God for all of eternity.  CH Spurgeon puts this as well as anyone.

Whatever others may do, I will not be silent in the praise of the Lord: whatever others may speak upon, my topic is fixed once for all: I will speak the praise of Jehovah. I am doing it, and I will do it as long as I breathe. “And let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever.” Praise is no monopoly for one, even though he be a David; others are debtors, let them also be songsters. All men of every race, condition, or generation should unite to glorify God. No man need think that he will be rejected when he comes with his personal note of praise; all are permitted, invited, and exhorted to magnify the Lord. Specially should his holiness be adored: this is the crown, and in a certain sense the sum, of all his attributes. Only holy hearts will praise the holy name, or character of the Lord; oh, that all flesh were sanctified, then would the sancitity of God be the delight of all. Once let the song begin and there will be no end to it. It shall go on for ever and a day, as the old folks used to say. If there were two for-evers, or twenty for-evers, they ought all to be spent in the praises of the ever-living, ever-blessing, ever-blessed Jehovah. Blessed be the Lord for ever for having revealed to us his name, and blessed be that name as he has revealed it; yea, blessed be he above all that we can know, or think, or say. Our hearts revel in the delight of praising him. Our mouth, our mind, our lip, our life shall be our Lord’s throughout this mortal existence, and when time shall be no more[2]

[1] Robert G. Bratcher and William David Reyburn, A Translator’s Handbook on the Book of Psalms, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1991), 1168.
[2] C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David: Psalms 120-150, vol. 6 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), 382.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

How Will the World End?

How Will the World End?How Will the World End? by Jeramie Rinne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are plenty of books that muddy the water on issues of eschatology.  Whether they overreach, oversimplify, or just plain over and over and over and over…., it is nice to find a work on “the last days” that doesn’t confuse, doesn’t bore, and doesn’t resort to treating the front page of the local newspaper as a decoder ring.

To find a short and accessible work on eschatological issues that isn’t flooded with words like “eschatological” is a treasure, and is as refreshing and as it is helpful.  How Will the World End? by Jeramie Rinne is just the work for those of us who want to know more about our blessed hope but feel overwhelmed by academic treatises and rapture charts that could paper the Great Wall.

Rinne deals succinctly but sufficiently, at a basic level, with issues like the Millenium, the Rapture, the Beast/Antichrist/Man of Lawlessness/ Nero (oops, my eschatology might be showing a bit…although, honestly, I struggle with the interchangeable nature with which many treat those eschatological figures).   He also gives an overview of the different ways of viewing Revelation (preterism, futurism, historicism, idealism) and settles on an “eclecticism” that seems most appropriate.

Rinne follows the pattern of Scripture itself in not allowing study of God’s word to culminate simply in some sort of contemplative exercise.  Just like Paul, for example, would encourage his hearers to respond in faith to the beautiful truths he was presenting, Rinne closes his book in a manner  to not allow the reader to hear but not do.  Rinne knows that a sinful temptation we will face is to look at these truths and give a mental assent but no “rubber meets road” response.  We so often can be the man who looks in the mirror and walks away forgetting what he looks like so Rinne spends his last chapter encouraging believers to live with a hope that changes every aspect of who we are and what we do.

*I received a review copy from the publisher through Cross Focused Reviews.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Victory Through the Lamb

Victory Through the Lamb: A Guide to Revelation in Plain LanguageVictory Through the Lamb: A Guide to Revelation in Plain Language by Mark Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are many, many bad books on the “End Times” in general and the book of Revelation in particular.  Many.  Like, A LOT!  That has often left me jaded and cynical about works that cover this topic, especially if I am unfamiliar with the author or the publisher.  So, being unfamiliar with Mark Wilson and Weaver Book Company, I entered the reading of Victory Through the Lamb with some baggage and just itching for a screaming match with an inanimate object and the chance to audibly argue with the author like a) I know him and b) he is in the room.

Fortunately, for all who are within earshot of me while I read and for my overall mental health, this did not occur.  And this was not due to some new found self-discipline and graciousness on my part.  Victory Through the Lamb just never had any moments that would usually make me pull my hair out, so to speak.  In fact, it is quite a good book.

Wilson makes some critical points about the study of Revelation.  His identifying the theme of Revelation as victory, victory through suffering specifically, is a far better interpretation that much of what you hear today.  Wilson shows Revelation to be much more than a macabre riddle about future catastrophe.  It was written to give hope to its immediate audience and its future audience and, when read correctly, that is exactly what it does.

“Approaching Revelation as a kind of biblical crystal ball for reading current events in the media was not John’s intention. Rather it was to help Christians get through the daily struggles of life that they were facing.”

Another issue Victory Through the Lamb highlights is the fact that Revelation was written to particular churches at a particular time.  We miss much of what God would teach us here when we do not acknowledge that the entirety of the Revelation was given to these churches to encourage them in their daily struggles, encourage them in the grace they have been shown, and rebuke them in their areas of spiritual lack.

“Revelation was written to real Christians in seven actual cities in today’s western Turkey. And all 22 chapters of the book were meant to instruct them how to have victory through the Lamb in the midst of trials and tribulation.”

Wilson also highlights the need to have a working knowledge of the Old Testament in order to properly understand and interpret the Revelation given to John.  Many people have asked that we do a Bible study on Revelation and my usual response is that we will, as soon as we study the rest of the Bible.  That is not simply a way to dodge teaching a tough topic but it is the proper prerequisite for studying this difficult book.

“Today another particular challenge encountered by many Christians is that they lack a basic knowledge of the Old Testament.”

But not only was this written to encourage Christians in 1st Century Asia Minor, this work was written to encourage believers through all ages—even today.  It is hard in a country of such affluence to think about suffering but with worldwide media and especially with the events of this summer, it should be clear that even 21st Century Christians are suffering and will continue to suffer.  The Book of Revelation should be a place to find hope and comfort.

“Why is this topic so important for Christians today? Because many have been misled into thinking that tribulation is a future reality from which we will miraculously escape through the rapture. Instead, I believe that Revelation teaches that we are in the tribulation right now. Since Jesus’ ascension, the devil, through his earthly representatives, has been bringing tribulation against the people of God.
Both Revelation and church history confirm this.”

There were a few moments in the book that were a bit out there for me.  Whether it be a flashback to days teaching at ORU when the author had an almost-out-of-body “in the Spirit” episode or non-sequiturs to make dubious theological propositions (“The universal nature of the Lamb’s redemption is breathtaking—no one is excluded from the possibility of salvation”-chapter 2), or arguments that I haven’t heard before (John wrote revelation pre-70 AD and, upon release, composed his Gospel and Epistles in the 70’s-early 90’s) and a a pre-mil position that sees Nero as the beast;  there were definitely times I was scratching my head.  But those were pretty few and far between…and not always a negative, either!

Also, footnotes or endnotes (although I don’t like endnotes, but I was reading an ebook so either would be fine!) would have been quite helpful.  For example, a statement like this should have some citation: “Scholars have noted the similarities between the details of the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:4–10; Mark 13: 5–13; Luke 21:8–17) and the first six seals.”  What scholars?  What works?  This happened too often and limits the appeal of the work for serious study because of the lack of ability to research statements like this. Footnotes would have helped me understand context, look up sources, and know that positions the author is presenting are not novel creations of his own but are rooted in the history of the Church.  For a work covering this topic at this length to only have 37 footnotes is vastly insufficient.

This is a work about victory and hope.  This is a work that avoids needless speculation and seeks to put the Revelation in the context of Scripture as a whole and the immediate context of a letter to the seven churches.  It has been said that what God revealed through John has been concealed by commentatoras and, to the glory of God, this work does not add to the truth of that ….  This is a work that sees Revelation as a revelation, one to be understood and to bring glory to God by adding to the hope of those called to suffer with him.

From the perspective of Revelation a mystery is not something to be hidden from God’s people. While perhaps concealed in the past, it is now revealed in Christ. This is one of the ironies about Revelation and its arcane use by Christians today. Its visions have become notoriously mysterious, and its contents seemingly impenetrable. But that was not Jesus’ (or John’s) original intention. It was meant to be understood by the audience in the Seven Churches.

And I would add, this is a work to be understood by believers today.  Victory Through the Lamb will aid in that.  I am not sure you could ask for much more!

I received a review copy of this book through Cross Focused Reviews.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Jesus is Most Special--A Christmas Storybook

Jesus is the Most SpecialJesus is the Most Special by Sally Michael
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an interesting children's book that I believe will show itself to be quite helpful in a few ways.  I have enjoyed Sally Michael's work and it has proven beneficial over and again.  This little book is no different.

But it is different.  Not that it will show itself to be of no benefit but, rather, that it is simply unique.  Jesus is Most Special is designed to inform our children of the Christmas story but also to train them in how to share the true meaning of the Nativity.  It is broken into thematic sections in order to aid the children in retelling and Michael suggests, as an option, utilizing a Nativity set to aid in telling and re-telling.

I was not a huge fan of the artwork and the book, to me, just looks a bit odd.  Formatting and pictures aside, I think this is a pretty good little book.

*I received a review copy from P&R Publishing.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

1 Samuel for You

1 Samuel for You1 Samuel for You by Tim Chester
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Good Book Company has released a series of books that keep getting better and better (or at least I keep enjoying and learning from them more and more!).

Each volume of the God’s Word For You series takes you to the heart of a book of the Bible, and applies its truths to your heart.
           The central aim of each title is to be:
           Bible centred
           Christ glorifying
           Relevantly applied
           Easily readable

The newest volume is from Tim Chester and it covers 1 Samuel.  There were a few books of the Bible very early on in my Christian walk that, for whatever reason, God used mightily and for them he gave me a great affection.  Matthew and Genesis were two, but those are easy to figure out why.  I had a real good habit of starting Bible reading plans, often the read each day from the OT and NT variety, and I had a real bad habit of bailing on those plans within a month or so.  Well, that made me pretty much an expert on Genesis and Matthew because I read them over and over and over!  Philippians was also a book that stood out.  I read it in my NIV(1984!!) Study Bible over and over and then found a copy of John Macarthur’s Commentary and bought it (from Lifeway…without a discount...Yikes!) and read it and loved Macarthur’s work because it cause my love of Paul’s letter to increase greatly.

But my favorite book, or at least right up there with those three, was 1 Samuel.  The story of Hannah and Samuel and Saul and Johnathan and David, for whatever reason, captivated me as a new believer.  I would read and re-read it.  It has been some time since I have camped out in 1 Samuel and I have had such good experience with this series and the work of Tim Chester that I was so very excited to see this volume on 1 Samuel set to release.

And it did not disappoint.  Not one bit!  Chester guides, and “guides” is exactly the word for it, the reader through 1 Samuel.  Chester shows not only the events and their immediate implications but also teaches the reader how to use God’s word as a mirror of our sinful selves and a guide to proper living.  But, and most importantly, Chester attempts to show how the book of 1 Samuel fits into a cohesive, canonical whole that testifies to the Christ who was to come.

And on that last point, a point where so many works struggle and often fail, Chester delivers in a way that still has me excited!  If you want to witness example after example of seeing the immediate context of a passage or event and at the same time seeing how the truths there point to the Christ, this is it…taken to 11. So often, when someone seeks to find Christ in the text of the Old Testament, it feels contrived, fanciful, or forced.  Chester shows that you can see Christ on the pages of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation without losing the immediate context or resorting to, what often seems like, chemically-induced avant-garde allegory.
Allow me to share a couple of examples.

Example from the non-Aaronic priesthood:
           The rise of Samuel is a sign of the fall of Eli’s house. But it is also a sign that God can raise up for himself a priest from outside the house of Aaron. And this is precisely what God promises through the man of God in 2:35: “I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his priestly house, and they will minister before my anointed one always.”

           There may be an immediate allusion to Zadok and his priestly house, who gain legitimacy under David and Solomon (2 Samuel 8:17; 1 Kings 1:7-8, 32-34; 2:26-27; 4:1-4). But ultimately it is an allusion to Jesus. Jesus is not from the house of Aaron. That priesthood was a failed priesthood (Hebrews 7:11). It could not save completely and it could not save eternally. Even the best of them had to keep repeating the sacrifices. So God promises a coming priest, Jesus.

           Jesus is a better priest because he is an eternal priest (Hebrews 7:11-19, 23-25). His priesthood is founded on his resurrection: “the power of an indestructible life” (v 16). And Jesus is a better priest because he is appointed directly by the oath of God (v 20-22, 28). The result is that Jesus offers “a better hope” (v 19) and is “the guarantor of a better covenant” (v 22).

Example from the removal of the ark of the covenant:
People who take God’s glory seriously repent. And people who take God’s glory seriously are able to stand in his presence, because God takes his own glory seriously through sacrifice.

           The proper response to the threat of God’s glory is sacrifice (v 7-9). The sacrifice of an animal was a picture. What does it symbolise? There is a clue in the story. Deuteronomy 28:64-68 says the ultimate curse of covenant unfaithfulness is exile. But who is exiled in this story? God! The words: “The Glory has departed” in 1 Samuel 4:21-22 are literally: “The Glory has gone into exile”. Psalm 78 recalls this story and describes the ark as going into “captivity” (Psalm 78:61). The people deserve the judgment of exile. But instead it is God himself who is exiled. He bears their judgment.

           It is a pointer to the cross. The sacrifice of an animal is the symbol. The cross is the reality. At the cross God himself, in the person of his Son, experienced judgment. He experienced the judgment of exile. He was cut off from God his Father. He took the judgment of exile on himself so that we can be welcomed home.

Example from Samuel’s confrontation with Saul:

When Samuel confronts Saul in 13:11, he begins with a question—“What have you done?”—just as God did with Adam in Genesis 3:9—“Where are you?”. Saul responds with excuses. He blames the men for leaving and the Philistines for arriving (1 Samuel 13:11-12). He blames Samuel for not coming on time (v 11). Saul is again portrayed as a new Adam. But this is not Adam the snake-crusher. This is Adam the sinner, the excuse-maker (see Genesis 3:12). Saul is not the promised second Adam. He is the old Adam revisited.

Example from David the shepherd-king:
Jesus is the Shepherd-King. David proved he was a good shepherd because he was willing to risk his life for the sheep. Jesus proves he is the ultimate Good Shepherd because he gives his life for the sheep: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

           Here is the king we need. Israel discovered, under first Saul’s and then David’s rule, that the king we decide we want, the king we choose for ourselves, is not the right ruler for us. We need someone who will rule humbly. We need someone who will care for wandering sheep; who will die to protect us. We must all choose a king to rule our hearts, our lives and our futures. Naturally, we choose Saul. But God gives us a Shepherd-King, a greater David. Being a Christian is not about having to live under Jesus’ rule. It is about getting to live under his humble reign; about the security and joy of knowing that we have the King we need, chosen by the Lord and given to us.

How Chester works through the story of Saul, David, and Goliath is brilliant and worth the purchase and read all by itself! “If this story encourages you to take on your local bully, you may find the outcome persuades you to adopt an alternative interpretation!”
Chester also covers some common topics but does so in a manner that really stays with the reader.

On prayer:
If a child cries and no one ever comes, then eventually they stop crying. There are orphanages where children have been neglected to the point where an eerie silence hangs over the dormitories. The point is this: the cry of a child is a cry of faith. It reflects their belief that there is someone out there who hears them and responds to them…And the cry of prayer is a cry of faith. It arises from the belief that God is a Father who is able (powerful enough) and willing (loving enough) to answer.

On our attitude towards God:

           It is possible for us to treat God like a waiter in a restaurant. You sit with your friends, enjoying a meal, talking together, and most of the time you ignore the waiter. Then when you want something you call him over. “Can we order dessert now?” “Can you bring some more water?” “Can we have the bill?” The waiter does not sit at the table with you. He is not part of your evening. You just call him over when you need him. We can treat God like that. He is not part of our lives. But when we need him, we call him over to help. We do not take him seriously.

           It is not hard to end up seeing God in this un-weighty way; to think, perhaps unconsciously, that by coming to church each Sunday, reading the Bible each day and giving a portion of our income, we are doing our bit for God. And in return we expect God to save us from hell and help out from time to time in life, ensuring that we are comfortable or happy or whatever it is that we wish to use him to supply.

           But God is not there for us. We are here for him. We were made in his image; we are not to make him in ours. The world does not revolve around you. Your world does not revolve around you. God must be at the centre. God’s glory must be central to your life. We need to recognise the weight of glory. We need to take God seriously.

On True Repentance:
           We can sum up by saying that true repentance has the following characteristics:

           An end to excuses. We face up to our guilt and responsibility rather than offering excuses for our sin. When someone’s talk about sin is punctuated with excuses, there is not true repentance.

           A movement towards God. Repentance is turning back to God. It is more than frustration or shame with oneself. It is more than a concern for one’s reputation with others. It is God-ward in orientation. When someone talks about their shame or frustration, but leaves God out of the picture, there is not true repentance.

           A movement that results in action. True repentance leads to a change of life (2 Corinthians 7:10-13). When repentance does not lead to action, there is not true repentance.

There are so many examples I could show and so many quotes I could share from this book but, in all honesty, you really just need to treat yourself to this wonderful tour of one of the most intriguing, interesting, and edifying books of the Bible.  It is my prayer that God will use this book to guide many people into a proper reading of his holy book and a greater love of him through it.  I have great confidence that exactly that will happen.

*I received a review copy of this book through Cross Focused Reviews.

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Donkey Who Carried a King

The Donkey Who Carried a KingThe Donkey Who Carried a King by R.C. Sproul
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been immensely blessed by the teaching of RC Sproul and I love the fact that he has written some children’s books that will allow me to introduce his teaching to my children early. I received a review copy from Reformation Trust of his book The Donkey Who Carried a King and it was all that I expected and more.

The Donkey Who Carried a King is what you would expect from a kid’s book by R.C. Sproul.  It is solid theologically, engaging in tone (the story is told in the manner of a grandfather encouraging his grandchild…you can almost hear R.C. saying the words), and just plain fun.  Sproul tells the story of Davey the Donkey who carried the King into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  Sproul tells a fun story with a clear Gospel presentation.  The book is also beautifully illustrated.

I say that this book was more than I expected because I pretty much expected all of that but there is more.  After the story there are a few pages of questions and answers that allow this book to be utilized as more than just a bedtime story(although it could serve that purpose quite well).

The Donkey Who Carried a King is a fun book to share with your kids that will begin multiple discussions, most importantly about the Gospel.

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Answering Your Kids Toughest Questions

Answering Your Kids' Toughest Questions: Helping Them Understand Loss, Sin, Tragedies, and Other Hard TopicsAnswering Your Kids' Toughest Questions: Helping Them Understand Loss, Sin, Tragedies, and Other Hard Topics by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Give Them Grace, by mother-daughter pair Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson, remains one of my favorite books and one I recommend to parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers...basically anyone who interacts with children.  When I saw that Fitzpatrick and Thompson were teaming up to offer another work on parenting, saturated with grace and focused on the glory of God in the Gospel, I knew I was going to have to read it.

Answering Your Kids Toughest Questions makes an early and strong case that we, as parents, make sure we present sin for what it is and that we clearly teach the extent of humanity’s depravity—not to make our kids more outwardly compliant but to make them more prepared to see their need of grace and to see just how great the grace of God actually is.

“I don’t think we take Christ’s commands and the life we are called to live seriously enough.  We don’t understand or feel the full weight of how infected with sin we really are.  In part, that’s because the world feeds us a steady diet of it’s-okay-if-you-are-a-nice-person sprinkled with a bit of if-you-try-your-hardest and topped with a strong drink of you-meant-well…

Kids and parents alike should feel desperate about our wretched state.  There should be no doubt in our minds that we will never be ‘good enough’.  And this knowledge should drive us to our feet of our Savior, which is precisely where the forgiven rest and rejoice…Our children need to know the terrible reaility of sin.  If we fail to explain it, they will not see the beauty of God’s grace.”

Give Them Grace would be great preparatory reading for this new book since it makes this very case extensively.  The beauty of Answering Your Kids Toughest Questions is that it offers very practical counsel on how to point our children to the grace and love of our Father.  And it does so in light of the very difficult questions that will inevitably arise if we seriously engage our children with the Scriptures and their day-to-day life.

And I am talking about hard questions.  Suicide.  Rape.  Death.  Tsunamis. Hell.  Divorce.  War.  Doubt.  These are issues that terrify most parents to even think about dealing with.  Fitzpatrick and Thompson give clear, biblical teaching on these issues, and more, and then give sample discussions to have with kids at different age levels.  They encourage the reader that these are not “scripts” and that it is critical that we know our children and recognize their individual needs.  These are great examples and offer great encouragement to the parent—both that the questions need to be answered and can be answered.  Not only that, I also believe that with slight modification these sample discussions could be utilized in some sort of teaching setting.

Fitzpatrick and Thompson encourage the reader to answer many of these questions before circumstances force the questions to arise (i.e., a suicide, a natural disaster, a terrorist attack, death of a loved one, etc..)  This new volume will aid parents and teachers in preparing for these difficult questions that kids struggle with and need answers to.  Answering Your Kids Toughest Questions will be a blessing to many parents, and especially their children.

*I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

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Saturday, August 9, 2014

John--New volume in the REC series by Richard Phillips

*Rating and review based on ARC sample provided by publisher

Richard Phillips new commentary on John, from the sample I viewed, is one that many will benefit from.  P&R provided about 40 pages of text to offer thoughts on-not counting the series introduction, endorsements, and the like.

I read the preface, chapter 1 from volume 1(on the prologue to John's Gospel and some background information) and chapter 71 from volume 2(on the death of Lazarus).  While there were a couple of head scratching moments (like the argument that John wrote after AD 70 because he does not mention the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple??*), this is a solid and accessible treatment of John from an author who has earned my trust, a series that highly spoken of, and a publisher who has consistently graced the church with many, many great resources.

The Reformed Expository Commentary series is much applauded and the newest volume on John from Richard Phillips looks to step right in and bless those of us who desire academic work presented in a manner that the non-seminarian can understand and enjoy.  This is a resource that you will not be sorry spending the money or time on.

I look forward to when this is released in Logos format to add it to my library there.

*(W)hile John often mentions the temple, his Gospel nonetheless gives little attention to matters related to its fall and the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70, so that it is hard to imagine John’s writing this book in the years shortly before or after that epochal event.(page 6)

Hidden in the Gospel

Hidden in the Gospel FarleyHidden in the Gospel Farley by William Farley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hidden in the Gospel is a helpful new work from P&R Publishing by William Farley.  It is subtitled: “Truths You Forget to Tell Yourself Every Day” and that is just what you find on these pages.  Farley takes the reader for a tour of God’s salvation and unpacks what its truth and ramifications on every level.  It is so easy to think of the Gospel as “my ticket in” and ignore many beautiful truths of God’s great Gospel.

Farley builds on the concept of “preaching to yourself” which has thankfully been gaining steam in our time, at least in has in the circles I frequent for sure.  I thoroughly enjoyed how Farley taught on different aspects of salvation with questions to aid group study and reading suggestions for those who want to dive deeper into the doctrine.

I also found his sections on how one could preach to themselves each particular aspect of salvation quite helpful.  Farley looks at salvation from eternity past to eternity future.  He helps the reader guard against a reductionist, ”Romans Road”-type, Gospel and shows not only the truth of how election and the ascension, for example, are part of the Gospel but also how these impact our daily lives and give us hope for a secure future.

Hidden in the Gospel is a great overview of the greatest story and is a wonderful primer on a neglected discipline that is sure to bear much fruit.

I received a review copy for and honest review.

View all my reviews

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Psalm 145:13-16--The Providential Goodness of God

Psalm 145:13b–16

13b   [The Lord is faithful in all his words
and kind in all his works.]
14    The Lord upholds all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
15    The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
16    You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing.

Bible words are great.  Big Bible words are even better (especially if you use the Latin version of them!)  While it is not Latin, and it is not really that big letters-wise, the word “providence” is as big as they come conceptually.

“Providence” is God's goodness in action.  It is a word that reflects what the psalmist is praising God for in verses 13-16.  It is a word that describes God’s goodness towards all that is his, which is everything.  And it is a truth that warrants praise from all that has breath-- and even that which doesn’t!(Psalm 19:1; Luke 19:40)  God provides for all of his creation because he wants to.  He wants to because he is good.
God’s knowledge, wisdom, and power are inseparable from his goodness. In fact, in the strict sense, Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone” (Mk 10:18). God’s infinite goodness is the source of all creaturely imitations. Precisely because God does not depend on the world, his goodness is never threatened. God is good toward all he has made, even his enemies (Ps 145:9, 15–16; Mt 5:45). He can afford to be, because he is God with or without them.
Because God’s attributes are identical with his essence, God not only loves; he is love (1 Jn 3:1; 4:8, 16). God loves absolutely and without any compulsion from the object of his love (Mt 5:44–45; Jn 3:16; 16:27; Ro 5:8). God takes delight in that which he does not need but nevertheless desires. Here, too, we must see that human love is not the measure of divine love, but vice versa. God is the original; we are the copy: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn 4:10).[1]

Our God is not an absentee-father.  He is not a “blind watchmaker”.  He is a Being of transcendent power and immanent affection for that which he has made.  He is a Being of utter goodness who’s “eye is on the sparrow”(Matt 10:29), who knows the numbers of hairs on your head(Luke 12:7), and causes the rain to fall and the sun to shine on the wicked and the righteous(Matthew 5:45).  Nothing is so big as to exceed his ability and nothing is so small as to elude his perfect gaze.  This should give us surpassing confidence in the face of even life’s greatest storms.

How does God demonstrate his faithfulness? He does it by keeping his promises and by caring for his creation (v. 13). When we fall, he lifts us up (v. 14). When we are bowed down by distress, he restores us (v. 14). When we are hungry, he provides food (v. 15). When we look to him with our hands open, empty and held out, he satisfies us with good things (v. 16).[2]
He is the source of all good things. "For from him and through him and to him are all things." (Rom 11:36) All blessings flow from this great Source.  Our God is our King and our provider.  His providential goodness extends to all of creation and is expressed most clearly in the lives of those whom he purchased with the blood of his only Begotten.  This truth, and its proper response, is expressed succinctly and powerfully in the Doxology.
            Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him all creatures here below;
Praise Him above ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

[1] Horton, M. (2011). The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way (p. 265). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[2] Boice, J. M. (2005). Psalms 107–150: An Expositional Commentary (p. 1254). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

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Psalm 145:13

One of the most encouraging aspects about our Lord is the fact that he is eternal.  He has had no beginning and he has no end.  He is a timeless being who is not bound by limitations due to time and space.  All that exists was created and is sustained by him.  For those reasons all that exists belongs to him.  He is King and Ruler, of all.  And we do not want to miiss the truth that he is a benevolent sovereign, a loving King who is King of all.  Combine those two truths together and we get what the Psalmist is praising God for in Psalm 145:13.  “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations.”

The point upon which the Psalmist’s mind rests is the eternity of the divine throne,—“thy reign is a reign of all eternities.” The Lord’s kingdom is without beginning, without break, without bound, and without end. He never abdicates his throne, neither does he call in a second to share his empire. None can overthrow his power, or break away from his rule. Neither this age, nor the age to come, nor ages of ages shall cause his sovereignty to fail. Herein is rest for faith. “The Lord (sits as) King forever.” “And thy dominion (endures) throughout all generations.” Men come and go like shadows on the wall, but God reigneth eternally. We distinguish kings as they succeed each other by calling them first and second; but this King is Jehovah, the First and the Last. Adam in his generation knew his Creator to be King, and the last of his race shall know the same. All hail, Great God! Thou art ever Lord of lords![1]
We never have to wonder who is going to succeed our Lord.  We never have to worry about the goodness of the one to follow because the One who reigns now will reign forever and has reigned forever.  Furthermore, he has demonstrated his grace and mercy and love in a manner that can never be exceeded and leaves no room to doubt just how benevolent a Sovereign we serve.

Other kingdoms have perished, and shall perish: but this shall endure for ever. Though it is as “a stone cut out without hands,” and neither founded nor supported by human power, it “shall break in pieces all other kingdoms, and shall stand for ever and ever.” “The gates of hell (with all their policy and power) shall never prevail against it;” no, nor against the (least) subject in it. Nay, when “the earth, and all that is therein, shall be burnt up and utterly dissolved,” this kingdom shall continue in its utmost vigour; nor shall its prosperity languish as long as God himself shall endure.[2]

[1] Spurgeon, C. H. (2009). The treasury of David: Psalms 120-150 (Vol. 6, p. 380). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
[2] Simeon, C. (1836). Horae Homileticae: Psalms, LXXIII–CL (Vol. 6, p. 488). London: Samuel Holdsworth.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Wonder Working God by Jared Wilson

Jared Wilson remains one of my favorite authors.  His work is clear and forceful, even though there is much disarming and enlightening humor generously sprinkled throughout.  His desire is that the reader would love the Lord Jesus more and, through that love, seek to live a life that honors him by making him known.  This is another book that, I believe, will help many to that end.

This spring Wilson released The Storytelling God, a work that focused on the parables of Christ.  His newest work is a sequel of sorts(compendium?...follow-up? goes together well!).  In The Wonder Working God,Wilson takes the reader through the miracle of Christ, all the while pointing the reader to the Kingdom of God and the King himself.

In a work like this, on a subject like this, what words mean are of great import.  The way "miracle" gets tossed around in common speech and in Christian circles makes it difficult to get the proper understanding of the miracles of Christ.  In a world where many "feel no such compunction" to avoid cheapening the word "miracle" and where phrases like “Choose your miracle.” and “Every day is a miracle.” and others "proliferate in both spiritual and secular Western culture, popularized on TBN or the Oprah show.  In this milieu,(where) a miracle is a fulfillment of your personal dreams and ambitions, and the accumulation of accolades and treasures," it is crucial that we have a proper understanding of what a "miracle" actually is.

Wilson provides a good, working definition for this study where miracle is defined as "a supernatural act of God that glorifies Jesus."  He also explains how miracles are "normal" and "glimpses of the way the world is meant to be, glimpses of the way the world is actually becoming".  Wilson adds that, "In and through Jesus, the kingdom is coming, and God’s will is being done on earth as it is done in heaven. Jesus’s miracles are the very windows into heaven, and through them heaven is spilling into earth like sunlight through panes whose shades have been violently rolled up."

Wilson covers Christ’s control over nature, his healings, his exorcisms, his resurrections and his own resurrection in order to help the reader see:

  1. The miracles demonstrate the “at hand”-ness of the kingdom of God.
  2. The miracles are acts of heavenly normalization, which is to say they are isolated snapshots of the transformation of the broken world to the way it will someday be.
  3. Because the miracles are acts of heavenly normalization, they are acts of revolutionary subversion against the corrupt course of the world and the realm of the Evil One.
  4. The miracles point to Jesus Christ himself as the source and summation of the three acts above.

Wilson's treatment of the eschatological wine of Cana is a great start.  His dealing with the feeding of the 4,000 continues well.  Encouraging the reader to see beyond simply the physical nature of this lesser known feeding miracle, Wilson points out that,

       In Christ, we are eternally satisfied, abundantly satisfied, mightily satisfied. And because the miracles are not ends in themselves but signs pointing to Jesus himself, we are reminded here that we are not merely saved but eternally saved, abundantly saved, mightily saved.
       Through the gospel, let us remember, we are satisfied with seven baskets besides: regeneration, pardon, justification, adoption, union, sanctification, and glorification—and still more. His mercies, like the bread of heaven sent to the children of Israel, are new every morning.
Wilson is immensely quotable.

  • Speaking of the situation before Christ calmed the sea--"The disciples’ snoring Sovereign is snoring because he is sovereign."
  • When Lazarus is called forth by Christ- "Lazarus does not need seven steps or tips about how to achieve a successful exit from the tomb."

  • Referencing the provision of water in the desert God gave the grumbling Israelites-- "he graciously turns their whine into water by instructing Moses to strike a rock."
  • Dealing with suffering and sovereignty--"the God of the Scriptures, the one true God, is sovereign over all things. And that is scary sometimes. It is spiritually discombobulating."

And even though they may exceed microblogging etiquete, his longer quotes are equally profound if lacking in 140-character pith.

On why Wilson confront false teachers, like Joel Osteen, publicly and harshly?
This is why: because he’s sending people to hell. He gives people who are suffering, poor, and in need of a theology of the cross of Christ a nonexistent genie in a magic lamp, and when they aren’t fixed, healed, or made prosperous, great doubt and confusion inevitably set in. They think: “Maybe God isn’t loving. Maybe God isn’t powerful. Maybe I don’t have real faith.” All because the prosperity gospelist has invited naïve people to ask comfort into their hearts and invite material goods to be their personal lord and savior. All their faith has been placed in mortal things and not on the God who purposes pain.
On the ultimate end of our ultimate enemy he adds,
      There is a well-worn rule of playwriting that goes like this: if you introduce a gun in the first act, it must get fired in the last. And because God is an excellent storyteller, what has been suggested in the first act (Gen. 3:15) shows up in the last:
       And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. . . . [A]nd the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Rev. 20:2, 10)
On faith,
      Faith is an empty vessel. It’s an open hand. It’s an openness to be filled with Jesus. When we come to Christ in faith, we are saying, “I need you and I want you; therefore, I trust you to save me eternally.” Don’t bring any works. That’s not an empty hand. Don’t bring a sense of righteousness. That’s not an empty hand. Bring your messed-up, broken, sinful self. Jesus came only to save sinners. If you’re not a sinner, you can’t have Jesus.
       So, “all things are possible for one who believes” isn’t some inspirational, self-helpy Dr. Phil “keep your New Year’s resolutions” mantra. It is a promise that trusters in Christ will not be conquered.
Wilson adds five ways to battle unbelief which, coupled with his beautiful chapter on depression from Gospel Wakefulness, make a great starting point to encourage yourself and others to persist in faith and persevere even through the darkest of times.

Wilson closes with the resurrections Christ performs, culminating with the "cosmic exorcism" that was his very own resurrection from the dead.  "In the Gospels, we are viewing the kingdom of God coming into the world through the works and words of his Son, Jesus Christ, and he is steadily and certainly filling all things (Eph. 4:10). He fills even the grave with life."

     What may happen when the miracle of the gospel lands squarely in your heart, when it becomes real, the reality that God—as in, God—loves you?
... As it pertains to having the living God draw near to us, the experience of fear and trembling assumes it is truly God and the glorious Christ we have encountered and not some pitiful caricature. The god of the prosperity gospelists is a pathetic doormat, a genie. The god of the cutesy coffee mugs and Joel Osteen tweets is a milquetoast doofus like the guys in the Austen novels you hope the girls don’t end up with, holding their hats limply in hand and minding their manners to follow your lead like a butler—or the doormat he stands on. The god of the American Dream is Santa Claus. The god of the open theists is not sovereignly omniscient, declaring the end from the beginning, but just a really good guesser playing the odds. The god of our therapeutic culture is ourselves, we, the “forgivers” of ourselves, navel-haloed morons with “baggage” but not sin. None of these pathetic gods could provoke fear and trembling.
Wilson continues,
 But the God of the Scriptures is a consuming fire (Deut. 4:24)...This is the God who leads his children by a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. This is the God who makes war, sends plagues, and sits enthroned in majesty and glory in his heavens, doing what he pleases. This is the God who, in the flesh, turned tables over in the temple as if he owned the place. This Lord God Jesus Christ was pushed to the edge of the cliff and declared, “This is not happening today,” and walked right back through the crowd like a boss. This Lord says, “No one takes my life; I give it willingly,” as if to say, “You couldn’t kill me unless I let you.” This Lord calms the storms, casts out demons, binds and looses, and has the authority to grant us the ability to do the same. The Devil is this God’s lapdog.
       And it is this God who has summoned us, apprehended us, saved us. It is this God who has come humbly, meekly, lowly, pouring out his blood in infinite conquest to set the captives free, cancel the record of debt against us, conquer sin and Satan, and swallow up death forever.
This is a great book worth reading and sharing.  Short, clear, fun, encouraging.  Get one, gift one.  It is money and time well spent.

You can download a sample of the work here.  Be careful though.  While the sample is free, it will ultimately cost you the price of a book because it is hard to read some of this one and not want the whole thing!


“Into a world where naturalism is the prevailing philosophy, Jared Wilson casts a fresh vision for the wonder-working power of the God-man, Jesus of Nazareth. This biblically engaging, Christ-exalting, and never-boring book deserves your close and attentive reading.”
—Sam Storms, Lead Pastor for Preaching and Vision, Bridgeway Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

“Christianity is supernatural. We read the Bible and see God doing things that can’t be explained rationally. That is the God we long for, One who can do extraordinary things in and around our ordinary lives. But Christianity is about God, not just what God does. I love this book, because Jared Wilson helps us worship the miracle worker, and not settle for just wanting and worshiping miracles.”
—Darrin Patrick, Lead Pastor, The Journey, St. Louis, Missouri; Vice President, Acts 29; Chaplain to the St. Louis Cardinals; author, The Dude's Guide to Manhood
“Could it be that Jesus’s miracles were not the paranormal, but actually the true normal breaking into our world of paranormal sin corruption? Wilson gets to the biblical heart of why Jesus performed miracles—these harbingers of God’s mission to set right all that has gone so terribly wrong. Along the way, Wilson helps us hear what Jesus has to say to enlightened postmoderns, skeptics demanding apologetic proofs, and the paranormally fascinated. A soul-refreshing, gospel-drenched read.”
—Jon BloomPresident, Desiring God; author, Not by Sight and Things Not Seen

From the Publisher:
Do you believe in miracles?
Walking on water. Multiplying the fish and the loaves. Raising Lazarus from the dead. The miracles of Jesus may be well known, but they’re often misunderstood. In The Wonder-Working God, pastor Jared Wilson wants to help us see that there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to the miraculous events recorded in the Gospels.
From the humble wonder of the incarnation to the blinding glory of the transfiguration, this book shows how Jesus’s miracles reveal his divinity, authority, and ultimate mission: restoring us and this world to a right relationship with God.

* I received an ARC of this work from the publisher to offer a review.

John Updike, “Seven Stanzas at Easter"

      Make no mistake: if He rose at all

       it was as His body;

       if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules

       reknit, the amino acids rekindle,

       the Church will fall....

       Let us not mock God with metaphor,

       analogy, sidestepping transcendence;

       making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the

       faded credulity of earlier ages:

       let us walk through the door.

       The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,

       not a stone in a story,

       but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow

       grinding of time will eclipse for each of us

       the wide light of day.

       And if we will have an angel at the tomb,

       make it a real angel,

       weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,

       opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen

       spun on a definite loom.

       Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,

       for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,

       lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are

       embarrassed by the miracle,

       and crushed by remonstrance.

John Updike, “Seven Stanzas at Easter"

Sunday, July 20, 2014


P&R Publishing continues to release solid, edifying, interesting works on a regular basis. A new series of booklets seeks to aid the Church in embracing “secular” disciplines as areas of study that belong to God and should not be forfeited to the naturalist.

"The Faithful Learning series invites Christian students to dive deeper into a modern academic discipline. The authors, scholars in their fields, believe that academic disciplines are good gifts from God that, when understood rightly, will give students the potential to cultivate a deeper love for God and neighbor."

One of these works is by James Spiegel and sets out to show exactly what Athens has to do with Jerusalem and why “rigorous philosophical study is actually crucial for heeding Paul’s counsel” in Colossians 2:8.

Spiegel focuses mostly on the 20th century and showing recent developments in secular philosophy and the Christian response as well as unique Christian contributions to the world of philosophy.  He starts by showing the roots of logical positivism in the 1920’s and, although it had a relatively short shelf life, the residual “hyper-empiricistic, anti-metaphysical bent “that remained after its demise.  He also goes over philosophical behaviorism of Wittingstein and Ryle and the prominent and influential work of atheist Anthony Flew and his subsequent conversion to theism.  Spiegel moves quickly to the work of Alvin Plantinga, his God and other Minds, and the rise of reformed epistemology (the argument that belief in God is properly basic), and Nagel’s work on the problem of the mind to strict materialist.

Spiegel not only highlights Plantinga work and reformed epistemology but also his advice to Christian philosophers on how to interact with the philosophy community at-large.  Plantinga encourages the Christian philosopher to exhibit more autonomoy from the philosophy world, exhibit more integrity that all those around them, and exhibit more courage or Christian confidence on their work.  Spiegel, using the example of other Christian philosophers and what has contributed to their success also encourages the Christian philosopher to be resourceful, shrewd, and irenic in their interactions with others.  

 This is a great introductory booklet to really generate interest in philosophy and the role of the Christian in this discipline.

From the back cover:
Socrates, Plato, Aristotle . . . great philosophers have a lasting impact.  For them, words and ideas are power. They can turn a phrase inside out and flip an argument on its head. They can put a spin on the world. But this power may be used wrongly—and the best response is not to avoid it, but to learn how to use it rightly! In the words of the apostle Paul, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy.” Are you ready to match wits?

James Spiegel insists that studying philosophy is not only intriguing and mind-opening, but also crucial to following Paul’s counsel. Find out how you can navigate ideas as a philosopher and distinguish between human wisdom and the wisdom of God. 

*I received a review copy from the publisher through Netgalley...but then I bought a copy.  Take that for what it is worth.  I really enjoyed this little book.