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Why I blog

I need to write. If I dont write, I dont think that I think--at least not thoroughly. Thus this blog is simply an outlet for me to think. My goal is to be thinking about those things and only those things that are in line with Philippians 4:8.

I'm Currently Reading

Reading a book does not imply that I agree with the books, condone it, like it, or recommend it. Keep visiting the site, as I hope to publish reviews of my readings along with select quotes from each book as I finish it and digest its contents.

Gospel and Mission in th Writings of Paul

Spiritual Reformation

A Practical Grammar For Classical Hebrew

Whiter Than Snow

Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept

Toward an Exegetical Theology

Spiritual Depression: It's Causes and Cure

A Theology of the New Testament

New Testament Introduction

Stuff

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Timothy Brindle: Killing Sin

I have been loving Timothy Brindle's second album Killing Sin, for many months now. You know a cd's gonna be good when it's
  • based on mortification of sin making frequent use of John Owen
  • Tracklist looks like a collection of Puritan sermons and books including: "Pressing Into the Kingdom" (Edwards), Power of the Holy Spirit (Ryle), Sinfulness of Sin (Venning), Preciousness of time (Edwards)
  • Sample John Piper Sermons
  • Encourages us to greater holiness by pointing us to Christ

Brindle has given us a great gift in Killing Sin. For 16 tracks, he describes sin as wickedly detestable and Christ as utterly desirable. From Sinfulness of sin: "Sin is any thought that's not morally pure, sin is loving anything else more than the Lord, sin is breaking his laws, breaking his commands, sin is hatred for God, it's blatantly satanic." Sin is revealed for the disgusting thing that it is, often likened to excrement. But Brindle recognizes that revealing sin for what it is is not sufficient. Romans 6 is often referenced, proclaiming that we are to kill sin and not sin because Christ has already freed us from the dominion of sin and made us His slaves to righteousness. So each song is filled with gospel promises. The joy of obedience to Christ is proclaimed as superior pleasure to endulging in sin. Sin is to be fought and we are to press into the kingdom, not by being perfect, but by "rocking [Christ's] righteousness as our banner." The album reveals Brindle's deep knowledge of the Bible's teaching regarding sin, salvation, and sanctification. He effectively takes the heart-changing biblical theology of the Puritans and makes it memorable as he sets it to rhyme and rhythm.

If you are unfamiliar with gospel/holy hip-hop, I recommend you first go get Shai Linne's Atonement and let him preach the gospel to you. And then get Brindle's Killing Sin. I praise God for Timothy Brindle and the effect that this cd has had on me in my battle to kill sin in me:

Pressing Into the Kingdom: "Rocking righteousness as my banner"

The Humility of Christ

The Excellency of Christ: "This is the ultimate remedy against sin and temptation-namely knowing, enjoying, and worshiping Jesus Christ and his many excellencies"

Let's Kill Sin:

The Sinfulness of Sin:

Review: Keeping the Heart by John Flavel

Puritan John Flavel (1630-1691) in Keeping the Heart (originally titled: A Saint Indeed or The Great Work of a Christian Opened and Pressed) has proven to be a steady and timely friend to me over the last year. This book has been a near constant companion during that time and I have made my way through it a number of times. I suppose that I am familiar enough with the book now to write a review so that others may be encouraged to spend time with this heart-shepherding work as well; however, I in no way do I feel that I have mastered its contents or the practice of them. I am convinced though that this book will prove to me to be a lifelong companion whose true worth I could only underestimate.

Using Proverbs 4:23 (“Keep your heart with all vigilance for from it flow the springs of life.”), Flavel creates a treatise designed for all professing Christians. The aim is that the contents of the heart be laid bare, so that sin which is present is seen as sin and dealt with as a believer should and that the heart be guided to be pure in its devotion and affection for God. He does this, not with law, but by constantly pointing the believer to God's grace as the grounds and means for his sanctification. Flavel is not content to merely convey information, rather, with each point he carefully takes aim at your very soul and deftly fires shot after gospel-saturated, God-glorifying shot. Make sure you read this book slowly and prayerfully, allowing each purifying blow to have its full affect on your heart.

The treatise is basically broken down into four sections:

  1. What keeping the heart presupposes” (Six statements describing what is basic in keeping the heart).

  2. Why keeping the heart is a great business” (Six statements and their exposition explaining why the life of a Christian should be described as a life of “keeping their heart”)

  3. Special seasons for keeping the heart” (104 specific pieces of advice particularly tailored for 12 seasons of life in which special diligence is necessary to guard the heart)

  4. Uses” of means in keeping the heart (Examples and guidelines on using information, exhortation, direction, and consolation in the keeping of the heart).

Keeping the Heart is a work that is difficult to navigate without seeing the “big picture” of what Flavel is setting out to do. I therefore recommend you acquire a copy that includes the “Outline” by Maureen Bradley (The Soli Deo Gloria edition includes this). Each of the statements, seasons, or uses alluded to in describing the structure of the work has many subpoints underneath it. I would recommend in your reading that you decide to either read one statement/season/use at a time (roughly 10 pages a piece, although they vary dramatically), or to use it devotionally in much smaller chunks by reading one subpoint at a time. After your first time through the work, you will then be able to quickly navigate to the heart-shepherding help that is particular to your struggle or circumstance.

You will be well-served to read Keeping the Heart, working through the 17th century language (Flavel is not nearly as difficult as many other Puritans and the Soli Deo Gloria edition has helpfully modernized spelling, formatting, and grammar) and work diligently to guard your heart with the help of this proven guide.

Keywords: flavel,review

Review: The Cross He Bore by Frederick Leahy (5/5 Stars)

With only 83 pages and 13 chapters Leahy's The Cross He Bore is pregnant with thought-provoking and soul-humbling truth that caused me often to just cry out as a beggar to God in awe, in love, in gratefulness, and in humble pleading for faith and grace.

Basically what Leahy does in this book is walk the reader through Christ's last hours on earth, His Passion. Dealing in 13 chapters with different aspects and scenes from those hours, the divinity of Christ and His humanness are both kept sharply in focus. The sin of mankind both for which Christ was dying and the sins of those who directly took part in His murder are not deminished, but neither is the fact that "It was the will of the Lord to crush him" that it was the Lord who "has put him to grief" (Isaiah 53:10).

I recommend that you read this book in a quiet place with little destraction with your Bible by your side. Read it one chapter at a time and then sit and re-read, and pray. Let the Spirit take you back to the foot of the cross where you gaze up at your only hope, the King of the universe hanging in misery, damnation, and ultimately victory. Look at the cross he bore and realize that with such a high price to secure our salvation, anything that we hope to add or to repay will only be an insult to His gift, diminishing its value and His glory. Let the Spirit take you to the foot of the cross where you realize who we are, we are all beggars.

Keep reading

Keywords: cross,leahy

Review: The Cross: The Pulpit of God's Love by Iain Murray

The Cross: The Pulpit of God's Love by Iain Murray is such a refreshing treatment of the atonement. Unashamedly proclaiming the definite (limited) aspect of the atonement while trumpeting the universality of the invitation to be reconciled to God, Murray presents the atonement as what it is, the only hope for fallen mankind, purchased in time at the cross, applied to us when when we were impotent to do anything to save ourselves. The book is replete with quotes from the likes of John Owen, Charles Spurgeon, John Calvin, and other Puritans.

Murray challenges the reader to consider the atonement in the proportions and ways that the Bible speaks of it. He discourages logical wanderings and "what ifs" related to the atonement. To the degree that the Bible does not reconcile the universality of the invitation and the definite nature of the atonement, Murray encourages the reader to not speculate. Rather, we are to view the atonement as it exists, in action, by saving sinners. We are to see the preciousness of the cross that purchased this atonement.

At only 36 pages, the book is a very easy read and very accessible. Quotes, skillfully woven together, comprise about half of the book's content. Whether you believe and love the doctrine of definite (limited) atonement or are troubled by it, I would recommend this book to help you see this doctrine as the Bible speaks of it, no more, no less.

Keywords: atonement,cross

Review: Hebrew Tutor Software (3/5 Stars)

Hebrew Tutor is a program that will basically give you the equivalence of a first semester seminary-level course in Hebrew. Beginning with the alphabet and ending by translating the book of Ruth, Hebrew Tutor seeks to give you basically one-on-one tutoring with audio and text lessons, drills, and quizzes. It can be purchased from Amazon or Westminster Bookstore.

The problems arise relating to the technology. Hebrew Tutor was created in 1997 and has not been updated since 1997...and it shows. The fonts that come with the program are not compatible with modern operating systems (XP/Vista, so in order to run the program you will need to contact the publisher, or as in my case the seminary using the program in order to even get the fonts to appear semi-correctly). Even with updated fonts many screens simply do not show all of the letters appropriately (Many only show half the letter). This is not enough to render the program useless by any means.

A second problem that arises is that the program is written for a 16-bit operating system. Most modern computers (running XP or Vista) are 32-bit and can run a 16-bit program without a problem. The computer from which I am writing this review and an increasing number of machines are 64-bit systems. At this time, 64-bit Windows simply cannot run a 16-bit program, so I need to go to a separate computer in order to run Hebrew Tutor.

Finally, the since the program is old, it looks old and runs like an old program. When it was written, gigabyte-sized hard drives were just coming into use, so it was unfeasible to have the 500 MB of files on the cd copied onto the hard drive for quicker access. The problem with this slower access to the program's data files is that the program runs very slowly (By modern standards), needing to fire up the cd-rom, find the audio file, and read the file prior to being able to pronounce any words you click on.  

Nevertheless, Hebrew Tutor has effectively served me to teach me Hebrew, with more than a little bit of frustration. I would hope that after more than a decade with a successful piece of software, Parson's would publish a more technologically up-to-date version.

Keywords: hebrew,software

Review: Worship Matters (5/5 stars)

Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God is a book written primarily for those who lead music within a church setting. The goal of the book is to give guiding prinicples and practical advice to help the music leader see the essence of what their ministry is about and do that within whatever church context they find themselves. It is available from Westminter Bookstore and Amazon.

For the worship leader: This book is a must read. I can think of no circumstance a worship leader may find himself in which he should not read this book. It is the best on the topic of which I am aware, combining into one well written, heart-shepherding book all of the good things that before you would have had to read a dozen separate books to find. The book is both practical and theological, realistic and idealistic. It is God-centered, God-exalting and man-minimizing, while realizing that man must play a role. I have only rarely seen a book that so skillfully and thoughtfully combines rich doctrine and practical advice.

For the band member: Must read. The book is not only about how to lead those who perform, but about what the goal of the music portion of the worship service must be. The book will help you evaluate and redirect your heart in what you may have grown comfortable with. Maybe you

For the pastor/elder: Must read. Know how to encourage, direct, and come alongside your worship leader. I would recommend that the worship leader, band, and pastor(s) read this book together. The book so accurately describes the Biblical vision for worship that all who are involved in how a Sunday service, smallgroup gathering, or other meeting unfold should do so in light of the thoughtful, biblically informed direction Bob Kauflin lays out. There is even a chapter specifically for non-music-oriented pastors.

For the church member: Should read. I do not lead worship; I can't even sing on pitch, but what I was gained from the book made an immediate and palpable difference in the entirety of my worship (singing, participating in the Lord's Supper, listening to the sermon, and interacting with others) on Sunday. There are certainly other books that can benefit you in this regard, but this book is certainly one that can benefit all members of the body of Christ. Wayne Grudem recommends the book with the following words, "Worship Matters is an outstanding book borth for those who lead worship and also for every Christian who wants to worship God more fully. The book is biblical, practical, interesting, wise and thorough in its treatment of the topic."

The 260 pages of Worship Matters is laid out in a very convenient manner: Each of the 32 chapters are generally 4-7 pages in length, focus on a single topic, and can easily be read in a single sitting, even for slow readers. It reads much like a devotional and could easily be read in one month using only 10-15 minutes per day.

The book is broken into four parts:

Part 1: The Leader - Focusing on what kind of man the worship leader must be, touching on the heart, mind (doctrine), hands (practice & skill), and life.

Part 2: The Task. Each chapter takes a phrase from Kauflin's definition of a worship leader to define his task:

A faithful worship leader
magnifies the greatness of God in Jesus Christ
through the power of the Holy Spirit
by skillfully combining God's Word with music,
thereby motivating the gathered church
to proclaim the gospel,

to cherish God's presence
and to live for God's glory.

Part 3: Healthy Tensions - Bob identifies that many of the debates that surround music in churches tend to polarize people and points out that as a response to incorrect emphasis placed on one aspect of worship, that aspect may be neglected and too much weight given to the other extreme. We should rather see the wisdom in each of the two poles and using Scripture as a guide find ourselves in a healthy tension between them not as a response. The poles discussed, each in a chapter are:

  • God's transendence and immanence
  • Head and Head
  • Internal and External
  • Vertical and Horizontal
  • Planned and Spontaneous
  • Rooted and Relevant
  • Skilled and Authentic
  • For the Church and For Unbelievers
  • Event and Everyday

Part 4: Right Relationships - Lays out some biblical guidelines and practical advice for how the various groups of people and the worship leader can interact in the most edifying, God-glorifying way possible. Groups addressed are people in general, the church, the worship team, and the pastor. The book finishes with a chapter written specifically for the pastor(s) of the church.

I cannot sum up my thoughts any better than D.A. Carson did in his endorsement: "Here is a rare book: a practical treatment of corporate worship that nevertheless reflects deep theological commitments. One may disagree here and there with some of the judgments, but it is demonstrably unfair to imagine that Bob Kauflin has not through about these matters deeply." Bob's life and ministry at sovereign grace have demonstrated that he is a worship leader and pastor from whom we want to learn. C.J. Mahaney writes, "I know of no man more qualified to write this book than Bob. And I know of no more important, useful work for those who would lead God's people than Worship Matters." I agree.

Bob Kauflin blogs regularly at worshipmatters.com. Worship God Live and other Sovereign Grace Music cds are great examples of the music he writes and leads at Covenant Life Church. The author will be hosting a conference called WorshipGod08 July 30-August 2, 2008.

Keywords: kauflin,music,worship

Review: When Sinners Say I Do by Dave Harvey

Dave Harvey begins When Sinners Say I Do by making sure that you understand the doctrine of sin...the root of which is that you recognize that you are a sinner. Recognizing that both members of any marriage are sinners, have always been sinners, and forever will be sinners is a key place to start. Far too often we recognize that proposition (both spouses are sinners) to be a true theoretically true statement, but practically we act as if the other is the greater sinner. Harvey flips this on its head: I must go into marriage (indeed, into all relationships, recognizing that I am the worst sinner that I know).

Then, after recognizing sin, we can see the solution to sin: The gospel of the free grace of God, a gospel that saves from sin, but also a gospel that provides the power for ongoing forgiveness of sin and power over sin.

The bulk of the bulk is really just a primer on how to apply the gospel to various aspects of marriage. The book is far less a book on sin in marriage than it is on the grace of the gospel applied to marriage.

For this reason, ever since I first recommended this book, it is the first recommendation that I give to anybody looking for "marriage help". It is the first book I give to couples before they are married who are looking for a book to read together to prepare them for marriage. It would be the first book I give to a couple in a super healthy marriage. And it would be a book I would recommend to a single without even a potential mate who is trying to think rightly about dating and marriage.

Until we see the ravaging effects of sin on marriage - until I see the ravaging affects of MY sin on MY marriage - I won't recognize God's grace as the solution; I will be tempted to settle for the cheap fixes peddled in most other marriage books out there. My greatest problem isn't compatibility, lack of intimacy, or dulled romance; it is sin. And the solution is therefore first and foremost the gospel. Read this book to see how that fleshes itself out.

When you've finished this book, then I recommend you move onto the other best books on marriage I've read:
1. Love That Lasts: When Marriage Meets Grace
2. Feminine Appeal For women; Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God: What Every Christian Husband Needs to Know For men.

Keywords: marriage

John Piper Sermon Manuscript Library for Libronix / Logos Bible Software

Even though every sermon manuscript in the John Piper Sermon Manuscript Library is available for free from DesiringGod.org , the Manuscript Library is worth the cost:

1. Available where there is no internet connection.

2. Searchable: The powerful search features of Logos will help you find appropriate sermons and excerpts from sermons quickly. I have discovered numerous gems that God has used to affect me relating to a certain passage or topic since I have owned this software that I would never have been aware were even available before.

3. Key-linked: Piper makes extensive reference to Bible verses throughout his sermon manuscripts, and often I have been guilty of not looking up the verses simply because it was too much work. Now, I can just hover my mouse over the references and the verse pops up.

4. Seamless integration with the way I study: My study of the Bible occurs almost exclusively now with Libronix (Logos Bible Software). I have searchable and quick access to all my study notes, multiple versions including original languages, commentaries, and thousands of books. I have found that if I have a resource and it isn't in Libronix it just isn't accessed because of the added work of checking that resource.

Scholar's Library - Logos Bible Software 3For these reasons, I highly recommend The John Piper Sermon Manuscript Library. If you don't own Libronix already, the best way to start is with one of the collections

Keywords: libronix,logos,piper

My Recommended Christmas Gifts: Books

It is no question that I like books, and if you can probably expect that if you are getting a Christmas present from me, it will be a book. I'm sure that many of you write this off as, "Jacob, just because you love books doesn't mean that everybody should love books." I recognize that my bibliophilia is a little more extreme than average, but I think that my desire to give books as gifts does have a little more to it than just, "I love books; you should too."

Behind each book that I give, there is quite a bit of thought. If you are giving books, think about what books you are giving and to whom you are giving them. As I consider your life, your strengths, your weakness, your season of life, I may wish that I could sit down with you for hours upon hours of uninterupted time. But alas, we don't have that many hours together and I am not able to say clearly all that I wish to say. Rather, my mind runs to books, to authors with whom I have sat for hours upon hours. I consider what these authors have taught me, how they have affected me and I long for that for you too. So I give you a book. So each book gift has much thought behind it. I pray right now that if you get a book(s) from me for Christmas, God would draw you to himself or deepen the depth of love and faith in the relationship He already has with you.

Likewise, if you want to get me a gift for Christmas, I ask for a book (here's my Amazon wishlist) and I pray that the same effect would be had for me as a result of your gift.

Nevertheless, many have asked me, "What book should I get for my husband?" or "What book should I get for my wife?". So while I might give you specific advise, here's the best books that I have read for general heart-loving, gift-giving purposes:

  1. ESV Journaling Bible (black; terra-cotta sage; plum; Natural Brown Leather - My #1 pick for Christmas)
  2. Keeping the Heart by John Flavel
  3. Humility by C.J. Mahaney
  4. When Sinners Say I Do by Dave Harvey
  5. Love that Last by Gary and Betsy Ricucci
  6. The Cross He Bore by Frederick Leahy
  7. God Is the Gospel by John Piper
  8. The Pleasures of God by John Piper
  9. Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper
  10. When I Don't Desire God by John Piper
  11. Living the Cross-Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney
  12. The Gospel and Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever
  13. Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney (For the women)
  14. Shopping for Time by Carolyn Mahaney, et al.
  15. The Cross of Christ by John Stott
  16. Worship God Live by Sovereign Grace Music
Not convinced? Go read Unashamed Workman's 20 Reasons to Read and then come back and buy some of these for yourself or that special someone in your life.

Keywords: books,christmas,reading

MacArthur's Tale of Two Sons on PreOrder

I first heard John MacArthur preach on the Parable of the Prodigal Son at Resolved a couple years ago; I even liveblogged a summary of it. I remember it as one of the most impactful sermons that I have ever heard, revealing God's self-shaming love demonstrated in saving me, in a way that moved my heart to love him more deeply. I am excited that I stumbled across the preorder page of the new book based on the sermon (sermon can be downloaded here; transcript here): A Tale of Two Sons (in Spanish: Memorias de Dos Hijos)

I cannot wait to read this book (If anyone from PR at Nelson reads this, as a top-1000 I'd be happy to do a prepublication review of the book, just send me a copy :-))

Keywords: macarthur

The Great Elephant, Reviewed By Expository Thoughts

A few months ago I would have clicked next as fast as my little mouse could carry me if I saw a post on one of my frequented blogs about a children's book. But now as I am a father, still waiting for my baby to pop out of my wife though, I seem to be strangely drawn to children's books with visions of cuddling up on my reading chair for hours at a time. I doubt his/her attention span for books will be anything like mine, but for now, I'll let my dreams live. 

So anyway, Expository Thoughts posts a review about what sounds like a pretty cool children's book written and illustrated by Nik Ranieri with a foreword by John MacArthur: The Great Elephant. Nik has been an animator for Disney, so the art will obviously be superb. But what about the content? Well, Nik says it's excellent too. I guess I'll have to put The Great Elephant. next to The Jesus Storybook Bible on the shelf in my growing collection of books for my child that isn't even born yet:

Nik Ranieri has accomplished what few could or will ever do. He is an award winning Disney animation artist who has contributed to classics like Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, and The Emperor’s New Groove. What’s even better is that Nik has employed his amazing artistic ability for the glory of God.

If you’ve ever wondered what Disney animation and redemptive content would look like married together then Nik’s children’s book The Great Elephant should answer your curiosity. The story follows a young mouse named Quinn who goes on a journey in search of “the great elephant.” Along the way, Quinn meets a vast assortment of characters who challenge his trust and even a snake that persuades the young mouse to take a “wide road.” This being an allegory, we learn that there is more to this “elephant” than meets the eye.

Many allegories are short-sighted and leave very little to the imagination or for further discovery. Ranieri, however, manages to plot the story at a good pace. Our three year old holds on to every word and can practically finish every sentence. The illustrations are what you would expect from a Disney professional and offer more detail than any book on my kid’s bookshelves. The Great Elephant lays a great foundation through child-friendly literary eloquence. Your kids will want to read it again and again and it’s rare for adults when a children’s book doesn’t wear thin after repeated readings. I highly recommend this great book, The Great Elephant.

Keywords: childrens_book,review,the_great_elephant

Review: The Gospel & Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever

Mark Dever writes to help a Christian who is convinced that he or she needs be evangelizing know how to and how not to. The Gospel and Personal Evangelism is a good implementation of that goal. In fact, it is page-for-page the best book on evangelism that I have read written in the last 100 years. Dever's personal friend, C.J. Mahaney, writes in the foreword, "Mark, thank you for writing The Gospel and Personal Evangelism. THank you even more for your compelling example of compassion for the lost and for your faithfulness to proclaim Jesus Christ and him crucified. May there be many gosepl conversations and abundant evangelistic fruit as a result of this book." I echo those sentiments. Thank you, Mark.

Among evangelicals, there are generally two common incrrect responses to Jesus' call to evangelize the nations. One, ignore it. Two, preach something that isn't the gospel, say that we are evangelizing, and then count people as conversions before there is any evidence of faith besides a confession that they want to go to heaven. This book tackles both common errors, rather trying to cultivate a biblically informed, gospel-motivated, Spirit-empowered heart that proclaims the good news of Jesus Christ with a balance of honesty, urgency, and joy.

The chapter titles give a good summary of what the book is about. Each chapter is usually between 10 and 15 pages and would make a good daily reading for personal edification or reading for a group study (I am seriously thinking about going through this book with my church smallgroup):

  1. Why Don't We Evangelize?
  2. What Is the Gospel?
  3. Who Should Evangelize?
  4. How Should We Evangelize?
  5. What Isn't Evanglism?
  6. What Should We Do After We Evangelize?
  7. Why Should We Evangelize?
  8. Conlusion: Closing the Sale (We are not salesmen)
  9. Appendix: Recommended Reading
  10. Appendix: Word to Pastors

Mark Dever writes to affect the heart. Evangelism devoid of the correct motivation does not give God the glory, will tend to be legalistic, and doesn't aim for disciples but numbers. I would love to go chapter-by-chapter through the book giving highlights of each, as there is not a weak chapter in the entire book. I have posted and will continue to post some quotes from the book on my blog. Just search for "Dever Evangelism". I will say that two of the most helpful points of the book are (1) Differentiate evangelism from the fruits of evangelism, and (2) We are not salesmen who need to "close the deal" but witnesses.

Dever has effectively engaged my heart and affected the way that I think about evangelism and has begun to affect the way that I have patterned my life in order that I can build a lifestyle of evangelism. I hope and pray that time will tell by my life that this book deserves the 5-star rating that I have given it.

Keywords: dever,evangelism

Review: Safe In the Arms of God by John MacArthur

My wife and I rushed to the emergency room early last week for what the doctors are calling "threatened miscarriage." When I asked myself, "What would happen to our baby if he/she died," I couldn't give an answer from Scripture that I was convinced was God's position on the matter. As I asked myself the question, I had to honestly respond, "I don't know."  My hope is that all would go to heaven, even though we're all fallen, but that means very little if that's not how God sees it. So I picked up a copy of John MacArthur's book, Safe in the Arms of God: Truth from Heaven About the Death of a Child (actually I downloaded a copy from Logos for Libronix). MacArthur writes in the second chapter regarding our approach in answering that question:

"When we look into the grave of a little one, we must not place our hope or trust in a false promise, in an unbiblical theology, in the instability of sentimentalism, or in the cold analysis of human logic. Rather, we must look to what God's Word has to say on the matter."

John MacArthur spends 170 short pages trying to do just that, look to God's Word on the matter. When he does so he responds as he did on Larry King Live when asked the same question: "Instant heaven."

The book may not read like a typical "mourning" book. It is not full of well-intentioned, positive platitudes whose sole intention is to bring comfort with little though of what is true or not. No, the point throughout the book is to say, "This we know is true, take comfort in this." This is the approach we must take. Comfort devoid of truth is deception; comfort rooted in truth yields true peace. That being said that book is appropriate and comforting; not the theology of classrooms or studies, but the theology of the knowledge of God who is active in all of our life. If you have lost a child, may lose a child, or know anybody who has, I do recommend this book.

Keep reading

Keywords: abortion,bereavement,death,heaven,infant,mourning

Review: Message of the Old Testament - Promises Made by Mark Dever

As I have made my way through the Bible, I have been weekly interacting with Mark Dever in his two summary-of-the-Bible books, Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made and Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept. For the last many years Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, has periodically preached single messages covering an entire book of the Bible. Modified transcripts of these sermons make up the bulk of the content of these two books.

Trying to reveal the intent and message of the author of each book and God's design for how that message would fit into the whole of the Bible and redemptive history, Dever attempts to fly us above the details to get the big picture of the Bible. Message of the Old Testament opens with a chapter on the big picture of the Bible. Then, he follows with a chapter on the overarching theme of the Old Testament, which he summarizes as "Promises Made". Finally, grouping the books of the Old Testament into groups (i.e. Pentateuch: "The Great Story", Historical Books: "The Other Millennium", Wisdom Books: "Ancient Wisdom", Major Prophets: "Big Hopes", and Minor Prophets, "Eternal Questions") he delves into the message of each book, each having its own chapter of approximately 20-25 pages apiece.

How helpful is this book! Rightly, we are directed to dig deep into a text, and we have this modeled in excellent expository sermons that may spend weeks on a single verse and years on a single verse. This type of expository preaching is good; it is right, and it is to be emulated in personal study. But without Dever's model, the Christian may be very prone to lose his or her way. If we truly want to know the God of the Bible we must know His message, and in order to know God's message in a single verse we must know the message of the chapter, and to know the message of the chapter, we must know the message of the book, and to know the message of the book we must know the message of the Bible.

I imagine what Dever is doing is similar to how I play with the map program, Google earth. Sometimes to better understand what I'm looking at up close, I need to zoom out. We must be in the habit of doing this, and that is exactly what Dever does: He zooms us out. He describes what he is doing as flying over the Biblical landscape rather than walking (or crawling) through it.

Not only is the concept of the book an excellent one, but so is the implementation. This book has been years in the making. Written with knowledge and precision of the scholar, but at a level that a lay Christian can easily understand, I know of no other resource like this that I can recommend as highly. The hours and hours of hard work, reading, prayer, and research that went into each sermon is evident. Each chapter, full of excellent content and providing a good introduction and expository summary of the book, is made even better by the pastoral bent of the work. Dever will not settle for mere knowledge, but pushes the knowledge all the way to the heart, with the hope that the reader will love the Holy, redeeming, loving, and self-giving God that His Word reveals.

Beginning in December 2006, I have been leading my smallgroup on a study through the entire Bible, focusing on one book of the Bible for 2 weeks at a time. We have been using Message of the Old Testament as a supplement to our daily reading and study precisely for all the reasons stated above. The consensus of the more than 20 people who have likewise been weekly interacting with Dever is "Excellent". You would do well to purchase this book and make good and slow use of it. I do not have the same level of familiarity with the Message of the New Testament that I have with this one but will post a review of it as soon as I do; I expect that it is more of the same (but I can tell you that just the foreword by John MacArthur makes it worth the price).

Here are some good purchase options:

  • Amazon: get free shipping with no tax.
  • Good News Publishers: Get a Free PDF with purchase. It's more expensive here, but the book is thick (960 pages) and a digital copy might be worth the cost.
  • Westminster Books: A Little Cheaper, $5 shipping, but save money if you add other books to the order

Keywords: bible,dever,old_testament

New eBook Reader from Adobe

I highly recommend you download Adobe's relatively new ebook reader: Adobe - Digital Editions. It makes reading pdf ebooks very easy on the eyes. I used to hate reading ebooks in pdf format because it was somewhat cumbersome. Now that I've been using Adobe Digital Editions, I find myself preferring to read pdf copies to physical copies.

DesiringGod has released some of Pipers books and other resources for free in pdf format, Sovereign Grace has many pdf resources, and Crossway often will send you a pdf copy of a book if you purchase it directly from them (usually a little more expensive though).

Make Careful Choice of the Books Which You Read

Don Piper makes the list, John Piper doesn't. A look over the top 50 Christian authors gives a good indication of what Christians are reading. I can't help but to call to mind the Spanish dicho (saying): Por eso estamos como estamos (That's why we are how we are).

Reflecting on this list also reminds me of a Richard Baxter quote I recently read on Challies.com:

“Make careful choice of the books which you read: let the holy scriptures ever have the pre-eminence, and, next to them, those solid, lively, heavenly treatises which best expound and apply the scriptures, and next, credible histories, especially of the Church … but take heed of false teachers who would corrupt your understandings.”

Challies comments with discernment:

For every good book, there are five or ten (or, more likely, far more) that are fit only for the trash. Much of what is published under the banner of “Christian” is anything but. Be careful what you read, for a book can lead you astray as easily as it can lead you closer to the Lord. Find mature believers who can guide you to books and authors that will edify you.

Piper Collection on Prepub For Libronix

Minutes ago, Logos announced the prepub of a John Piper collection. It is the digital text of most of Piper's major works. If you can afford it and are able to read well on a computer screen, this is highly recommended as it will give a high degree of searchability and interactivity to the text making already profitable text, that much better. Combine this with the recent announcement of a sermon collection, and Libronix just became the best place to read Piper.

I do note however that some books are missing from this collection, which I wish were there and hope will be added before it goes to final publication. Among the missing are:

Beyond the Bounds & Pleasures of God were previously published by Logos in Libronix format, so if you own those (like me), I think you're just buying the same resource twice. I hope that they'll let us gift it if we have purchased two copies. Nevertheless, this is an excellent value for resources even more useful digitally than in paper-and-ink format.

John Piper Books

John Piper Sermon Manuscripts in Libronix

Scholar's Library - Logos Bible Software 3I was working slowly but surely on copying and pasting all of John Piper's sermons into a Libronix Personal Book so that I could use the powerful search features of Libronix to search Piper's 27 years of sermon manuscripts. Now I can delete that work because Logos is selling the exact thing that I was working on. Logos just announced the prepublication of the John Piper Sermon Manuscript Library. Even though the sermons are all available for free online at Desiringgod.org, the ability to perform more powerful searches, annotate, hover for complete text of verse references, and take the collection with me when I have no internet connection is more than reason enough for me to purchase. 

I have seen at least three John Piper collections popup and then be removed from the Logos.com prepublication feed so watch this blog for announcements of more John Piper resources in Libronix. Currently, the only other resource available is Pleasures of God (highly recommended).

There Really Is a Difference!: A Comparison of Covenant and Dispensational Theology - A Review

There Really Is a Difference! by Renald Showers is a helpful book in that the first few chapters give a cursory overview - explaining, comparing, and contrasting - of dispensational and covenant theologies. The explanation of coventant theology is definitely more cursory than that of dispensational and is primarily limited to an explanation of the writings of Berkhof from his systematic theology.The author, then explains some of his primary concerns with covenant theology (not providing the answers that a covenant theologian would give in response). Moving on in chapter 3, the author gives a more thorough but still  summary presentation of dispensational theology (with little to no space given pointing out its shortfalls). His primary point in the book is to point out that "There Really Is a Difference" between coventant and dispensational theologies. The following excerpt from the end of chapter 5 is a good summary of some of his identified major points of difference:
Three factors are indispensable to Dispensational Theology.  They clearly make Dispensational Theology distinct from Covenant Theology.  Any system of theology which does not contain all three is not dispensational in the truest sense of the term.
The first factor is the recognition of the distinction between the nation of Israel and the Church.  As noted earlier, Covenant Theology believes that the Church existed in Old Testament times and that Israel was a major part of the Church in the Old Testament.  Thus, it is convinced that Israel and the Church are essentially the same.  By contrast, Dispensational Theology believes that Israel and the Church are distinct entities.  It is convinced that although both have had special relationships with God, they are not essentially the same.  This distinction between Israel and the Church will be dealt with more in depth in a future chapter.
The second indispensable factor is the consistent use of a single hermeneutic (a single method of interpreting the Bible)—namely, the historical-grammatical method.  In this method, words are given the common, ordinary meaning which they had in the culture and time in which the passage was written.  As noted earlier, Covenant Theology employs a double hermeneutic—the historical-grammatical method for many passages but also the allegorical or spiritualizing method for a number of prophetic passages dealing with the future of Israel and the future Kingdom of God.  By contrast, Dispensational Theology is convinced that the historical-grammatical method should be employed for all of Scripture, including those prophetic passages related to Israel and the Kingdom of God.
The third indispensable factor is the recognition that the ultimate purpose of history is the glory of God through the demonstration that He alone is the sovereign God.  As noted earlier, Covenant Theology advocates that the ultimate purpose of history is the glory of God through the redemption of the elect.  By contrast, although Dispensational Theology recognizes that the redemption of elect human beings is a very important part of God’s purpose for history, it is convinced that it is only one part of that purpose.  During the course of history God is working out many other programs in addition to the program of redeeming people.  All of these programs must be contributing something to the ultimate purpose of history. Thus, the ultimate purpose of history has to be large enough to incorporate all of God’s programs, not just one of them.  Dispensational Theology proposes that the glory of God through the demonstration that He alone is the sovereign God is the only purpose capable of doing this.  It also is convinced that the Scriptures indicate that this is the ultimate purpose of history.



Moving on from the descriptions of the two systems of theologies, he tests each's interpretation of some of the bibical accounts of stated covenants that God made with man (Abrahamic, Deuteronomic, Davidic, New Covenant). He then compares and contrasts the various views on the millenium, followed by observations and teaching on the kingdom of God and the consequences that holding to each theology bears on views of the Kingdom. Finally, he speaks of the nature of the church and the relationship between law and grace.

As the book moves along it becomes less and less an attempt at a neutral comparison of the systems and more and more an argument for the supremacy of dispensational theology.

Nevertheless, I have found this book to be helpful. It is written in simple language with the most important biblical reference quoted for ease and continuity of reading. It is a well thought out defense of dispensationalism. I wish that a more even handed attempt had been made at explaining covenantal theology. It appears some straw men were built and then handily knocked over.

To conclude I have copied the Table of Contents below so that the flow of the book can be easily discerned for those considering purchasing it:
1 What Is It All About?
2 An Examination of Covenant Theology
3 An Evaluation of Covenant Theology
4 An Introduction to Dispensational Theology
5 An Examination of Dispensational Theology
6 The Abrahamic Covenant
7 The Effects of the Abrahamic Covenant Upon Israel
8 The Palestinian or Deuteronomic Covenant
9 The Davidic Covenant
10 The New Covenant
11 A Description and Early History of Millennial Views
12 The Rejection of Premillennialism and Development of Amillennialism and Postmillennialism
13 The Revival of Millennial Views
14 The Kingdom of God Concept in the Scriptures
15 The Beginning and Nature of the Church
16 The Relationship of the Christian to Law and Grace
17 The Grace Administration of God’s Moral Absolutes
18 Conclusion

 There Really Is A Difference! is available in paperback format from Amazon.com or digitally from Logos.

Polder 7178-90 3-Tier Water Bottle Caddy

I recently signed up for unlimited home water delivery with OPremium waters (I highly recommend their service if you drink a lot of water. If you're going to sign up for it give them my name, I think I get free months or something). So now I have 20 5-gallon water bottles sitting in my garage.

 I have one 3-tier waterbottle caddy and am ordering a bunch more. In case you are searching the internet for a watterbottle holder, I recommend this one and the price on Amazon is the cheapest that I have found, $30 with free shipping and no tax at the time of writing this review. I purchased my first one through Skymall. I have it set in the garage. Three bottles fit vertically in the space that one used to take. The stand is sturdy and pretty easy to put together when you receive it. It took about 5 minutes to assemble.


Be aware though that it holds the water bottles horizontally. So if your bottle has a loose fitting lid or a lid that doesn't screw on (that may be prone to popping off), this holder may not be for you. I did have one bottle whose lid wasn't screwed on well and it ended up dripping about a gallon of water on the ground slowly through the leak in the lid. Just be aware, but if you think that you have a need for a 5-gallon water bottle rack, then this is probably for you.

Nyko iBoost Battery Pack for iPod

I got a couple of Nyko iBoost Battery Packs for my 80 GB iPod video. I can charge the iBoost and sync my iPod at the same time or charge the iBoost independently. I'm pretty sure that I don't get the full 16 hours of extra audio and the 7 hours of advertised video, but I come pretty close to tripling the amount of iPodding that I can do between recharges which is perfect for vacations. Nyko did an excellent job designing the device. You can use your iPod until until the battery is almost dead, then slide it into the iBoost. The iBoost adds a little bit to the size of the iPod when connected, but not so much so that it doesn't fit in my pocket. It does keep it from fitting in my armband, however. It adds just under an inch below the iPod where the battery is housed. Less than a quarter inch is added in thickness as well. So the statement on the packaging "So slim, so light. You won't know it's there" isn't exactly true; nevertheless, it is a good device.It will not fit will for the smaller width iPods, but an attachment is included so that the thinner iPods (same width, but thinner) will fit well. As I have only been using the iBoost for a short period of time, I cannot speak to how well the lithium ion battery ages and continues to hold a charge. Nevertheless, for the price and the utility of the device, I would strongly recommend anybody who ever has had to stop using his/her iPod because the battery died get one of these.

Keywords: iPod,iBoost

Job (Word BIblical Commentary) by David Clines

Clines commentary (on chapters 1-20) will prove very helpful in a study of Job. It is a detailed, well-though-out, verse by verse exposition, offering concluding section summaries at the end of each discourse as well.

He generally presents the most common interpretations of a passage and references those who hold to various positions. This commentary is worth picking up if even just for that purpose: He shows a good knowledge of the work that precedes his on Job. Often however, his descriptions of these positions, especially when he disagrees with them, becomes muddled and summarized to the point of becoming a strawman. Nevertheless, he references well, so it is easy to find a fair description of dissenting views.The following are concerns that I have of Clines' exegesis: Clines' position on the time of Job's writing is in the 7th-2nd centuries BC. So he takes what is commonly viewed as a citation of Job in other OT writings, to be Job's author quoting other biblical authors. Although I have had a tough time finding clear indication of what Clines thinks of Job's belief in the afterlife, it seems to be consistent that he portrays Job as not believing His day before God would really ever occur (i.e. no afterlife). Furthermore, he takes 19:25 "I know that my Redeemer lives" and other passages traditonally ascribed to Job's wavering but existent faith in God's faithfulness and justice (and prophetic of Christ) as Job's expression of hope in himself and his cause.

Despite these significant concerns, I still recommend that you purchase this commentary for any serious study of Job. It is thorough, well documented, and offers good explanation of the commentators reasoning on the meaning of various passages.

Keywords: Job

Shock Hyper-Caffeinated Coffee

I recently purchase 5 pounds of Shock Hyper-caffeinated Coffee from Amazon. This coffee is more than just a hyper-caffeinated gimmick. Although it's caffeine content really isn't that much higher than other blends you might be drinking (~200 mg per cup), it still is high and I can feel the difference. But the real thing that you're probably concerned with, as I was when I first ordered this coffee, is the taste. The taste is bold and a little earthy, and really quite good with only very minimal after taste. I have had a few friends ask me what blend (thinking Starbucks) I was brewing; it was good enough to make them want to go get it.And the best part considering the great taste is the price and convenience. At this price per pound, Shock hypercaffeinated coffee is comparable to pretty much any other whole-bean quality coffee you might be buying (but probably a little cheaper is my guess). And with free shipping in a 5 pound bag to your door, you don't even have to leave home to buy your coffee. I will definitely be buying more Shock Coffee from Amazon soon...that reminds me I need to buy some coffee filters too.

Review of God's Son, Jesus Coloring Book

The 93-page coloring book, God's Son, Jesus, Coloring Book, has at least a few sentences of storytelling below each page telling step by step the story of Jesus' life from Bethlehem to the cross, resurrection, and ascension. The drawings are pretty simple and appropriate for coloring by kids of all ages who would enjoy coloring. The stories are told in simplistic language and attempting to keep the message of the story simply. At times I found myself wondering why various stories were skipped or why various details were left out. But I think that in general this was done with good discernment.My primary complaint is that there is very little from the end of Jesus' life. The Lord's Supper is skipped. The one page from Gethsemane is somewhat disappointing. There is nothing about the arrest or trial and only one picture of the cross. And post-cross there is one picture from the tomb and one from the ascension. This is very disproportionate with the detail given to Jesus' earlier life. It almost seems like the author had a 100 page limit and found himself rushing at the end to make sure that it all fit. I hope that if this is ever revised, more detail is given to this portion of Jesus' life, especially considering the importance of the cross and resurrection to Jesus' life. Nevertheless, if you are looking for a good coloring book to walk your children through the story of Jesus' life get this, recognizing that you will have to do your own teaching on a lot when it comes to the end of Jesus' life.

Norton Internet Security: No installation issues, inexpensive, functional, and still no viruses in 10 years of use!

I've written reviews in the past on Norton products. I personally, have never had any issues installing, uninstalling, reinstalling, or upgrading any Symantec product. I know that they happen and I feel for all those who have had issues. I know for many in my family who have had issues that I've had to rectify, the majority of the problems arise from installing Norton over the top of a different (or even other Symantec) security/antivirus software package.The first thing you need to do before you install this software is go to Add/Remove programs in your control panels. Remove all of the 3rd party security software you have installed (any Norton, Symantec, McAfee, Panda, Kaspersky, etc). Then Restart. You may need to restart more than once as directed by the software uninstaller. Following this procedure I have successfully installed this software without problem on more than two dozen of my own computers and probably more than two dozen of my family's and friends' computers. This seems to be one of the most complained-about issues in the other Norton Reviews.Second, price. You can pretty much always get Norton almost free. There are always twenty dollar rebates for upgrading. All you have to do is send them an old Norton (or other antivirus software) CD or box top. If you don't have one of these you can usually buy an old Norton or other security software cd on ebay for under $5. There are other rebates usually available as well tied in with Turbotax. I think this year I actually got paid $10 to buy Norton Internet Security Suite 2007 - 3 user suite. I split the 3 user licenses among other family members making it an even better deal. The 3-user package is priced almost the same as the single user package, so make sure you buy the 3-user package.

Thirdly, while the software does indeed slow the computer down, I rarely am annoyed by it. The only real problem that I have had that makes me drop my rating from 5 to 4 stars is that the process of downloading emails into outlook is slowed down quite a bit as it doesn't move onto the next message until the previous one is totally scanned. I have noticed an improvement in the functionality of Norton software since 2005 when it was particularly bloated, but still functional.

Finally, and this is the gold standard for any review I will write of an antivirus software: I have never gotten a virus almost 10 years of having computer and running Norton products. This is more than many of my friends and family can say who have tried to save money or mildly boost computer performance by going with a different package. I don't know if I can attribute this to Norton or just cautious internet use. But I do know that my computer and those computers of family members that I maintain who have had a never-lapsed Norton Antivirus software package installed have NEVER gotten a virus that was not immediately detected, quarantined, and repaired or removed. That is why I will continue protecting all of my computers with Norton Software.

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