A Very Present Help

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah (Psalm 46:1–3, ESV)

God’s Word teaches that Jesus is a “very present help in trouble.” It does not say that God is a “kind-of” help or a “far-off” help

He is very present. He is here. His presence is genuine. His help is beyond powerful.

How does he do this for his people?

  1. He listens. Our cries never weary him. Our prayers never bore him. Our pleadings for deliverance never agitate him. He takes delight in his children coming to him.
  2. He comforts. Not some patronizing pat on the head but Holy Spirit-generated deep heart-peace which is generated in heaven and rises up in your soul.
  3. He acts. When we come to God, we have come to the right Person. We have not asked a mid-level manager a question that should be directed to the CEO. We have not come to the mayor with a problem that should land on the President’s desk. We cry out to the almighty and sovereign God who orders this world.

Whether or not the answer he gives is what we are looking for, we can be assured that the prayer of faith will be answered and that his presence, his peace, and his very real help will be there when we need it.

Review of The Handy Guide to Difficult and Irregular Greek Verbs

When I see the names of scholars such as D.A. Carson, Doug Moo, Bill Mounce and Daniel Wallace attached to a scholarly work, I sit up and take notice. These and other fine scholars commend this little book, as would I. This is not a popular level book that will appeal to the masses. Rather this is a book specifically for those wishing to jump from basic Greek to becoming a more proficient reader of the Greek New Testament.

9780825444791The Handy Guide to Difficult and Irregular Greek Verbs is exactly as the title claims. It provides vocabulary aids for those transitioning out of beginning Greek but stumble over the irregular and not-so-common verb forms. As I mentioned, this little book is a great reference for those beginning to read the Greek New Testament.

Part one helpfully makes a list of all the irregular verbs occurring 10 or more times and organizes them by frequency. Part two provides and alphabetical list of verbs and includes their compounds. The appendices give further help in handling the irregularities of Greek language.

I appreciated the books brevity and easy to read layout. Many reference tools are clunky and so poorly laid out to be much good. Furthermore, many “handy guide” style books are so filled such basic Wikipedia-esque information that they are practically worthless. What I appreciated about The Handy Guide to Difficult and Irregular Greek Verbs was it’s perfect combination of brevity and genuine practicality.

For those working to get proficient in Greek, this tool would pair well with A Reader’s Greek New Testament.

Please Note: I received the book for free from Kregal in exchange for an unbiased review.

In Praise of “Cheater” Bibles

In our Sunday night Bible Study at church, we jokingly call Study Bibles (SB) “cheater” Bibles for their ability to provide on-the-spot answers to tricky questions. But the truth is, Study Bibles are a gift to the church and they are welcome blessing to any Christian’s library.

But there are many to choose from and it can be a little challenging to navigate many selections floating around there on Amazon. I did a quick survey of these reference works on my shelf (both physical books and electronic) and made a list. It is by no means exhaustive but here’s a short summary of their strengths and weaknesses.

ESV Study Bible

This is my go-to SB. If I was trapped on a desert island with only one book, the answer, of course, is the Bible. But if the rules allow me to modify my choice, I would take this beauty. The combination of notes, articles, commentary, background info, theology, maps and charts with my favorite Bible translation makes this one unbeatable. The notes are doctrinally solid. Very solid and as deep as a SB is going to go. And the graphics are second to none. Throw in the online version free and you had me at, well, free.

CSB Study Bible

This recently-published Bible is a solid addition to the Study Bible lineup. Its detailed notes, maps, beautiful photos, and word studies along with a very readable translation make this one of my new favorites.

The Reformation Study Bible

This Bible is strong on theology and packed with notes, though quite weak in background information and graphics. The variety of free electronic resources that are unlocked with the print version make this SB even more appealing.

The ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible

I recently received this Bible as a gift and have been greatly enjoying it. This SB is packed with fantastic articles and clear explanations of important Bible doctrines, while showing where those doctrines turn up in various texts.

Archeological Study Bible

This reference work includes cultural and archeological background that most of the other SB’s only mention in passing. What it lacks in commentary, the Archeological Study Bible makes up for in visually transporting you to the Holy Land.

Gospel Transformation Study Bible

The focus of this SB is the Gospel. It endeavors to show “Christ in all of Scripture and God’s transforming Grace for all of Life.” Therefore the study notes center around those very topics. While short on other SB features such as maps, charts and background, it is strong on application and points us faithfully to Christ.

The Scofield Reference Bible

The original SB courtesy of Cyrus Ingerson Scofield. This one’s a bit outdated and appeals to a very specific theological persuasion – the classic dispensationalist. It really doesn’t hold up to modern SB’s (even the updated version); however, it was groundbreaking in its day and pairs very well with the Ryrie Study Bible and Clarence Larkin’s charts.

The NKJV Study Bible

This is not a bad SB with some useful word studies and notes, however not as graphically pleasing as others and does not possess a great deal of theological depth. Plus I just don’t use the NKJV all that much.

Faithlife Study Bible

Some very good graphics in both the electronic (Logos Bible Software) and print format. A little more theologically general than I like, but includes some very helpful notes. The electronic version is free with most Logos Bible Software packages.

The Life Application Study Bible

This was one of the first SB’s our family owned and is a very accessible and well-laid-out volume. The notes and book introductions are very readable and I appreciate the character studies. However, difficult passages are watered down some as attempts to appeal to a broad evangelical audience and lacks the doctrinal oomph I would like.

The Apologetics Study Bible

As the title suggests, this Bible has a very specific focus. This will serve you if you are looking to know how to better defend the faith but is not strong on commentary or graphics.

The NIV Proclamation Bible

The focus of this Bible is unique – to help Bible teachers and preachers understand, apply and communicate the text. It lacks commentary notes, but contains some very good articles.

The NIV Lifehacks Bible

This SB contains articles/devotions designed to strengthen spiritual habits and disciplines. Not a typical SB in that it does not contain commentary or background information.

Two other SB’s that I do not own but have heard are solid are the NIV Study Bible and the Macarthur Study Bible. The former has many good notes but they are designed to appeal to a broad Christian audience. The latter is doctrinally robust, contains a number of charts, and appeals to a reformed dispensational audience. Additionally, both David Jeremiah and Chuck Swindoll have released SB’s in recent years. I have not personally perused either of these works but respect these men and their ministries.

Check out this link for a helpful chart summarizing some of these Bibles.


The Dangers of Spiritual Pride

“The first and the worst cause of errors, that prevail in such a state of things, is spiritual pride. This is the main door by which the devil comes into the hearts of those who are zealous for the advancement of religion. It is the chief inlet of smoke from the bottomless pit, to darken the mind and mislead the judgment. This is the main handle by which the devil has hold of religious persons, and the chief source of all the mischief that he introduces, to clog and hinder a work of God.—This cause of error is the main spring, or at least the main support, of all the rest. Till this disease is cured, medicines are in vain applied to heal other diseases. It is by this that the mind defends itself in other errors, and guards itself against light, by which it might be corrected and reclaimed. The spiritually proud man is full of light already, he does not need instruction, and is ready to despise the offer of it. But, if this disease be healed, other things are easily rectified. The humble person is like a little child, he easily receives instruction . . .

Pride is much more difficult to be discerned than any other corruption, because its nature very much consists in a person’s having too high a thought of himself. No wonder that he who has too high a thought of himself, does not know it; for he necessarily thinks that the opinion he has of himself has just grounds, and therefore is not too high . . .

The heart is deceitful and unsearchable in nothing so much as in this matter; and there is no sin in the world, that men are so confident in. The very nature of it is to work self-confidence, and drive away [humility].”

Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1 (Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), 398–399.

We Really Can Just Go on in

John Phillips writes:

Imagine a Moabite of old gazing down upon the tents and tabernacle of Israel from some lofty mountain height. Attracted by what he sees, he descends to the plain and makes his way toward the sacred enclosure surrounding the tabernacle. It is a high wall of dazzling linen, which reaches over his head. He walks around it until he comes to the gate, where he sees a man.

“May I go in there?” he asks, pointing through the gate to where the bustle of activity in the tabernacle’s outer court can be seen.

“Who are you?” demands the man suspiciously. Any Israelite would know he could go in there.

“I am a man from Moab,” the stranger replies.

“Well,” says the man at the gate, “I’m very sorry, but you cannot go in there. It’s not for you. The Law of Moses has barred the Moabite from any part in the worship of Israel until his tenth generation.”

The Moabite looks sad. “What would I have to do to go in there?” he insists.

“You would have to be born again,” replies the gatekeeper. “You would have to be born an Israelite. You would need to be born of the tribe of Judah, perhaps, or of the tribe of Benjamin or Dan.”

Says the Moabite, “I wish I had been born an Israelite, of one of the tribes of Israel.” As he looks more closely, he sees one of the priests, having offered a sacrifice at the brazen altar and cleansed himself at the brazen laver, go on into the tabernacle’s interior. “What’s in there?” asks the Moabite.

“Inside the main building, I mean.” “Oh,” says the gatekeeper, “That’s the tabernacle itself. Inside there is a room containing a lampstand, a table, and an altar of gold. The man you saw is a priest. He will trim the lamp, eat of the bread upon the table, and burn incense to the living God upon the golden altar.”

“Ah,” sighs the man of Moab, “I wish I were an Israelite so that I could do that. I would love to worship God in that holy place and help to trim the lamp, to offer Him some incense, and to eat at that table.”

“Oh, no,” says the man at the gate, “even I could not do that. To worship in the holy place one must not only be born an Israelite, one must be born of the tribe of Levi and of the family of Aaron.”

The man from Moab sighs again, “I wish,” he says, “I wish I had been born of Israel of the tribe of Levi of the family of Aaron.” Gazing wistfully at the closed tabernacle door, he says, “What else is in there?”

“There’s a veil,” replies his informant. “It is a beautiful veil, I’m told, which divides the tabernacle in two. Beyond the veil is what we call ‘the most holy place,’ ‘the Holy of Holies.’ ”

The Moabite is more interested than ever. “What’s in the Holy of Holies?” he asks.

“There’s a sacred chest in there called the Ark of the Covenant,” answers the gatekeeper. “It contains holy memorials of our past. Its top is made of gold and we call that the Mercy Seat because God sits there between the golden cherubim. You see that pillar of cloud hovering over the tabernacle? That’s the Shekina glory cloud. It comes to rest on the Mercy Seat.”

Again a look of longing shadows the face of the man from Moab. “Oh,” he says, “if only I were a priest! I should love to go into the Holy of Holies and there gaze upon God and worship Him there in the beauty of holiness.”

“Oh no!” says the man at the gate. “You couldn’t do that even if you were a priest! To enter into the most holy place you would have to be the high priest of Israel. Only he can go in there, nobody else, only he.”

The Moabite’s heart yearns once more. “Oh,” he cries, “if only I had been born an Israelite, of the tribe of Levi of the family of Aaron. If only I had been born the high priest! I would go in there, into the Holy of Holies. I would go in there every day. I would go in three times a day. I would worship continually in the Holy of Holies.”

The gatekeeper looks at him again and once more shakes his head. “Oh no!” he says, “You couldn’t do that. Even the high priest of Israel can go in there only once a year, and then only after the most elaborate of preparations, and even then only for a very little while.”

Sadly the Moabite turns away. He has no hope in all the world of ever entering there. (Quoted in Wilson, Jared C. (2013-07-31). The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry (pp. 171-173). Crossway. Kindle Edition.)

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19–22, ESV)

That’s right. We really can just go on in. Thanks be to Christ!


A Presidential Prayer

An excellent post from Kevin DeYoung on what believers should be praying for in Washington.

This will be short, I promise. There are only two parts to this post: a prayer and plea.

First, the prayer. It’s what I put on my blog the day after election day in 2012.

Our good, gracious, and sovereign God, we pray for the the President of the United States.

Grant him wisdom, courage, and integrity as a man and as a leader.

Keep him faithful, kind, and loving as a husband and father.

Give him a heart for the poor, concern for the powerless, and compassion for the weak.

Put before him the best information and the most intelligent counselors so he can make good decisions about economic policy and judicial appointments.

May he be guided by both courage and restraint as he commands our armed forces.

Make him a defender of the unborn, a protector of marriage, and a champion for religious liberty.

Make him a man of prayer and a daily student of the Scriptures.

Give him humility to admit his faults, forgive his enemies, and change his mind.

Lead him to a firm understanding of the truth of the gospel, a resolute commitment to obey the Word of God, and a passion to promote what accords with your truth.

By your grace, heavenly Father, may our President be a better man than so many expect and a better man than we deserve.

In the name of Jesus our Lord, let it be.

Nothing terribly controversial in that prayer, at least not for evangelical Christians. (Yes, this prayer assumes the president is a man, because that’s what the options were on election day in 2012. But let’s take the gender issue off the table for the moment.) If I’m not mistaken, everything in the prayer above is pretty standard. If you are a serious, Bible-believing, church-going, Jesus-is-coming-back, you-need-to-be-born-again, orthodox Christian, don’t you agree it’s a good idea to pray that our president be faithful, kind, humble, wise, and compassionate? I hope every evangelical Christian reading this blog can say, “Yes, I pray for those things too.”

So here’s my plea: then vote for those things. If at all possible, the candidates we endorse should not be light years away from the prayers we pray. Is there more to being an effective President of the United States than what I’ve captured in these ten petitions? Of course. But if the Lord answered our prayers and gave us a president who checked all these boxes, we’d have a president we can trust, a president we can respect, a president for whom we can give abundant thanks. If you agree with a prayer like this, look for a candidate who most readily and genuinely, as best as we can fallibly discern, embodies the things we are praying for. If evangelical Christians pray for one thing and vote for another, we’ve either lost our sense for what really matters or we’ve become too cynical to care.

Pray first. Then vote. And make sure the two are related.

Book Review: Experiencing the Trinity

Joe Thorn, in writing Experiencing the Trinity: The Grace of God for the People of God, has given a gift to the church. This little book based on what he refers to as his “dark night of the soul.” He admits he had begun to fall apart and felt he was the weakest man he knew. He writes: What follows are fifty daily readings that reflect on God and the gospel and how they overcome our fear, failure, pain, and unbelief. Much of this I preached to myself over the last couple of years, and all of it is directed toward my own heart.”

In 50 short, devotional-like chapters Thorn demonstrates how the deepest theology of scripture is immensely practical to each of us. That in the Trinity (of all places) he found the meat that nourished his soul during his weakest hours.

He states right at the beginning: “What I hope you will discover— what I continue to learn over and over again— is that all of us are far weaker than we know. Our sin, which is much darker and goes much deeper than we realize, is the real source of our most significant weakness. Neither you nor I can measure up to God’s standards. We are trapped in our condition of guilt, and the only hope is the offer of grace by our triune God.”

And that is just what he shows us.

He breaks his discussion down into the three headings of The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit.

As he discusses the attributes and ways of the Father he says, “You exist because God chose to make you. And when he made you, he made you for himself. Meditate on this. You were made for your Maker’s pleasure. You are here for the sake of Another. And this doesn’t diminish your purpose or value in life. In fact, it heightens it.”

He goes on to discuss God’s Holiness, God’s Power, God’s Presence, God’s Provision, God’s Goodness, etc.

When he moves to the next section about the Son, the focus shifts, not only to Christ’s redemptive work, but how his humanity and poverty can be such a tremendous encouragement to us.

Regarding the nearness of Jesus, he says: “The nearness of Jesus is a gift to you. You will find him to be close by when you read his Word and seek him in prayer. He is there to comfort, challenge, and change. But he is not only a gift to you, but to the church. To experience the fullness of the presence of Jesus you must walk with him and his church. He is never far from her.”

Under the discussion of the Holy Spirit, Thorn discusses how the Spirit intercedes, indwells, regenerates, fills, indwells, leads, revives, gives gifts, etc. and how each of these aspects of the Spirit’s ministry were a blessing and encouragement to him.

I highly recommend this book. It will bless you. It will encourage you when you need to be encouraged and will jolt and shake you where such are needed. It touches deep theology but is brief and clear enough that anyone could turn to it with great profit.

*Note: I received this book free from Crossway in exchange for an unbiased review.


Monday Morning Prayer: Need of Jesus

I read a powerful prayer in Valley of Vision this morning entitled: NEED OF JESUS

LORD JESUS I am blind, be thou my light,
ignorant, be thou my wisdom,
self-willed, be thou my mind.
Open my ear to grasp quickly thy Spirit’s voice,
and delightfully run after his beckoning hand;
Melt my conscience that no hardness remain, make it alive to evil’s slightest touch;
When Satan approaches may I flee to thy wounds, and there cease to tremble at all alarms.
Be my good shepherd to lead me into the green pastures of thy Word, and cause me to lie down beside the rivers of its comforts.
Fill me with peace, that no disquieting worldly gales may ruffle the calm surface of my soul.
Thy cross was upraised to be my refuge,
Thy blood streamed forth to wash me clean,
Thy death occurred to give me a surety,

Thy name is my property to save me,
By thee all heaven is poured into my heart, but it is too narrow to comprehend thy love.
I was a stranger,
an outcast,
a slave,
a rebel,
but thy cross
has brought me near,
has softened my heart,
has made me thy Father’s child,
has admitted me to thy family,
has made me joint-heir with thyself.

O that I may love thee as thou lovest me,
that I may walk worthy of thee, my Lord,
that I may reflect the image of heaven’s first-born.
May I always see thy beauty with the clear eye of faith, and feel the power of thy Spirit in my heart, for unless he move mightily in me no inward fire will be kindled.

Edited by Arthur Bennett. The Valley of Vision (Kindle Locations 2058-2079). The Banner of Truth Trust.


Marital Love in Action

Here are some excellent insights on love that I read recently in Paul Trip’s book: What Did You Expect: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage.

  1. Love is being willing to have your life complicated by the needs and struggles of your husband or wife without impatience or anger.
  2. Love is actively fighting the temptation to be critical and judgmental toward your spouse, while looking for ways to encourage and praise.
  3. Love is the daily commitment to resist the needless moments of conflict that come from pointing out and responding to minor offenses.
  4. Love is a daily commitment to admit your sin, weakness, and failure and to resist the temptation to offer an excuse or shift the blame.
  5. Love means being willing, when confronted by your spouse, to examine your heart rather than rising to your defense or shifting the focus.
  6. Love is a daily commitment to grow in love so that the love you offer to your husband or wife is increasingly selfless, mature, and patient.
  7. Love is being unwilling to do what is wrong when you have been wrong but to look for concrete and specific ways to overcome evil with good.
  8. Love is being a good student of your spouse, looking for his physical, emotional, and spiritual needs so that in someway you can remove the burden, support him as he carries it, or encourage him along the way.
  9. Love means being willing to invest the time necessary to discuss, examine, and understand the problems that you face as a couple, staying on task until the problem is removed or you have agreed upon a strategy of response.
  10. Love is always being willing to ask for forgiveness and always being committed to granting forgiveness when it is requested.
  11. Love is recognizing the high value of trusting in a marriage and being faithful to your promises and true to your word.
  12. Love is speaking kindly and gently, even in moments of disagreement, refusing to attack your spouse’s character or assaulted his or her intelligence.
  13. Love is being unwilling to flatter, lie, manipulate, or deceive you in any way in order to co-opt your spouse into giving you what you want or doing something your way.
  14. Love is being unwilling to ask your spouse to be the source of your identity, meaning and purpose, or inner sense of well-being, while refusing to be the source of his or hers.
  15. Love is the willingness to have a less free time, less sleep, and a busier schedule in order to be faithful to what God has called you to be into do as a husband or a wife.
  16. Love is a commitment to say no to selfish instincts and to do everything that is within your ability to promote real unity, functional understanding, and active love and your marriage.
  17. Love is staying faithful to your commitment to treat your spouse with appreciation, respect, and grace, even in moments when he or she doesn’t seem to deserve it or is unwilling to reciprocate.
  18. Love is the willingness to make regular and costly sacrifices for the sake of your marriage without asking anything in return for using your sacrifices to place your spouse in your debt.
  19. Love is being unwilling to make any personal decision or choice that would harm your marriage, hurt your husband or wife, or weaken the bond of trust between you.
  20. Love is refusing to be self-focused or demanding but instead looking for specific ways to serve, support, and encourage, even when you are busy or tired.
  21. Love is daily admitting to yourself, your spouse, and God that you are not able to love this way without God’s protecting, providing, forgiving, rescuing, and delivering grace (pages 191-201).

I hope this list challenges you as it did me. I hope also that you are reminded of the impossible task we have before us as husbands and wives and that (as #21 reminds us) you cling closely to God’s grace as you seek to glorify God in your marriage.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑