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.

Principles for Christian Husbands and Fathers

At our men’s breakfast this morning, I shared some principles for men that I read on Kevin DeYoung’s blog yesterday. Taking care of a wife and children is a glorious calling but certainly not an easy one. It can be very easy to put it into cruise control (I speak from experience!) and slowly drift away from the responsibilities God calls us to.

Here are a few reminders of what those are:

Pursue Holiness: This is the key to leading our families in Christ. A Christian husband and father cannot lead where he has not tread. Even as Paul admonished Timothy regarding the pastorate, “Keep a close watch on your life and doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:16), so it is true of the “pastor” of the home. If holiness is found lacking in our lives, then it will normally be lacking in our family members as well. The greatest impetus to their growth in Christ is our growth in Christ.

Know What You Can Control and Can’t Control: It is a fool who thinks they can control the hearts of others. We have no such charge and thank God, because we have no such ability. We can encourage, exhort, and teach our wives and children in the faith, but we cannot control their embrace of or growing in that faith. But we are charged with maintaining our own hearts. Don’t neglect what you have responsibility for while pursuing that which you are not responsible for. Husbands and fathers serve their family well when they are seeking to control their own anger, selfishness, pride, and tongue. Let us know what we are empowered to do and what only the Lord can do.

Provide in Every Realm: Most Christian husbands and fathers recognize the need to provide for their families materially. “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). Even as this is true in the physical realm, so it is true in the spiritual. By all means, bring home the bacon! But don’t stop there. Practice consistent and regular family worship; lead your family in reading the Scriptures, praying, and singing. In joy, take your family to church each week, engage your family in the ministry of the church, pursue hospitality by inviting others to your home, pray with and for your wife and children. Don’t think your job is done by putting a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, and food in their stomachs. They are body and soul, they need your provision in the spiritual realm as well.

Practice Humility: Leading in Christ is different from than the world’s view of leadership. The world promotes a type of leadership that demands to be served. The Christian view of leadership demands to serve. Dear Christian husband and father, you are the chief servant in your home. Congratulations! In Christ, “whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26). We lead by serving and often that serving is sacrificial (Ephesians 5:25).

Persist in Joy and Thanksgiving: Set the tone in your home. A Christian husband and father establishes the culture of his home more than anyone else. The moody teenager, fussy toddler, or even sullen wife are not the determining factor. You are. Pursue joy in the Lord and persist in thanksgiving to God for all His good gifts (James 1:17). This is a great starting place for shaping your home.

Be Effusive in Love: No wife or child has ever said, “I was loved too much!” Don’t be the husband or father who is reserved in expressing your love. Make your wife feel treasured. Nourish and cherish her (Ephesians 5:29). Grace her life with compliments, flowers, gifts, and constant affection. Hug her from behind while she is washing the dishes, carve out regular time for her to escape from the demands of the home, encourage her to pursue godly female friendships, thank her for the care she provides for you and your children, plan and execute date nights. May there never be a doubt in her mind that you treasure her above all others. And allow your children to see this affection. Your embrace of mom should be a regular vision for their little eyes to behold. As for your children, lavish upon them an undeterred and unfailing love. No matter their failings, foibles, or struggles, may they know your love will be a constant in their lives. It is fixed and nothing can steal it away. You won’t be a perfect father, but bathing your children in love is a step towards being a great father.

Live in Grace: Peter says, “live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel…” (1 Peter 3:7). Paul says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Model and practice grace in your home. Be sensitive to sin and even more sensitive to extending the same grace you have received. Your wife and children should find you approachable, kind, gentle, and gracious. When they hear the word grace it shouldn’t be a foreign concept to their minds. They have known and received it from you consistently.

Protect and Be Strong: Your wife and children need your strength. Not only do they need your strength, but they need to know you are willing to use that strength for their good. You serve as their defender. You are to willingly and gladly stand-up for your family, even if that costs you socially, professionally, emotionally, or even physically.

Glory in Weakness: Even as you seek to be strong, you must glory in your own weakness. Your wife and children should know you as a man who happily depends upon the Lord. When they reflect upon your strength, they always count it as from the Lord. And you are happy for them to know the source of your strength. A faithful Christian husband and father will not wallow in his weakness, but he will glory in it. He will continually look to Christ and model this supremely Christian virtue before his family. He will be a man of prayer, knowing that much of his shepherding takes place upon his knees. He will lead the way in asking for forgiveness in the home from both his wife and children, he will keep short accounts and be quick to grant forgiveness when offended, he will refrain from having too high of expectations for his wife and children knowing his own failings and weaknesses, and he will extend to them the same grace he himself needs.

Live with God’s Glory in View: Whether you are at work, rest, or play, seek to glorify the Lord. Paul said, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Model before your family purposeful living. We are always living in the shadow of God’s glory. Demonstrate to them that every moment matters, every person is significant, every task is important. Laugh when you play with your kids, sweat when you work, and sing loud when you worship. Do all things with His glory in view and do them with your whole heart and soul, especially the leading of your family

Reading a list like this can easily provoke feelings of guilt for the responsibilities I’ve neglected. But never forget that God waits to be gracious to you (Isaiah 30:18) and delights in showing mercy (Micah 7:18) and because we don’t measure, God sent One who would. As we see areas of failure as husbands and fathers, humbly repent and call upon God’s grace to obey. It is the great calling we have been called to.

A Prayer for Monday

THE INFINITE AND THE FINITE

THOU GREAT I AM, Fill my mind with elevation and grandeur at the thought of a Being
with whom one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day,
A mighty God, who, amidst the lapse of worlds, and the revolutions of empires, feels no variableness, but is glorious in immortality.
May I rejoice that, while men die, the Lord lives; that, while all creatures are broken reeds, empty cisterns, fading flowers, withering grass, he is the Rock of Ages, the Fountain of living waters.
Turn my heart from vanity, from dissatisfactions, from uncertainties of the present state, to an eternal interest in Christ.
Let me remember that life is short and unforeseen, and is only an opportunity for usefulness;
Give me a holy avarice to redeem the time, to awake at every call to charity and piety, so that I may feed the hungry, clothe the naked, instruct the ignorant, reclaim the vicious, forgive the offender, diffuse the gospel, show neighbourly love to all.
Let me live a life of self-distrust, dependence on thyself, mortification, crucifixion, prayer.

Edited by Arthur Bennett. The Valley of Vision (Kindle Locations 2100-2119). The Banner of Truth Trust.

Why it’s Good That God is Jealous

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God. Exodus 20: 4– 5

I read these lines this morning in Joe Thorn’s Little book, Experiencing the Trinity: The Grace of God for the People of God. I was encouraged and hope you are too.

Jealousy is a word that evokes pictures of a controlling, oppressive husband who doesn’t trust his spouse and denies her freedom. But the jealousy of God for his people doesn’t stem from a lack of trust in his people . It comes from his desire to have an intimate and exclusive relationship with them. He calls them to maintain the fellowship they have with him above everything else. To say that God is jealous for you is to say that he loves you, desires you, and does not want to share you with other gods. His jealousy protects you from the false gods of the world that seek to use and exploit you. His jealousy is your good. Yes, his jealous love for you calls you to faithfulness. Does this limit your freedom? In some ways, of course it does. But why would you want to be free to dishonor the Lord? Where is the joy in finding temporal pleasure in idols that do not love you, cannot care for you, and will always hurt you? Here is what is beautiful in God’s jealousy: His love for you is fervent. His fidelity to you is unbreakable. And by his jealous love he swears to defend you and keep you. The jealousy of God for you should lift your countenance, not cast it down. You should feel safe, treasured, and compelled by his love to stay close to him. And though you fail him, he will not fail you. His love, unlike your own, is immovable.

(Kindle Locations 428-440).

Book Review: A Commentary on Exodus

A Commentary on Exodus (Kregal Exegetical Library)
Duane A. Garrett9780825425516

This commentary by Duane Garrett is theologically conservative and is another excellent additional to Kregal’s lineup. Besides it’s high view of scripture, there are several other aspects about this commentary I greatly appreciated.

  • The Theological Summary of Key Points at the end of each passage section.
  • The way he broke down the structure of each section along with his translation. For me, getting the big picture before diving into the details of the text is very important. This commentary accomplishes this very well.
  • The 145 page introductory background information was very helpful and detailed.
  • As other reviewers have pointed out, he helpful directs readers to the poetic sections of the book and explains them very clearly.

I had just a few minor quibbles with the commentary. I felt he tried to look for natural causes surrounding the ten plagues rather than seek to attribute them miraculous workings of an omnipotent God (even though the section is titled The Twelve Miracles of the Exodus).

I would have also like to see him deal with the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, but could not find it discussed at any length in the book.

A commentary’s layout is also very important to me and book is laid out very well. His outline of each chapter, the room in the margin for notes, and the use of footnotes (as opposed to endnotes) are small considerations that are important to me as I read along.

This is a fantastic commentary on Exodus. Scholarly but very readable. Detailed but not daunting.

Note: This book was provided free to me in exchange for an unbiased review.

Longing for Heaven

There was a day when people thought about heaven without having to be on their death bed. Maybe we’re too busy with what’s in front of our faces — mortgage payments, dirty diapers, car repairs, soccer practice, hunting trips — that we can’t justify thinking beyond this world.

Perhaps we’ve been jaded by the “been to heaven and back” genre linking bookshelves that we’ve stayed away from meditating on eternity all together.

Maybe we’ve bought into the silly fear of becoming too heavenly minded that they’re no earthly good (because, of course, it’s only when we are heavenly minded that we can be of any earthly good).

Whatever the reason for our inattention to the doctrines of glorification and restoration, we would be greatly helped by turning our minds to the heavenlies, meditating on the home which awaits us there. Rather than thoughts of fear and anxiety, knowing that our life on earth will one day end should fill us with hope and joy and longing.

Listen to the words of the Puritan pastor, Richard Baxter:

Oh! if we did but truly believe that the promise of this glory is the word of God, and that God does truly mean as he speaks, and is fully resolved to make it good; if we did truly believe that there is, indeed, such blessedness prepared for believers as the Scripture mentions, surely we should be as impatient of living as we are now fearful of dying, and should think every day a year till our last day should come.… If a man that is desperately sick today did believe he should arise sound the next morning; or a man today, in despicable poverty, had assurance that he should tomorrow arise a prince; would they be afraid to go to bed, or rather think it the longest day of their lives, till that desired night and morning came?

May we live with a holy impatience for that day!

A Few Thoughts on Bible Reading Plans

As the new year edges nearer, many believers begin to toy with the thought of trying to read through the Bible during the course of the upcoming year. For some, this is an annual pilgrimage from which they’ve derived much blessing. For others, they’re determined to get serious and actually make it past Leviticus this year.

I’ll just share a few of my thoughts on reading through the Bible in a year.

1. You don’t have to do it. Some people feel like they’re somehow less spiritual if they’ve never made it through. Conversely, some of those who have, feel like they’ve attained some level of a kind of Christian Nirvana. Both perspectives are wrong. God doesn’t say that you have to do it. Don’t put unnecessary bondage on yourself.

2. Come up with some system of regular scripture reading and stick to it. Not having a plan is a plan but it’s not a good plan. If you get off track from your plan then get back on. It could be reading a synopsis of the Gospels as many times as possible or reading through Proverbs every month for a year. Maybe your favorite devotional has a daily scripture reading to go with it. Study a book of the Bible while reading a commentary along with it (Dale Ralph Davies’ commentaries are great for this). The point is: read God’s Word and read it consistently. (Then don’t forget to apply it).

I know, to some a plan sounds like legalism and legalism is bad. But it’s not legalism. It’s discipline and discipline is good. If you find yourself becoming legalistic about your Bible reading plan then repent and move forward.

That said, I have personally found reading the Bible from Genesis to Revelation beneficial and here are a few of the reasons why:

1. It helps me see the flow and unity of the whole Bible. Rather than biting off disjointed stories from here and there, I can more clearly see the big story of scripture and it’s main character: Jesus Christ. It’s the same reason I believe preaching expositionally through books of the Bible is so important.

2. It keeps me from gravitating to my “favorite” texts and from avoiding those that might make me a bit uncomfortable or (dare I say it) convicted.

3. It helps keep the Bible at the center of my reading world. I love books and I love to read them. Reading through the Bible helps me remember to keep the most important Book my number one priority.

Ok, so if you decide to take the plunge but don’t think you can wait until the fall before you get to the New Testament, know that there are a lot of options available to you. Tim Challies just posted a helpful summary of what’s out there. There’s more than you think:

Here is a round-up of some of the ways you can read the Bible in 2015.

Ligonier Reading Plans. Ligonier offers what is probably the best and most thorough round-up of reading plans. They have plans that will take you through the Bible in a year, plans that will take you through the Bible in a few years, and plans that you can do at your own pace. Some of the plans involve only reading the Bible while others offer daily devotionals. There is something for everyone here.

ESV Bible Plans – The ESV site offers 12 different plans that are available in a variety of formats. You can also subscribe to their podcast which will allow you to listen to the Bible; if you do that you will go once through the Old Testament each year, and twice through the New Testament and Psalms.

Logos. The Logos software has Bible-reading plans built right into it, but you will need to use the Logos software to access them.

Bible.com – Bible.com, which offers the amazing Bible app, has a long list of plans to choose from. You will need to use the site or app to access them.

INTERESTING PLANS

Here are a few plans that look particularly interesting or different.

Professor Horner’s System – Professor Horner’s System is intense—10 chapters per day. You’ll read 10 chapters from 10 different books each day, which means you’ll always be reading different combinations. It’s a great system but takes a lot of commitment.

A Bible Plan for Readers – Peter Krol’s plan begins with reading through the entire Bible as quickly as you can, then slowing the pace a little bit.

The Change Your Mind Plan – This plan is very simple: “1. Choose a book of the Bible. 2. Read it in its entirety. 3. Repeat step #2 twenty times. 4. Repeat this process for all books of the Bible.”

God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment. This plan structures Scripture readings around Jim Hamilton’s book God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment. Through the year you will read both the Book and the book about the Book.

Denny Burk’s Plan. Denny Burk’s plan goes through the Bible in a year in canonical order, one book at a time. There are a handfull of “catchup” days thrown in in case you get behind. (Denny also offers a Greek New Testament plan.)

May God bless your study of his word in 2015!

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