For what do you give thanks this year?  Consider this, “Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning” (Jas. 1:17 HCSB).

The blessings of God bestowed upon humanity, especially the redeemed, are innumerable.  How do we respond to this truth?  Do we give thanks?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, listen to these words, “By His own choice, He gave us a new birth by the message of truth so that we would be the firstfruits of His creatures” (Jas. 1:18 HCSB).  Christians, there is no end to the material for which we can (and should) offer thanks to our God.

May our hearts well up and spill over in heartfelt gratitude to the only Savior and Lord.



The King

The Lord sat enthroned at the flood; the Lord sits enthroned, King forever” (Psalm 29:10 HCSB).

Have you ever really considered the details of the flood? The Lord examines the human race and finds them to be continually evil. This is not hyperbolic language either. Their sin and wickedness so grieves Him that He chooses to wipe the vast majority from the face of the earth. God sovereignly chose the means of a deluge to end the lives of all humanity but eight. Water is used for our hydration. In fact, no one can live longer than three days without water. It is also used to cleanse things. In the case of the flood, the Lord was “cleansing” the earth of its uncleanness with the waters. Immediately following the departure of Noah’s family from the ark, we are reminded that sin is still present in the human race (Gen. 9:20-23). The flood waters did not eradicate sin. As long as unglorified humanity lives on this planet, sin will be present.

Why should we consider the flood beyond a cursory glance? First of all, the LORD is the One who was actively ruling over creation and the events of the flood. The worldwide event known as the flood was the act of an all-wise, all-knowing, all-powerful God. He sat enthroned at the flood. The Creator chose by His own purpose and will to end the lives of the majority of humanity because He could not and would not tolerate their willful rebellion against Him any longer. God has a holy hatred for sin. John Stott wrote God’s wrath, “does not mean… that he is likely to fly off the handle at the most trivial provocation, still less that he loses his temper for no apparent reason at all. For there is nothing capricious or arbitrary about the holy God. Nor is he ever irascible, malicious, spiteful, or vindictive. His anger is neither mysterious nor irrational. It is never unpredictable but always predictable, because it is provoked by evil and by evil alone” (The Cross of Christ, p. 173). The flood was not an accident or simply a natural disaster. The flood happened because God was provoked by the evil actions of humanity and could tolerate it no longer.

Secondly, the flood is a reminder of what is to come. Scripture reveals that the Lord will judge all who rebelled against Him and rejected His Son (Rev. 20:11-15; 2 Peter 3:10-13). God is just and cannot perpetually overlook the offense of sin. He is patient but His righteousness brings about an end to His withholding of judgment. We must remember how repugnant and odious sin is to a holy God. This knowledge of the Lord’s holy hatred of sin is essential to our progress in personal holiness and our proper understanding of the necessity of divine wrath. Some ignore or redefine portions of Scripture detailing divine wrath and God’s holy hatred of sin. They find these essential attributes of God unfit for their enlightened sensibilities. The holiness of God and His just wrath are not attractive to the unbelieving mind, especially when the wrath is directed at their own personal sin.

Psalm 29:10 is a comfort for believers. You may wonder at such a statement. It is a reminder that no matter what may occur: the spread of persecution against Christians, plagues, earthquakes, war, disease, cancer, famine, drought, etc… our God is King! There is no time in which He ceases to be King! He is in complete control of everything in this universe. He is not the creator of sin. He has never sinned, nor will He ever. When God allows pain and difficulty to occur in the life of a Christian, He has a holy, God-glorifying purpose for them. We need not be afraid when the darkest night (sometimes week, month, or year) occurs. Does that mean we won’t be afraid? No, most likely we will be afraid. But, it should drive us to our knees in prayer. It should drive us to the Word of God and its promises. Psalm 29:11 says, “The Lord gives His people strength; the Lord blesses His people with peace” (Psalm 29:11 HCSB). Our lives intersect with trials and loss because of the fall (Gen. 3). The trials and loss we experience bring out the need for divinely bestowed strength and peace. This is why Paul wrote, “I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me” (2 Corinthians 12:9b HCSB).

What a comforting thought, in the chaos of the floodwaters, the Lord was King! When the Lord and Savior of the world hung on the cross forsaken by the Father, the Lord was King! When thousands upon thousands of Christians died at the hands of their persecutors, the Lord was King! In the chaos of a rapidly changing world, the Lord is King. In the uncertainty of a post-Christian United States, the Lord is King! In the midst of a terrifying diagnosis, the Lord is King. In the midst of death, the Lord is King! Christian, find comfort in the fact that our God reigns in the past, present, and future. He is in control of your life and circumstances. He is able to redeem even the most painful moments His people experience (Gen. 50:20).

If you haven’t repented of your sin and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, Psalm 29:10 is a clear reminder of the future judgment that will fall upon all who refuse to repent and believe (cf. John 3:16-18, 36; 1 John 5:12-13). The question of your life is, what will you do with Jesus Christ? Christian, how will you pray for those who need to be reconciled to God through the gospel? How will you share with those who need to be reconciled to God through the gospel?

Happiness and Relief

Lord, happy is the man You discipline and teach from Your law to give him relief from troubled times until a pit is dug for the wicked” (Ps. 94:12–13).1

Brothers and sisters, how often do we consider ourselves happy (or traditionally rendered blessed) when we are disciplined by the Lord? Hebrews tells us, “No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (12:11). So, the discipline is not enjoyable but it is a blessing. God’s discipline in our lives is meant to instruct us in godliness. He is lovingly training us for our good and for His glory. This is why the psalmist pairs discipline with teaching. The Lord is always at work to conform believers to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). This sovereign sanctifying work only occurs in the lives of born again believers. Therefore, to experience the Lord’s merciful ministry of discipline and teaching in one’s life is truly a source of happiness (i.e. blessing).

In the second half of the verse the psalmist declares the individual who experiences the Lord’s discipline and teaching ministry is not only happy (i.e. blessed), he also receives relief from troubled times. How specifically does the individual receive relief? Furthermore, what kind of trouble is being discussed? Well, the passage tells us we receive relief through the Lord’s divine discipline and teaching from His law. Imagine the fact that God’s discipline in the life of a believer brings relief! Hebrews clearly teaches that experiencing divine discipline is a proof of being a child of God (12:5-8).

God’s gracious teaching ministry does not always come in the form of intellectually stimulating information. In His sovereign wisdom the Lord often utilizes the school of hard knocks because it is the most effective means of teaching His people. Spurgeon preached, “Do we not also learn by affliction our own frailty, and our own impatience? We are wonderfully patient when we have nothing to suffer, as we are all great heroes and very courageous when there is no fighting to be done.”2 It is a profound thought, isn’t it? We learn what we are made of in the difficult times of life. The Holy Spirit moved Peter to write, “You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials so that the genuineness of your faith —more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire —may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:6–7). Just as gold is refined by fire to remove its impurities, so are believers refined by trials to remove the impurities from their lives.

So, brothers and sisters, the next time you are facing trials from the sovereign hand of God, remember He is disciplining you to conform you to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. Find comfort and relief from the wisdom of His Word. Take heart, the discipline is proof you are a child of God. This sanctification process has been designed by the Lord to take our whole lifetime. We frequently become discouraged with our lack of progress. It brings to mind this chorus,

“He’s still working on me
To make me what I need to be
It took him just a week to make the moon and stars
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars
How loving and patient He must be
‘Cause He’s still workin’ on me.”3

This reality caused John Newton to write, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.”4 Where are you in your walk with the Lord Jesus Christ?

1Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, HCSB®, and Holman CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers. The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009).

2 C. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 40 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1894), 387.

“A Commentary on Exodus” by Duane A. Garrett [A Review]

I received A Commentary on Exodus by Duane A. Garrett from Kregel Publishers in exchange for an honest review. First of all I have to say that I really like this series of exegetical commentaries. I previously reviewed A Commentary on Judges and Ruth by Robert B. Chisolm and found that to be extremely well done also. In the near future I plan to purchased the three volume Psalms commentary by Allen Ross. Garrett’s Exodus commentary begins with an extensive introduction which addresses documentary hypothesis (JDEP – which he dismisses), date of authorship, Egyptian history, Canaanite history, and other “debated” subjects (the Red Sea, plagues, etc…).

In the chapters that follow, Garrett digs into the biblical text section-by-section and verse-by-verse. He begins each section of verses with a brief introduction, followed by his own English translation of the Hebrew text, commentary, and concluded with a “Theological Summary of Key Points.” There are also plenty of original language, exegetical footnotes found on the pages of this commentary. Throughout the chapters, in pertinent sections, Garrett provides tables to highlight events occurring in the text; ex. the twelves miracles of Exodus (pp. 271, 293).

The commentary also delves into the nature of the “twelve miracles” as Garrett refers to them (traditionally known as the “twelve plagues”). The historical, cultural background shared on these pages (along with the dispelling of some unlikely theories) is worth the entire commentary. Garrett highlights the fact that there is not always a clear connection between the miracles and a defeat of specific Egyptian deities (p. 301). We know that YHWH demonstrated Himself sovereign over the Egyptian gods through the miracles and the exodus. Garrett demonstrates that point here, “When a nation is defeated, its gods are defeated” (p. 301).

Garrett discusses dating the exodus and the location of the sea crossing. Anyone familiar with the variety of scholarly views on these topics (and the whole book for that matter) will know that there are early and late date proposals. In regard to the location and identity of the Sea of reeds, we know there are varying opinions. Garrett posits that the pillar of cloud/fire was not as awe inspiring as ordinarily thought because the Israelites did not look to it as providing safety from Pharaoh’s army, nor did Pharaoh’s army seem terrified by it (pp. 386-388). Some is this is conjecture on the author’s part. Clearly the nation of Israel as a whole were not confident that the presence of the pillar of cloud/fire would ensure their deliverance, but there is no indication that the Egyptians were relatively unimpressed by it. It appears to be an argument from silence since there is no clear textual indication either way about the appearance. It is interesting to consider Garrett’s hypothesis as he suggest contemporary application, “Perhaps we, too, can have a great work of God in our midst and not recognize it” (p. 388). I cannot dogmatically suggest Garrett is wrong since there is no textual evidence either way, other than the pillar kept the army at bay.

The formatting of the book is very well done and is easy to follow. The author’s arguments and commentary are presented very well and are clearly thought out. Any pastor, student, or teacher/professor will find this particular commentary on Exodus to be a very well done and useful resource. The volumes of this commentary series that have been released thus far are of scholarly depth but would not be over the head of those teaching Sunday School or a small group in a local church setting. I highly recommend this present volume of the Kregel Exegetical Library.

HCSB Large Print Ultrathin Reference Bible in Brown Genuine Cowhide – a review

I received the HCSB large print ultrathin reference Bible in brown genuine cowhide from B&H Publishing in exchange for an honest review. I already own an edition of this particular Bible in black genuine cowhide (sometimes advertised as calfskin) and you can find a review of it here. The cover of the brown genuine cowhide edition is made from a very nice quality leather. It is much nicer than most genuine leather Bibles because it is actually made from cowhide, whereas most genuine leather Bibles are made from pigskin. The cowhide is supple and features a beautiful pebble grain that feels very pleasant in the hand. The leather is flexible, but not floppy or stiff. Some of this has to do with the material used to line the leather cover. The lining in this Bible is chocolate brown to match the cover. The color of the leather is a dark chocolate brown and is very attractive to the eye. The Bible feels and fits nicely in the hand. The dimensions of this Bible (9.50″ x 6.75″ x 1.25″) are similar to the Hendrickson line of Minister’s Bibles (9.8″ x 6.8″ x 1.2″). The spine features six raise hubs to give the Bible a classic look and feel. The cover also has a nice overlap of the pages, although not what one would call a semi-yap cover, but a nice overlap nonetheless. This edition of the HCSB large print ultrathin reference Bible features one chocolate brown ribbon marker.

The formatting of the Bible is well done. The font is large and easy to read. It is advertised as being a 10.5 point font. This edition features the words of Christ in red. Though this is not a wide margin Bible, it certainly has more room than most. On the outside of the page one finds 5/8 of an inch of space, while on the inside there is slightly less than ½ of an inch of space. It is enough room to write notes or cross references with a fine tip pen (ex. Pigma Micron 005).

The paper of this Bible is opaque, which makes it pleasant for reading. There is some bleed-through of text but its effect is minimized because of the line-matching of this edition. Line-matching refers to the lines of text being formatted so that text on the facing page is matched up text on the following page so there is not as much distraction from the bleed-through of text on subsequent pages. This Bible also features a smyth sewn binding, which adds significantly to the value, usability, and longevity of it.

This Bible features a concordance that is a condensed version of the one found in the HCSB Minister’s Bible. On each page one will find center column cross references. Personally, I still prefer the 95,000 cross references found in most NASB reference Bibles. The HCSB references are not as exhaustive but they are not sparse either. Each page features footnotes that discuss textual variations, alternate translations, historical and cultural details, and even cross references. A feature of most HCSB editions, including this one, is the bullet notes. The bullet notes lead one to a section in the back of the Bible which define different theological terms, names of individuals and places, and other significant biblical details.

I use the HCSB as my main Bible for preaching, study, and memorization. I have done so for over two years. I believe that it is accurate and readable translation. It is not enslaved to cultural trends or agendas. The HCSB has a translation oversight committee, which continually evaluates the accuracy and readability of the translation. I highly recommend the HCSB translation and also this high quality (but surprisingly affordable) edition of the HCSB.

Top of the List

If you were able to ask God for two things, what would they be? Proverbs says, “Two things I ask of You, don’t deny them to me before I die: Keep falsehood and deceitful words far from me. Give me neither poverty nor wealth; feed me with the food I need. Otherwise, I might have too much and deny you, saying, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or I might have nothing and steal, profaning the name of my God” (Prov. 30:7-9).1 He asked God to help him not to speak dishonestly and to moderate his financial state. It is very thought provoking that he asked God for these particular things.

Let’s unpack the author’s first request: divine enablement to speak truth. This is instructive for us. We know that honesty is addressed in command number nine, “Do not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exod. 20:16). As the Lord was communicating the rules of His covenant relationship with Israel, He established the importance of honesty. The Lord wanted his people to be honest in how they did business (Lev. 19:35-36), how they testified in a judicial proceedings (Exod. 20:16; Deut. 19:15-18; Lev. 19:11b; Col. 3:9), and how they spoke (Prov. 12:22; 6:16-19; Eph. 4:25). Therefore, Agur (the author of Proverbs 30) asks the Lord to help him remain honest in his conduct and speech. The importance of honesty to God is clearly demonstrated throughout Scripture. Would it be in our list of requests to God? Do we value honesty and integrity in the same way the Lord does?

The second request relates to financial livelihood. Agur asked God to bless him with a “median” income. He saw the potential within (indwelling sin) to become self-sufficient and self-centered if he became wealthy. He knew that if he had too much materially he might deny the Lord. Agur also requested that God not allow him to be impoverished. He saw the potential in himself that if he was in poverty he might turn to stealing the property of others. Agur equated stealing with profaning the name of God. Therefore, he prays that the Lord will provide him with what he needs (v. 8b). He doesn’t want wealth or poverty because those might lead to sinful attitudes and actions. Agur asks the Lord to keep him from those temptations.

Each one of us face temptations to sin. The Scriptures say, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13). So, the temptations we face are not unique to us. But, the Lord promises us that he will provide us a way to escape the temptation, so that we don’t have to commit sin. The Lord desires that we be holy in our conduct, “For it is written, be holy, because I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16). God works in our lives to enable us to do what he wants, “For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out his good purpose” (Phil. 2:13). What an amazing thought! Our God is actively working in the lives of his people to accomplish his purposes. This is powerful encouragement for every follower of Christ!

E.M. Bounds wrote, It is not great talents nor great learning nor great preachers that God needs, but people great in holiness, great in faith, great in love, great in fidelity, great for God—men always speaking holy words, living holy lives. These can mold a generation for God… Their lives and profoundest convictions were born in their [private time] with God… Every Christian who does not make prayer a mighty factor in his own life and ministry is weak as a factor in God’s work and is powerless to project God’s cause in this world.”2 Agur sought the Lord in prayer, so he might live in a way pleasing to him. How are we seeking the Lord in prayer, so we might live in a way pleasing to him?

1Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009).

2 Edward M. Bounds, Power through Prayer (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1999).

Review of the HCSB large print personal size reference Bible in genuine cowhide

I received the HCSB large print personal size reference Bible in brown genuine leather as a review copy from Broadman and Holman publishers. This edition features the same high quality characteristics that we have come to expect from Holman Bibles. There is a smyth sewn binding and decent quality Bible paper. The font is attractive and very readable. This particular edition is genuine leather, which is a high quality leather. It is a soft and supple leather that feels very nice in your hand. In my opinion you will not find a higher quality leather Bible for a better price than the ones that Broadman and Holman produces.

I also own the HCSB reference Bible and the HCSB large print reference Bible. The paper and they large print personal size reference edition is thinner and less opaque than the aforementioned mentioned reference editions. Also, the font in the personal size edition is different than the one found in the other HCSB reference editions. In my opinion the font in the personal size edition is no better or worse than the others, simply different. In regard to formatting, the personal size edition places the book, chapter, and verse marker in the header as opposed to the regular reference and large print reference editions, which place them in the footer. The personal size edition does not have line matching, so you are able to see “ghosting” from subsequent pages. Ultimately, the bleed through has more to do with the Bible paper than with line matching. The HCSB reference and large print reference editions were formatted by 2Krogh AS in Hojbjerg, Denmark. 2Krogh AS utilized a unique but highly readable font, along with line matching.

In regards to formatting, the personal size edition places the book, chapter, and verse marker in the header as opposed to the reference and the large print reference editions, which place them in the footer. The personal size edition does not have line-matching, so you are able to see “ghosting” from subsequent pages. The cross-references are found at the end of the verse, rather than in the center column. Personally, I prefer center column references but it is not a huge negative for me. I know that some strongly preferred having no cross-references at all. As in every HCSB edition you will find textual notes in the footer. In relation to the paper, it appears to be off-white Bible paper. It does not have a bright white look that reflects light, which I find to be a positive to this edition.

The personal size edition features only the marker, which is brown (matching the brown leather cover). The usual color maps that are found in most Holman Bibles are used here as well. The Bible contains the bullet note definitions, a sort of mini counselors index (“where to turn when…”), and a topical concordance. The cover is a genuine cowhide and is certainly a higher quality at this price point than you will find elsewhere. It is a chocolate brown and has a nice grain to it. On the spine you will find six raised house, which give it an elegant traditional look.

I consider this to be a beautiful Bible and worthy of consideration. I received the HCSB large print personal size reference Bible from B&H Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.