Until I Came into the Sanctuary of God – a Meditation on Psalm 73

God is good… all the time.  And all the time… God is good.  Many say these things, but how many believe these things?  When we look at evil and injustice in the world, when we see oppressors triumph, when we see wicked people apparently flourish, that seems topsy-turvy compared to how things ought to be.  When we struggle with these things, we are not alone and we are not the first.  This Psalm of Asaph details a major crisis of faith and its resolution.

We may struggle in our faith.  (Verses 1-15)

The psalmist affirmed that the pure in heart know the goodness of God. But this is no glib statement but is the conclusion following a severe struggle in which the footing for his faith came close to slipping away.  When he got his eyes on the prosperous wicked, he became envious.  He longed for the prosperity, pride, and popularity they possessed.  He began to reconsider the value of living life for God.  As Spurgeon put it, “he questions the value of holiness when its wages are paid in the coin of affliction.”  If godly living is this tough, and wicked living results in ease and wealth, what is the point in pursuing a purity of heart?

We too may struggle in our faith.  Perhaps in the midst of a personal difficulty, we see wrongdoers apparently prospering, climbing the career ladder, and amassing a following.  If we focus on them and go down this road, we will tread ground like that of Asaph.  The psalmist knew the anguished experience of traveling a dark path.  However, he realizes something is wrong in his thinking.  It is not until he comes to God’s sanctuary that the light brightens and redirects his way.

We must strengthen in our faith.  (Verses 18-26)

Asaph would not wrap his mind around this theodicy, “until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end” (v. 17).  When Asaph returned to worship God, his dissonant perceptions of the wicked were resolved.  He need not slip up in envy because he realized that they would fall to destruction from their slippery places.  Perhaps he meditated on the sacrifices, those innocent victims who symbolized God’s punishment for sin by destroying a substitute.  Those not relying on this God and His provision for their sin to be forgiven must themselves be destroyed.  Likewise, we must look to the fulfillment and the ultimate sacrifice, our Lord Jesus Christ.  When we worship Him and meet with His people to hear the good news of His coming, death, and resurrection, a weak faith will be fed and strengthen and we will understand that the prosperity of the wicked is but temporary, while the worst is yet to come for them.

The Psalmist repents of his former questioning of God’s goodness, comparing such thoughts to those of a senseless beast, and so must we.  The pathway out of darkness leads us to forsake incorrect assessments and to positively acknowledge the presence, protection, and guidance of the God who afterward will receive us to glory, where the best is yet to come. “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.  My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever” (vv. 25-26).  What an encouragement for the believer!  Should we not rather pity than envy the wicked?

We must stand in our faith.  (Verses 27-28)

The Psalmist sums up the conclusion of his conflict: those far from God will perish, but he knows the goodness of drawing near to God.  His faith has struggled, but it has been strengthened.  He nearly slipped, but now he is standing firm and declaring it to others.

So must we.  Believers in Jesus Christ going through a “dark night of the soul” need to strength their faith, feeding it through worship.  They need to repent of their former envy and short-sighted fascination with the prosperous wicked.  They need to embrace God as their all-in-all, draw near to Him, and share the testimony of a faith that struggled, was strengthened, and now stands.

Truly, God is good… all the time.  And all the time… God is good.

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10 Tips for Learning the Biblical Languages

I recently shared “10 Reasons I’m Glad Hebrew and Greek Were Required in Seminary.”  I want to encourage the study of the original languages, and there are more tools than ever to help in this noble endeavor!  Here are the top ten things that helped me renew and persevere in the languages and complete first year Hebrew and Greek this past year.

1. Ask the Lord for help to appreciate and use the languages. The importance of a student’s attitude cannot be overstated. If you hate what you’re doing, if you think it’s unnecessary, and if you are just jumping through a hoop for a degree requirement, you are going to be miserable. On the other hand, if you’re excited and grateful to learn the original languages of the Bible, you may just have one of the most enjoyable parts of your training just around the corner. Yes, studying Hebrew and Greek takes a lot of sweat, but yes, it’s worth it, and it should be integrated with a heart of worship to God and service to those who will benefit from your teaching and ministry.

2. Take the languages for a test drive.  I recommend going immediately to the Daily Dose site for the language you’re looking to start.  Click on “Learn” at www.dailydoseofhebrew.com or www.dailydoseofgreek.com to watch the free grammar lessons.  (You can also open them on their Vimeo pages and download them for offline use.)  Futato and Plummer are master teachers (and authors) and they communicate in a clear, enjoyable, and memorable style.

In addition to Daily Dose, there are other sites with free courses.  I found it helpful to work through material on sites for these before taking a for-credit course, and it only made my learning easier in the long run. Some other free courses worth a look are: Chris Engelsma’s Hebrew and Greek classes, Dr. Barrick’s Hebrew classes, Dr. Murray’s Hebrew class,  Charles Grebe’s Hebrew class, Dr. Mounce’s Greek class.

Zondervan also sells online, independent Hebrew and Greek courses (each are two-part courses, $199 for each part, and 1 year of access to lessons).

Test-driving the languages may help some students find out if they will be able to sink or swim, but, for many, I think it will help them find that it is possible to learn Hebrew and Greek, and that they can gain a good foundation for future learning in the process.

3. Learn your alphabet. Seriously. Snails are going to outrun you if you don’t make the alphabet your best friend. For many of us, learning the languages is like being in kindergarten again, and it’s fun.  So learn an alphabet song. Sing it every day, multiple times a day, until you know it.  I’ve found that both alphabets can be sung to the tune of “Mama’s Little Baby Loves Shortening Bread” (Thanks, Dr. Mounce).  The Greek letters go straight through, while I tag “that’s the Hebrew ALEPH-BETH” onto the Hebrew version. When you start using a lexicon, you’ll be glad you took this advice.

4. Figure out your game plan.  If you’re studying the languages on your own, you’ve got maximum flexibility, but for those taking them at accredited colleges or seminaries, you’ll need to either take them at your school or take them from another school which will be accepted for transfer credit. You can always check with your registrar. I obtained approval to take and transfer six hours of Greek from Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (they even have a 30-day free trial period) and this enabled me to take the classes in a summer and graduate sooner.

You need to consider the approach the class will use to help you learn the language. Depending on your long-term goals, you may want to investigate whether the class will give you a working knowledge of the language or whether it will be designed to prepare you for in-depth scholarly mastery of it. You may want the latter if you plan to continue with advanced courses in the languages, and the former if you only desire an introduction. I had one of each and one nearly drove me to give up on the languages. Ask around: talk to fellow students who have had a given professor, talk to professors, and get an idea of what you’re getting into before you sign up.

You also need to think about the delivery format and timeframe. Some students really need face to face instruction and the encouragement of classmates. Independent learners may do fine with an online class. Some online classes allow generous completion times. Some have strict deadlines and others are generally self-paced. If you go for the latter, don’t be a procrastinator. Set a schedule and try to stick to it. Carve out some time and dig in!

5. Brush up on your English grammar (or whatever your native language is or the language your teacher will use to instruct). Check out Chris Engelsma’s free course, and use books like English Grammar to Ace Biblical Hebrew (AmazonWTS) and English Grammar to Ace New Testament Greek (AmazonWTS) to make connections that will help you understand the grammatical concepts in the languages you’re learning.

If you don’t have a decent grasp of English grammar, you’re going to struggle. Plus, you may have to diagram sentences again (Warriner’s 5th course on English Grammar will help). Time spent shoring up your skills in these areas will reap dividends.

6. Get familiar with your syllabus and textbook ASAP. This should go without saying, but when you get the information about how your professor will teach your class, start planning around it. Mark all your deadlines, note what will be required for assignments and assessments, and obtain your textbook(s). If you have multiple professors teaching a language at your school, you might procure a syllabus from each to compare (their textbook choices and teaching strategies or other factors might make one a better choice than another). My classes used Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek (Amazon – WTS) and Morphology of Biblical Greek (Amazon), Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Amazon – WTS), and Futato’s Beginning Biblical Hebrew (AmazonLogos Bible Software – WTS).

The syllabus may also give you a heads up on the proper use of the text. Some professors will extensively utilize the books, while others will basically make them a heavily-used reference work.

7. Memorize early and often. Procrastination and laziness are your enemies, and they will swiftly kill your ability to learn a language in a given time frame. Pay close attention when your memory work is assigned. Not all professors will mandate the same requirements, but every language class will have some memory work. Expect vocabulary, noun declensions, verb conjugations, and definite article patterns. Get familiar with your memory assignments quickly and review daily. Like the alphabet, you’ll be glad you spent time memorizing when you get an assignment and realize you are actually reading a sentence and can translate it without having to refer to your books. It amazed me how much mileage I got out of memorizing the patterns for the Hebrew perfect and imperfect!

8. Pack a toolbox with flashcards, mnemonics, and software. For vocabulary, flashcards help many people. Whether you make your own, order pre-made flash cards, such as Zondervan’s Hebrew and Greek (Amazon – WTS) sets, or use the free Quizlet app, to make your memory work efficient and enjoyable! I personally found Quizlet to be the best option because I could sync it across devices, enabling me to study on a mobile device (even offline) or the computer (online), and it has built-in games and tests. I took these before taking the real quizzes and it helped me greatly. One word of caution here: if you make your own flashcards or use Quizlet to find sets other users have made, doublecheck every entry to make sure it’s correct (user error happens).

Along with flashcards, finding, creating, and using mnemonic devices such as rhymes and word associations will help you learn and remember new words. Dr. David Murray’s free Hebrew flashcard PDFs and Blair Kasfeldt’s Biblical Greek: Vocabulary Made Easy ($3.99) are two great examples.

You’ll need to master certain noun declensions and verb conjugations.  Memorize the charts or patterns your professor requires and repeat them regularly. One helpful way to solidify this is to use Paradigms Master Pro (for Windows and Mac computers). It’s a well-done, inexpensive program (their Twitter page occasionally announces sales on it as well). The best deal is to buy Hebrew and Greek together unless you have a mastery of one already or are sure you will only be learning one.  There is a free trial so you can see if it’s something that you want.

9. Get a good basic lexicon. You probably won’t learn every word you need to translate, and if you want to keep going in the languages after you finish the classes, you’re going to need a dictionary. Your professor might have a required or suggested one. If not, consider Holladay’s Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon and Gingrich’s Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. (HALOT and BDAG are probably overkill for most first year students, but should be on the radar for those wishing to continue and deepen.) I also got Louw & Nida, Greek-English Lexicon Based on Semantic Domains (AmazonLogos) electronically and found it helpful on the go. There are other choices for lexicons, especially some free older ones that are a bit dated, but what I’ve suggested should be sufficiently up to date options if you need to buy one.

10. Get an analytical lexicon but try not to use it too much. This is a controversial suggestion. Some believe it is the worst possible idea for a beginning student to use an analytical lexicon. The danger is that one can look up every single word and skip fundamentals such as the memorization of basic paradigms, irregular forms, and rules for vowel lengthening, which would be self-defeating when trying to learn a language. However, I found an analytical lexicon handy for certain translation assignments and for occasionally checking my work. If you get one of these, it is best to 1) make sure your professor allows its use, and 2) use it as a last resort. Try to figure out the word using what you already know (or after reviewing what you already should know) and then look at it if you’re stumped. If you’re not disciplined enough to do refrain from using it when you shouldn’t, then don’t buy it. I used Mounce’s Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (Amazon – WTS). I’ve not used one for Hebrew/Aramaic, but Davidson’s has good reviews.

For some, utilizing the interlinear, text analysis, and lexicon tools on sites like Biblehub.comBlue Letter Bible, and gntreader.com may render owning an analytical lexicon unnecessary.

What Do You Suggest?

If you’ve read this far, I hope you’ve found some helpful suggestions. Take what you can use, and use it to grow in your knowledge of God’s Word. I’d be glad to hear suggestions from others, and possibly edit this article in light of them. What would you recommend for those who wish to prepare for and profit from Hebrew and Greek?

Lord, Teach Us to Number Our Days: a Meditation on Psalm 90

For full sermon audio, click here (MP3).

So teach us to number our days,
that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

A new year, a new day planner. If the Lord permits me to live through them all, I see three hundred and sixty-five days simmering with possibilities. There are possibilities for work, ministry, play, and of course, all those unexpected things I can’t control. I can schedule some of these things. Some will get canceled or rescheduled. Some will get done. Some may get forgotten or neglected.  Some things I might want to avoid will have to be faced.  I have no idea how all my planning will turn out, but one thing is for sure: I need the wisdom of God to count and spend my remaining time well because my days are numbered.

Moses knew well that man’s days are numbered. He had been miraculously spared from infant death, providentially preserved and reared in the courts of Pharaoh, called and used of God to deliver the Israelites from Egyptian bondage and through the wilderness wanderings. During those forty years, Moses saw his rebellious brethren fall like flies, and outlived the great majority of them. In Psalm 90, this man of God gives reflections of his experience as he instructs us to look to the Lord so we can number our days and spend them well.

We need to ask the Lord to teach us to number our days because He is the eternal Creator. (verses 1-2)

Moses points us first to the Lord, who is the refuge and dwelling place of His people in all generations, including those who had to keep relocating camp in the desert. This is the eternal God. Moses had the same God that the patriarchs had, and that Noah and Adam had before them. This God witnessed and caused the birth of the mountains and the earth. He is God from everlasting to everlasting, without beginning and without ending, and is therefore not bound by time in the way His creation is.

By contrast, we are not eternal but have a beginning. We depend on Him, but He was doing just fine before we or any of His creation was made. Who better to teach us how to number our days and use our time well than the One who made us, the One Who predates and outlasts everything?

We need to ask the Lord to teach us to number our days because we are troubled transients. (verses 3-11)

Moses quickly turns from the God who is eternal, to created man, who is bound by time. Our days not only have a beginning, but they are numbered, seemingly insignificant, and full of trouble.

God sends man back to the dust from which he was made. Even if we lived a thousand years, as some of the patriarchs nearly did, it’s like yesterday to God, like a brief portion of the night. Carried away like a flood, mowed down like grass, burned up by God’s curse on sin, our lives seem like a disposable short story, quickly told and quickly forgotten. We may typically live seventy years, or eighty if our health is good, but the longer we live, the more sorrow we must endure.

We must acknowledge the role of sin in man’s troubled existence. God created man, and man could have lived forever had he kept God’s commands. But Adam and Eve sinned and plunged the whole human race into sin. We inherit a sin nature that includes us toward a rebellious independence, which we personally carry out as soon as we are able. Some of the difficulties we face are because of others’ sins, but some are self-inflicted. God is a holy and righteous God and sin bears consequences proportionate to the devotion God deserves.

Life is hard and even if we become octogenarians or go beyond, our days are numbered. But that shouldn’t drive us away from God. Rather, it should make us run to our eternal Creator, begging for His wisdom, and that’s what Moses models.

We need to ask the Lord to teach us to number our days because He is a compassionate Redeemer. (verses 12-17)

Moses’ reflections on the everlasting Creator and the troubles of transient man lead him immediately to cry to the Lord for help. At the heart of this plea is the confidence that He will have compassion and will help.

We too need to ask the Lord for help. We can grow discontent, bruised, and beaten, and need to be satisfied with His compassion and mercy so we can find our joy and gladness in Him. We can lose sight of what He has done, so we must ask Him to show His work to us, and His glory to our children. We can start to think that what we do has no meaning or legacy, so we must ask Him to favor us and direct and bless the work of our hands.

God ultimately shows us favor through His Son. In Jesus, we see the eternal God who became flesh and dwelt among us. He walked through this fallen world, suffering alongside His fellow humans and having compassion on them. The incarnate God-man spent His days in perfect wisdom. We see God’s glorious work of redemption in the appointed hour of Christ’s death on the cross and in His resurrection. We see the fruit of His labors in lives forever changed by His glorious gospel. In Him, we see death defeated, the curse reversed, and work made meaningful. He who loved us and gave Himself for us is He who redeems our days.

Our days are numbered, but if we are children of God through faith in Christ, their end will be a glorious transition into the fullness of the salvation Jesus has purchased for us. Until that day, let us look to Him so we do not waste our days, but make them count.  As I reach for my day planner, and as I live each day, I want this to be my prayer: Lord, teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

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Check out this musical rendition of Psalm 90 from Judy Rogers and Becky Morecraft: “Everlasting.”

10 Reasons I’m Glad Hebrew & Greek Were Required in Seminary

My family and I were glad to arrive at December 9, 2016.  A journey I began in 2007 as an online student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville ended at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City when I graduated with the Master of Divinity degree.  Along the way, I took a few modular and distance classes for transfer at the Midwest Center for Theological Studies (now Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary) and Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary.  I am grateful for the opportunity to receive this theological training, provided in large part through my local church.  But it did take a while.

While it was not the only factor in the length of the journey, the biblical languages were a major issue.  In fact, I transferred to MBTS thinking I would take a shorter degree (MTS) since the MDiv was taking so long for me to wrap up.  I could do the degree completely online at a faster pace and lower price.  Since it was online, I would not have to leave my family to attend modular classes several hours away.  Also, I had gone through a tough time in Hebrew I.  Although I made an A- in the class, I never felt that I really internalized the language.  I had to drop Hebrew Syntax and Exegesis as life was overwhelming with transitions at the time, especially with the recent diagnosis of autism in our precious four-year-old daughter.

When I neared the completion of the MTS, I noticed that I only had a few classes needed to complete the MDiv, but the languages were still the big obstacle in my mind.  Through the lessons on the websites for Dr. Robert Plummer’s Daily Dose of Greek (my online hermeneutics prof in my first semester!) and Dr. Mark Futato’s Daily Dose of Hebrew (author of the textbook used in my final class, Hebrew II), I dabbled into the languages and regained a confidence that attaining a beginning proficiency and use of them was possible, so I proceeded to take the necessary classes I lacked in Greek and Hebrew.  Looking back, this has been a major turning point in my personal life and ministry preparation.  I am tremendously grateful that I had to study the languages, and here are some of the reasons.

The study of Hebrew and Greek have helped me:

  1. Better appreciate the complexity of language.  The study of these ancient languages really drives home the point that accurate translation is not a simplistic exercise.  It is impossible to translate each single word in one language into a single word in another language.  Some words are condensed and must be unpacked into several to be understood.  Many words have to be supplied (especially pronouns), particularly since the biblical languages can use verbs that have the subject implied and not expressly stated.  Decoding grammar and syntax requires understanding how word order and endings work.  One cannot simply look up each word in Hebrew or Greek in a dictionary for that language and then make accurate English sentences out of them.
  2. By instilling humility.  There is so much to learn.  Who can absolutely master these languages?  I’m under no pretension that completing a one-year language course makes me a biblical language expert.  The disagreement among experts on some of the finer points also humbles me.  I still need the assistance and help of those more learned and experienced in the languages.
  3. Through promoting a regimen of discipline and carefulness.  Studying the languages forced me to slow down and really pay attention to detail.  All those parsing exercises are not a waste of time.  I had to memorize and continually use vocabulary, rules, and patterns for noun declensions, verb conjugations, and articles.  While this sometimes felt like grinding, it quickly paid off as my reading and translation fluency increased.
  4. Further appreciate the inspiration, preservation, and transmission of the Bible.   God has preserved the words that He breathed out.  The amount and quality of evidence we have and the specific way He inscripturated His message are causes for rejoicing.  I especially appreciated the digital unveiling of the text in the En-Gedi Leviticus scroll since I was taking Hebrew at the time.  I want to study these inspired words that God has kept and had transmitted for us.
  5. Strengthen my confidence in the accuracy of many English Bible translations.  Not all translations are of equal quality, and not all translations are made from the same manuscript base, but most of our standard English translations model this science and art well.  Additionally, because of the complexity of language, there can be more than one good way to render certain passages in Hebrew or Greek into English, just as there is more than one good way to say some things in English.  On the other hand, there is an aspect of simplicity and transferability in languages.  Otherwise, we would not be able to learn them and translate them!  Certainly, my translation efforts were much more awkward and stilted than the many skillful renderings we have in English Bibles.  Nonetheless, it is good to know that we can learn the languages and check their accuracy.
  6. Enjoy learning.  It was actually fun to study these languages and begin translating and reading the Bible with the words breathed out by God.  Seeing how my instructors simplified and streamlined the essentials for us, and then went on to the complex, made great sense pedagogically and made learning a pleasure.
  7. Through training me with skills for working with an array of study tools.  It’s so nice to be able to do more than find a word by knowing its place in the Hebrew or Greek alphabet and look it up in a reference work.  By knowing grammatical concepts, I can more intelligently evaluate the dictionary entries to see what really applies to the passage I’m studying.
  8. Filter teaching and resources that make unfounded claims based on the languages.  Some books and sermons effectively pull the wool over the eyes of people, at least when they uncritically accept statements prefaced with words like, “In the Greek, this means…”  Sometimes, the purported meaning is incorrect, or sometimes a word or passage is made to mean far more or less than it should.  Ignorant or deceitful teachers can confuse people with unfounded statements about the way gender works in languages, by seeking to read their particular angle on an English preposition into the text when the Greek and the context do not support that interpretation, or by giving a “deep” insight via a word study that claims a meaning for a word that it does not have in that particular instance.  It’s gratifying to be able to go back and double-check these sorts of statements, in the spirit of the Bereans (Acts 17:11).
  9. Grow in gratefulness to God for those who have paved the way.  Although God’s Word has been inspired, preserved, and transmitted, this would only get us so far if no one could read it.  In the history of the church, this knowledge was not always widely available.  For example, the knowledge of Hebrew was rare in many early centuries of the church.  Its recovery and the advancement in understanding that has resulted have made possible the multitude of classes, books, and resources we have today.  Those who have studied and grown in their Hebrew and Greek and have taught others are gifts to be celebrated and not neglected.
  10. Through motivating me to continue in the languages.  I don’t want to lose what I have attained.  I have experienced usefulness and enjoyment in them, but I am under no illusion that I am a master of them.  I want to go deeper with Hebrew and Greek, and also want to learn Biblical Aramaic since part of God’s inspired Word was breathed out in that language.  I want to make sure at least some work in the original language of the text is involved in my sermon preparation (ideally, a minimum of translating the preaching passage).  I want to eventually teach one or more of these languages, at least for beginners.  My plan to continue includes utilizing the Daily Dose videos, working through some other Hebrew grammars, the Biblical Aramaic video and workbook by Miles Van Pelt, Going Deeper with New Testament Greek (WTS – Amazon hardcoverKindle), and attending the Minister and His Greek New Testament conference at SBTS (Jan. 13-14, 2017).

I believe that my seminary experience has helped me to better know God through His Son, Jesus, and has helped me to learn and hone the disciplines needed to study, obey, and communicate God’s Word in order to equip and minister to others.  While my journey to the MDiv has ended, the journey to be mastered by God’s Word through studying the languages has just begun.  And it’s a path I want to stay on for the rest of my days.

 

Top Ten Apps for the Bible Classroom & Bible Study

Here are some helpful mobile & computer apps for studying, teaching, & applying the Bible, whether in a Christian school, college, seminary, or Sunday school setting.  I have focused primarily on Android, iOS, and PC programs or web apps, but a few of these may also be available in the Windows store and for the Kindle Fire as well (worth a search if any pique your interest!).

  1. Bible  Android  iOS  Computer  This app has been around a while and has gotten better and better.  You can read and listen to the Bible in multiple translations, choose from many reading plans, write and share your notes on Scripture, create graphics with verses, and utilize their account system to connect with others in a social network (there may be great potential here for discussions for a class, especially through the week).

  2. HCSB Study Bible iOS app  This app stands out because it an excellent digital version of the Holman Christian Standard Study Bible.  It has helpful study resources and is the only study Bible I know that lets you choose the translation you prefer to have with those study notes.  Even though it is an HCSB Bible, it will let you switch out the text, for example, to the ESV or the KJV.

  3. Logos   Android   iOS   Computer  Logos provides many Bible study materials digitally, including some for free.  It’s worth creating an account to check out what they have, and if you already have Logos software from a few years ago (or Libronix), you can connect your account and get all the resources on those CDs digitally.  I remember having to contact the company each time I got a new computer, but their account system now lets you easily access your digital library across multiple computers and mobile devices. 

  4. Glo Bible   iOS   Computer  $35 gives you access to some beautiful maps, 3D tours and other study resources that help augment teaching the Bible.  I especially like giving a tour of the tabernacle with my computer hooked up to an HDTV.

  5. Prayermate   Android   iOS   Prayermate is a great catalyst for prayer.  After a little setup, it is a simple app that  is ready to help guide your prayer plan each day.  Highly customizable, it lets you choose from a variety of Biblical prayers and other prompts and guides.  I am especially glad it includes a way to import the Psalms of the Day approach that Dr. Don Whitney promotes to help Christians pray the Bible.
  6. Scripture Typer  Android   iOS  Computer   An innovative and fun way to memorize Scripture (really!).  The free version may provide enough functionality for most folks, but the paid version may be worth considering, especially when one considers all the spiritual benefits that come from knowing God’s Word well enough to treasure it up in our hearts.
  7. Sermonaudio   Android   iOS   Computer  This site provides access to over 1 million sermons from conservative preachers.  There are many viewpoints represented among these Bible believing pastors and evangelists, but there are many helpful messages if you know who/what you are looking for.  One can easily find a particular preacher if he is there, and one can also search for a message from a particular book or passage.  Chromecast support is a big plus too!
  8. Biblescreen   Android   iOS   Computer   Beautiful still and animated graphics with verses (some with spoken words and music too).   A great backdrop before/after class or in the hall.

  9. BibleArc   Android   iOS   Computer   For the serious student, this is an approach to studying the Bible that really helps you observe the text and see the relationships between the propositions, understanding the flow of the argument, and finding the main point.  This is a discipline well worth learning, and the Bible arcing method helps one slow down and see these connections.  The apps and site are helpful ways to do the arcing/diagramming neatly, and allows the creation and saving of one’s work for a nominal monthly fee.

  10. Grace to You, Truth for Life, Ligonier Ministries  This is a three way toss up – each of these ministries have excellent website and ways to freely or affordably access content such as sermons, conference messages, and teaching series.  They also have apps for iOS & Android developed by Subsplash Consulting, and are very user friendly and have Chromecast support.  (Alternative for Android to access media from many ministries:  Pocket Casts, which supports video casting as well as audio; For iOS, the stock Podcast app.)

I hope you find this list helpful.  What apps have you found that help you better learn or present the Bible to others?

Ligonier Connect Course on Abortion Now Permanently Free

Let this sink in: In 43 years, at least 58 million helpless American persons have had their lives snuffed out, with the sanction of our government. Ligonier is making their course on this topic permanently free.

http://www.ligonier.org/blog/abortion-ligonier-connect-free/

Also, during the month of January 2016, Sproul’s book on the topic is free:

http://www.ligonier.org/blog/abortion-rational-look-emotional-issue-free-ebook/

Book Review: Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament

NTOTG. K. Beale & D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament.  Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007.  Jacketed Hardcover, 1239 pp.

Purchase links (affiliate):
WTS (hardcover)
Amazon (hardcover)
Amazon (Kindle)

DESCRIPTION

The Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (CNTUOT) is not a commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament in the sense of, “This is how the NT writers used the OT, and now we will talk about a method to use for interpreting the OT today.”  This work is, however, about specific ways that specific OT references were used by specific NT writers in their specific contexts.  The purpose of the book is not to “survey contemporary debates over the use of the OT in the NT,” but to provide a “reasonably comprehensive survey of all the textual evidence,” examining the New Testament context of the quotation or probable allusion, the Old Testament context from which it is drawn, how it was handled in Second Temple Judaism or early Judaism, textual factors such as manuscript traditions, how the New Testament employed the Old Testament in the specific example being considered, and the theological use to which the quotation or allusion is put (xxiii-xv).

The book aims to show the flexibility and variety of ways in which NT authors used the OT, the way they applied Scripture to Jesus and the church, the interpretive difference between the NT writers and Jewish contemporaries who rejected the Messiah, the question as to whether a writer used a text to expound a teaching from the OT or whether he used the OT to confirm or justify Christian experience, and that an eclectic grammatical-historical method can be used to assess the use of the OT in the NT, with the caveat that NT authors would have looked at Scripture differently than “any of the dominant historical-critical orthodoxies of the last century and a half” (xxvi-xxviii).

G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson have edited the contributions of 18 biblical scholars (including themselves) into this large reference work.  Besides the editors, the writing team is comprised of Peter Balla (2 Corinthians), Craig Blomberg (Matthew), Roy Ciampa (1 Corinthians), George Guthrie (Hebrews), Andreas Kostenberger (John), I. Howard Marshall (Acts), Sean McDonough (Revelation), David Pao (Luke), Brian Rosner (1 Corinthians), Eckhard Schnabel (Luke), Mark Seifrid (Romans), Moises Silva (Galatians, Philippians), Frank Thielman (Ephesians), Philip Towner (1-2 Timothy and Titus), Rikk Watts (Mark), and Jeffrey Weima (1-2 Thessalonians).  Carson handles James through Jude and Beale covers Colossians and Revelation.  The book has a brief introductory overview, followed by treatment of each New Testament book in canonical order, followed by a bibliography.  The one exception is Philemon, since it has no quotes or probable allusions to the OT; a single paragraph touches on a relevant OT background text and recommends a couple of resources for studying this epistle.  A sizable index of references to Scripture and other ancient literature is provided at the end, while the work begins with a table of abbreviations for various scholarly publications referenced.

EVALUATION

In evaluating this resource, I want to raise and answer two questions.

First, who could benefit from this work?

Generally speaking, the treatments in the book are not only thorough, but often thoroughly academic in their language and tone.  There is a great deal of interaction with other sources and viewpoints (though the authors are generally conservative theologically).  The target audience is presumably Bible scholars, theologically trained pastors, and seminary students.  Someone who has learned through self-study will need to have attained to an advanced level or be willing to learn some new vocabulary to get the maximum benefit from this work.  Some use of the biblical languages, as well as terms like midrashtargum, and pesher may present difficulties to those without adequate education.  That being said, this would be a great resource to have in a Bible college or seminary library, or in the study of a scholar or theologically educated pastor , or student receiving a theological education.  It would not be a helpful resource for those without this training.  For those with such training, the use of this work will hopefully help their understanding of the biblical text in the early stages of their study, so that they can rightly interpret and apply it.

Secondly, is this work necessary?

I’m not sure this work is necessary for everyone who could benefit from it.  I am currently consulting it as I preach through Ephesians, and it gave me some considerations to chew on as I looked at Paul’s use of Psalm 68:18 in Ephesians 4:8.  But I also have several commentaries on Ephesians I am using, in addition to notes from various study Bibles.  The CNTUOT went into much greater detail to examine the questions surrounding this passage than any of the commentaries I had.  However, I ended up finding the most plausible approach in a study Bible note that gave an explanation not even considered in the CNTUOT.  While such instances are probably rare exceptions, this reference work may not be necessary for people who have libraries of scholarly commentaries that treat the handling of OT quotes and allusions in the NT.  Some of the better study Bibles should also treat the NT use of the OT, and busy pastors probably will find all they need if they have several key commentaries and consult several helpful study Bibles (such as MacArthur, ESV, HCSBReformation Heritage, Zondervan study Bibles).  If a pastor has a large part of his week devoted to study, this work should enrich that study, but I would not consider it indispensable if he has access to plenty of quality resources.

On the other hand, if one needs a one-stop, thorough treatment, and one has adequate training, this could easily and affordably fill a needed gap.  A student specializing in either the OT or NT could greatly benefit from this volume, as could a trained pastor with a very limited library.

Using this resource in tandem with further study in the area of Christ-centered interpretation as dealt with in books such as Edmund Clowney’s The Unfolding Mystery, James Hamilton’s God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment, and David Murray’s Jesus on Every Page could help one fill out and process some of the specific details when going through each passage and will hopefully help one to better understand God’s Word and how its parts relate to each other.  Including this study of Christ-centered interpretation will also help one grapple with whether the apostolic interpretation of the OT is a matter of historical record only or whether they provide a model for today, something this book is related to, but is not designed to address on its own.

Thanks to Baker Academic for providing me a copy of the book at half price in exchange for a review.

Purchase links (affiliate):  WTS (hardcover)    Amazon (hardcover)   Amazon (Kindle)

The Psalms: An Anatomy of All Parts of the Soul

Consider this quote prefacing John Calvin’s comments on the Psalms (free online at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom08.vi.html) – then go read and pray the Psalms:

I have been accustomed to call this book, I think not inappropriately, “An Anatomy of all the Parts of the Soul;” for there is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror. Or rather, the Holy Spirit has here drawn to the life all the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities, in short, all the distracting emotions with which the minds of men are wont to be agitated… Genuine and earnest prayer proceeds first from a sense of our need, and next, from faith in the promises of God. It is by perusing these inspired compositions, that men will be most effectually awakened to a sense of their maladies, and, at the same time, instructed in seeking remedies for their cure. In a word, whatever may serve to encourage us when we are about to pray to God, is taught us in this book.