Michael Boling – Reflections on Deuteronomy 8-10

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Deuteronomy 8-10

The theme of remembering and being obedient to all of God’s commands continues. Remembering and being obedient are yet again connected to the blessings of the covenant oath God had sworn to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The phrases “be careful to follow” and “be careful not to forget” are repeated in an effort to drive home the importance of these commands given by God and the necessity of obedience. Those who declare there is no grace inherit in these commands have overlooked the repeated mention by God of His deliverance of His people, His provisions for them in their wilderness wanderings, and the giving of the land of promise. Obedience is simply the response one gives to a God who demonstrated such grace.

As He did in Deuteronomy 7, God reminds the people yet again in Deuteronomy 9 that it was not due to their righteousness or abilities that Israel was about ready to enter the land of promise. It was solely due to God working His divine plan and His commitment to His covenant promises. It will be God who will go before them to destroy the inhabitants of the land. It was also due to the great wickedness of these nations that God was using His people to execute His judgment upon the wicked.

God through Moses reminded the people of their past missteps in order to demonstrate their penchant for not remaining faithful to Him as well as to remind them of the consequences of such actions. In particular, God reminded Israel of the golden calf incident. Moses noted how he interceded on behalf of the people due to God’s righteous anger against the people for worshiping this false idol.

Moses also reminded the people how the first set of the commandments written on the stone tablets had been broken by Moses when he saw the people dancing madly before the golden calf. God provided a two stone tablets like the first ones that were placed inside the Ark of the Covenant. The placement of God’s commands in the Ark of the Covenant signifies the everlasting nature of those commands. They were given from the mouth of God and thus were placed in the Ark of the Covenant which was in the Holy of Holies (i.e. God’s presence).

The people were urged to walk in the fear of the Lord and in obedience to His commands and decrees out of love and service to the God who had chosen them and delivered them from bondage. Moreover, they were told to circumcise their hearts, thus demonstrating that obedience was not a matter of works, but rather an issue of their heart relationship with their God. He is the one worthy of praise. He is the one who saved them. He was the one who made them numerous as a nation as promised to Abraham so long ago. God is faithful.

These chapters are a reminder to us of the importance of God’s commands even today as well as the importance of obedience from a heart of love to our God who has saved us from bondage. We must also circumcise our hearts before God. Those who claim God’s law has been nailed to the cross and that keeping God’s law is nothing but a works centered concept truly need to read the words of Deuteronomy and they need to pay attention to how these same words and commands are reiterated throughout the New Testament. Obedience is the necessary response to God’s grace. God’s commands are holy, perfect, and for our benefit so we can understand how to love Him and to love others.

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Mark Johnston – Tempted, Tried, but Never Failing

Beach RESIZED_0 The temptations of Christ are recorded in three out of the four Gospels, so clearly they are meant to highlight a significant component of Jesus’ mission to save. But, despite their prominence in the Gospels, they have been subjected to a range of interpretations – some of which tend towards misinterpretation.

The most common misinterpretation – or at least one that manages to shift the main focus of this episode away from its central significance – is to regard Jesus as model of how to deal with temptation. So, when Satan tempts us to sin, like Jesus we should have a suitable arsenal of Bible verses at our fingertips with which to resist his overtures.

Although there is undoubtedly some truth in that approach, it fails to do justice to the passages that record this incident and the weight they attach to it. The Gospels present it as an integral part of what Jesus had to accomplish to secure redemption. Each Evangelist deals with the event from a slightly different angle, but with a view to highlighting the far-reaching import not only of what Christ was exposed to in his encounter with Satan, but what he actually proved and achieved through it all. Far from being forced into a defensive mode through the devil’s advances, he showed himself from the very outset to be the One God had promised to send to fulfil his promise to Adam in the protoevangelium (Ge 3.15).

Luke’s account in particular provides some penetrating insights into the way this episode in Jesus’ personal history becomes a vital component of redemptive history. A number of little details in particular bring this into focus for us.

Luke (in line with Matthew and Mark) points to the fact that Jesus went into the wilderness because the Holy Spirit led him (Lk 4.1), but he adds two significant details. The first is that Jesus was ‘full of the Holy Spirit’.

Luke, more than any other Gospel writer, has a special interest in the role of the Holy Spirit in the life and ministry of Christ. From the moment and manner of his miraculous conception (1.35) through the source of the prophetic pronouncement by Zechariah (1.67) and the encounter with Simeon in the Temple (2.25-27), the Messianic promise of John the Baptist (3.16) and the graphic revelation of the Spirit in Jesus’ baptism (3.22), the Holy Spirit is intimately involved with the mission of Christ through all its stages.

So here, as Jesus is about to be led into the wilderness, for Luke to note that he was ‘full of the Holy Spirit’ (4.1) signals that he is about to face something of a different order than anything he has faced so far during his earthly life. More than that, the fact Luke glosses the preposition used by Matthew and Mark to say that Jesus was not merely led ‘into’ the desert by the Spirit (as though to be abandoned there) but, rather, was led ‘in’ the desert points to his ongoing support throughout the wilderness ordeal.

Another significant detail in Luke’s account is his choice of ‘the devil’ diabolos to identify the tempter (4.2). The name ‘devil’ carries the connotation of ‘slanderer’ and suggests that the evil one’s intent through this encounter was to discredit Jesus on the very threshold his mission and so sabotage the mission as a whole. The reference to Jesus’ being in the desert ‘for forty days’ in this context would also not have slipped the attention of a 1st Century reader of the Gospel – certainly not one who was familiar with the Hebrew Bible, as Theophilus, the first recipient of this Gospel almost certainly have been. The recurring references in the Old Testament to ‘forty’ periods of time – either days, years, or even the ten 40’s of the Egyptian captivity – almost always pointed to a significant chapter in God’s programme of redemption. So at the start of the most significant chapter of all in his redemptive programme, it is hardly surprising to see that marker being laid down once more.

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Dr. Albert Mohler – What is Truth? Truth and Contemporary Culture

In 1999, Pulitzer Prize winning historian and biographer Edmund Morris released his much-anticipated work on Ronald Reagan. Entitled Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan, this novel—or biography, or biographical novel—set off a great deal of controversy, not least among those who had hoped for a successor to Morris’s magisterial and quite factual, if interpretative, biography of Theodore Roosevelt.

Morris was quite upfront that his intention was to capture Reagan’s essence in a mixture of historical narrative, biographical interpretation—and fiction. His publisher, Random House, even had the audacity to claim in its advertising that through this device, Morris was merely telling the truth in an altogether new way. Morris, himself the object of no small amount of criticism, said concerning his project, “It was an advanced and biographical honesty.” In other words, by inventing a good percentage of the biography, he had made the book more honest than it would otherwise have been.

We are living in an age of great confusion about the issue of truth. In recent weeks, Ralph Keyes has authored a book entitled The Post Truth Era, in which he suggests that society has now moved beyond a concern for truth. Truth has become such a contested category, he writes, that most persons go through life actually expecting to be lied to, to be the recipients of dishonesty, and to be confronted with endless misrepresentations by advertisers, cultural leaders, and now even biographers. In a world of media invention and virtual reality, truth has become a distant category to many persons, especially in the academic elite. Sociologist Jay A. Barnes, in his recent work on lying, suggests that people have grown so accustomed to untruth that many postmodernists now claim that lies are actually “meaningful data in their own right.”

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Book Review – Inheritance of Tears

TEARS-COLOR-460-72 Why do bad things happen? Perhaps the sting of pain is most distinctly felt in the loss of a child, particularly the loss of a child through miscarriage. The cessation of that unborn life before there was the chance to break forth from the womb and for the parents to enjoy raising up their child assuredly is a heart-wrenching and devastating event. Is there good to be found in such tragedy? Is God still in control in the midst of such sorrow and grief? Jessalyn Hutto, in her powerful new book Inheritance of Tears: Trusting the Lord of Life When Death Visits the Womb, shares her experience with miscarriages and how she came to realize that in the midst of life’s storms, God is always there and remains sovereign.

The pain of miscarriage is quite evident and Jessalyn shares quite vividly the pain she experienced. I can only imagine what it must be like to have lost a child in such an early stage of pregnancy and what it must be like to come back to a church setting where it seems every other woman in the building is experiencing the joy of their baby boy or girl. This topic is something I have heard little spoken about in church, perhaps because as Jessalyn notes, most people do not know how to respond to someone who has gone through the pain of miscarriage. Perhaps this is because most do not have a good grasp on the sovereignty of God.

It is that very topic and how Jessalyn unpacks that important theological subject against the background of her own experiences that makes this book so powerful and important. Even if dealing with a miscarriage is not something you have experienced or are currently experiencing, the fact of the matter is at some point in life, you will face tragedy. Whether that is the loss of a loved one either expectedly or unexpectedly, the loss of your job, financial woes, health issues, or any number of problems, in this life we will have trouble. Scripture makes it quite clear that in a world dealing with the problem of sin, we will all come face to face with tragedy and sorrow.

How we handle such situations is key. Jessalyn aptly notes “Our holy God not only knows each and every event that will occur in our lives before it happens, he actually plans our lives down to the smallest detail – again, for our good and his glory.” Many will balk at such a statement, claiming that makes us robots or declaring that means God causes evil. Jessalyn recognizes the difficulty for a finite creation (humanity) to understand the ways of an infinitely holy, just, and righteous God who is our creator and sustainer. In response to those who take issue with her previous statement, she saliently comments, “What we must struggle to understand, of course, is how his goodness can also be expressed through the suffering he allows to enter our lives…we must assume that even something as horrible as miscarriage can be considered good as it passes through the Lord’s sovereign hand for his good purposes.”

Jessalyn also reminds the reader that we serve a Savior who is acquainted with grief. He came to earth and died on the cross for us. He experienced rejection. He shed tears of blood. Through that sacrifice, he has provided a solution to this sin and death problem. It is that glorious future that Jessalyn concludes her book with, reminding the reader that the “suffering we face presently will be overshadowed by the glorious inheritance yet to come. This is a battle we fight through faith. And as we fight, experiencing glimmers of our eternal reality along the way, our souls will be happy in Jesus.”

This is a book I highly recommend for anyone dealing with pain and sorrow in their life or who has questions about God’s sovereignty. Jessalyn Hutto does an excellent job of orienting the conversation to what God tells in His Word about His sovereignty and His plans for us. She shares these truths from the perspective of one who has gone through the midst of trial and who has been able to see God’s sovereignty work in her own life, even in the midst of the sorrow of miscarriage.

This book is available for purchase from Cruciform Press by clicking here.

I received this book for free from Cruciform Press for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Dr. Jason Lisle – Faith vs. Reason

Some Christians have the idea that faith and reason are in conflict, divided by some unbridgeable chasm. They think that one takes over where the other leaves off. In reality, faith and reason work together seamlessly to help us know and love our Maker.

Many Christians perceive a conflict between reason and faith. On the one hand, God tells us to reason (Isaiah 1:18). We are to have a good reason for what we believe, and we are to be always ready to share that reason with other people (1 Peter 3:15). So we attempt to show unbelievers that our belief in the Scriptures is reasonable, justified, and logically defensible. The Bible makes sense.

On the other hand, we are supposed to have faith. We are supposed to trust God and not lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). The Bible tells us that the “just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11). It seems that we are supposed to trust God regardless of whether His words make sense to our understanding.

So, which is it? Are we to live by reason or by faith? Are we supposed to rely upon our intellect, drawing rational conclusions, rejecting those things that don’t make sense? Or are we to accept the teachings of Scripture without regard to logic and reason, even if it does not make any sense?

The apparent conflict between faith and reason troubles many people. When they are properly understood in their biblical context, however, any apparent conflict disappears.
This apparent conflict troubles many people. But it stems from a critical misconception about the meaning of both faith and reason. When both terms are properly defined in their biblical context, any apparent conflict disappears. Yes, we are to have good reasons for what we believe, and we are also to have faith. In fact, without the latter, we could not have the former.

Misconceptions of Faith
Mark Twain once defined faith as “believing what you know ain’t so.”1 Perhaps this is what many people have in mind when they think of the word faith. Indeed some people seem to pride themselves in their belief in the irrational—thinking that such “faith” is very pious. “Why do I believe in the Bible? Well, I guess I just have faith.”

But is this what the Bible means when it uses the word faith? Not at all. The Bible does not promote a belief in the irrational or any type of unwarranted “blind faith.”

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Jason Garwood – Returning to the Good News

e129b34154c7090222f6dc6de745c577 “What you really need is good news,” I told him. He didn’t understand. We had met time and time again and unbeknownst to him, he was trying to perform his way into the kingdom. “You can’t do that,” I exhorted, “otherwise you miss the entire point of Jesus and his performance on your behalf!”

Whether we acknowledge it or not, we all need good news. Not just good news, but better-than-anything news. News that announces something spectacular—like nothing you could ever imagine or fabricate. And until you recognize this need, you’ll be helpless. Like an engine with no gas, your life, without a constant barrage of Jesus-is-King news, will stall.

I often tell my congregation that I have 34 years left in my ministry here, and for those 34 years, you will hear the gospel over and over again, not because you don’t know it in your brain, but because knowing it in your brain isn’t enough. We must know it—I must know it—in our hearts, and in our hands. The gospel isn’t the starting point—it is the point. It’s the point of everything! And until we understand this truth, we will continue to be lured away, enticed by other false gospels that over-promise and under deliver.

Martin Luther is reported to have said that he continues to preach the gospel each and every week because each and every week his people forget it. I’m sure he would include himself in this assertion because let’s face it, we’re all guilty as charged.

Because of this, I came up with five simple reasons as to why we need to hear about Jesus and his glorious gospel each and every day. “Give us Jesus” ought to be the rally cry of the church. Over and over again, our hearts should be yearning to hear the gospel again and again—like my two-year-old daughter begging for a “horsey-ride” on my back, let us go back to the truth that sets us free.

Give us Jesus and his gospel:

1. SO OUR AFFECTIONS ARE STIRRED

Our emotions are impressed with many things. Whether a good movie, television show, football game, or shiny new Apple product, we love an emotionally stirring experience. We thrive on it. But what happens when those emotions become sour? What happens when we just don’t feel like worshiping Jesus and finding joy in him? What do you do when your affections are clouded with bitterness, jealousy, envy, and anger?

Jonathan Edwards is helpful: “Upon the whole, I think it is clearly manifest, that all truly gracious affections arise from special and peculiar influences of the Spirit, working that sensible effect or sensation in the souls of the saints.”[1] It is the Holy Spirit that drives our affections towards gospel holiness and one of the means by which he does so is through gospel proclamation. We need it. Fighting for joy is absolutely that: a fight; but joy in him is absolutely worth it (Ps. 16:11). Only when old affections have been expunged by greater, far superior affections can we be free from idolatry. Give us Jesus so our affections are stirred!

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Lita Cosner – Christ as the last Adam: Paul’s use of the Creation narrative in 1 Corinthians 15

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul gives a sustained argument for the physical resurrection of the dead. Throughout this argument, he alludes back to the Creation and Fall accounts. While the reference to Christ as the “Last Adam” is the most obvious reference to Genesis, the rest of the chapter is also saturated with images and allusions to Genesis 1–3. Paul’s use of the Creation and Fall narratives in this passage only works if they are interpreted as depicting historical events, as Paul undoubtedly understood them to do.

N.T. Wright argues that “The resurrection—that of Jesus, and that of Jesus’ people—dominates the Corinthian correspondence.” In one of the most sustained arguments in any of Paul’s letters, he takes on those in the Corinthian church who are claiming that there is no resurrection of the dead. Their denial does not stem from “scientifically”-minded skepticism that we might attribute to modern people, since most ancient people accepted some sort of disembodied spiritual existence after death. They probably regard resurrection from the dead as a perverse doctrine rather than an impossible one, since people with a Greek background would be more likely to regard a purely spiritual existence as superior to any existence involving a physical body.

Paul vehemently argues against this position, saying that if there is no resurrection, Jesus cannot have been raised, and if Christ is not raised, the Christian has no hope of salvation. “Paul’s point is a simple one: if their present position prevails, they have neither a past nor a future.” The logic of the argument in this passage forces the Christian to accept that indeed, there is resurrection of the dead, since Paul appeals to the Corinthians’ own former acceptance of the fact of Christ’s resurrection to prove his point.

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Michael Boling – Interpretations of the Genesis Creation Narrative

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With the influence of evolutionary and humanistic constructs which gained prominence during the latter stages of the nineteenth century cultural and academic milieu, alternative interpretations of creation became vogue. The increasing pressure from the scientific community to inculcate evolutionary dogma into all aspects of life has led many theologians to look for ways in which to amalgamate the teachings of scripture and the tenets of evolutionary theory.

The aforementioned efforts have led to the development of multifarious origins views such as the Gap Theory, Theistic Evolution, and Old Earth or Progressive Creationism. Conversely, those who espouse the Young Earth Creationism view wholly reject the tenets of evolution in favor of scripture as the authoritative source of evidentiary truth regarding the origin of the universe. Continue reading “Michael Boling – Interpretations of the Genesis Creation Narrative”

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Michael Boling – Reflections on Deuteronomy 3-4

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Deuteronomy 3-4

Moses continues the recap of the Israelite’s journey from Egypt to the land of promise, noting how God delivered King Og of Bashan into their hands. Not a single person of Bashan survived. In fact, Israel conquered all sixty of the towns in Bashan, towns that were well fortified and that had barred gates. Some scholars have noted that Og of Bashan was part of the Nephilim remnant, meaning he was likely of great size and stature also provided some speculation that his people were of a similar size and stature.

After conquering these lands, Moses notes how the tribes of Reuben and Gad were given the territory beyond Aroer along the Arnon Gorge along with half the hill country of Gilead. The rest of Gilead and all of the land of Bashan was given to Manasseh. This land was given with the stipulation that these tribes would provide fighting men to the remainder of the tribes as they began their conquest of Canaan. Once the land was conquered, those tribes would be given the freedom to return to the land allotted to them.

Moses also noted once again that due to his disobedience, he would not be allowed to enter the land of promise. Instead, Joshua son of Nun would lead them.

The commands given to Israel by God are then reiterated by Moses with the note of the need for them to “listen carefully to these decrees and regulations” with the further reminder of the need to “Obey them so that they may live.” Moses reminded the people what God did at Baal-Peor in response to their disobedience. If they obeyed God’s commands completely and remained faithful, they would be wise and would be blessed. The surrounding nations would take note of the wisdom of Israel obeying the commands of God, resulting in Israel being a light to the nations by remaining faithful to God’s decrees.

Moses encouraged the people to never forget what they had seen God do, both in response to their obedience and disobedience. They were to pass this knowledge and memories on to future generations.

The reminder to abstain from idolatry was first on the list with the command to not make an idol of anything. It is God they were to worship and Him alone for it was He who delivered them from bondage in Egypt. If they broke their covenant with God, they would disappear from the land of promise.

Moses also told the people to consider all of history. Has there ever been a God as great as the one they served? The obvious answer was no given all the spectacular things God had done for His people and also given the fact He is the creator of the universe. If they obeyed God, things would be well with them and their children. God’s instructions were not a burden. Conversely, they were provided they the people would enjoy a long life in the land of promise.

Three cities of refuge were established east of the Jordan River in accordance with God’s commands. The names of the cities were Bezer, Ramoth, and Golan.

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Rod Rosenbladt – Reclaiming the Doctrine of Justification

Any evangelical–indeed, any Christian–would probably say that the key issue of human life is that of a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Those who are familiar with the scriptures and know what is described with regard to the nature of the fall of the human race in Genesis three and have come to grips with the texts that plumb the true depths of that fall and the ramifications for every human being born after Adam and Eve, would probably not hesitate to say that man became at that point totally depraved.

Total depravity, of course, does not mean that man has become as bad as he can possibly be, but that every part of us is infected with a deep infection and that we cannot solve our own problem with regard to that infection. This realism moves the evangelical to affirm, therefore, that the eternal Logos assumed to himself a particular human nature and had as his work to be our prophet, priest, and king and to solve our basic problem in our stead or in our place. The word that most evangelicals would use for that is a biblical word…salvation.

And so, in one way, our subject is a very very simple one: How am I to be saved? And in a way, the answer to the question is as simple: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved! Or, to use a couple of texts which Luther and Calvin cited in their debates with great frequency, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law…” (Rom. 3:28) and, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness” (Rom. 4:5).

Now the basic motifs are as follows: (1) The reformers really believed that the popular (and, by the mid-sixteenth century, official) Roman Catholic position was a self-salvation. By “Roman Catholic” I don’t mean what’s going on necessarily at St. John’s by the gas station today. Rather, it is to the medieval position which I refer, the Roman Catholic theology that was represented in the Council of Trent.

(2) When God gives orders and tells us what will happen if we fail to obey those orders perfectly, it is in the category of what the reformers, following the biblical text, called “law.” When God promises freely, providing for us because of Christ’s righteousness the status he demands of us, this is in the category of “gospel.” It is good news from start to finish. The Bible includes both, and the reformers were agreed that the scriptures clearly taught (contrary to many forms of dispensationalism) that the Law (whether Old or New Testament commands) was not set aside for the believer. Nevertheless, they insisted that nothing in this category of “Law” could be a means of justification or acceptance before a holy God.

The Law comes, not to reform the sinner, nor to show him or her the “narrow way” to life, but to crush the sinner’s hopes of escaping God’s wrath through self-effort or even cooperation. All of our righteousness must come from someone else–someone who fulfilled the Law’s demands. Once we have been stripped of our “filthy rags” of righteousness (Is.64:6), our “fig leaves” through which we try in vain to hide our guilt and shame, only then can we be clothed with Christ’s righteousness. First comes the Law to proclaim judgment and death, then the Gospel to proclaim justification and life. One of the clearest presentations of this motif is found in Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians.

For many in the German “Higher Life” movement, and those in the stream of Wesley generally, the motif is Law-Gospel-Law. B. B. Warfield, the great dean of “Old Princeton” Reformed theologians, was one of the clearest early critics of this trend, which has now culminated in the vast literature of “victorious living” versions of the Christian life. Warfield argued that, at the bottom of it all, the Higher Life movement was nothing more than a revival of prominent Wesleyan-Arminian features. Warfield also stated that he was fairly convinced that the Arminians had another God. That’s a deep shot. Is it justified? To answer that, let us go back for a moment to the Reformation debate.

In the sixteenth century the issue of law and grace was more clearly dealt with than at almost any other time since the apostles. The lines were cut cleanly, and as the great Yale historian, Roland Bainton, has written, “This was the only issue of the century.” Anybody who is studying the sixteenth century primarily through the issue of economics is going to miss the whole point of the century. It is impossible to understand the sixteenth century if you start with the categories of Marxism and revolution, or anything else.

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