Book Review – Slaying the Debt Dragon

SlayingTheDebtDragon-FINAL Bills, Bills, Bills. I am not referring to a room full of men named William, but rather to the mountains of debt most Americans find themselves drowning under these days. The statistics are staggering as to how much the weight of debt rests on the shoulders of the average family to include college loans, credit cards, car loans, department store credit cards, and mortgage debt. Is living with the burden of debt really how God desires us to operate? Is there a way out and a method to take a hacksaw to the shackles of debt most all of us find ourselves chained to? Cherie Lowe in her very helpful book Slaying the Debt Dragon shares that piles of debt is not God’s methodology for handling money and yes there is a way out from under the crushing burden of debt.

Paying off $127,000 of debt in four years. Sound like a pipedream? It seemed that way to Cherie Lowe and her husband Brian. Much like most people these days, they thought that incurring debt and making payments into eternity was just the way life was supposed to be lived. After coming to grips with the giant hole they had dug themselves into, they decided to make a change in their approach to money that would forever change their lives. After buckling down and after four years of hard work and major adjustments in their lifestyle, that $127,000 dragon of a debt was slain, never to return.

Now many might look at the story Cherie Lowe shares in this book and think to themselves, “I do not have nearly that much debt and thus I can handle things just fine.” To some degree that was the approach my wife and I had for many years. We by no means have $127,000 of debt; however, we do have a number of “ankle-biter” bills we have accumulated that just seem to never go away. We decided last year it was time for a change and we set forth on our own debt slaying journey, much like the Lowes did and have shared in this excellent book.

The concepts regarding how to tackle debt that are noted by Cherie Lowe are very reminiscent of what one would find in books by Dave Ramsey or Larry Burkett. In fact, Cherie Lowe pays homage and rightly so to both of those men for their financial insight and assistance in helping Cherie and her husband pay off their debt in a purposeful and timely manner. What is different between the books by Dave Ramsey and Larry Burkett and the information shared in Slaying the Debt Dragon is Cherie Lowe outlines a number of family oriented principles for finance.

For instance, she notes the importance of involving your children in the debt slaying process so they have a better understanding of why the family is ceasing going out to eat every night or why that new electronic device or toy purchase will have to wait until the budget allows for such an expenditure. Cherie Lowe rightly notes, “Your belt tightening will provide your children with many real-life lessons that can help them avoid your financial missteps and blunders.” She outlines a number of ways children can be involved in the family budget such as meal planning, grocery shopping, and finding ways to stay-vacation that are fun while not breaking the budget or incurring additional debt for the thrill of the moment.

I also appreciated the fact Cherie Lowe shared that getting out of debt is not all about piling up money for a rainy day. While ridding yourself of the dragon (or whatever name you call the debt you will rid yourself of) does allow for more financial breathing room and flexibility to enjoy life, getting out from under this burden also allows believers to do that which God desires of His people to be about doing, namely assisting the less fortunate and those in need. Far too many people are so encumbered by debt they have no ability to be giving.

Throughout this helpful book, Cherie Lowe shares the stories of fellow debt slayers including why those families decided to embark on their debt destroying journey, what surprised them about paying off their debt, the challenges they faced, how they celebrated when the debt was paid off, any encouragement and advice they have for the reader, and how paying off their debt impacted their marriage. I was truly amazed at the amount of debt that had been paid off and it gave me encouragement and an extra push and sense of urgency for my own family to complete our debt removal journey, something we anticipate taking place late summer of this year. Maybe we will call into Dave Ramsey’s show and declare “We are debt free”!

I highly recommend and encourage everyone to read this book. Whether our debt is small or seemingly insurmountable, you need to start on your debt slaying journey today. Why wait or put it off? By reading this book you will find yourself challenged, motivated, and encouraged. The paradigm shift in our life that will take place as you embark on your journey may be painful at times and people may think you are crazy, but as Cherie Lowe has so wonderfully outlined in this book, it is well worth the effort.

This book is available for purchase from Tyndale by clicking here.

I received this book for free from Tyndale 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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Michael Boling – Reflections on Deuteronomy 28-29

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Deuteronomy 28-29

In case the people of Israel had not caught on to God’s repeated statements about the connection of obedience to His commands and being blessed in the land of promise, He repeats that construct once again. God tells His people rather clearly, “if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth.”

In chapter 28, God outlines the various ways He would bless them if they kept His commands carefully and faithfully. Now there are some passages in this chapter that many in the prosperity gospel movement twist and manipulate to fit their false teaching. For instance, verse 6 states, “bless shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.” Additionally, verse 13 states, “the Lord will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath.” Of course those who use those passages out of context fail to mention the stipulation for those statements of blessing, namely that of obedience to God’s commands.

If the people failed to heed carefully and faithfully the commands of God, they would be cursed. Chapter 28 also outlines in stark detail the many ways in which God would curse the people and the land if Israel did not remain faithful. It is interesting that the list of curses is longer than the list of blessings, thus demonstrating the seriousness God takes to His people being holy as He is holy and serving Him in loving obedience.

Moses gathered the people and reminded them of all God had done, how He had delivered them from Egypt, sustained them for forty years in the wilderness, and how He had delivered Sihon king of Heshbon and Og king of Bashan into their hands. Moses urged the people to remain faithful to the covenant God had made with them so that He may establish them as His people, a loving and committed people to the oaths and promises they had made to obey God’s commands. Moses also reminded the people that God blesses those whose hearts are towards Him and curses those who turn their hearts away from Him in blatant disobedience. He concludes chapter 29 by noting that the secret things belong to God; however, God has made His commands quite clear and they were to be obeyed with a loving heart and loving mind.

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Horatius Bonar – Bruised for Our Iniquities

Horatius Bonar

We were one day conversing with an unbeliever who lay on a bed of suffering and was murmuring against the God that made him. He put the question in an angry tone,

“Where did this pain come from?”
“From sin,” we answered.
“But why should pain follow sin?”
“Because God is a righteous God.”
“How does that prove that where there is pain there must have been sin?”
“Because a righteous God must punish what is wrong.”
“Why must He?’
“Because if He did not the universe would go to pieces.”
“How so?”
“Just as a kingdom would go to wreck if the ruler did not punish evil doers, so the whole universe would go into disorder if God did not attach punishment to sin.”
The sufferer thought a little, and then admitted that this was right, and that pain ought to be the consequent of sin, for the sake of preserving the universe in order and happiness.

Again he asked,

“What do you mean by sacrifice, and why was it necessary?”
“Because sin must be punished.”
“What has that to do with sacrifice?”
“Much every way; chiefly this, that sacrifice is punishment—the punishment of one instead of another—for it is impossible that there can be sin without punishment.”
“But is that just?”
“Quite just, if he who is to bear the punishment undertakes it of his own free will, and is not
compelled.”
“How so?”
“In this way: If you were in debt and I were compelled to pay your debts, there would be great
injustice; but if I came forward and did it willingly, there would be no injustice to any one, and the law
would be maintained.”

He thought a little, and then said calmly and distinctly,

“Yes, I see that; there would be no injustice then.”
“Just so is it,” we said, “with the payment of our debts by the Son of God. He came forward and presented His sufferings to God instead of ours, His life instead of ours, His death instead of ours.”

The sufferer was greatly interested, and the light seemed to break into his dark soul, as we then spoke to him of Christ “bearing our sins in His own body on the tree,” “suffering, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.”

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Charles Spurgeon – A Caution to the Presumptuous

charles_spurgeon

“Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” 1 Corinthians 10:12

t is a singular fact, but nevertheless most certain, that the vices are the counterfeits of virtues. Whenever God sends from the mint of heaven a precious coin of genuine metal, Satan will imitate the impress, and utter a vile production of no value. God gives love; it is his nature and his essence. Satan also fashioneth a thing which he calls love, but it is lust. God bestows courage; and it is a good thing to be able to look one’s fellow in the face, fearless of all men in doing our duty. Satan inspires fool-hardiness, styles it courage, and bids the man rush to the cannon’s mouth for “bubble reputation.” God creates in man holy fear. Satan gives him unbelief, and we often mistake the one for the other. So with the best of virtues, the saving grace of faith, when it comes to its perfection it ripens into confidence, and there is nothing so comfortable and so desirable to the Christian, as the full assurance of faith. Hence, we find Satan, when he sees this good coin, at once takes the metal of the bottomless pit, imitates the heavenly image and superscription of assurance, and palms upon us the vice of presumption.

We are astonished, perhaps, as Calvinistic Christians, to find Paul saying, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall;” but we need not be astonished, for though we have a great right to believe that we stand, if we think we stand through the power of God — though we cannot be too confident of the might of the Most High, there is a thing so near akin to true confidence, that unless you use the greatest discernment you cannot tell the difference Unholy presumption — it is against that which I am to speak this morning. Let me not be misunderstood. I shall not utter one word against the strongest faith. I wish all Little-Faiths were Strong-Faiths, that all Fearings were made Valiants-for-Truth, and the Ready-to-Halts made Asahel’s Nimble-of-Foot, that they might all run in their Master’s work. I speak not against strong faith or full assurance; God giveth it to us; it is the holiest, happiest thing that a Christian can have, and there is no state so desirable as that of being able to say, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him.” It is not against that I speak, but I warn you against that evil thing, a false confidence and presumption which creepeth over a Christian, like the cold death-sleep on the mountain-top, from which, if he is not awakened, as God will see that he shall be, death will be the inevitable consequence. “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”

I shall this morning attempt first, to find out the character; secondly, to show the danger; and thirdly, to give the counsel. The character is, the man who thinks he stands; the danger is, that he may fall; and the counsel is, “let him take heed.”

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Russell Moore – Women, Stop Submitting to Men?

russell_moore Those of us who hold to so-called “traditional gender roles” are often assumed to believe that women should submit to men. This isn’t true.

Indeed, a primary problem in our culture and in our churches isn’t that women aren’t submissive enough to men, but instead that they are far too submissive.

First of all, it just isn’t so that women are called to submit while men are not. In Scripture, every creature is called to submit, often in different ways and at different times. Children are to submit to their parents, although this is certainly a different sort of submission than that envisioned for marriage. Church members are to submit to faithful pastors (Heb. 13:17). All of us are to submit to the governing authorities (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17). Of course, we are all to submit, as creatures, to our God (Jas. 4:7).

And, yes, wives are called to submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:22; 1 Pet. 3:1-6). But that’s just the point. In the Bible, it is not that women, generally, are to submit to men, generally. Instead, “wives” are to submit “to your own husbands” (1 Pet. 3:1).

Too often in our culture, women and girls are pressured to submit to men, as a category. This is the reason so many women, even feminist women, are consumed with what men, in general, think of them. This is the reason a woman’s value in our society, too often, is defined in terms of sexual attractiveness and availability. Is it any wonder that so many of our girls and women are destroyed by a predatory patriarchy that demeans the dignity and glory of what it means to be a woman?

Submitting to men in general renders it impossible to submit to one’s “own husband.” Submission to one’s husband means faithfulness to him, and to him alone, which means saying “no” to other suitors.

Submission to a right authority always means a corresponding refusal to submit to a false authority. Eve’s submission to the Serpent’s word meant she refused to submit to God’s. On the other hand, Mary’s submission to God’s word about the child within her meant she refused to submit to Herod’s. God repeatedly charges his Bride, the people of Israel, with a refusal to submit to him because they have submitted to the advances of other lovers. The freedom of the gospel means, the apostle tells us, that we “do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1).

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Book Review – Preaching the Word: Psalms 1-41

The-Psalms-Vol-1-1-41 The Psalms have long been a favorite portion of God’s Words. They form the basis for many songs we sing in worship and they are a definite source of hope, comfort, and inspiration when the good and bad situations of life come our way. The Psalms offer to the believer far more than just words to be put to song or a pick me up when you are feeling down. Throughout the Psalms, we see the picture of God as King. James Johnston, in his commentary on Psalms 1-41 rightly subtitled Rejoice, the Lord is King, focuses his salient exegesis on this important element of the first portion of the Psalms.

This commentary is part of the highly readable and accessible Preaching the Word series. Intended as a tool for pastors to be better equipped to take the truth of Scripture and to share those truths with their congregations, this particular commentary series is focused not on examining every nuance of language or culture (although such things are noted), but rather on looking at the meat of a passage so that biblical sustenance can be provided to God’s people. Johnston’s contribution to this series is no different.

Johnston begins this commentary with some needed background information on the Psalms to include its overall composition, genre, its place in the Torah (an important point to make), the fact the Psalms is the Old Testament book most often quoted in the New Testament (an interesting bit of trivia), and the reality they are a collection of Psalms that forms a book, one that points to the Messiah, a book that tells a story of God’s dealings with His people and His sovereignty in carrying out His divine plan.

Building on that all important foundation, Johnston then proceeds to walk the reader through the first forty-one Psalms. I found the exegesis of the Psalms to be pointed, focused, and quite helpful. I have a large number of commentaries in my library on the Psalms as a result of taking a course on the Psalms in Seminary. Many of those commentaries seem to be bogged down in the theological, linguistic, and cultural minutia of the text. While such things are important to a large degree, there is a need for a commentary that takes an in-depth look at the text without swimming too far and too often into the deep end of the theological pool. Johnston’s commentary does wade into the deep end when needed, yet spends most of its time providing sound practical application of the text, something sorely needed in the world of commentaries.

Each Psalm in this commentary is examined in great detail, noting the background/historical items of interest that led to the writing of that particular Psalm. Johnston then concludes his discussion of that particular Psalm with come closing comments, encapsulating in a paragraph or to the “so what” of the discussion points. Interspersed in his commentary are personal examples and relevant stories that demonstrate using everyday examples the truths demonstrated in the text.

For instance, in his examination of the most famous Psalm of them all, that of Psalm 23, Johnston walks the reader through the reality that as King of Israel, David was to be the shepherd of his people. Even then, “David is also a sheep – the Lord is his Shepherd. A greater Shepherd cares for him.” Taking that truth, Johnston then aptly notes how this idea of a great Shepherd for God’s people is beautifully and notably revealed in the life of Christ. Johnston comments “Like David, Christ was both a sheep and a shepherd. As the Lamb of God, Christ trusted his Father with his life.” He goes on to also correctly note, “Christ is not only a sheep, he is also our Shepherd. God took on flesh to become a Lamb to save us and a King to rule over us.” This has a daily application for us as believers, something Johnston also ensures the reader clearly understands. As our Great Shepherd, “He guards and guides us through this life”, even as we maneuver through those rocky and dark places, God is always with us.

It is this high quality and useful exegesis and application that gives me no qualms about highly recommending this commentary. Those who love the Psalms will find this commentary to be a treasure trove of sound biblical information on this beloved book of the Bible. This is a tool both pastors and laymen will be able to use in their daily Bible study, in particular when they are spending time discovering or perhaps re-discovering Psalms 1-41. I look forward to the other volumes in the Psalms commentaries in the Preaching the Wordseries.

This book is available for purchase from Crossway Books by clicking here.

I received this book for free from Crossway Books 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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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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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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Anthony Buzzard – What Happens When We Die? A Biblical View of Death and Resurrection

If contemporary secular society has retained a flicker of interest in any department of religion, it is surely in the question of life after death—if only to provide answers for inquiring youngsters. Faith in the reality of life beyond the grave seems to be faltering, since an article in the NOW magazine of
December, 1979 quoted the astonishing statistic that 50% of those who claim to be Christians and churchgoing members of the Church of England do not believe in an afterlife! And yet, in New Testament terms, Christianity without a belief in the afterlife represents an absurd contradiction. Indeed, the tendency to doubt the future resurrection of the faithful called forth some of Paul’s most forceful words. To the church at Corinth he wrote:

First and foremost, I handed on to you the facts which had been imparted to me: that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the
Scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised to life on the third day, according to the Scriptures; and that he appeared to Cephas [Peter] and afterwards to the Twelve. Then he appeared to James, and afterwards to all the apostles. In the end he appeared even to me…This is what we all proclaim,
and this is what you believed. Now if this is what we proclaim, that Christ was raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there be no resurrection, then Christ was not raised; and if Christ was not raised, then our gospel is null and void, and so is your faith; and we turn out to be lying witnesses for God, because we bore witness that he raised Christ to life, whereas, if the dead are not
raised, he did not raise him. For if the dead are not raised, it follows that Christ was not raised; and if Christ was not raised, your faith has
nothing in it and you are still in your old state of sin. It follows also that those who have died within Christ’s fellowship are utterly lost. If it is for this life only that Christ has given us hope, we of all men are most to be pitied (1 Cor. 15:3-8, 11-19, NEB).

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D. A. Carson – Systematic Theology and Biblical Theology

Systematic Theology and Biblical Theology

D. A. Carson

To relate the nature and functions of systematic theology and biblical theology respectively proves distractingly difficult because various scholarly camps operate with highly divergent definitions of both disciplines, and therefore also entertain assumptions and adopt methods that cannot be reconciled with those of other scholarly camps. The permutations from these intertwined variables ensure the widest diversity of opinion; no analysis of the relations between systematic and biblical theology can sweep the field. Some of these difficulties must be explored before useful connections between the two disciplines can be drawn. Because more debate attaches to biblical theology than to systematic theology, and because biblical theology is the focus of this volume, that is where we must direct primary attention.

Biblical Theology
Before attempting to sort out the conflicting definitions of biblical theology, we shall do well to consider the bearing of a number of topics on the discipline.

History of Biblical Theology
Because the history of biblical theology is surveyed elsewhere in this volume, here we may restrict ourselves to a mere listing of some of the turning points that have given rise to different apprehensions of biblical theology.

In one sense, wherever there has been disciplined theological reflection on the Bible, there has been a de facto biblical theology. The first occurrence of the expression itself, however, is in 1607, in the title of a book by W. J. Christmann, Teutsche [sic] Biblische Theologie (no longer extant). The work was apparently a short compilation of proof texts supporting Protestant systematic theology. This usage enjoyed long life; it was alive and well a century and a half later in the more rigorous four-volume work by G. T. Zachariae (1771-75). A century earlier, however, the German pietist P. J. Spener, in his famous Pia Desideria (1675), distinguished theologia biblica (his own use of Scripture, suffused with reverence and piety) with the theologica scholastica that prevailed in Protestant orthodoxy.
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