Mar 22

Paul James-Griffiths – Creation Days and Orthodox Jewish Tradition

After years of agonizing over the literal days of creation in Genesis, I decided to spend time researching this problem at the London School of Jewish Studies in Hendon, England. After all, I thought, why shouldn’t I go to the natural Jewish vine for some answers? (Of course, one should be cautious to distinguish between real exegesis of the Word of God, which must always overrule the ‘traditions of men’ [Mark 7:13], and we’ll see some examples. Although not covered here, it applies especially to modern Judaic revisionism of the Messianic passages after the rise of Christianity.1)

On my arrival, a Yeshiva (religious study group) was in process among the Orthodox students. But I was shown to the library where a bearded Rabbi pulled out the best conservative commentaries on the days of creation, along with the Talmud. This is the code of Jewish oral tradition interpreting the Torah or the Law of Moses, completed in the 5th century AD.

Eager to study, I took notes from these learned works, which had been compiled by some of the most eminent scholars in Judaism. It was a strange experience being surrounded by Orthodox Jews meticulously scrutinizing ancient books. After days of careful study of the conservative Rabbinical scholars, I had my answer: the days of Genesis were literal.

I turned to Rabbi Abraham Ben Meir Ibn Ezra’s commentary on Genesis. This scholar (c. 1089–1167) from medieval Spain is highly regarded in traditional Rabbinical circles, and his commentary was highly commended by Maimonides (1135–1204). Maimonides (a.k.a. Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, or the acronym Rambam) has been considered the key figure in Judaism since the Temple was destroyed in AD 70.

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Mar 21

Michael Boling – Rejoice in the Lord Always: Dealing with Anxiety

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Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

I remember back in school study feverishly for a math test. After nights of studying and despite having at least a slight bit of confidence that I knew the material and was thus read for the exam, nevertheless, that wave of test anxiety seemed more often than not to come crashing down upon me. As a result, my brain seemed to empty itself of all that I had crammed into it.

Who hasn’t had a case of the anxieties at some point in their life? I would submit we all fall prey to this pernicious enemy more than we realize. We may try to frame our anxiety as nothing more than being excited or nervous, but the reality is we are still all knotted up inside about something in the future, something seemingly beyond our control or ability to fully know the outcome of what will transpire.

Is being anxious about something always wrong given that Philippians 4:6 clearly calls believers to not be anxious for anything? Furthermore, how do we differentiate between excitement and anxiety? How do we tackle the urge to live in fear of the future or things we feel are out of our control? The answer to these questions I believe can be found in the Apostle Paul’s salient words to us in Philippians 4:4-7. In these four verses we can find the answers to dealing with anxiety, fear, and worry.

Ed Welch, in his excellent book Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest notes that the topic of fear is mentioned over three hundred times in Scripture with God repeatedly commanding His people “Do not fear.” This means that anxiety is nothing new for the human race. The people of Israel quite often had much to fear. Think about what it must have been like to have been set free from bondage in Egypt only to be taken to an entirely new land. Notice how quickly the Israelites forgot about the miraculous things God had done for them in delivering them from the hands of the Egyptians. God had turned a river into blood, placed the land under complete darkness, and had split the waters for the people to cross through just to name a few of the miracles He performed on their behalf. Why then were they anxious? It was the fear of the unknown, the proclivity of humanity to forget the God they serve is the almighty Creator of the universe, the sovereign God who knows what He is doing. Just like the Israelites, when trouble comes our way or we encounter something difficult in life, we forget that God is always faithful to His people. There is nothing we will face in life that surprises God or is out of His sovereign control.

In Philippians 4:4-7, Paul begins by commanding us to rejoice in the Lord always. He follows that command with “again I say rejoice” just in case we missed the initial exhortation. Now rejoicing is not just limited to putting on a smiley face in an attempt to ward off anxiety. Neither is it some sort of mask we put on to try and convince ourselves that if we think we can we can do it. The Greek word used for rejoice is chairō, a verb that connotes the idea of rejoicing exceedingly, a pervasive attitude of celebration and utter joy.

This of course begs the question as to why we should rejoice. Paul wastes no time in explaining why we can rejoice – “The Lord is near.” Some translations say “The Lord is at hand” which I think better captures the reality of God’s faithfulness. He is always there, even when we feel as if we are going at it all alone and nobody, let alone God, is concerned with what we are dealing with in life. This nearness is a positional term declaring that God is right there by our side every minute of every single day. There is not ever a time when God is preoccupied with something else and is not concerned with what we are dealing with in our lives.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, this noting of the Lord’s nearness carries with it an eschatological element, namely the reality that one day Christ will return to fix this mess of a world in which we live. Homer Kent rightly comments “His (Paul’s) reference is to the Parousia (not just Christ’s continuing presence with believers). This seems clear from the context of the letter, where 3:20, 21 focused attention on the glorious prospect in view for believers at Christ’s return…The statement is a reminder that at his arrival the Judge will settle all differences and will bring the consummation that will make most of our human differences seem trifling.”[2] Thus Paul is reminding believers to set our minds not on the issues of the moment, but on the reality that redemption and restoration draws nigh.

Based on that eternal mindset, we can set worry, anxiety, and fear aside, knowing that God is both near and that Christ will indeed return. When the temptation to worry or to be anxious calls our name and it most certainly will, we can deal with those urges by going to God in prayer. In I Peter 5:7 we are commanded to “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” This casting of anxiety on him is accomplished through prayer.

John Calvin once said this about the practice of prayer:

“The necessity and utility of this exercise of prayer no words can sufficiently express. Assuredly it is not without cause our heavenly Father declares that our only safety is in calling upon his name, since by it we invoke the presence of his providence to watch over our interests, of his power to sustain us when weak and almost fainting, of his goodness to receive us into favour, though miserably loaded with sin; in fine, call upon him to manifest himself to us in all his perfections.”[3]

When we rejoice in the Lord always, acknowledging that He is always walking right beside us, and when we cast all our anxieties to Him in prayer and thanksgiving, the result is God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. What a wonderful promise! God’s peace is beyond our understanding meaning “God’s peace accomplishes far more than any human forethought or plan might devise.”[4] We can take comfort that when we hit the proverbial brick wall or when there comes a time in our life when all seems lost; God is firmly in control of the situation. When we come to Him in prayer, His peace will rain down on our lives, dispersing the muck and mire of anxiety, fear, and worry replacing it with hope and faith in the goodness and faithfulness of God.

Let us look to the author and finisher of our faith, the sovereign God who is completely in control of every fabric of the universe, a God who cares for our every need. If you are suffering from anxiety today, cast that anxiety and worry at the feet of almighty God for He cares for you. Find rest in the promises He has provided in His word and set your eyes not on the worries of the moment, but on the reality that one day He will come again and the problems of this world will be no more.

References:

[1] Edward Welch, Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest (Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2008), 59.
[2] Homer A. Kent, Jr. “Commentary on Philippians” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol.11: Ephesians through Philemon. Edited by Frank Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 151.
[3] http://www.prayermeetings.org/files/P_Of_Prayer_John_Calvin.pdf
[4] Kent, 152.

Mar 21

D. A. Carson – How to Subtly Abandon Your Bible’s Authority

On the danger of appealing to selective evidence:

The most severe forms of this drift [appealing to selective evidence] are well exemplified in the teaching and preaching of the HWPG—the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel. Link together some verses about God sending prosperity to the land with others that reflect on the significance of being a child of the King, and the case is made—provided, of course, that we ignore the many passages about taking up our cross, about suffering with Christ so that we may reign with him, about rejoicing because we are privileged to suffer for the name, and much more. These breaches are so egregious that they are easy to spot. What I’m thinking of now is something subtler: the simple refusal to talk about disputed matters in order to sidestep controversy in the local church. For the sake of peace, we offer anodyne treatments of hot topics (poverty, racism, homosexual marriage, distinctions between men and women) in the forlorn hope that some of these topics will eventually go away. The sad reality is that if we do not try to shape our thinking on such topics under the authority of Scripture, the result is that many of us will simply pick up the culture’s thinking on them.

The best antidote is systematic expository preaching, for such preaching forces us to deal with texts as they come up. Topical preaching finds it easier to avoid the hard texts. Yet cultural blinders can easily afflict expositors, too.

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Mar 21

Ken Ham – Was There Death Before Adam Sinned?

Which history of death do you accept?

Annie’s cruel death destroyed Charles’s tatters of beliefs in a moral, just universe. Later he would say that this period chimed the final death-knell for his Christianity…Charles [Darwin] now took his stand as an unbeliever.”

When Charles Darwin wrote his famous book On the Origin of Species, he was in essence writing a history concerning death. In the conclusion of the chapter entitled “On the Imperfections of the Geological Record,” Darwin wrote, “Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows.”

From his evolutionary perspective on the origin of life, Darwin recognized that death had to be a permanent part of the world. Undoubtedly, he struggled with this issue as he sought to reconcile some sort of belief in God with the death and suffering he observed all around him, and which he believed had gone on for millions of years.

This struggle came to a climax with the death of his daughter Annie — said to be “the final death-knell for his Christianity.”

Belief in evolution and/or millions of years necessitates that death has been a part of history since life first appeared on this planet. The fossil layers (containing billions of dead things) supposedly represent the history of life over millions of years. As Carl Sagan is reported to have said, “The secrets of evolution are time and death.”

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Mar 20

Michael Boling – Take Care How Far You Go Down the Rabbit Hole

I love to research. In fact, what I am often drawn towards when it comes to matters of theology are what some would label as more fringe topics such as the Nephilim for example. The command given to us in Scripture to “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) is one I take quite seriously. We live in a day when truth is viewed as relative. Thus, understanding the difference between truth and error is arguably more important than ever. Error often wraps itself in a cloak of what appears to be light. Shining the light of truth in order to expose error is the duty of all believers.

We must take care in our zeal to test all things to beware of how far down the proverbial rabbit hole we go in our research. It is true that uncovering error can and does involve the necessity to investigate the writings of those who purport that which are testing. It will involve reading error filled, yet enticing works. The enemy is adept at wrapping error in just a hint of truth so as to deceive those who are unaware what they are reading is night and day outside the framework of truth as revealed in Scripture.

This seems rather common sense, right? It should be; however, of late, I have observed a disturbing trend, namely that of the tendency to go too far down the rabbit hole without being hooked firmly into the lifeline of Scripture. It is as if when some begin to dig into a topic, they become entangled by the snares of the very subject matter they set out to expose. Well intentioned research then results in the acceptance and often the promotion of error which then only serves to further propagate that errant belief system.

Let me provide a salient example. Recently, a belief known as the Serpent Seed Doctrine has reared its head. I am not going to provide an in-depth discussion of this belief in this post. I will share some of the basics of the doctrine so as to provide a point of reference for what I am trying to get across. The Serpent Seed Doctrine teaches Cain was the result of a sexual relationship between Eve and the Serpent. There is much more to it than that, but at its core, this ideology springs from that assertion. Support for this belief is impossible to find within Scripture so adherents turn to Jewish Targums and numerous extra-biblical writings in an attempt to demonstrate via those alternative translations and commentaries that some sort of belief in their interpretation existed at some point in the past. Ultimately, it is nothing more than very poor exegesis at best and an attempt to stretch word meanings well beyond any element of their semantic range.

Many of late have latched on to this unbiblical doctrine. It seems one reason why is they are lured in by others who have done “research” into this doctrine, written a book, and who have found a voice by which to share their findings. In the name of testing all things, many have followed suit by studying the Serpent Seed Doctrine and its merits to discover if what it teaches is correct.

So what is wrong with that you may ask? Does not that fall within the boundaries of 1 Thessalonians 5:21 and its command to test all things and hold fast to that which is good? Yes and no would be my response. It is yes because this doctrine definitely needs tested. It is no because the manner by which some are testing it revolves around acceptance of the initial material they viewed (i.e. the researcher’s comments/book/video) as being factual which in turn negatively impacts their ability to research the issue from a proper framework, namely with the truth of Scripture as the guide.

Our test of all things must be first, foremost, and always rooted in Scripture. As we begin to do our research which will again by necessity involve works that oppose what we find in Scripture, we can never untether ourselves from the truth of Scripture. Once we unhook that lifeline of truth, our journey down the rabbit hole will result in being sucked into the very error we set out to research and expose.

Now along the way, we may find that elements of our understanding will be refined. When it comes to something like the Serpent Seed Doctrine, research that is firmly tethered to Scripture will further reveal the error of that doctrine while at the same time outlining the fundamental truth there is a seed war that is taking place. This war is noted in Genesis 3:15 and will continue until the Messiah returns to deal with the enemy once and for all. This concept of the seed is found throughout Scripture. It is a spiritual battle taking place that of course does involve the physical realm.

There is a great desire to test all things and that desire is to be commended. With that said, before one goes testing all things, they must ensure they are tethered and rooted in the truth of Scripture. The many errors and falsehoods that exist today are very enticing and can trick even the most seasoned believer. By all means test all things and test from as many angles as needed. In doing so, never forget the foundation of truth which is Scripture. Let the Holy Spirit be your guide as you test. While you may come across teachings that have the appearance of good, do not be swayed by every whim of doctrine (Eph. 4:14). Instead, as we are told in 1 John 4:1, “test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

Mar 20

Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge – Atheism is Religion

Almost all atheists claim that, because (supposedly) there is no God, their own worldview is not a religion. Many of them would argue that they have a “nonbelief.”

One of the definitions of religion in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, however, is this: “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.”

Atheism certainly fits that definition, and many of its adherents are quite zealous about their faith system.

Atheists have an active belief system with views concerning origins (that the universe and life arose by natural processes); no life after death; the existence of God; how to behave while alive; and so much more. Honest atheists will admit their worldview is a faith. Atheism is a religion!

One candid atheist wrote, “My attitude is not based on science, but rather on faith . . . . The absence of a Creator, the non-existence of God is my childhood faith, my adult belief, unshakable and holy.”

The Religion of Atheism Is Growing

This secular (anti-God) religion of atheism is growing. Atheism is all around us in various forms. It is practiced (and funded) by almost all government schools. In essence atheism has become the religion of the state, and it pervades the media, courts, museums, textbooks, the internet, science journals, and influences many people you encounter.

About 90% of children from our church homes attend government schools. Your kids and grandkids have likely been adversely influenced by this religion…and they may not have even realized it.

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Mar 20

Thomas Watson – The Saint’s Spiritual Delight

But his delight is in the law of the Lord. Ps. 1:2

CHAPTER 1

Showing that Negative Goodness is but a broken Title to Heaven.

Just as the book of the Canticles is called the Song of Songs by a Hebraism (being the most excellent of songs), so Psalm 1 may not unfitly be entitled, the Psalm of Psalms, for it contains in it the very pith and quintessence of Christianity. What Jerome says of Paul’s epistles, I may say of this psalm; it is short for the composition, but full of length and strength for the matter. This psalm carries blessedness in the frontispiece; it begins where we all hope to end: it may well be called A Christian’s Guide, for it reveals the quicksands where the wicked sink down in perdition, verse 1; and the firm ground on which the saints tread to glory, verse 2. The text is an epitome and breviary of religion, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law he meditates day and night.” Every word has its emphasis; I begin with the first word But.

Just as the book of the Canticles is called the Song of Songs by a Hebraism (being the most excellent of songs), so Psalm 1 may not unfitly be entitled, the Psalm of Psalms, for it contains in it the very pith and quintessence of Christianity. What Jerome says of Paul’s epistles, I may say of this psalm; it is short for the composition, but full of length and strength for the matter. This psalm carries blessedness in the frontispiece; it begins where we all hope to end: it may well be called A Christian’s Guide, for it reveals the quicksands where the wicked sink down in perdition, verse 1; and the firm ground on which the saints tread to glory, verse 2. The text is an epitome and breviary of religion, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law he meditates day and night.” Every word has its emphasis; I begin with the first word But.

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Mar 19

William Reid – The Blood of Jesus

A Testimony of Conversion

“I have been religiously inclined from my earliest years. When quite little I was wont to say my prayers many times over, for I had heard it said that everything done on earth was written down in heaven, and I wished to have as much as possible recorded there in my favour.

“When about ten years of age, I heard that there were some who did not believe that the Bible was the Word of God, and that led me to surmise that it was not sufficiently clear that it was from God; for if He had given a revelation of His mind to man, it must have come in such a form that it would have been impossible for any person to disbelieve it. I pictured to myself that if God chose to do it, He could put up in great letters along the heavens, ‘I AM THE LORD,’ and everybody would see it and believe; and if the Bible were from Him, its revelation would be so unmistakably clear that it would be impossible to doubt its divine origin.

“But this was not a settled conviction, and my incipient skepticism was suddenly dissipated by a dream. I thought that I felt an intense heat; and so terrible did it ultimately become that the heavens were rent asunder and wrapt in flames, and in the burning sky overhead I saw in large letters of fire, ‘I AM THE LORD.’ But I had at the same time a conviction that it was now too late for the persons who had been unbelieving to profit by it, and those who had not believed the Bible, speaking to them in the name of the Lord, would now find to their everlasting misery that it was true.

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Mar 19

Mike Ratliff – What is Antinomianism?

4 Πᾶς ὁ ποιῶν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν καὶ τὴν ἀνομίαν ποιεῖ, καὶ ἡ ἁμαρτία ἐστὶν ἡ ἀνομία. 5 καὶ οἴδατε ὅτι ἐκεῖνος ἐφανερώθη, ἵνα τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἄρῃ, καὶ ἁμαρτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν. 6 πᾶς ὁ ἐν αὐτῷ μένων οὐχ ἁμαρτάνει· πᾶς ὁ ἁμαρτάνων οὐχ ἑώρακεν αὐτὸν οὐδὲ ἔγνωκεν αὐτόν.
7 Παιδία, μηδεὶς πλανάτω ὑμᾶς· ὁ ποιῶν τὴν δικαιοσύνην δίκαιός ἐστιν, καθὼς ἐκεῖνος δίκαιός ἐστιν· 8 ὁ ποιῶν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου ἐστίν, ὅτι ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς ὁ διάβολος ἁμαρτάνει. εἰς τοῦτο ἐφανερώθη ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, ἵνα λύσῃ τὰ ἔργα τοῦ διαβόλου. 1 John 3:4-8 (NA28)

4 Everyone practicing sin also practices lawlessness and sin is lawlessness. 5 And you know that he was manifested to take away sins, and there is no sin in him. 6 No one who abides in him continually sins; those who continually sin have not seen him or known him.
7 Little children, let no one deceive you; the one practicing righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous 8 The one practicing sin is of the devil for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. For this cause the son of God was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:4-8 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Antinomianism means “opposed to law.” Antinomian views are those denying that God’s law in Scripture should directly control the Christian’s life. Dualistic antinomianism appeared early in the Gnostic heresies. The Gnostics taught that salvation was for the soul only, making bodily behavior irrelevant both to God’s interest and to the soul’s health. The conclusion was that one may behave riotously and it will not matter.

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Mar 18

Jeff Vanderstelt – How to Overcome Fear in Sharing the Gospel

God Is the One Who Saves

First of all, I want to remind people that it’s not their job to save others. God is the one who does the work of saving people, not us.

Second, I’ve found that when I walk out in faith, the Spirit of God tends to give me the answers that I need. So don’t overthink what you’re going to say. Ask God to give you what you need to say in the moment. Historically, God has used lots of simple people—and oftentimes very uneducated people—to be the most powerful means by which he shares the gospel. In those situations, he gets the glory, not us. So don’t put your confidence in yourself, put your confidence in him.

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