The Friday Briefing 16 (2 November 2018)

The Garden of Eden: a Biblical-theological framework Dr David Schrock writes, “. . . in any study of Genesis and in any study of the Bible, we must understand the way in which Eden is more than an ancient garden. It is the place where God put his royal priests to cultivate and keep the earth he gave them to subdue and rule. Though framed in ancient language and imagery, it is vital modern Christians understand these original designs—for they have impact on the way we conceive of God, the world, and mankind’s place in the world.”

Exodus in 1 Kings Dr Alastair Roberts explores how the narrative of Solomon and the division of the kingdom is linked to Adam in the Garden of Eden and to the Exodus.

Old Testament word studies: ‘Abba’, “Father” Dr Allen Ross comments, “This Aramaic word ’Abba’,”Father,” has always been a significant word in the spiritual life of believers. It was used in the Old Testament to describe the spiritual relationship between believers and God; but it became more pronounced in the New Testament in the light of Jesus’ instructions on prayer and the apostolic teachings. But today there is little clear understanding of what the description means; moreover, it is being defined and used in a way that was not intended. The word, then, calls for closer scrutiny.”

Seeing the Iranian church grow . . . in Serbia Here’s a remarkable story of how Iranian refugees in Serbia are turning to Christ.

”Speak, O Lord” – a hymn by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend The words and music of this superb hymn are by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. Here’s a recording of it being sung congregationally at the 2012 Together for the Gospel Conference.

The Garden of Eden: a Biblical-theological framework.

David Schrock writes, “God’s people dwelling in God’s place under God’s rule: This tripartite division, outlined by Graeme Goldsworthy in his book According to Plan, well articulates the relationship of Adam and Eve to God in the Garden. Yet, often when Christians read the creation account in Genesis 1–2 they miss the royal and priestly themes in those two chapters. . . . . So, in what follows, I hope to provide a brief summary of the biblical evidence for seeing the first image-bearers (imago Dei) as royal priests commissioned by God to have priestly dominion over the earth—a commission later restored in type to Israel (see Exodus 19:5–6), fulfilled in Christ (see, e.g., Hebrews 5), and shared with all those who are in Christ (see 1 Peter 2:5, 9–10). In these sections, we will focus on the temple and by extension to the purpose and work of mankind in that original garden-sanctuary.”

He then explores the theme of the garden in the Bible, focusing on the garden’s role as a priestly and a royal sanctuary. He notes how the Garden is clearly seen as a sacred temple when comparing it to Moses’ tabernacle and Solomon’s temple.

He concludes,“Therefore, in any study of Genesis and in any study of the Bible, we must understand the way in which Eden is more than an ancient garden. It is the place where God put his royal priests to cultivate and keep the earth he gave them to subdue and rule. Though framed in ancient language and imagery, it is vital modern Christians understand these original designs—for they have impact on the way we conceive of God, the world, and mankind’s place in the world.”

To help show the biblical basis for this approach to Eden, Dr Schrock very helpfully lists a number of Bible passages relating to the theme of the garden.

Read the whole article HERE. Much of the research behind this article stems from Dr. Schrock’s dissertation, A Biblical-Theological Investigation of Christ’s Priesthood and Covenant Mediation with respect to the Extent of the Atonement, which can be downloaded free of charge HERE.

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Exodus in 1 Kings.

Dr Alastair Roberts writes, “In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Exodus, Solomon began to build the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. That the author of Kings should date the start of the building of the temple from the Exodus is noteworthy. . . . . The building of the temple on the mountain in Jerusalem is, in many respects, the climax and the completion of the process begun in the Exodus. . . . . Since its construction, the tabernacle had functioned as a sort of portable Mount Sinai, an architectural extension of the theophany that occurred there. It was also a new Eden and microcosmic representation of the wider creation . . . . Solomon’s Temple introduces a new stage of history and, once again, there are echoes of the original creation and of Eden.”

And, as Dr Roberts tells us, “Within this world, Solomon is like a glorious new Adam. He is the wise ruler of the world, who is able to name the trees and the animals (4:29-34). Indeed, when the Queen of Sheba comes to him, it is akin to Eve being brought to Adam, the moment when the story of the first creation arrived at its zenith of glory. Unfortunately, just as in the account of the original creation, it is at this point that things all start to crumble. The rest of the story of Solomon is a tragic story of the fall of the new Adam and of being removed from the peace and rest of the new Eden.”

Dr Roberts traces the sorry story of Solomon’s fall through the division of the kingdom to the day when Ahijah the prophet prophesied the doom of the northern kingdom of Israel in 1 Kings 14.7-16. In Dr Roberts’ words, “There would be a great reversal of the Exodus as Israel once again found itself in captivity. The Red Sea Crossing would be undone, as Israel would find itself cast on the far side of the great River.”

Read the whole of this fascinating exposition HERE.

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Old Testament word studies: ‘Abba’, “Father”.

Dr Allen Ross comments, “This Aramaic word ’Abba’, “Father,” has always been a significant word in the spiritual life of believers. It was used in the Old Testament to describe the spiritual relationship between believers and God; but it became more pronounced in the New Testament in the light of Jesus’ instructions on prayer and the apostolic teachings. But today there is little clear understanding of what the description means; moreover, it is being defined and used in a way that was not intended.”

Dr Ross then explores the origin and meaning of the word, and the significance of calling God “Father”. He concludes, ”What, then, does the term “Father” for God mean for use? First, to call God Father is to speak of him as the absolutely sovereign God of creation. . . . . Second, to call God “Father” is to use covenant language. In all of God’s covenants, the people are “sons” or “children” by their adoption into the covenant. . . . . Third, for us to call God “Father” is indeed to acknowledge a close personal relationship with him; it is after all a family term. It is fair to say that in Jesus’ time the word was colloquial but respectful, even in human families; but it was not a childish expression like “daddy”. To call God “Father” is to affirm that we have been born into the family of God, . . . . But he is still the sovereign and holy Lord God; and the significance of the word “Father” is one of a reverent, respectful and solemn adult address of God.”

Read the whole article HERE.

As a postscript to Dr Ross’s article, my own personal attempt to translate ‘Abba’ – in order to bring out the intimacy and the respect that is inherent in the term – is “dearest Father”.

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Seeing the Iranian church grow . . . in Serbia.

A friend of mine, Nicky Andrews, tells of a remarkable turning to Christ among Iranian refugees in Serbia. She writes, “The OM field leader of the Balkan region, Volker Sachse, doesn’t cry easily. But in the past three or four years, he has often been moved to tears by the plight of refugees he has met in Serbia; OM has played a significant humanitarian role in one of the government-run camps there since the ‘refugee crisis’ in Europe escalated in 2015. Today, however, it is tears of joy that brighten Volker’s eyes, as he describes how many refugees from Iran are turning to Jesus during a worldwide move of God amongst Iranians. “It’s a privilege for me to witness the Lord touching so many Iranians in Serbia, including in the camp where OM works,” he shares.”

There is now a need to disciple these new believers. Nicky writes, “[Volker] shares, though, that there is ongoing need to nurture the young believers towards greater maturity. “So, I’m very excited by the possibility of running an intensive discipleship training course for up to eight Iranian believers over five days, which would then be repeated for a second group of eight.” says Volker. . . . . The training would be aimed at equipping Christians to launch a church plant in the camp.”

More information about how to be involved, including how to contribute financially to the discipleship programme, is available HERE.

Read the whole article HERE.

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”Speak, O Lord” – a hymn by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend

The words and music of this superb hymn are by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. This particular recording is part of an album recorded live from the 2012 Together for the Gospel Conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

The lyrics are available HERE.

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‘The House of God’ by L. Michael Morales

Image © Steve Creitz, Creitz Illustration Studio

An artist’s impression of the camp of Israel in the wilderness. The Tabernacle is in the centre of the camp. Above the Tabernacle is the pillar of cloud, which was the visible manifestation of God’s presence.

L. Michael Morales writes, “When the fiery cloud of God moved from the summit of Mount Sinai to the newly constructed tabernacle, covering God’s house with smoke and filling it with His glory (Exodus 40.34), a pinnacle in God’s dealings with humanity was realized. In this majestic scene, the book of Exodus ends with a resolution, albeit temporary and intermediate, to the story of humanity’s exile from Eden narrated in Genesis 3. Moreover, the glory-filled tabernacle also foreshadowed God’s ultimate solution to that primal expulsion through the person and work of Jesus Christ.”

Dr Morales continues, “As we consider the significance of the tabernacle (and later temple) in Scripture, it will be helpful to keep two points in mind. First, the tabernacle was the house of God, the place of His dwelling. . . . . Second, the tabernacle was also the way to God, its sacrificial rituals providing the atonement and cleansing needed to dwell with God. . . . . In sum, Israel’s relationship with God was preserved and cultivated by the sacrificial system of the tabernacle, enabling the Maker of heaven and earth to dwell with His people in fellowship. To understand the depth and wonder of such a purpose, we will reflect upon the meaning of the tabernacle first within God’s goal for creation and then as the heart of God’s covenant with His people—a purpose taken up and fulfilled by Jesus Christ.”

Read the whole article HERE.

Dr. L. Michael Morales is professor of biblical studies at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Taylors, South Carolina, and adjunct professor at Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando/Dallas). He is author of Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?: a Biblical Theology of the Book of Leviticus. You can read the publishers details for this book, which I can thoroughly recommend, HERE.

‘Preaching Christ from the Old Testament’ by Sinclair B. Ferguson

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Dr Sinclair B. Ferguson asks, “. . . how do we legitimately preach the text of the Old Testament as those who stand on this side of Pentecost? What difference does it make to expound Genesis or Psalms as believers in Jesus Christ? Or, to put it in a more graphic way, how can we reconstruct the principles of Jesus’ conversation in Luke 24.25-27,45, and learn to follow his example of showing how all the Scriptures point to him so that hearts are ‘strangely warmed’ and begin to burn? . . . . Yet we must also preach the Scriptures without denuding them of the genuine historical events they record and the reality of the personal experiences they describe or to which they were originally addressed. How, then, do we preach Christ, and him crucified without leapfrogging over these historical realities as though the Old Testament Scriptures had no real significance for their own historical context?”

He explains, “. . . there are . . . very important principles that help us to develop Christ-centred expository skills. As we work with them, and as they percolate through our thinking and our approach to the Bible, they will help us develop the instinct to point people to Christ from the Old Testament Scriptures. The most general principle is one for which we might coin the expression fillfulment. Christ fulfils or ‘fills full’ the Old Testament. He came ‘not to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfil them’ (Matthew 5.17). As Christians standing within the light of New Testament revelation and looking back on the Old Testament, Christ himself acts as a hermeneutical prism. Looking back through him, we see the white light of the unity of the truth of Jesus Christ broken down into its constituent colours in the pages of the Old Testament. Then, looking forwards we see how the multi-coloured strands of Old Testament revelation converge in him.  . . . . We want to develop an instinct to preach Christ. This is the general principle. But it can be broken down into at least four subordinate principles . . . .”

Dr Ferguson then explains these four principles. In his conclusion, he comments, “These are general principles; they do not constitute a simple formula, an elixir to be sprinkled on our sermons to transform them into the preaching of Christ. There is no formula that will do that. . . . . But as we come to know the Scriptures more intimately, as we see these patterns deeply embedded in the Bible, and—just as crucially—as we come to know Christ himself more intimately and to love him better, we shall surely develop the instinct to reason, explain and prove from all the Scriptures the riches of grace which are proclaimed in Jesus, the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”

Dr Ferguson’s article is instructive and stimulating, and worth taking time to read and to digest – and to apply.

It’s available in 10 parts from website of The Proclamation Trust. For part 1, click HERE; for part 2, click HERE; for part 3, click HERE; for part 4, click HERE; for part 5, click HERE; for part 6, click HERE; for part 7, click HERE; for part 8, click HERE; for part 9, click HERE; and for part 10, click HERE.

An earlier version of this article is available as a single webpage HERE (the online version in 10 parts available above is a later edited version).

‘Even Better than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything About Your Story’ by Nancy Guthrie

In her new book, Even Better than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything About Your Story, Nancy Guthrie traces nine themes through the Bible – the wilderness, the tree, God’s image, clothing, the Bridegroom, the Sabbath, the offspring, the dwelling place, and the city. Essentially, what she gives us is a series of nine mini-overviews of the Bible story, each one tracing the story from the point of view of one of these key themes. Each of these nine mini-overviews is just a chapter in length (in fact, the main text of the book is only 150 pages in length). Guthrie succeeds in her task brilliantly. Her writing is clear and engaging. Yet the book – despite the fact that it’s so accessible and easy to read – is also theologically rich.

Guthrie’s overall thrust is that God’s plan for His world is not simply to restore what was lost in Eden before the Fall. The new creation we read about on the final two chapters of Revelation will be far more glorious than the creation we see in the opening chapters of Genesis.

There’s a discussion guide at the end of the book, which gives questions for discussing the themes presented in each chapter. There are also endnotes to explain further and to support some of what she writes.

In the introduction, after talking a little about her own personal story, Guthrie writes, “There’s another story, a story that is found in the pages of the Bible—from the book of Genesis through the book of Revelation—that shapes and defines where I came from, why I am the way I am, what my life is like day to day, and what is ahead for me in the future. It is this story that explains my deepest joys as well as the empty places where contentment can be elusive. It is this story that explains my drive to be somebody and my sensitivity to feeling like a nobody. It explains what makes me cry and why I can laugh. This story explains my desire to look good, my craving for the good life, my longing for home and security, and much more.”Guthrie continues: “And whether you know it or not, this same grand story—the story found in the sixty-six books of the Bible—shapes the world you live in, who you are, and what you want too. That’s why you and I need to know this story. It is where we find the answers to our questions about what really matters now and into eternity. This story has the power to change everything about our stories.”

Scott R. Swain, President and James Woodrow Hassell Professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, writes, “One of the weaknesses of much popular Christian teaching on the Bible is the tendency to read the story of the Bible in a circular manner, as if Jesus Christ came into the world to bring us back to Eden. Nancy Guthrie charts a better course in her book. In a manner that is profoundly biblical and deeply practical, she traces nine biblical themes along a common trajectory, from their beginning in God’s good creation, through their destruction and devastation by Adam’s sin, to the ways Christ perfects, consummates, and crowns each theme by means of his suffering and glory. Let Guthrie take you by the hand and lead you through the Bible to Jesus Christ, in whom we find a better provision, a better life, a better identity, a better rest, a better wardrobe, a better spouse, a better savior, a better sanctuary, and a better city than this world in its present state could or would afford.”

Read the publisher’s description HERE. Download an excerpt HERE.

Nancy’s website page for this book is available HERE. Reproducible personal Bible study questions for personal or small group use (not the same as the discussion guide in the book itself) and a leader’s guide are available for purchase as downloads from this page.

A nine-session video version of Even Better Than Eden is also available – click HERE for more information and to view one of the sessions free of charge.

This workshop on Even Better Than Eden: How the Bible’s Story Changes Everything About Your Story with Nancy Guthrie was recorded at The Gospel Coalition’s 2018 Women’s Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana:

Nancy Guthrie teaches the Bible at her church, Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Tennessee, and at conferences worldwide. She is the author or editor of a number of books, together with some video resources. She is also the host of Help Me Teach the Bible, a podcast of the Gospel Coalition.

‘Biblical theology in discipleship’ by Nancy Guthrie’

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In her article, Biblical theology in discipleship, Nancy Guthrie writes, “A number of years ago I was teaching a study of Genesis in my church when one of the discussion group leaders, an older godly woman, came and sat down by me. “How come I’ve never been taught this before?” she said with tears in her eyes. She was beginning to recognize that, as many years as she had spent studying the Bible, she had never seen how the story of the Bible fit together in a way that is centered on the person and work of Christ from Genesis to Revelation.”

Guthrie comments: “I’ve been on a mission not only to understand the Bible this way myself but also to introduce and infiltrate Bible studies —especially women’s Bible studies in the local church—with biblical theology. I often look at church websites to see what studies are being offered to the women of the church or in adult Sunday School classes. And I am often disheartened to discover studies that are felt-needs driven, studies with little biblical or theological rigor, and studies oriented around self-improvement. I am thrilled when I see studies of particular books of the Bible, as that indicates an expectation that what we need most is God’s Word and that we can expect it will speak to us. But sometimes even these studies can be oriented to jumping too quickly from what the text says to personal application, untethered to the larger story the Bible is telling that is centered on Christ.”

In her article, which you can read HERE, Guthrie gives five reasons why she believes that biblical theology should be woven into the fabric of discipleship in the local church.

In her new book, Even Better than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything About Your Story, Guthrie traces nine themes as they develop through the Bible. The next post will give more information about this new book (you can read the publisher’s description HERE).

The Friday Briefing 15 (5 October 2018)

Every story casts His shadow Watch this brief video and see how the whole Old Testament points to Jesus Christ. It is inspirational.

From beelines to plotlines: typology that follows the covenantal topography of Scripture Dr David Schrock writes, “Perhaps you have heard or repeated Charles Spurgeon’s famous axiom, “I take my text and make a beeline to the cross.” The trouble is Charles Spurgeon probably never said it. Worse, the simplistic axiom fails to account for the textual shape and biblical contours of the Bible, not to mention the infelicitous way it misjudges the course of honeybees.” Focusing on the office of priesthood as an example, Dr Schrock guides us to a better understanding of how the types found in the Bible story point us to Jesus and His Church.

What did Jesus have against goats? Ian Paul throws some clear Biblical light on the well-known but often misunderstood illustration of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25.31-46)

A society without Psalms Mark Loughridge comments: “. . . the loss of biblical literacy is not merely an issue for the church and for our proclamation of the gospel, but is a felt absence by our world, a void which our culture must sense and will try to fill. This stirred my own thinking about a society without Psalms, . . . .”

At What Price Awakening? Examining the Theology and Practice of the Bethel Movement Stephen Tan calls attention to grave errors in the theology and their practices of the hyper-charismatic ‘Signs and Wonders’ movement with its epicentre at Bethel Church in Redding, California, and concerns about The Passion Translation of the Bible , which Bill Johnson, leader of the Bethel Church, enthusiastically endorses.

Every story casts His shadow.

Watch this brief video (a trailer for The Gospel Project) and see how the Old Testament points to Jesus Christ. Trevin Wax comments: “I get chills every time I watch this . . . .” From the video’s narrator: “Sixty six books. Dozens of authors. A holy canon thousands of years in the making. Consider the works…accounts of history and law. Prophecy and poetry. Verses of wisdom and letters from friends. Now. Look again. What do you see? . . . . Every story casts His shadow. Every word, every verse, bears His testimony — the Holy Messiah. Jesus Christ. Eternal King.”

The video is a trailer for The Gospel Project, published by LifeWay. The home page for The Gospel Project is HERE and you can learn more about the project HERE.

Details of The Gospel Project’s current 3-year study plan is available for download HERE. This provides, in their own words, “a chronological, Christ-centered Bible study plan for every age group in your church: preschoolers through adults. These studies are age-appropriate, easy to teach, and aligned by Scripture to help your entire church grow in the gospel together.”

The Gospel Project has also published a poster that gives a succinct summary of essential doctrines of Christianity – there are 99 of them, covering God, God’s revelation, creation, fall, redemption, the Church, and restoration. You can download it in PDF form HERE – to print it, however, you’ll need at least A3-size paper.

The Gospel Project has also published these 99 essential doctrines available in booklet form. This could, for example, be used as a kind of ‘catechism’, a teaching tool for instructing believers in the elements of the Christian faith. There’s also a companion book available, called Devotional Doctrine: Delighting in God, His Word, and His World. These are excellent resources, and both are free. They’re available in downloadable PDF form HERE. To get them, all you need to do is to sign up to receive information about The Gospel Project and other LifeWay resources. By signing up, you’ll also have access to free sessions of The Gospel Project curriculum for kids, students, and adults.

Read Trevin Wax’s article HERE.

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From beelines to plotlines: typology that follows the covenantal topography of Scripture.

Dr David Schrock comments, “Perhaps you have heard or repeated Charles Spurgeon’s famous axiom, “I take my text and make a beeline to the cross.” The trouble is Charles Spurgeon probably never said it. Worse, the simplistic axiom fails to account for the textual shape and biblical contours of the Bible, not to mention the infelicitous way it misjudges the course of honeybees.”

Dr. Schrock explains: “. . . this essay will argue for a thicker reading of Scripture. It will argue that standing underneath any legitimate type is a covenantal topography, a biblical terrain that rises and falls throughout Israel’s covenant history, which all types follow in their own unique way as they run toward Christ and his Church. Therefore, in addition to the standard ‘tests’ for valid types, I will demonstrate how biblical types follow this covenantal topography from historical prototype, through covenantal ectypes, to their intended antitype — namely, the person and work of Christ. From there, by union with Christ, typology experiences a new birth, as supratypes share covenantal attributes with and carry out the offices assigned by Jesus Christ. . . . . Typology, therefore, must be understood in relationship to the biblical covenants that unify and organize the Bible. But biblical types must also, as I will argue, be seen in relationship with creation, fall, and process of redemption found in God’s covenant history.”

In demonstrating his understanding of Biblical typology, Dr Schrock takes one concrete example – that of the priesthood. He writes, “. . . in what follows, I will show how the priesthood follows this covenantal topography moving from Adam to Christ through the peaks and valleys of Israel’s history. By following this one concrete example, my hope is to demonstrate a covenantal topography that all types follow as they move from the shadows of the old covenant to the substance of the new.”

Dr Schrock first present the Biblical texts and then shows the priestly office develops through the different periods of Bible history. He explains, “To give a sense of where we are going, I will first present in chart-form the biblical texts that serve as milestones for the priestly type. These priestly milestones will be accompanied by two other lines of personal milestones for the biblical offices of prophet and king. . . . . Second, I will provide hermeneutical commentary on each phase of covenant history that helps explain how the priestly office develops across the canon. These stages of development are: (1) Creation, (2) Patriarchs, (3) Law, (4) Prophets including (a) historical formation, (b) covenant-breaking deformation and (c) eschatological reformation, (5) Christ, and (6) the Church. It is the formation, deformation, and reformation in the period of the Prophets that I believe is most original to this article.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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What did Jesus have against goats?.

Ian Paul brings fresh insight into Jesus’s illustration of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25.31-46), in which he describes the Last Judgment. He writes, “The most common interpretation of the narrative allocates the people groups in the following way. The ‘least of these’ are the poor in general; the sheep are those (probably followers of Jesus, obeying his teaching here) who care for the poor rather than just having a theoretical faith; and the goats are those who neglect Jesus’ teaching. Thus this becomes a general argument of the importance of caring for the poor. But this interpretation has only been around since around 1850 (which raises issues about how we should response to ‘novel’ interpretations…) and in fact has some serious obstacles to it.”

Dr Paul lights up our understanding of the illustration of the sheep and the goats. He does this especially by taking us back to the Biblical art of shepherding that he recently heard explained by Richard Goode, of Newman University in Birmingham, at the British New Testament Conference. Dr Goode’s paper was entitled, What did Jesus have against goats? Setting Matthew 25:32-33 within the context of caprid husbandry of Roman Palestine. (You can see an abstract of this paper HERE – it’s the third paper of session 1; just click the  View abstract  button to see it.)

Read the whole article HERE.

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A society without Psalms.

Mark Loughridge writes, “When contemporary poet Edward Clarke turned 40, he set himself the task of reading through the Authorised Version of the Bible in one year . . . . As Clarke spent time in the Bible he shared that ‘one does feel enthralled to something greater’, and that while he is not a regular church goer, there was an element of spiritual catharsis in trying to think and write from the space the Scriptures provide. This, however, was no mere exercise in subjectivity, but the outcome of convictions which Clarke has developed about the 21st century and biblical literature.”

Loughridge comments: “. . . the loss of biblical literacy is not merely an issue for the church and for our proclamation of the gospel, but is a felt absence by our world, a void which our culture must sense and will try to fill. This stirred my own thinking about a society without Psalms, what our secular nation will look like without the bedrock of biblical categories through which to see the world, understand themselves, and articulate the things which most matter.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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At What Price Awakening? Examining the Theology and Practice of the Bethel Movement.

Stephen Tan, pastor of Regeneration Church, a new church in Clayton, Melbourne, Australia, writes: “”Australia for Jesus” is the motto of Awakening Australia, an event that seeks to unite every denomination under one mission: to bring revival to Australia. . . . . While revival, unity and nationwide prayer are good goals for Christians to have, I am unable to support Awakening Australia. . . . . My main contention with Awakening Australia is that it is part of a hyper-charismatic ‘Signs and Wonders’ movement with its epicentre at Bethel Church in Redding, California. In fact, the leader of Bethel Church, Bill Johnson, is the main speaker at Awakening Australia.”

Pastor Tan tells us: “If you log onto Bethel’s website (bethelredding.com), their mission is clear: to bring revival to Redding and to the whole world. They see themselves as having “a global impact” as “a revival resource and equipping centre”. They run “revival” conferences and rallies all over the world. Kingdom Invasion in Singapore draws thousands, as will Awakening Australia later this year. Bethel also runs their own ‘Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM)’ which teaches people to perform miracles and bring revival. BSSM spawns hundreds of similar schools around the world, including in Melbourne and in other cities in Australia. But what exactly does Bethel mean by revival?”

Pastor Tan calls attention to grave errors in their theology and their practices. He also voices his concerns about the Passion Translation, which Bill Johnson enthusiastically endorses. Tan comments: “What makes the Bethel movement dangerous is that their reach is extended through their music ministry. Jesus Culture and Bethel Music have created a brand of worship music that can genuinely compete with Hillsong. . . . . I fear Jesus Culture serves as a gateway drug that draws young and inexperienced Christians into a world of false teaching, unbiblical practices and spiritual disaster.”

He comments, “I am concerned that the upcoming ‘Awakening Australia’ event also fits the description and has the potential to cause much confusion and spiritual damage to thousands of unsuspecting Australians. To those who are supporting this event in the name of revival, may I ask this question: “At what price, awakening?” Is it worth pursuing awakening if it means that the gospel is compromised and that false teaching is promoted?”

Read the whole article HERE.

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Delighting in Leviticus

Image © Steve Creitz, Creitz Illustration Studio

An artist’s impression of the camp of Israel in the wilderness at night. The Tabernacle is in the centre of the camp. Above the Tabernacle is the pillar of fire, which was the visible manifestation of God’s presence.

Dr Jay Sklar, professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary, and who has written an excellent commentary on Leviticus (see the publishers’ description HERE), said this: “What happens when you study Leviticus for more than 10 years? I know the types of answers many people would provide:

“You get to know your psychotherapist really well.”

“People stop inviting you to dinner parties.”

Or perhaps the most common: “Is this a serious question? Who in the world would do this?”

I did. And it changed my life in ways far different from those just named. In my experience, at least four profound things happen when this book begins to seep into your soul.”

Read the whole article HERE.

And in the brief video below, Dr Sklar also introduces his commentary on Leviticus:

But why exactly would anyone study Leviticus for such a significant period of their life? Why is it so important?

We’ll begin by setting out the background to this book. After the Exodus from Egypt, God’s people Israel didn’t go straight to the Promised Land. They went through the wilderness to Mount Sinai to meet with God (Exodus 19.4). A few weeks’ journey from where they crossed the Sea of Reeds, God’s people were encamped at the foot of this mountain.

There at Mount Sinai, God brought His people into covenant relationship with Himself. This covenant was like a marriage. God became their Husband (see, for example Isaiah 54.5, Jeremiah 31.32). And, in Peter Leithart’s words, “Moses is the minister officiating at the wedding.” Firstly God made a solemn covenant with His people – just as a man and a woman make vows to each other at a wedding. Then God and representatives of His people ate and drank together – just like a wedding reception. And after their marriage ceremony, a husband and wife live together. Accordingly, God made arrangements to live together with His Bride, Israel.

God showed Moses the blueprint for a beautiful new home where He planned to live among His people. This home was a tent; it was called the Tabernacle. God Himself was going to live there. When all was complete, God moved into His new home: “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” (Exodus 40.34-35 and see Numbers 9.15).

The tabernacle was God’s home among His people. One of the two primary designations for the Tabernacle is the Hebrew word miškān, which means dwelling place. Jay Sklar, in his commentary on Leviticus, imagines an Israelite asking this burning question: “How in the world can the holy and pure King of the universe dwell among his sinful and impure people? How can he live here, in our very midst, without his holiness melting us in our sin and impurity?” ”

But there’s more. God also called His Tabernacle “the tent of meeting” (for example Exodus 27.21, 30.16, 31.7). He said to Moses: “There I will meet you and speak to you; there also I will meet with the Israelites . . . “ (Exodus 29.42-43, NIV). God – as far as possible under that covenant – welcomed people into His home. Only selected representatives could enter, and they had to be prepared and, where necessary, offer the appropriate sacrifices. But they could come. Once a year Aaron was even able to enter the Most Holy Place, the very presence-chamber of God (Leviticus 16.11-15, see Hebrews 9.7).

It was astonishing that God could live among His people at all. But how in the world could He go one step further and actually allow people to come into His home and meet with Him there? In other words, how could the dwelling place of God become “the tent of meeting” – a place where the holy God met with His sinful people?

The Book of Leviticus answers these questions. In his commentary, Jay Sklar writes: “Leviticus . . . . . . . begins by explaining the sacrifices that address sin and enable the Israelites to worship this King rightly (Leviticus 1-7). It provides the people with priests to intercede on their behalf and lead them in worship before the King (Leviticus 8-10). It gives them laws to teach them how to deal properly with impurity (Leviticus 11-15). It provides a yearly ceremony to remove every last ounce of sin and impurity from the kingdom (Leviticus 16). It provides a whole series of laws in other areas to direct them in living as a ‘kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ (Leviticus 17-27), that is, in setting up a society where God’s character and wishes for humanity can be seen in the corporate life of the nation.”

But the Book of Leviticus goes even further than this. Sklar explains: “But Leviticus does more than answer questions raised by its immediate literary and historical context. It also casts a vision rooted in the Bible’s larger story and, in particular, in creation. Indeed, God’s purpose for his people in Leviticus is in many ways a return to his purpose for humanity in creation. This may be seen in terms of separation, blessing and calling. . . . . In Leviticus, the Lord once again brings order to the world by ‘separating’ . . . things into their proper place and calling his people to do the same (Leviticus 10.10; 11.46-47; 20.25). Indeed, he separates his people from the rest of the world (Leviticus 20.24,26) and promises to bless them as he did Adam and Eve, whether by shining his favour on them to make them fruitful (Leviticus 26.9; cf. Genesis 1.28), placing them in a lush land where all their physical needs will be met (Leviticus 26.4-5,10; cf. Genesis 2.8-25), giving them Sabbath rest (Leviticus 23.3; 25.1-7; cf. Genesis 2.3), or, most of all, ‘walking’ . . . with them as their God (Leviticus 26.11-12; cf. Genesis 3.8). And, as in creation, the blessings are again accompanied by a calling. He has separated them from the peoples of the earth in order to reflect his image in the world: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy’ (19.2; see also 11.44-45; 20.7,26). The Israelites are the ones who are to represent the Lord in this earth, thus fulfilling the purpose the Lord had for humanity in creation, as well as showing the rest of the world what that purpose is, how to live in keeping with it, and therefore how to experience the abundant life God intended for his creation . . . . Simply put, the Israelites are not only to be a signpost back to Eden; they are to become a manifestation of it and a people who extend Eden’s borders to every corner of the earth.”

In the video below, Dr Sklar explores why should we think more highly of Leviticus (it’s one of a series of seven available HERE):

Covenant Theological Seminary has also uploaded seven free audio talks by Dr Sklar on Leviticus. As well as an introductory talk, he teaches about atonement, the burnt, grain offering and fellowship offerings, purity and impurity, and curious laws found in Leviticus. Dr Sklar is an engaging speaker and these are very much worth listening to. The talks can be accessed HERE. The first two are available without creating an account. To access the other five, you just need to create a free account.

CREDITS Text copyright © 2018 Robert Gordon Betts Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations (other than those in quotations) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked ‘NIV’ are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version (Anglicised edition). Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). UK trademark number 1448790.

The Friday Briefing 14 (7 September 2018)

Born in the dead of night (Exodus 12:29-51) In a sermon on the Passover narrative, Brian Morgan, a pastor at Peninsula Bible Church, Cupertino says, “Today we arrive at the climactic moment when, after nine intense labor pains, God gives birth to his people. . . . . The story of Israel’s birth is even more significant since it gives shape to our birth narrative in Christ, and tells us who we are and what is undeniably ours as our birthright.”

The music and meaning of male and female Dr. Alastair Roberts – drawing on the creation account in the first two chapters of Genesis – explains how our creation as male and female is fundamental to what it means to be human. He briefly explores the significance of this for the same-sex marriage debate and for the transgender movement.

Watchfulness requires wakefulness Brian Hedges writes, “As people who belong to the day, we must be mentally sober and morally alert, dressed in the Christian armor of faith, hope, and love. To be watchful is to be wakeful.“

Why we all need printed Bibles Ian Paul gives a number of important reasons why it is better for us to read printed Bibles than electronic texts on a computer screen, tablet or ‘phone.

Stop making hospitality complicated Brandon McGinley comments, Having guests, we feel, means putting on a show; we set up the stage and put on costumes and are the stars of the production. It sounds intimidating and exhausting—because it is. But here’s the thing: Real hospitality—the sharing of everyday life with friends, current and soon-to-be—is even more frightening. . . . allowing others to see and experience the everyday imperfection of our lives is simply unacceptable. Until, one day, it isn’t.”

Born in the dead of night (Exodus 12:29-51).

Brian Morgan, a pastor at Peninsula Bible Church, Cupertino gives an outstanding exposition of the Passover narrative in Exodus chapter 12. He says, “The emotions experienced at birth are perhaps the most intense that a couple will ever experience. Yet I wonder if such emotions can even approach what God felt when he gave birth to his people Israel. Today we arrive at the climactic moment when, after nine intense labor pains, God gives birth to his people. A nation is born in a day! With a father’s pride, God exclaims, “Israel is My son, My firstborn” (Exodus 4:22). Our text this morning, Exodus 12:29-5, reads like a birth announcement. First, we are invited into the delivery room. The atmosphere is one of extreme urgency to get this baby out of the womb “in haste”. Then we are told the time of delivery (midnight), and we hear a great cry. We learn the sex of the baby (it’s a son!). A spontaneous baby shower follows, where the newborn is lavished with gifts. Then comes the first baby portrait, and we look for family resemblances and characteristics that will shape the future of the child. And finally there is the christening or dedication of the baby.”

He comments, ”Birth narratives are extremely important to nations, families and individuals. They are rehearsed at every birthday as a family’s most treasured memories. If we do not know our birthright, we wander aimlessly, without roots or secure identity. The story of Israel’s birth is even more significant since it gives shape to our birth narrative in Christ, and tells us who we are and what is undeniably ours as our birthright.”

Read the whole article HERE – click on the PDF icon near the top of the page to download the transcript, and on the MP3 icon just below it to hear the audio.

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The music and meaning of male and female.

Dr Alastair Roberts writes, “Although the Scriptures address the topic of the sexes on many occasions, it is within the opening chapters of Genesis that its foundational treatment of the subject is to be discovered.”

He explains, “Men and women are created for different primary purposes, purposes which, when pursued in unity and with mutual support, can reflect God’s own form of creative rule in the world. The man’s vocation, as described in Genesis 2, primarily corresponds to the tasks of the first three days of creation: to naming, taming, dividing, and ruling. The woman’s vocation, by contrast, principally involves filling, glorifying, generating, establishing communion, and bringing forth new life – all tasks associated with the second three days of creation. Hence the differences between us as men and women are not merely accidental or incidental, but are integral to our purpose and deeply meaningful, relating to God’s own fundamental patterns of operation. God created us to be male and female and thereby to reflect his own creative rule in his world.”

Finally, Dr. Roberts briefly explores the significance of the creation account for two current debates on sexuality. He writes, “Within Genesis 1 and 2, we discover a foundation for reflection upon gender and sexuality more broadly, with surprising relevance to many pressing questions of sexual ethics within a contemporary context. In these concluding remarks, I want to highlight ways in which the teaching of these chapters can be brought to bear upon two key questions in contemporary sexual ethics: same-sex marriage and transgender identity.”

Read the whole article HERE, where you will find a link to the downloadable PDF article.

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Watchfulness requires wakefulness.

Brian Hedges, author of Watchfulness: recovering a lost spiritual discipline. writes, ”Watchfulness demands wakefulness.  . . . . There is, therefore, a physical dimension to this discipline.  . . . . But wakefulness in Scripture is more often a picture for mental and spiritual watchfulness. . . . . Believers live in the overlap of the ages. We are children of the future day, children of the light, and yet we live in the present age of darkness, the age of night. But since we are children of the light, we are to “cast off the works of darkness, and . . . put on the armor of light.” [Romans 13.12] We are to throw off the nightclothes and get dressed for the dawning day.”

Hedges concludes, “As people who belong to the day, we must be mentally sober and morally alert, dressed in the Christian armor of faith, hope, and love. To be watchful is to be wakeful.“

Read the whole article HERE.

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Why we all need printed Bibles.

Ian Paul writes, “It’s not uncommon in churches, when the time comes for the Bible reading, to see people reach not for a printed pew Bible, but for their phones, to read the Bible on a phone app. When I was in a session at New Wine this summer, the speaker at the morning Bible study (Miriam Swaffield) commented that she thought it was better for people to read print Bibles than read them from a screen. It made me sit up, since I say this frequently when teaching in different contexts, but this was the first time I had heard someone else say it from ‘up front’.”

He explains, “Apart from avoiding the distractions of really urgent text messages and social media notifications . . . there are other really important reasons why print Bibles . . . offer a better reading experience.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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Stop making hospitality complicated.

Brandon McGinley comments, “Everyone wants to be seen as the type of posh and popular person who ‘entertains’—slicing cheeses and popping corks and carving tenderloins and so forth. But the truth is that there aren’t as many dinner parties as there are people talking about dinner parties: . . . . . Yes, the decline in friendship and the rise of busyness account for some of the retreat from hospitality, but much of the problem is embedded in how we think about sharing meals in our homes. . . . . Having guests, we feel, means putting on a show; we set up the stage and put on costumes and are the stars of the production. It sounds intimidating and exhausting—because it is. But here’s the thing: Real hospitality—the sharing of everyday life with friends, current and soon-to-be—is even more frightening. . . . allowing others to see and experience the everyday imperfection of our lives is simply unacceptable. Until, one day, it isn’t.”

McGinley concludes “Habits of hospitality . . . are downright subversive in our culture of independence and calculation. They demonstrate that it is not only possible but fruitful and beautiful to share life in a substantive way outside the confines of the nuclear family. And, in so doing, they point to the reality of the common good, not just as a theoretical concept but as a practical one that can animate an authentic Christian community.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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The Friday Briefing 12 (6 July 2018)

What I’ve learned from preaching through the Book of Revelation Sam Storms writes, “This past Sunday, June 24, 2018, I concluded a series of sermons in the book of Revelation. There were 38 of them! As I reflected on my time in this remarkable book, ten truths stood out to me above all else.”

The violent showdown: the Exodus in Isaiah Andrew Wilson gives us a dramatic, insightful overview of the Exodus theme in Isaiah. He writes, “Isaiah is a prophet of the Exodus. His rich and beautiful prophecy contains a dramatic exodus triple-whammy, as he promises first rescue from Assyria, then redemption from Babylon, and finally redemption from sin itself, in a fashion that echoes the exodus but turns it completely on its head.”

5 reasons why visitation is vital for your pastor Andrew Roycroft shares 15 incentives to keep going at pastoral visitation.

Five simple steps to mentor new believers (without overworking the pastor) Karl Vaters writes, “If you’re not happy with your small church’s discipleship program (or it may not even exist), I have some good news. . . . . After a few hit-and-miss attempts, our church has discovered a simple five-step process that can work for any small church. And it looks suspiciously similar to what Jesus, Paul and many other early church leaders did.”

The essence of femininity – a personal perspective Elizabeth Elliot, pioneer missionary and author, wrote “Feminists are dedicated to the proposition that the difference between men and women is a matter of mere biology. The rest of us recognize a far deeper reality, one that meets us on an altogether different plane from mere anatomical distinctions.”

It’s time to teach the Bible in public schools [i.e. state schools] David Marcus writes, “The Bible as comprised of the Old and New Testaments is, simply put, the most important and seminal work of literature in Western Civilization. While for millions of people it is also the revealed word of God, for everyone it is an indispensable font from which springs the art, history, philosophy and governmental structures of our society. Biblical literacy, which is to say a basic, functioning knowledge of the stories of the Bible, is essential to have a full understanding of how our society works and why it differs so dramatically from others. This is why it must be thoroughly taught in the public schools.”

What I’ve learned from preaching through the Book of Revelation.

Sam Storms writes, “This past Sunday, June 24, 2018, I concluded a series of sermons in the book of Revelation. There were 38 of them! As I reflected on my time in this remarkable book, ten truths stood out to me above all else. Unlike some, the things in Revelation that had the greatest impact on me had nothing to do with numerical symbolism or 666 or the Beast or the Great Prostitute or the millennium. Here are the primary lessons I learned.” Storms concludes, “So remember: although some will tell you that you are wasting your time reading and meditating on Revelation because it is too difficult and obscure, Jesus tells us otherwise: “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3). . . . . This book is not beyond your ability to understand it and believe it and obey it. Don’t miss out on the blessing that is promised for those who keep what is written in it!”

Read the whole article HERE.

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The violent showdown: the Exodus in Isaiah.

Andrew Wilson gives us a dramatic, insightful overview of the Exodus theme in Isaiah. He writes, “Isaiah is a prophet of the Exodus. His rich and beautiful prophecy contains a dramatic exodus triple-whammy, as he promises first rescue from Assyria, then redemption from Babylon, and finally redemption from sin itself, in a fashion that echoes the exodus but turns it completely on its head. Those who know the story of Moses and Pharaoh, plagues and Passover, will recognize the shape of what Isaiah prophesies—but they will also be astonished by the way he presents the denouement. . . . . The arm of Yahweh, as we know, is about strength, power, even violence: the mighty hand and the outstretched arm that rain hailstones like fists and split the ocean. So as Isaiah begins to celebrate Judah’s redemption, we are not surprised to hear that it comes about because “Yahweh has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all nations,” and that his servant will be “high and lifted up” (Isaiah 52:10, 13).”

Wilson continues, “Here it comes: the violent showdown we have all been waiting for. We can hear Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries beginning in the background. But the orchestra goes silent. Suddenly, the concert hall is deathly quiet. . . . . The only sound we can hear is a plaintive cry, and as we peer at the stage in astonishment, we notice that it is coming from a manger, or the graveside of a friend, or a hillside garden, or even a cross. . . . . Here, we learn, is what the arm of Yahweh actually looks like in person: one who bears our griefs, carries our sorrows, is pierced for our transgressions, and is crushed for our iniquities (53:5). That is how Israel will be accounted righteous. . . . . We didn’t think the new exodus would look like that at all. We were so busy looking for God in the plagues or chariots hurled into the sea that we missed him in the fragile baby drifting downstream in a basket, and in the lamb’s blood smeared across the doorpost, and in the two goats who face death and exile to take away the sins of the people.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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5 reasons why visitation is vital for your pastor.

Andrew Roycroft comments,”Recently Thom Rainer posted some reflections on church member visitation, providing 15 reasons why those in pastoral ministry ‘shouldn’t visit much’. While the risk of being viewed by one’s congregation as a sanctified social worker or life coach is ever present, and while some local churches impose utterly unreasonable visitation demands on their Pastor, there are also significant dangers in neglecting this vital work. Here, rather than critiquing Dr Rainer’s reasoning, I share 15 of my own incentives to keep going at pastoral visitation. I read Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor once every year, and am forcibly reminded from its pages just how far short I fall in this area of ministry. The following are, however, offered as aspirational statements.” Not all churches, of course, have pastors in the sense Andrew Roycroft uses that term. But these 15 reasons apply to all those who exercise spiritual oversight of a local church.

Read the whole article HERE.

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Five simple steps to mentor new believers (without overworking the pastor).

Karl Vaters writes, “If you’re not happy with your small church’s discipleship program (or it may not even exist), I have some good news. You don’t need an expensive, staff-heavy curriculum to do great follow-up with new believers. And it doesn’t need to kill your already-over-busy schedule either. After a few hit-and-miss attempts, our church has discovered a simple five-step process that can work for any small church. And it looks suspiciously similar to what Jesus, Paul and many other early church leaders did.”

For example, the third step is this: “Connect them with a mature believer and the right resources.” Vaters explains: “Right now there are a handful of new believers in our church who meet regularly with mature believers to learn, grow and be discipled. Each one of them does it differently, depending on their circumstance.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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The essence of femininity – a personal perspective.

Years ago, Elizabeth Elliot wrote these words – words that are not only as relevant now, but doubtless need to be heard and heeded even more urgently. She wrote, “Feminists are dedicated to the proposition that the difference between men and women is a matter of mere biology. The rest of us recognize a far deeper reality, one that meets us on an altogether different plane from mere anatomical distinctions. It is unfathomable and indefinable, yet men and women have tried ceaselessly to fathom and define it. It is unavoidable and undeniable, yet in the past couple of decades earnest and high-sounding efforts have been made in the name of decency, equality, and fairness, at least to avoid it and, whenever possible, to deny it. I refer, of course, to femininity-a reality of God’s design and God’s making, His gift to me and to every woman-and, in a very different way, His gift to men as well. If we really understood what femininity is all about, perhaps the question of roles would take care of itself.” She concludes, “To gloss over these profundities is to deprive women of the central answer to the cry of their hearts, “Who am I?” No one but the Author of the Story can answer that cry.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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It’s time to teach the Bible in public schools.

David Marcus writes, “The Bible as comprised of the Old and New Testaments is, simply put, the most important and seminal work of literature in Western Civilization. While for millions of people it is also the revealed word of God, for everyone it is an indispensable font from which springs the art, history, philosophy and governmental structures of our society. Biblical literacy, which is to say a basic, functioning knowledge of the stories of the Bible, is essential to have a full understanding of how our society works and why it differs so dramatically from others. This is why it must be thoroughly taught in the public schools. Sadly, almost two decades into the 21st Century, biblical literacy is slipping away from us.”

Marcus concludes, “But it is no longer enough to rely on social osmosis or home study of the Bible to give our children the framework needed to study our culture and civilization. Our school systems needs to . . . provide students with the Biblical literacy needed to be ‘decently educated’. Our culture has roots that are powerful. They exert influence on almost every aspect of our daily lives; they nourish our social fabric. No root runs deeper than the Bible, our kids to need to know and understand it.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations (apart from those in writings quoted from other authors) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Friday Briefing 10 (11 May 2018)

The Friday Briefing will now appear monthly rather than weekly, on the first Friday of each month, starting Friday 1st June. This will allow more time for revision of some existing material on this site, and for adding further material to this site.

What we miss when we skip the prophets Ryan Higginbottom writes, “Aside from missing out on a fifth of God’s word, here are five specific treasures we miss when we consistently neglect the reading and study of the prophets. (These are not all features exclusive to the prophets, but they appear in most of the prophetic books.)”

The Gospel of John and the (re)creation of the cosmos Leo Smits writes, “. . . ‘creation’ is an important theme for the apostle of the Gospel of John. . . . . More and more I am convinced that the gospel of John is built up from the structure of the creation story of Genesis 1 and 2.”

This world is not my home Thomas Smith writes, “It sure feels like home. From the air we breathe to the reassuring pull of the earth’s gravity, from the delight we take in the perfect harmony between the colors of nature to the pleasure given by the sound of rain on leaves or the sight of snowflakes the size of goose feathers, we feel at home here. This is our home, our place. . . . . All of which leads us to investigate further just what the relationship of the Christian, as a human being and as a saint, is to this present creation.”

Reading together, early Church style New historical research by Brian J. Wright shows that early Christians were surprisingly bookish. He asks, “So instead of reading little and gathering infrequently, what might happen today if Christians read a great deal in community like they did in the first century?

“We are living in the midst of the greatest turning of Muslims to Christ in history” Lucinda Borkett-Jones reports on the story of the growing numbers of Muslims around the world who are becoming Christians.

What we miss when we skip the prophets.

Ryan Higginbottom asks, “From what Biblical book is your pastor preaching? What are you reading in your devotional times? What book of the Bible are you studying in your small group? Let me guess: An epistle? A gospel? An Old Testament historical book? Some of the Wisdom literature (Psalms, Proverbs, etc.)? I’d bet very few of you would answer Ezekiel, or Micah, or Zechariah. . . . .”

“Aside from missing out on a fifth of God’s word, here are five specific treasures we miss when we consistently neglect the reading and study of the prophets. (These are not all features exclusive to the prophets, but they appear in most of the prophetic books.)”

Read the whole article HERE.

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The Gospel of John and the (re)creation of the cosmos.

Leo Smits writes, “It is well known that there are references in the Gospels, that are an allusion to the Old Testament. . . . . This is also the case in the gospel of John. . . . . Various New Testament scholars have already seen a reference to the creation story in Genesis 1 and 2 in various parts in the Gospel.” He then gives some examples and continues, “These examples show that ‘creation’ is an important theme for the apostle of the Gospel of John. But could it not be that the writer in his gospel not [only] occasionally returns to this theme in his gospel, but that whole gospel encompasses this? After long and thorough examination, I am of the opinion that this is the case. More and more I am convinced that the gospel of John is built up from the structure of the creation story of Genesis 1 and 2. . . . .”

In his conclusion, he says, “John sees Jesus as the Re-creator, and at the same time as the second Adam, who recreates the world (and especially humans) in (initially) the six days of creation, and subsequently, by his death, to enter the Sabbath and on the new first day (eighth day) to stand . . . as a new creation.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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This world is not my home.

Thomas Smith writes, “It sure feels like home. From the air we breathe to the reassuring pull of the earth’s gravity, from the delight we take in the perfect harmony between the colors of nature to the pleasure given by the sound of rain on leaves or the sight of snowflakes the size of goose feathers, we feel at home here. This is our home, our place. . . . . All of which leads us to investigate further just what the relationship of the Christian, as a human being and as a saint, is to this present creation. . . . .”

“Paul, in 1 Timothy 4:1-5, speaks clearly to this matter. . . . Paul affirms the goodness of the fallen creation (v. 4), the purpose of God in creating these things to be “received with gratitude” (v. 3), and the propriety of Christian believers using these gifts “by those who believe and know the truth” (v. 3). . . . . But there is more to it than this. There is a priestly activity involved in the believer’s use of the everyday blessings of this creation. Because he receives these gifts of God with thanksgiving and in the knowledge that they have come from Him, even these common things become holy. It is consecrated (sanctified) by the Word of God and prayer. . . . . The only valid category which remains for the Christian is the lawful/unlawful one. If God has permitted it, it is lawful; if He has forbidden it, it is ‘off-limits’.”

Smith concludes, “What a wonderful door to life is opened with this truth! I am now free to live, free to obey, free to use this world, free to give thanks to the Giver of every good and perfect gift. I am, in a word, free to be human in the fullest sense of the word! So, while we look for a new heaven and earth where righteousness dwells, we live out the days of our pilgrimage here in training and anticipation of this, and we live as priests, acknowledging God in the whole· of our existence. . . . . Let us, then, replace “This World Is Not My Home” with something finer.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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Reading together, early Church style. New historical research by Brian J. Wright shows that early Christians were surprisingly bookish.

Caleb Lindgren interviews Brian J. Wright, who has recently published Communal Reading in the Time of Jesus. Lindgren writes, “Brian J. Wright first experienced communal reading more than 15 years ago, which led him into the field of textual criticism . . . . . . . . But when he began PhD work, Wright wanted to step back and ask who was reading what in the first century. . . . his research revealed a vibrant and active culture of communal reading in the first-century Greco-Roman world. . . . .”

Wright explains, “It would have occurred in many different ways. It could have been friends sharing literature. It could have been public figures actually having something at a theater or auditorium. They happened in both formal and informal venues: apartments, temples, synagogues. They were happening everywhere, courtrooms, private homes, schools. . . . . Also notable is the type of reader, that it’s not just the elite. All sorts of people were reading.” Christians, too, were reading communally. Wright says, “. . . Christians encouraged communal reading not as an end in itself but as a way of comprehending the text, promoting unity, of forming spiritually, of becoming like Christ. . . . .”

Wright comments, “Christians are no longer bookish, like the earliest Christian communities. Christians are more self-focused than communally focused, unlike the earliest Christian communities. And so I hear people saying all the time, “I don’t need to go to church.” I think my book provides yet another way of countering that argument because there was extensive interaction among Christians in the first century. There was a broad circulation of Christian writings. . . . . I mention in the book a few communities like that in Jude or in 1 Peter. These would have been bookish communities that were reading literature outside of the Bible, apocryphal literature, Enoch and others.”

Wright asks, “So instead of reading little and gathering infrequently, what might happen today if Christians read a great deal in community like they did in the first century? As I was doing my research, I saw that communal reading was a powerful discipleship tool because it aided understanding. It fostered community. It promoted a healthy interactive discussion of our common confession.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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‘We are living in the midst of the greatest turning of Muslims to Christ in history’.

Lucinda Borkett-Jones wrote (in 2015), “Despite the daily news of the persecution of Christians around the world by Islamist groups, there is another, lesser-known story of growing numbers of Muslims around the world who are turning to Christ as Lord. Missionary David Garrison’s book, A Wind in the House of Islam, charts this phenomenon, which he says demonstrates that “we are living in the midst of the greatest turning of Muslims to Christ in history”. The book is the result of two and a half years of research and involved travelling more than 250,000 miles to conduct interviews with more than 1,000 people around the Muslim world. In the study, a ‘movement’ of believers is defined as a group of more than 1,000 baptised believers or 100 new churches within a Muslim community. In total he found 69 movements that had started in the first 12 years of the 21st century, in comparison with virtually no voluntary movements of converts to Christianity in the first 12 centuries of Islam. . . . . So why is this turning to Christ happening now?” Read the whole article HERE.

Click HERE to access David Garrison’s website, A Wind in the House.

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