3.26.2015

Deuteronomy 5-7

Moses recounts God speaking the Ten Commandments at Sinai, and Israel asking for a mediator.
Love and fear God, and teach your children so.  Don't forsake Him when things go well in Canaan.
Give no quarter to the gods of Canaan. God is faithful to you; be faithful to Him.

How this is about Jesus
Jesus interprets the law on a mountain in Matthew 5-7.
"If you love Me, keep My commandments."

Application

  • A healthy fear of God is important to true piety.  Fear as a noun is not inherently bad - it depends what you fear.  God commends Israel for fearing Him, and says that's why He gave them the Law (6:3).
  • Teach your children the commands, the fear, and the salvation of God.
  • Give no place to any remaining sin in your life.  Attack and mortify it ruthlessly.  It leads to destruction.

Sing! / Broken homes / Manliness / Courts not Supreme

Sing your heart out at church!
"Too many in our churches are overly self-conscious about what others will think of them if they sing too loudly or, at times, out of key.... While we certainly want to strive for excellence in how we sing to our God, the sound of a child singing extremely loudly or, even at times, out of key, is a sweet sound that brings God great glory (Ps. 8). If we would simply seek to sing with joy in our hearts to the Lord we would lose self-awareness and embrace God-awareness. We would not fear what others might think about our singing."
Some people will do anything to save a marriage, including hurt or endanger people.  It's a classic case of Sabbath being made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

Is "The Art of Manliness" the answer to our masculinity crisis?  Paul David Tripp says not.

How should we respond if the Supreme Court gives a pro-same-sex marriage ruling?  Hint: the courts are not supreme - not the final word - in our system of government.  Right?

Review: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness


On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



A delightful story.

It starts out really wacky, takes a while to get going, and ends with a bit of a whimper.

But the plot does become compelling and the story is richly biblical. Part one of a 4 part series. Worth the read, especially if you're looking for something for your kids to read - in the 10-14 age range, probably.

Themes include sibling loyalty, trusting parents, fighting anger and resentment, coping with hardship, and the importance of joy and laughter together.



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Word of God in Nature, History and Words

John Frame's Systematic Theology
Part 4: The Doctrine of the Word of God
Chapter 24 - God speaking in events and words

The Word of God almost always comes to us through some medium: words on a page, or spoken language with a person, or events, etc.  This does not make it necessarily flawed.

I. Events
  A. Nature and general history
    God speaks through nature, clearly and powerfully.
    Nature is not itself the Word of God.
    We must know about nature or history to apply Scripture meaningfully.
  B. Redemptive history
    Exodus, resurrection, apostolic miracles are all examples
    These make God's presence and power and lordship known
    It's wrong to say this is grace, while nature reveals law.  Both show His kindness and judgment.
    Lessing's ditch, separating history and faith is also wrong.  Events call forth faith.
    Faith is required to understand history.
II. Words
  Word and event complement each other.  Words explain and preserve events uniquely.
  A. Divine Voice - Sinai is the most powerful example, Elijah's still, small voice, and many others.
    How do we know it's really God, when there are lying spirits out there?  We just do.
    There is no standard above God's Word to test whether it is from Him or not.
  B. Prophets and Apostles
    There is no downgrade" in God's Word when He speaks by prophets (Ex. 4:14-16; Jer. 1:10-12).
    OT prophets include Isaac, Jacob, Noah, Samuel, etc.
    In the NT, the Spirit comes on the 12 apostles, and they pass Jesus' words on to the church.
    John 14:26; 15:26 prove this urgent question of where we find the words of Jesus.
    There ARE false prophets, after all.  True prophets truly represent and apply God's covenant.
  C.  Jesus is the ultimate prophet, who both receives and speaks the Father's words faithfully.
    He fulfills Deut. 18:18.  His words are life, and must be obeyed.
    Where are those words?  That's the next chapter...

3.25.2015

Deuteronomy 3-4

Israel also conquers the Amorites of Bashan.
The 2 and a half tribes will settle there, after they fight for Israel.
Moses cannot enter the land, but gets to see it from Pisgah.

Moses reminds Israel of all God has done for them from the Exodus, to hearing His voice at Sinai, to recent battles won.  So stay loyal to God when you are tempted to worship idols and nature.  Israel is unique in that God made them a nation from another nation, and gave them unique and excellent laws.


How this is about Jesus

  • He is the firstfruits of the resurrection, and wins the victory at the cross before the victory is fully won at the consummation.  In the same way, God gives Israel victory and some inheritance to dwell in, before they cross the Jordan and all the battles are won.
  • Jesus wants our children to come to Him - forbid them not!  And Moses calls Israel to tells their children what the Lord has done for them.

3.24.2015

Demons and Puritans

Section II: Theology Proper (Study of God)
Chapter 12 - Demons

Puritans talked a lot more about Satan and demons than about angels, mainly "our conflict" with them.

Their nature
Demons have the same nature as angels, but are permanently falle a dn corrupted.  Satan is their leader (Matt 25:41; Rev 12:7).  Their fall is barely spoken of.  Jesus saw it, Rev 12 describes it.  A few Puritans saw Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 as types of it.  A few speculated, along with an ancient source, that Satan fell in refusing to go along with the plan to worship an incarnate Christ, but this is not in Scripture.  Their fall and lack of redemption shows the grace of God.  The "younger brother" of His creation is raised to prominence.

Their power
Like their leader, they are malicious, subtle and strong.  God allowed them to rule this world until Christs coming, and they still hold sway among men rebelling against Christ.  They can control nature, animals, and unbelieving men.  Even on the believer they can bring disease and bring up evil thoughts as temptations.  "Physical objects cannot protect us." (192).  Apart from Christ we are in bondage to the devil and our sins.  Jesus destroys his work, and the believer has resources to resist them.  Their power is limited by God's providence.  Where Satan intends our destruction he only achieves our refinement in fire.  Charnock's illustration: he polishes us when he means to rub us out.

Their schemes against us
Satan's main way of temptation is deception.  He tempts different people differently.
  • He starts with small sins and we get used to them and let them grow.  We should not give him an inch.
  • He persists in suggesting particular sins and we succumb.  We should reject the promises sin makes as false.
  • He gives us a minor victory and we get proud and presumptuous.  We should stay watchful.
  • He makes evil seem good.  "Greed becomes frugality, and lukewarmness appears to be moderation."  We should love God's Word of truth.
  • He traps us in lawful things and we take them to extremes in bad stewardship (recreations, food, work, etc.).  We must be content, and avoid occasions for sin.
  • He gives new revelations, miracles or sensational experiences.  We should test the spirits and not believe any supernatural thing we think we see or hear.
  • He shames us with how intense or perverse our temptations are, and we despair and isolate ourselves from others.  We should remember we are vulnerable to any kind of temptation, and confide in trusted friends.
  • He gets us to trust charms or objects instead of God, prayer, and the Word in our hearts.
  • He gets us to doubt our salvation, since we sin or are tempted as we are.  We should remember that true believers are not perfect.
  • He convinces us it's okay to sin, since we can repent later.  We should remember that true repentance is a gracious gift of God.
  • He gets us to neglect work or worship/devotions, by pursuing one at the expense of the other.
  • He swings us from one extreme to another: severe rigor and judgment to lax "mercy" and looseness.

The main thing is to look to Christ for strength and final victory - He has crushed the serpent's head!

Luke 2

A government census forces Joseph and Mary on a long trip to Bethlehem right when she is due to give birth to Jesus.  The only place to lay Him is an animal feed trough, since the inn(s?) are full.

Angels announce it to shepherds outside town.  The angels praise God.  The shepherds go see Jesus and tell everyone they meet what happened.

Joseph and Mary keep the law, circumcising and naming the baby Jesus on the 8th day, and going to the temple after 40 days.  There they meet Simeon and Anna, who prophesy that Jesus is salvation for Jew and Gentile.

They go settle in Nazareth, and when He is 12, they take Him to the Passover feast at the temple.  He stays there after Joseph and Mary depart, wisely discussing Bible with the teachers, who are impressed.


Application

  • Governments can oppress and humiliate people, and Jesus let that happen to Him and His parents. (1-7)
  • No matter how humble your situation, there are glorious angels praising God with you and watching over you. Tell others about Jesus! (8-20)
  • Keep God's Word, even when you think you have a "special case." (21-40)
  • Even the best parents lose track of their kids now and then. (40-52)

Deuteronomy 1-2

Moses explains the Word of God to Israel before they cross the Jordan - His farewell sermon.
God sent us from Sinai to Canaan, through the desert.
God had us set up intermediate judges and leaders under Moses.
Israel refused to enter Canaan, afraid of how big and strong the Canaanites were.
God declares only Caleb and Joshua will enter, and the children of those rebelling.
Israel tries to go in, and gets beaten by the Canaanites.
They wander in the desert for 38 years (total of 40, with the first 2 taken up going from Exodus to Sinai to Canaan the first time).
They leave Moab and Ammon alone, and conquer Amorites.

How this is about Jesus
Jesus, before He ascends to heaven, commissions His disciples to go to all the nations.
Moses, before he died on the mountain, commissioned Israel to go into Canaan.
Jesus also points out when we rebel against him (Rev. 2-3).

Application
The world won't just leave you alone, if you promise to leave them alone (2:26-31).  Someone will always be dispossessed, and the other in charge.  America's goal may be freedom of religion, but our goal as the church is the conversion of the nations, not a pluralistic neutrality of religion in the public square.  I'm not arguing here for forced conversions or imposing religion on people in any way.  But we work for Christ to have dominion from sea to shining sea.

3.23.2015

Numbers 34-36

God describes the borders of Israel's land: Jordan on the east, Sea of Galilee in the upper northeast corner (Chinnereth), Mount Hor in the north, Kadesh-Barnea in the South, Mediterranean on the west.  Chiefs of each tribe yet to receive land are named.

Levites get 48 cities total, throughout Israel.  6 will be cities of refuge, where accidental murderers are protected from avenging family.  Intentional murderers may not receive such protection, and are to be executed.

Daughters who inherit land, need to marry within their tribe, so that the land of a tribe stays in the tribe.


How this is about Jesus

  • He is our real inheritance.  He made heaven and earth, and so our ultimate sense of home is not a land or a place, but Christ the Lord.
  • He is our refuge, who protects us from Satan, the accuser.  At the death of the high priest, we go free (35:28).
  • He takes His bride, the Church, in such a way so as not to lose any inheritance (Psalm 2:8).

Application
Do justice in punishing intentional and high-handed sins more severely than accidents.
Respect your boundaries and borders in relationships, neighbors, nations, etc.

Numbers 31-33

God has Moses do one last task: destroy Midian,  They kill the men and take captive the women, children and cattle.  Moses has them also kill every male child and woman not a virgin.  This is in response to Numbers 25.  They kill Balaam, too.  The soldiers get half the plunder and Israel gets the other half.  The soldiers bring an offering to God from it, for not losing a single man.

The tribes of Reuben and Gad, and some Manasseh-ites want to settle in the land just conquered, east of the Jordan.  Moses doesn't like it, at first, seeing the same rebellion Israel committed 40 years ago.  They must go fight for Israel west of the Jordan, then they may settle back here.

God recounts all the places Israel camped for the last 40 years, and tells them to be sure to drive out all the inhabitants and smash their idols.  Anything they leave alone, will ensnare them later, and God will drive Israel out, too.

How this is about Jesus
The Psalms are full of language about Christ ruling and defeating His enemies.  Psalms 2 and 110 are good examples.  Revelation 19, also.

Application

  • We must show no mercy or pity to the remnants of sin left in our hearts, families, or churches.  One Puritan said, "Be killing sin, or it will be killing you."
  • How did these tribes know they had found their inheritance?  The land fit their possessions of cattle.  Sometimes God guides by circumstances, IF we will also follow His revealed Word in that situation (in this case, fighting for the rest of Israel, and protecting your families).

3.22.2015

Numbers 28-30

Sacrifices are reviewed for each feast, emphasizing the amounts of flour, oil, and wine for each sacrifice.

We must keep our vows.  Fathers and husbands have authority to overrule vows their family members make.  Silence is consent, if they are aware of the vow.

How this is about Jesus
Interesting that bread and wine were given with every sacrifice.  Jesus keeps these elements in the NT sacrament of the Eucharist, remembering His final sacrifice.
Jesus gives instruction for His house, the church, in the NT.

Application
There is much family design instruction in chapter 30.  It is a proof from Scripture that family leaders are to guide the spiritual practice of each member as shepherds.

Luke 1

Several accounts of the things fulfilled have been written, and Luke wanted to write, too, having thorough knowledge of it all.

Zachariah, a priest married to Elizabeth but with no children, offers incense and the angel Gabriel appears and promises him a son to name John.  He will be a Nazirite, the Elijah coming before the Messiah (Malachi 4:5-6).  Zachariah doesn't believe, and so will be mute until he is born - 9 months!
Elizabeth conceives and rejoices.  Gabriel goes to Mary 6 months into Elizabeth's pregnancy.  He announces the birth of Jesus, and that He will be the eternal King of Israel.  Mary asks the same question Zachariah asked, but from faith, not doubt.  The Holy Spirit will mysteriously bring about her conception.  Mary goes to visit Elizabeth.  Elizabeth blesses Mary, led by the Spirit, and calls her the "mother of my Lord."

Mary sings a song of Scripture (Magnificat), praising God for scattering the proud and filling the hungry, for helping Israel as He told Abraham He would.

John is born, Zachariah assets to name him John, and can immediately speak.  This is talked all over.  Zachariah prophesies, blessing God for redeeming Israel as He promised Abraham He would.  He tells baby John that he will go before God's coming as a messenger.  God is bringing knowledge and light by forgiving their sins.

Application
We bless God for keeping His Word.
We take Him at His Word, not doubting that word.
We know His Word well enough to know when and how He kept it, and quote it in songs (which Mary and Zachariah do here).

3.20.2015

Numbers 26-27

God has Israel take another census of every man twenty and up.  There are 601,730.  Of these, only Joshua and Caleb were numbered after the exodus, the eat have died in the desert.

A man has no sons but five daughters and asks what happens to his inheritance.  It goes to the daughters.  God tells Moses to go up a mountain and see the land, for he will then die.  Moses asks God to give Israel a leader, and He says to ordain or inaugurate Joshua to that office, since he has the Spirit.

How this is about Jesus
Like Joshua and Caleb, Jesus is faithful in the desert.
Like Zelophehad, Jesus saw His inheritance possibly cut off, but will see His seed prolonged(Isaiah 53:8, 10), thanks to God's promise.

Application
Sins often remove earthly blessings we might otherwise have had.  Israel and Moses cannot enter Canaan.  This does not endanger our forgiveness or our salvation, though.

God's people need leaders.

3.19.2015

Angels and Puritans

Section II: Theology Proper (Study of God)
Chapter 11 - Angels

The Puritans lived in a magical worldview, compared with our mechanical one.  Superstition abounded, and the Reformation sought to stamp much of it out, looking to scripture alone.  Our spirituality should be supplication, not manipulative.

Angels are spirits who serve God and His people (Heb 1:14).  There are myriads of them: 10,000 times 10,000.  Some are higher than others (1 Thess. 4:16), but we don't know more than that and shouldn't speculate. They are strong and overpowering in their presence.  But they are not immutable or divine, they are creatures.

A history of angels
God decreed their existence and glory.  They are not saved, but some are foreordained to damnation and others preserved in faithful glory with God.  Edwards thought this leads to union with Christ, like redeemed people have, but scripture does not specify they are in Christ as we are.
God created them with the heavens in Genesis 1:1, and they rejoiced in the creation of earth (Job 38:4-7).
God uses His angels to serve Him in the present age.  See below.
God will consummate this age with angels.  They come with Christ at His return.  They gather the harvest of men into God's barns.  They are judged themselves.

The work of angels
They rejoice at the conversion of sinners, bring messages to men from God (in the accounts Scripture gives us), work God's providence in the world and in people generally, and have charge to care for God's people.  The Bible describes them doing this last one in several different situations.

Communion with angels
We worship God together and they are fellow servants with us.  To what extent angels help us in sanctification, scripture speaks less than does tradition, paganism, and our own speculation.


My thoughts
Several thoughts are left out, here.  Jesus says the angels go up and down on Him, the ladder between heaven and earth.  Matthew 18:10 isn't even quoted: "Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven."  I assume this is an overreaction to the speculation and extra biblical attention the subject of angels can bring.

Hebrews 1:1-4 is important: God spoke ultimately through His Son, who is far greater than angels.  At the same time, scripture speaks after that of the possibility of entertaining angels.  I doubt this refers to human messengers or pastors, as they are said to entertain them unaware.  And I don't dismiss as bogus all the claims of people in un-reached areas seeing visions, dreams or angels that point them to Jesus, His Word, or the church near them.  This is different than speculating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, or who all the archangels are.

God wants us to be aware of angels, but not to focus on them instead of on our calling and communion with God.

Review: Emma


Emma
Emma by Jane Austen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



50 chapters of exasperation with the main character Emma, gives way to relief in the end.

Frivolous and meddling thoughts will lead to thoughtless and unkind speech at some point, as it does for Emma. We need to deal with people in truth and love. Not as our personal projects to improve, but as image bearers of God in their own right, no matter how provincial or annoying they may be.

Sheep often like to try shepherding others right when they most need to be shepherded themselves. This is Emma. Her shepherd stares her in the face the whole time, but she is oblivious, self-deceived and just clueless. He is willing to give her a straight forward yet loving rebuke, instead of play coy games that toy with her heart, as she and others do to each other in the book.

Peter Leithart's book, Miniatures and Morals, was a helpful reading companion.

Are you really seeking the good of that other person you are dealing with, or are you advancing your agenda, stroking your ego, and exalting yourself before others?
That is Austen's question for you in Emma.



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