At the end of November we wrapped up our Equip Class on the Old Testament book of Joshua. Joshua is that book with the story of Jericho, a story famous in children’s books and flannelgraph. But not the whole story. Here’s how it ends: “Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword” (Joshua 6:21). Joshua’s sword has a lot of blood on it.
This presents a difficulty to sensitive and attentive readers. In a book filled with the gracious promises of God for his people and even careful instructions for justice for their life together (Joshua 20), what should we make of this apparent military overkill? Was God right to command this and was Israel right to carry it out? What shall we say to those who call the Bible a barbaric book, who use this as an example of how religion spoils everything?
If the Bible is true and we’re reading it right, then, yes he was. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy for us to understand.
As with any text of the Bible, we need to situation this one in its immediate context, the context of the story that is unfolding in Scripture, and in the context of the whole Bible. This specific question gives us a great exercise in biblical interpretation. Four resources will be helpful to you in thinking this through:
- “God’s Justice in the Land of Canaan,” Kyle Dillon
- “How Could God Command Genocide in the Old Testament,” Justin Taylor
- “Introduction to the Book of Joshua” in the ESV Study Bible
- The Morality of God in the Old Testament, G.K. Beale
We should not be surprised to bump up against hard questions in the Bible. We’re fallen and finite creatures. We don’t have the whole picture and if we did we’d have a sinners take on it. Gratefully, God’s Word is true at every point and we can trust it. And gratefully its story leads to a cross where the Lord dealt fully and finally with the injustice our own sin, and a resurrection where he conquered death for those who entrust themselves to him.
In October we began our new Sunday Adult Education class, called, Equip. Click here for handouts from the class we just wrapped up, “Joshua: Seeking Rest in the Land,” and to plan ahead for what classes you might join us for in the months ahead.
Starting this Sunday, Tim Ragsdale will teach a class, titled, “Guidance, Wisdom, and the Will of God.” Join us at 10:45 in the West Wing on Sundays from here through January for this helpful class.
On this important subject, Kevin DeYoung has written a helpful book, titled, Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will. Here’s a quote to whet your appetite for our next session in Equip:
“The only chains God wants us to wear are the chains of righteousness–not the chains of hopeless subjectivism, not the shackles of risk-free living, not the fetters of horoscope decision making–just the chains befitting a bond servant of Christ Jesus. Die to self. Live for Christ. And then do what you want, and go where you want, for God’s glory.”
Pick up Kevin’s book at the Book Nook or on Amazon.
Yesterday was John Bunyan’s birthday. Not sure who that was? He did live a long time ago, so perhaps that’s understandable, except that his book, The Pilgrim’s Progress, has sold more copies in English than any other work besides the Bible.
Here’s a little background on the time of Bunyan’s birth from Desiring God, followed by a link you should check out.
On November 28, 1628, in a quiet cottage nestled within the English parish of Elstow, during one of the most tumultuous times in the country’s history, John Bunyan was born.
The place of Bunyan’s birth in Elstow was only a mile from the busy town of Bedford, where years later Bunyan would be imprisoned for over a decade for preaching the gospel. Like his father, Bunyan learned the simple trade of a tinker — a mender of pots and kettles — and came to be known as the “tinker turned preacher” when he began lay preaching in his late twenties. Bunyan’s skill and passion drew hundreds of listeners. Theologian John Owen, a contemporary of Bunyan, when asked by King Charles why he went to hear such an uneducated man preach, replied, “I would willingly exchange my learning for the tinker’s power of touching men’s hearts.”
But Bunyan’s legacy is not so much in his preaching, but his writing. During his imprisonment in the Bedford jail, Bunyan wrote several books, including most popularly, The Pilgrim’s Progress, which has sold more copies in the English language than any book besides the Bible. Today, the book still remains both an incomparable source of spiritual education and a classic in English literature.
On the occasion of Bunyan’s birthday, Desiring God has released a revised version of The Pilgrim’s Progress with a recently found preface by John Newton from 1776. Click here for links to digital and print versions of the book. This would make a great gift for anyone this Christmas.
The Christmas Store is DSC’s annual way of building a bridge for meaningful gospel ministry into our community. Together as a church, we buy gifts, volunteer at several Christmas Stores, and serve as mentors to the contacts we make through a follow-up program called, Money and Me. In fact, when you come to church tomorrow, be sure to scan the Christmas trees for tags. These tags represent gifts that you can buy for our stores. Take a few or a handful, then return them the following week.
Watch this video and click here to learn more about how to be involved.
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Christian growth is a hard work. It’s also a fruitful work because of the Spirit and the grace of God.
Here’s what Paul says in Philippians 2:12–13: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” In real ways, growing in godliness is our work. And yet it’s a work powered by the grace of God. It’s possible because of him, and he gets all of the credit.
In his article, “I’ll Never Change!” Jon Bloom from Desiring God has given us some encouragement for our struggle to fight sin and mature as Christians.
We all must come to terms with the way we are. But there are two ways we must do this. The first is to cultivate contentment with who God designed us to be, which results in a wonderful liberation from trying to be someone we’re not. The second is to lay aside the burdensome weight of the fatalistic resignation that we’ll never be any different than what we are, which results in an enslavement to our sin-infused predilections.
Cultivating Contentment and Fighting Fatalism
Cultivating contentment in the person God designed us to be is based on our belief in the glorious gospel truths that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), knitted us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13), caused us to be born again (1 Peter 1:3) so that we are now a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) who lives by faith (Galatians 2:20) in the God who provides all we need (Philippians 4:19) so that we can exclaim with joy, “by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10)!
Believing these things sets us free to increasingly pursue living in the freedom that Jesus has provided us (John 8:36).
But they can be hard to believe in the face of our persistent sins and weaknesses, things we are so keenly aware of. Instead, we are tempted to believe the horrible, heavy lies that God’s grace toward us must, in fact, be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:10) or else simply withheld by a disapproving, unsatisfiable Heavenly Father, because we keep stumbling in the same old “many ways” (James 3:2) and we’ll never, at least in this age, ever really be “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37).
Believing these things confines us to living in fear, shame, and the apathy of fatalistic resignation. We buy into the seductive, hope-sucking, energy-depleting, self-pitying deception that “I’ll never change.” The destructiveness of this lie goes beyond a particular sin or weakness. It creates a mindset of surrender that leads to further kinds of self-indulgence, compounding our problem and sense of defeat.
We must fight to take these lies captive and destroy their fatalistic arguments (2 Corinthians 10:5) so that we can lay aside the weights of their sins (Hebrews 12:1).
Read the rest of Bloom’s article here.
If you struggle with sin and its curse or know and help someone who does (all of us), then you should check out the blog over at the website for The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).
ACBC is an organization devoted to training and certifying Christian men and women for faithful disciple-making in the context of Biblical counseling. The better we know ourselves and one another as the church, the more we’ll feel the need for this kind of help.
Here are examples of articles from ACBC’s Blog in the last two weeks:
- “Listening to Depression,” by Scott Mehl
- “The Mind of an Addict,” by Mark Shaw
- “Fear and Worry,” by Lisa Schmidt
To learn more about ACBC and its work, click here.
From October 22-24, DSC hosted the third annual Charles Simeon Trust Albuquerque Workshop on Biblical Exposition.
If that’s an earful, which it is, it’s enough to say that this workshop serves as a kind of spring training for a number of teachers and preachers in our area. Each workshop is made up of three elements:
- Six instructional sessions to sharpen tools for Bible interpretation
- Three Bible exposition sessions to demonstrate the power of the Word faithfully preached
- Six hours of small group interaction on Biblical texts
This year our workshop was concentrated on the gospels and, specifically, the Gospel according to Mark. To learn more about the Simeon Trust workshops, click here.
Naturally, our prayers are often centered on what’s happening in our life, our city, and our church. In addition, we often pray for the remotest parts of the world. This is all very good. But as you read this post, consider praying for the teaching and preaching ministries of the churches throughout our region, and specifically New Mexico. God gets his work in the world done through the Word. The church needs men who are progressing in their work with the Bible. That’s what this workshop week was about, and it’s what we can pray will continue for the strength of the church in our place.
Here are some photos from the week:
This year we were joined by 45 preachers and teachers on site from 27 different churches, including 20 preaching pastors from churches around the region. Assuming each of these guys will go home more faithful in his teaching and preaching, 5300 congregation members will hear the Bible more clearly for the investment of these men in this week of study.