Author: Todd Wood

I am a servant of Jesus in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Join me in seeking Jesus in this city.

Salt Lake School of Theology – Book Review – God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment – by Dr. Jim Hamilton

Years ago in seminary, I completed a Master of Divinity degree, which is the professional, academic degree for pastors in comparison to graduate medical and law school for doctors and lawyers. I particularly enjoyed systematic theology and historic theology.

I sampled, read, and studied the writings of many systematic theology professors who took scripture themes and strove to organize them in a logical coherence over a lifetime of study.  I have over a dozen systematic theologies in my possession. Among the topics in systematic theology, I also possess many books that focus individually on bibliology (doctrine of the Bible), theology (doctrine of God), pneumatology (doctrine of the Spirit), soteriology (doctrine of salvation), ecclesiology (doctrine of the church), and eschatology (doctrine of end time events). Systematic theology greatly aids us in teaching topics in the Bible.

My favorite is historical theology.  I love history and meandering through the streams of Jewish theology, patristic theology, Augustinian theology, Aquinas theology, reformed theology, Arminian theology, Wesleyan theology, evangelical theology, dispensational theology, fundamentalist theology, Pentecostal theology, neo-evangelical theology, and to where we find ourselves today in 2021 as it all goes back to the roots of the biblical texts.  What we believe today is not new.  There is nothing new under the sun. Every religion, hermeneutical interpretation, and denomination today in Eastern Idaho has historic roots.

I also like practical theology. The Bible is the best textbook for our modern mental and spiritual health. The best counselors for men and women’s problems today are those who are saturated in the wisdom of God’s Word.  If we have all this knowledge of the Bible and no application to our daily lives, what are we doing?

Of course, the heart of systematic, historical, and practical theology is biblical theology. I have a book called Toward An Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching (Baker Book House, 5th printing, 1985) by Walter C. Kaiser. I cut my theological teeth on Geerherdus Vos’ historic writings on Old Testament theology and Leon Morris’ New Testament Theology. I have introductions to both the Old Testament and the New Testaments and shelves of commentaries on individual books of the Bible. I was given the four-volume set of The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. But I must confess that in all my theological library, I only have only one book which covers in a pastoral way every section of the Bible with a proposed, unified, theological center. Dr. Matt Emadi gave this book to me a month ago at the Salt Lake School of Theology. It is called God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment: A Biblical Theology.

Author: James M. Hamilton Jr.

Publisher: Crossway

Copyright Date: 2010

Available: On Amazon for around $45

Length: 571 pages (639 with appendices including selected bibliography, general index, and scriptural index)

Upon receiving the book at the Salt Lake School of Theology, I glanced inside at who painted the cover photo. Stunning. Prayerful. Victorious. I read the back endorsements by Kevin Vanhoozer, T. Desmond Alexander, Thomas Schreiner, and Stephen Dempster.

Not often in 2021, do you see a book about the Bible that carries right in its title the word, “Judgment”. Postmodern sophistication shrinks back from that word.  And typically, people prefer a warmer word like Love in book titles about God.

On break between lectures at SLST’s Psalms Exegesis Colloquium, I looked at the table of contents of this book and scanned the analytical outline. Sure enough, I saw the author maintaining that the theme of “God’s Glory in Salvation” resided in the Torah, the Prophets, the Writings, the Gospels and Acts, the Letters of the New Testament, and finally in Revelation. I pondered for a moment that night in Salt Lake City, Utah as I shook the author’s hand. I could easily see the theme of judgment throughout much of the Old Testament in the Pentateuch, the historical books, and major and minor prophets. But Ruth? Job? Ecclesiastes? and Song of Solomon? And what about the New Testament? What is the main theme of the Gospels from the viewpoints by each of their authors? Matthew declares Jesus as King and John proclaims Him as God. But what about Mark and Luke?  The King came to save, but did He also arrive to judge? Would Mark and Luke agree with Jim Hamilton that the main thrust of their gospel books is to declare God’s glory in salvation through judgment? A lot of the higher academic discussion in the I-15 Corridor portrays Jesus one-sided as a loving savior, kind prophet, or humble servant and not as what Hamilton maintains for the central thesis for biblical theology. Sadly, some academic theologians state that Mark’s Gospel does not even consider Jesus as God. Moving further into the New Testament, we think about God’s glory in salvation through judgment in the final Apocalypse ending our scriptural canon but what about Philippians, Philemon, or I John?  What first comes to your mind in those letters? Hamilton considers all these questions and addresses them thoroughly.

To be honest, I have only read 269 pages in this book. First, I read chapter 1, “Can the Center Hold?”  I liked how Hamilton connected biblical theology to inductive study.

“The particular usefulness of biblical theology comes from its inductive approach. . . . The purpose of biblical theology, then, is to sharpen our understanding of the theology contained in the Bible itself through an inductive, salvation-historical examination of the Bible’s themes and the relationships between those themes in their canonical context and literary form” (47).

Every Christian in my hometown in Idaho Falls is in a sense—a theologian. As they read their Bibles, they should be asking questions of observation, interpretation, and application.  Who are the people in the story? What are they talking about? Where does it take place? Why does the Holy Spirit communicate these details?  What does this say about God’s glory? How are we to apply truths in this Bible story to our own lives? What do we need to turn from? How are we to praise and glorify God?

Pastors come alongside to aid brothers and sisters in our local congregations.  Good pastors do not just study the Bible for mere academic accolades. Hamilton rightly asserts, “The biblical theologian who writes in the service of the church does so to elucidate the biblical worldview, not merely so that it can be studied but so that it can be adopted” (45).

And in all our reading, studying, and teaching with the Bible in our river city of Idaho Falls, is there one foundational idea throughout it all?  The author of this book cries out, “Can the center hold? Is the gravitational force of the glory of God in salvation through judgment sufficient to organize the universe of biblical theology?” (53).

Second, I tackled chapter 8 – “God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment and Objections to Its Centrality,” where Hamilton interacted with objections by two other notable Christian scholars, the esteemed I. Howard Marshall, now in heaven, and Ben Witherington. I especially tuned in to what Hamilton wrote to Marshall in a disagreement over Mark’s Gospel.

“But biblical study is more than just word studies, and I would argue that while Mark may only rarely say that Jesus is glorious, he everywhere shows him to be glorious (559). . . . “So when Jesus barnstorms the land, driving out demons, healing the sick, and teaching the truth, he is taking back from Satan what rightly belongs to him as God’s Son. Mark may not use the world glory to describe what Jesus is doing, but he is showing the glory of Christ without using the word. The same could be said about the cross in Mark’s Gospel. Jesus is judged so that those who trust him can be saved to the glory of God. We have a diversity of expression in the Bible between Ezekiel and Mark, but they are unified in the message they communicate” (560).

I jumped from chapter 8 right into chapter 9 and meditated over the powerful practicalities summarized in the last chapter for the Christian today and the Church – “God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment in Ministry Today.”

Third, since I was in a current teaching series at church, “Christ our King in the Psalms”, I read the section on Psalms in the middle of the book from pages 276 to 290, working through the five books of the Psalter and then concluding with the center of its theology. One thing that I enjoyed about Hamilton’s book is all the footnotes!  In jest, I think an author and publishing company should be fired if everything is placed in endnotes. On page 277, Hamilton’s footnote 17 captured my attention and sent me on an online search for Dr. Gordon Wenham’s three lectures (https://equip.sbts.edu/category/lectures/jb-gay/) at Southern Seminary in 2006. Scrolling on the first page, I discovered the recorded sessions by Wenham on “Reading the Psalms Canonically, Messianically, and Ethically.” I am tempted to find out at what Wenham wrote in his 2013 book, The Psalter Reclaimed: Praising and Praying with the Psalms.

Finally, I read all the portions that were of initial interest to me in seeing how Hamilton holds to his theory for the center of biblical theology: (1) the entirety of chapter 4, “God’s Glory in the Salvation through Judgment in the Writings,”(2)  the gospels sections of Mark through John and on into Acts, (3) the letters of Philippians, Philemon, and I John, and then last of all, (4) chapter 7, “God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment in Revelation.”

Hamilton’s section on The Writings were valuable to me. I agreed with Hamilton’s outstanding assessment in Job and learned new things in his section on The Megilloth. He extensively borrowed from Addison G. Wright for unlocking the literary structure of the Qoheleth (313); and in a footnote with the theologian Peter J. Leithart, who had lived in Northern Idaho for 15 years, Hamilton disagrees over Mordecai’s motives for Esther (321). With theological precision, Hamilton supported his reason for rejecting the Masoretic placement of the athnach in Daniel 9:35 (333) to show the stunning fulfillment of Jesus Christ riding into Jerusalem and taking the curse of our sin upon the cross. And in summary, Hamilton used the Chronicler to wrap up all the theology for the Old Testament.  I was thankful for Table 4.9 at the end of his section on the Old Testament that listed almost twenty prayers appealing to God’s concern for His own glory (352-353).

I have always loved Matthew and John, the first and the last gospels.  But through the years, I have been growing in my understanding of Mark and Luke. Hamilton did not disappoint me by bridging Mark with Isaiah and Luke with Samuel. Wow. It was a theological feast in savoring the person and work of Jesus Christ. Again, on the theme of prayer, I appreciated the 29 passages in Hamilton’s Table 5.13 on the work and nature of prayer in Luke’s Gospel (402).

Let me conclude my thoughts on my initial reading in Hamilton’s book. Hamilton describes how Acts connects the Old Testament with the New Testament on establishing the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.  Hamilton bolsters his theme in Acts with an additional essay, “The Center of Biblical Theology in Acts: Deliverance and Damnation Display the Divine.” And for Revelation, Hamilton ends in triumph,

“The Son of Man will come on the clouds of heaven with all his holy ones.  All the tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. They face judgment. For the objects of mercy, redemption draws nigh. Jesus will come to save through judgment for the glory of God. He is worthy of trust. Every human should trust him, even now.”

The center of biblical theology is the glory of God in salvation through judgment, as can be seen in creation and covenant, salvation history and story line, exodus and exile, new exodus and return to Eden, warning and repentance, fear of God and wrath to come. He will save and judge, and there will be no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God and the Lamb will shine forever” (551).

Because of the Salt Lake School of Theology, I am thankful to have this biblical theology resource at my fingertips. I will be referencing to it again in my future study of the Bible.

Salt Lake School of Theology – Book Review – What is Biblical Theology? by Dr. Jim Hamilton

Salt Lake School of Theology – Book Review – What is Biblical Theology? by Dr. Jim Hamilton

For an introduction to Dr. James M. Hamilton Jr.’s musings on theology, I obtained his short, helpful, introductory theological primer, What is Biblical Theology? A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns (Crossway 2013). Dr. Matt Emadi, one of the professors at the new school, gave this book to me as a gift for travelling from Idaho Falls to the Salt Lake School of Theology Psalms Exegesis Colloquium.

Surprisingly in Eastern Idaho, we live in an increasing culture of different ideas. Our dominant stamp would be fiscal conservative, independent rural, and Caucasian Republican.  But pockets of Democratic political viewpoints abide in Bannock County, the home of Idaho State University, and the wealthy resort region of Teton County. Multicultural streams are the original, long-standing native American views and the steady growth of Hispanic immigration. Yet the religious movement of majority is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The town of Franklin is the first LDS settlement in 1860. Above Idaho Falls, there is the LDS collegiate center of Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg.

In saying this, should we consider a theological center of thought for the Eastern Idaho region? Our young adults are molded by LDS instruction through regular Sunday School instruction, testimonials, Ward meetings, and seminary classroom teaching. But obviously, they interact with everything on social media that ranges from postmodernism, theological deconstructionism, atheism, agnosticism, liberation theology, feminist theology, and on to Queer Theology. Occasionally, they will have conversations with evangelical friends whose backgrounds might be the Southern Baptist Convention, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, Pentecostal, Calvary Chapel, or Bible nondenominational, etc. Amid all these names, backgrounds, and viewpoints, does the Bible itself have a central, singular, theological story?  Dr. Jim Hamilton would declare a resounding yes.

In this slim, theological primer of 100 pages, Hamilton lays out (1) the redemption story in the Bible, (2) helpful cues for interpreting the signposts along the way as you read the Bible, and (3) genuine, life application with your Christian community.

Random, competing theologies come from selecting certain Bible verses that parallel your own personal inclinations and desires. It might be tempting to elevate certain Bible passages and ignore other narratives in the Bible that you find distasteful.  We divide the Bible into Old Testament theology and New Testament theology, and then with New Testament theology we section it further into subcategories like Johannine theology and Pauline theology, etc.  Since there are 66 books in the Bible, would there be 66 different theologies? If there are around 40 different human writers of the Bible, do they all add variant ideas that might even contradict each other? Some theologians contend this to be so. And yet I consider that to be a grave mistake.  The Bible is complete, and, in all its diversity, there is the communication of one grand story.  Should that surprise us if we consider that that there is one supreme Author?

Hamilton notes,

“To do biblical theology is to think about the whole story of the Bible.  We want to understand the organic development of the Bible’s teaching so that we are interpreting particular parts of the story in light of the whole. As an acorn grows into an oak tree, Genesis 3:15 grows into the good news of Jesus Christ” (12).

But many who would attempt to read the Bible, might find it first boring in our age of Hollywood entertainment, secondly outdated to our sexual preferences and ideas of social justice, or thirdly puzzling and contradictory.

Is theology too musty for today?  Confining? Deadening to our lifestyles as we know it in 2021? Should Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and “GenZ” jettison 1500 years of God’s interaction with Jewish people and declare that we have outgrown and matured in our understanding of the God of the Jewish people?

We live seven days a week in a postmodern culture. What are the lies? What is truth? Hamilton contends that to open the Bible is to step into the real world, to see an ongoing battle between good versus evil, between a righteous and unimpressive band of sons and daughters who follow the true King versus the powerful and worldly elite who are seduced by the lies of the serpent.

Biblical theology is a challenging art. Hamilton puts it this way:

“To summarize, by the phrase biblical theology I mean the interpretive perspective reflected in the way the biblical authors have presented their understanding of earlier Scripture, redemptive history, and the events they are describing, recounting, celebrating, or addressing in narratives, poems, proverbs, letters, and apocalypses” (16).

In his little book, Hamilton touches on three aspects within the Bible: “story, symbol, and church” (22).

In the big story, we discover God creating the world and yet man sinning—great is the fall.  But even greater, God initiates and overcomes the serpent’s hold upon sinners by providing atonement for iniquities and victory over spiritual death. There is redemption through our faith in the Savior!  And God’s people have confident hope that the Warrior King will restore everything as it once was in the beginning, a new heaven, and a new earth, a perfect harmony of the spiritual and the physical.

To read the Bible, you will intersect with different writing genres. The narratives, poetry, and prophecy are filled with metaphors, similes, symbols, types, and patterns. For instance, the Bible speaks of people as trees and the presence of God through temples. In eastern Idaho, we can connect with these vivid ideas.  Look at the oak trees that line the banks of the Snake river in downtown Idaho Falls and note the rich imagery in the Bible.  If you meditate upon the Bible and follow its wisdom, you are like that tree with your roots by the river. In eastern Idaho, we have three large, white, religious temples in prominent locations in Rexburg, Idaho Falls, and Pocatello. There is abundant discussion about temple imagery in our region. The one Jewish temple in the Old Testament is an image of what? Why was it destroyed? Is Jesus building a new temple? What about the imagery of a cosmic temple?

God instructed Moses about Jewish tabernacle, and He allowed King David to gather the supplies for a permanent Jewish temple. Woven into the narratives of these two men, we find that they are types of Jesus to come.

Hamilton concludes this theology primer with Christ’s love for his Church. How does the Church differ from Israel?

“We are no longer in a specific allotment of land, but our responsibility is still to cover the dry lands with God’s glory as the waters cover the sea. The people of God are no longer a sociopolitical nation with boundaries. We are transnational. We are no longer an ethnic entity with a military. We are from all nations” (107).

More than ever, Christians are understanding this in the United States of America. I highly recommend Hamilton’s short primer as you open your Bibles to read and discover God and His ways in 2021. As you read the written Word, may you come face to face with the living Word through the glorious ministry of God’s Spirit.

Salt Lake School of Theology – Review of the Psalms Exegesis Colloquium, April 30, 2021, with Dr. Jim Hamilton

Salt Lake School of Theology – Review of the Psalms Exegesis Colloquium, April 30, 2021, with Dr. Jim Hamilton

On Friday, April 30, I drove the 214 miles directly south along Interstate 15 from Idaho Falls to Salt Lake City to join around 100 people on the campus of Gospel Grace Church for the opening event of the new Salt Lake School of Theology (SLST).  The school hosted Dr. James M. Hamilton, Jr. as the guest professor for an inaugural teaching, a Psalms Exegesis Colloquium, 5:00 to 8:30 pm, that included a catered meal and three lecture sessions. During the evening, we were introduced to three founder architects of the school: Dr. Matt Emadi (Crossroads Church), Dr. Jared Jenkins (Risen Life Church), and Dr. Lukus Counterman (Gospel Grace Church).

Session #1 – Overview of the Psalter

Dr. Hamilton began with lyrics from the “Eye of the Tiger” and shared how our hearts must drum with the beat of the Psalter.  We are to be people of the Book.  We are to transport ourselves back 4,000 years ago to explore the Psalms in their own biblical culture.  How are we to understand the history? Go to the historical sections in the Old Testament. The authors of the Psalms grinded their seeing lens upon this. 

The Psalter is an intentional, organized book.  The British Old Testament scholar, Gordon Wenham, describes the Psalter as “an anthology to be memorized for the inculturation of the youth.” It is mainly a collage on the life of David, where he wrote, others inserted, and then perhaps a scribe like Ezra brought the finishing touches.

There are two significant signposts within the Psalter to help us find our way around.  First, it can be divided into five book sections, the number five as a possible pattern of the Pentateuch. Each book section ends with a doxology that can be summarized in five parts: 1) Blessed, 2) be, 3) YHWH, 4) forever, and 5) amen. The second signposts are the superscripts which we should absolutely read. All the ancient manuscripts possess them. They enable us to discover authorship of individual psalms and their historical context.

Our lecturer briefly introduced us to all five books within the Psalter, the changes from David to the Sons of Korah, and on to Asaph. We went from David’s anointing to his installation and on to the rest of his life. But ultimately, the Psalter is the cries of God’s people for the coming King on the white horse. We touched on the psalms in the Hallel (Psalms 113-118), the Song of Ascents (Psalms 120-134), the last Davidic psalms (Psalms 138-145), and the concluding explosion of praise (Psalms 146-150), which is nothing less than the salvation of the whole earth and the fulfilment of everything that God has promised.

Dr. Hamilton asked the audience, “Do you know the rhythms of the Psalter?”

Session #2 – Introduction to the Psalms in chapters 1-8

Psalms 1 and 2 set the tone for the Psalter.  We can see a commonality of words and themes throughout the psalms that were introduced here at the beginning. We are blessed or fortunate as we would be nourished and fed with the law, the word of God.  Think back to Joshua 1:8-9. The righteous contrast with the wicked, who have all the powerful standing in the world, but they are nothing more than chaff. We shall see this in the eschatological judgment at the end of all things. In chapter 2, David is speaking in the person of the future King.  This King is going to be the new Adam and representative for all Israel.  Obviously, David had access to the Pentateuch. In the rebellion of the snake, God sets the promise of life in Genesis 3:15.  And as David read about the lives of Joseph and Moses, he knows the previous battles by the devil and his seed to kill the righteous Seed. But David is trusting that God prevails. YHWH made the world. Right out of the gate, there is a celebration of faith in God’s victory and an urging for the leaders of the world to submit. When Hamilton concluded the second session with Psalm 8, he noted that the text is right in keeping with Hebrews 2.

In the summary, Hamilton also explored the question—how does Peter through the words of Luke interpret the Psalms in Acts 2?  David is talking about himself but pointing to the One to come.  David is a type of the Seed of promise.

Session #3 – The exegetical flow of Psalm 42 through Psalm 48

By the time we entered session #3 in this colloquium, the speaker was obviously rushed for time. We decided to jump from session #2 to session #3 with no break.  Of course, how do you pack an exegetical and theological study of 150 psalms in three hours? I discovered online that Dr. Hamilton has preached the whole Psalter to his church congregation, Kenwood Baptist Church, in 109 sermons. Also, his extensive prayer, prolonged study, and scholarly meditation in the Psalter have been recently published in two volumes, the Psalms: Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary.

The people have been removed from Jerusalem.  There is sorrow and deep questions as to where God is. How does a faithful, Old Testament believer stay on the righteous way in Psalms 42-43? And what about the whole community (Psalm 44)? Parallels could be made to the Church today where they have intense feelings over what is faced in a hostile culture.

The answer to our discouragement is that God gives us the King in Psalm 45, taking us all the way back to Psalms 1-2. There is a future King, the seed of David, who will reign as God’s vice-regent.  He is addressed as God.  What is the resolution to being cast down? Contemplate the coming King!

Dr. Hamilton finished the evening with the illustration of a 13-year-old British girl at a boarding school weeping on some steps as she contemplated being “a non-entity.” And yet this young lady named Kate Middleton would end up being the wife of the Prince of England.  Can you imagine?!

Our guest professor in Salt Lake City told us, “In a few years, all this glory will be yours!”

We ended the night at 8:40 pm.

Concluding remarks and application

I enjoyed the evening of food, teaching, singing, and fellowship. Led by worship pastor, Matt Damico, we sang several of the psalms throughout the night–Psalm 8, Psalm 25, Psalm 51, and Psalm 71 . Also, it was a blessing to briefly chat with Pastor Bryan Catherman (Redeeming Life Church) and Pastor Will Galkin (Gospel Grace Church). I gathered up my gifts of two books and a free Salt Lake School of Theology t-shirt and drove back home to Idaho Falls to hop in bed before midnight. 

Here are some follow-up links on Dr. Jim Hamilton and the Psalms:

In application, after considering what Jesus said on his day of resurrection in Luke 24:44, I felt compelled to teach a series this spring on “Christ our King in the Psalms.”  The sermon series entailed five sermons: His Shepherding Care (Psalm 23), His Suffering Plea and the Hope of Resurrection (Psalm 22:1-21, Psalm 69:19-21; Psalm 16:10-11, 30:3, 49:15, 73:24, and 86:13), His Sovereign Rule (Psalm 118:22-26, Psalm 2), His Majestic Throne and Beauty (Psalm 45), and His Eternal High Priesthood (Psalm 110).  Some of my questions for Eastern Idaho would be the following:

  1. Psalms is the biggest book in the Bible, and the most quoted book in the New Testament. Do we see the Psalter as the most important and inspired book of worship for our region?
  2. We might have our favorite verses and chapters, but do we see a redemptive theme of victory throughout the 150 psalms?
  3. What makes the Son in Psalm 2 unique from all other sons of God?
  4. Is the Messiah deity?  And what sets Him apart from the gods described in Psalm 82?
  5. What is the Melchizedek Priesthood all about in Psalm 110?
  6. Where do you find Jesus in the Psalms?
  7. Should a Jew or anyone else find hope for the resurrection and a new kingdom in the Psalms?
  8. In counseling, do you find much of humanity’s emotions and struggles in the Psalms?  Is it ok to express doubts and discouragement to God?
  9. Have you read through the Psalms?
  10. Do you think it is beneficial to be in the Psalms both personally and corporately every week?

I look forward to the Spiritual Formations Colloquium with Will Galkin on Saturday, August 21, 2021.

Christmas Celebrations in Idaho Falls during the Spanish Flu – Charles Barnes

On December 10, 1918, the Bonneville County Board of Health passed an order putting the county under quarantine because of the number of cases of influenza.  Quarantine meant people will not be permitted to come and go at their pleasure where there is a case of influenza but on the contrary members of the family will be quarantined either in or out of the home, as the expediency of the case may demand. The previous Friday the Idaho Falls City Health Officer held a consultation of all physicians of the city and they agreed to institute a rigid quarantine within the city limits, and recommend it be extended to the entire county.  However the County Physician was opposed to the stricter quarantine, violations of which carried fines and jail time.  He argued for a less severe quarantine based on both scientific and economic reasons.

So how did Christmas play out in 1918?  Apparently churches curtailed their services and programs, as the only one of any kind I could find announced in December newspapers of that year was of the Mission Church in New Sweden, a service held on Christmas morning.  In contrast, in 1916 and also 1919, there were announcements of Christmas services, cantatas, concerts, dramas and other programs in all or nearly all of the churches in town.  Also in 1916, the city held a community celebration on Christmas evening. The Idaho Falls Times reported:  It was a joyous crowd which gathered around the Community Christmas tree Monday night at the intersection of Broadway and Park.  The city electrical department had arranged a brilliant and beautiful display of lights and Mayor Edgington had taken the precaution to have the snow for considerable distance removed and a platform erected. The occasion was enjoyed by hundreds and there were more than a hundred voices in the chorus which sang Christmas carols. The invocation was delivered by Rev. Jewell of the Baptist church and the address of the occasion by Rev. Chample of the Christian church. Catching the inspiration of the occasion (the entire crowd) took up the songs that never seem to grow old.  And as they sang, softly the snowflakes drifted down as a gentle gift from Heaven.

The December 19, 1918 issue of The Idaho Falls Times acknowledged that The past year has seen many sacrifices, many sorrows, many weeping hearts which likely referred as much or more to battles in Europe that the influenza pandemic.  The paper’s Christmas wishes also acknowledged the benefits of the suffering and sacrifices of many.  As we remember the birth of Christ this year, may we reflect on His suffering and sacrifice as well as His victory over death, and renew our commitment to seek His reign in our lives, our city and our nation.

Eastern Idaho Worship Collective

On Friday, November 13, 2020, the Eastern Idaho Worship Collective will lead its first “Night of worship” for the greater body of Christ in Idaho Falls. The host local church is Christ Community Church. Featured musicians will be Worship Pastor Daniel Hickenbotham (Christ Community Church), Ja Coody (Watersprings Church), Dave Kirby (Watersprings Church), Dominick Hendricks (Rocky Mountain Ministries), Bud and Brittany Morrow (Watersprings Church), Jessica Zornosa (Christ Community Church), and Pastor Ty Orr (Watersprings Church), etc. Mark your calendars. And please be mindful of Christ Community Church’s COVID-19 safety and health protocols for this event.

Lord willing, the next event will be in February 2021 at Watersprings Church.

The following statements are a current, working description of EIWC’s vision and commitments.

Vision: The EIWC, in partnership with faithful local churches, will provide a space and environment where the greater church in Idaho Falls can come together and engage with the Triune God through passionate corporate worship.

Commitments:

Prayerfulness in Preparation – We, as servants of God’s church, are committed to seeking God for His leading and empowering as we endeavor to provide His church with the opportunity to engage in worship that is honoring and glorifying to Him.  We will weigh our ideas in the scales of prayerful consideration and trust the Lord to guide us through that.

Community Faithfulness – We affirm that we have all been called to commit ourselves to the Body of Christ by being connected to and invested in a local church.  We want to provide leaders and believers with the opportunity to worship alongside brothers and sisters of different backgrounds and cross pollinate at a special event.  We do not want to facilitate church shopping or church hopping or dissention amongst congregation members regarding musical worship.  We will also take into account the mission and vision of host churches, ensuring that we do not distract from their goals or violate their statement of faith or organizational by-laws.

Corporate Effort – We want to facilitate the community of worship leaders, musicians, sound engineers, etc. in Idaho Falls to serve the church as a whole.  Although the vision is to have different church buildings host each worship night, we do not want to burden that local body with the logistics, volunteer requirements, and increased costs of each night.  Additionally, we do not want the host church to be the “owner” of the worship night.  

Singleness of Purpose – We rejoice in the diversity of expressions and gifting given to the church, yet we are committed, for these nights, to the exaltation of the Triune God through musical worship and singing.  This will take precedence above the demonstration of any individual giftings and, as much as possible, without undue consideration towards any specific denominational preferences. 

Excellence in Execution – We want to pursue all things with a spirit of excellence, crafting nights that facilitate undistracted worship through intentionality in song choice and leadership, commitment to preparation and practice, skillful playing and singing, compelling visual media and sound engineering, and development and stewardship of the overall atmosphere of the night.  We recognize that to do this, unfortunately, it will require limitations on participation, which we will be committed to handling humbly and graciously. 

Current Leadership Committee:
Ja Coody, Daniel Hickinbotham, Kenny McMurphy, Mikey Middleton

Trinity Conference

Knowing God and Making Him Known

October 23-24, 2020

Location: Campus of Christ Community Church

For the past 120 years of Church History in Idaho Falls, there is one glorious treasure that stands like the Tetons above everything else. This breathtaking, unspeakable glory is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in our midst.  Whether in sickness or health, in captivity or freedom, the Triune God is all-powerful and all-loving.  To possess the Son is to gain both the Father and the Spirit because Christ Jesus leads us to the heart of the Father and shares with us the comfort of the Spirit. To know this God of the Bible is to have everything we need on earth and to gain all the joy of heaven. With joy and awe, we proclaim this sovereign God to you.

Friday night (6:30 – 9:00 pm)

Session 1: “Encountering God: The Person of YHWH as Revealed in the Old Testament” – Pastor Beau Floyd, Emmaus Road Church

Session 2: “Launching from John to Find the God-man Jesus” – Pastor Mike Ghiglia, MorningStar Christian Fellowship, Share the Son Ministries, Law Enforcement Chaplaincy of Idaho, committee member for the Eastern Idaho Pastors Coalition

Session 3: “The Personhood of God: an Eternal Perichoresis and Dance of Love– Pastor Todd Wood, Providence Downtown Church, Shepherd of the Falls Lutheran Church, Idaho Falls Rescue Mission, committee chair for the Eastern Idaho Pastors Coalition

Saturday morning (9:00 – 11:30 am)

Session 4: “Have We Not All One Father?” – Dr. Jeff Kennedy, Christ Community Church

Session 5: “Father, Son, and the Other One: Recovering the Divinity and personhood of the Spirit” – Dr. Jeff Kennedy, Christ Community Church

Session 6: “From Bach to the Beatles; From Tertullian to Tolkein: How the Trinity Shapes Your Life” – Reverend David Bass, New Geneva Orthodox Presbyterian Church

This is a free event. RSVP for childcare by October 19th. To sign up, visit https://christcommunity.faith/trinityconference

Vision 2020 Livestream, Sunday, September 20, 2020, 5:00 pm (Mountain Standard Time)

On the weekend of Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish Ten Days of Awe, the evangelical community in eastern Idaho is inviting you to tune in at 5:00 pm on Sunday, September 20, 2020, to watch the long-anticipated “Vision 2020 Livestream” that will be broadcasted from the Seeing Jesus Clearly website. As Christ’s Church, we collectively invite you to taste the goodness of the Lord.  The year 2020 has been crazy.  We have been troubled by many things.  More than ever, we hope that men, women, and children in our region will seek and see the gospel light and love of Jesus. 

Let us know if you will be viewing the Vision 2020 Livestream at your church building or with some friends in your neighborhood.  We desire to pray for you.

And if you have a watch party, take a picture of your group, and post it.  We would be delighted to see you.

Whether you are a believer, seeker, or nonbeliever, we invite you to this region-wide virtual event.

We celebrate Christ as the enduring hope and joy in our lives. He is our King and our chief treasure in Eastern Idaho. To God be the glory.

Feel free to connect with us on our Facebook page.  We hope you will be blessed.

Proclaiming the Gospel to Idaho Falls – Charles Barnes

On September 20, Vision 2020 (Facebook) will livestream a gospel presentation by Pastor James Runcorn, in an effort to bring the message of salvation in Christ to people in our city that otherwise would not hear it. While believers in Idaho Falls share the gospel with friends and neighbors in many ways, there have been numerous attempts in the history of the city to bring the good news to a larger portion of the city.  Here is a sampling:

In January 1896, the churches in Idaho Falls joined together for a series of evangelistic meetings under the leadership of Rev. James Thompson.

The January 8, 1903 issue of  The Idaho Falls Times reported that the Methodist and Presbyterian churches held a week of prayer followed by a week of evangelistic and revival meetings.

In March 1909, the churches of Idaho Falls held a week of meetings at the Baptist church and at a Community Hall on Broadway.  One day during the week was set aside for an all-day prayer meeting. The Idaho Falls Times reported, “These meetings have more than half passed now and the results thus far fully justify the hopes of those who had called these evangelists to hold the meetings.”

In September 1911, a series of evangelistic meetings were held in a “tabernacle” on Park Avenue and C Street [now Constitution Way].  The Idaho Falls Times reported large audiences. Perhaps the “tabernacle” was a temporary structure, as in 1929 there were evangelistic and revival meetings sponsored by the Nazarene Church in a tent at the same location.

In late December 1915, simultaneous daily prayer meetings began in ten or twelve parts of Idaho Falls in support of a month of evangelistic meetings led by Dr. G. W. Taylor of Los Angeles.  Organized by a committee from several Idaho Falls churches, the meetings were held in a temporary building erected on Elm Street between the Methodist church and the old City Library (now the Museum of Idaho).  That building, which could seat 1,100, was erected by about 75 volunteer carpenters and other helpers. It was built in a single day, December 29, 1915, a day in which the Idaho Register reported: “as severe a winter storm as this area ever experienced was raging with the snow piling in deep drifts and the thermometer ranging well below zero.”  The weather did not discourage the workers, as the newspaper also reported that they were making jokes about the winds and snow as they would cycle in shifts between working in the cold and warming up in the Methodist Church. Nightly meetings were held from January 2 through January 30, with additional meetings on Sunday mornings and afternoons.  The response was so great that the meetings were extended two additional days.  The newspaper reported “attendance, by actual count” was 1,100 on each of the Sundays and also on weekdays toward the end of the campaign. The Idaho Falls Times of January 27 reported that nearly 200 conversions had been recorded by that date, and offerings had been sufficient to meet all expenses.

The Methodist and Presbyterian Churches, along with others, sponsored a series of evangelistic meetings from March 3rd to 10th, 1925 led by Rev. and Mrs. Elmer P. Loose. The Times-Register article announcing these meetings commented, “our city needs a season of prayer and spiritual uplift and seeking after the things that pertain to God and righteousness.” The Times-Register of March 6th reported good crowds with the church auditorium nearly filled.

In 1928 young people of Idaho Falls held a mass sunrise prayer meeting on Easter morning, participating in the nation-wide Crusade with Christ movement.  It was estimated that at least 4 million youth across the nation participated in these prayer meetings, which were then followed by local three-day conventions.  This youth movement, developed from Christian Endeavor societies, was devoted to evangelism, Christian citizenship, and world peace.

Meetings were held in the Moose Hall at Capital and C Street on Sunday afternoons and Thursday evenings over several weeks in December 1941, led by New Zealand evangelist Percy Hartland and Central European missionary and evangelist Edwin Schaer.

In December 1950, several weeks of revival meetings were held at the Baptist, Nazarene, Mission Covenant, and Gladstone Gospel Churches.  Preceding and coinciding with these meetings, pastors from five churches met at 10 am daily for a seven-week period to pray for city-wide revival.

In 1977, many churches in Idaho Falls sponsored evangelist and guitarist Dwayne Friend for seven nights of meetings at the Civic Auditorium.  Held in mid-January, the main floor of the auditorium was two-thirds or more full. According to one person who attended, lots of people who attended were saved in these meetings.

In the early 1990’s several well-known Christian speakers, such as author Frank Peretti, were brought to Idaho Falls by Family Bible Church, and crowds came to the Civic Auditorium to hear them.  Popular Christian bands were also brought to the same venue, including Mylon and Broken Heart, Rick Cua, Morgan Cryar, DeGarmo and Key, the Imperials, and others. In these events, the gospel was preached, and many hands went up at invitations to receive Christ.

In 1995, Pastor Rick Brown of Calvary Chapel hoped to bring a major Christian recording artist to Idaho Falls for an evangelistic crusade.  His effort snowballed, and he soon had commitments from Lenny LeBlanc, Crystal Lewis, and Dave Messenger.  Realizing that the project had become too big for his church, which had begun just two years previous, he enlisted the help of ten other Idaho Falls churches.  Somewhat patterned after Billy Graham crusades, the meetings were held at the Idaho Falls Civic Auditorium, with Pastor Rick giving evangelistic messages each of three nights.

History of prayer in Idaho Falls – Charles Barnes

Whatever you ask in My Name – Prayer in the History of Idaho Falls

While only God knows the full extent of the prayers of individuals and groups in Idaho Falls who have called out to Him throughout the history of our city, here is a sampling of prayer activities in the history Idaho Falls:

While I know of no direct tie between the founding of Eagle Rock and the revivals in our nation during the Civil War, I suspect that these awakenings provided a spiritual climate that influenced the first residents of this area. There are records that indicate that before there were any organized churches in Eagle Rock, early residents met in homes, businesses, and along the river for worship.

Rebecca Mitchell wrote of the dedication of the first church building in Eagle Rock in November 1884, “It was the beginning of a new era in the Snake River Valley when the bell rang out the hour for prayer.”

On the 4th of July celebrations in Idaho Falls in the 1890s, prayer was always part of the program.  For example, in the 1895 4th of July celebration, “A fervent, eloquent and appropriate prayer was then offered up by Rev. Henry Van Engelen.”

As churches began in the early decades of Idaho Falls, they nearly always held mid-week prayer meetings.  One church in their first few months held weekly prayer meetings but Sunday services only twice a month.  Another began with an all-night prayer meeting.

Most years from the 1890s into the 1940s, Idaho state governors, in accord with Presidential proclamations, declared Thanksgiving Day to be a day of prayer and thanksgiving, with the “prayer” part given equal prominence with “thanksgiving”.  Other public holidays that we now think of as secular had clear religious overtones, with churches sometimes holding special prayer services.

For several decades starting in the 1890s, and occasionally in later years, several churches in Idaho Falls had “Weeks of Prayer”, with prayer meetings or services every night during a week, usually the first week of January.

In 1908-1909 and again in the 1920s, Idaho Falls newspapers reported that prayer meetings at several churches were very well attended.  One church saw the attendance at their mid-week prayer meeting jump from 31 on March 21, 1923, to 60 the next week, and remain at that level the rest of the year.

For most years from 1928 into the 1940s, the mayor of Idaho Falls would proclaim a Day of Prayer to coincide with the World Day of Prayer, and a prayer service would be held which was organized by the United Council of Church Women, made up of representatives from most of the churches in town.

During both World Wars, there were many special prayer services and Days of Prayer in Idaho Falls. After 9/11/2001 there was a prayer gathering in front of the Bonneville County courthouse.

In 1950, pastors from five churches met every day for seven weeks to pray for revival in Idaho Falls.  Also during this period, pastors and laymen met together each Sunday afternoon for fellowship, prayer, testimonials, and worship.

Annual 24-hour praise and prayer services were held in Idaho Falls in the 1990s and through 2003.

In the early 1990s, some churches in Idaho Falls observed a 40-day period of prayer leading up to the National Day of Prayer in May.

Annually from 1994 to 2005, up to 27 Idaho Falls churches and groups participated in the Unity in the Community Prayer-a-thons, which were 24-hour prayer chains.  Forty-three churches and groups participated in these prayer chains.

How many of the blessings we now enjoy in Idaho Falls are due to God responding to the prayers of His people in the past?  How much do we need to persevere in prayer to see the changes that God desires in our nation and city?

The prayer of a thankful Idahoan (11)

Dear God,

I want to thank you for the gift of a church family.

You give to us earthly, physical families who are a great blessing of loving relationships during trials and hardship. But then you grant to us this extraordinary gift of a spiritual family for when we struggle with problems, divisions, and estrangements in our earthly families.

The minute that I was born again through faith in Jesus, your Son, I gained a whole new family.  Father, I can hardly contain the joyous gratitude over the fact that practically wherever I travel in the world, I discover brothers and sisters.  From Idaho to India, from Utah to Uruguay, from Montana to Mexico, and from Wyoming to the Western Sahara, there are your people who love you and who love me because I also love you.  There is a common, unbreakable bond in the heart among us as a worldwide family because of the amazing work of your Son. And this family is only growing.

God of the whole universe, I thank you for giving to me so many brothers and sisters. I walk around my city, and they are everywhere—Christ’s Bride.  I travel around in eastern Idaho, and I hear and witness heaven’s words and actions through your family—the household of faith. I treasure this gift; and I worship you, the Giver and Sustainer for this gift of relationships in my life.

I thank you for all the members of our church families throughout Idaho Falls who nourish me in your truth and love. I thank you specifically for Berean Baptist Church, Emmaus Road Church, Shepherd of the Falls Lutheran Church, and Providence Downtown Church.

God, I love and cherish the small church gatherings! After six weeks of being away from any in-person fellowship with Pastor Warren Cuppy and fellow elder, Dean Berggren, I wanted to jump up and down when I saw them both yesterday.  In fact, I wanted to run around the building by seeing every brother and sister who walked through the front door.

God, I am grateful that we as Providence Downtown Church could fellowship together, sing together, pray together, study together, and live together.

Thank you, Father of lights.  Every good and perfect gift comes down from you and this is one of the best.

You are rich in mercy.  You have shown your great love to us that even when we were dead in trespasses, you made us alive together (sunezospoiesen), by grace we have been saved. Thank, you, for raising us up together (sunegeiren) and sitting us together (sunexathisen) in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-6).

You have given to me in Idaho, not a gift of isolation, but a gift of close connection and intimate togetherness.  Does not this gift reflect who you are, the purest essence of community in unity?

O God!  Who is Father, Son, and Spirit—You are the most glorious God!  I am surrounded and sheltered in your relational love with one new family of faith, hope, and love.  I will never be alone all the rest of my days in Idaho and on through eternity in heaven and the new earth.

I cannot even begin to repay you for this gift handed to me. Thank you, Father, for your love.  Thank you, Son, for your sacrifice. Thank you, Spirit, for your power.

In Jesus’ name, amen.