Idaho Falls Look Up Tour Launch with Will Graham

Even after approximately 140 years of history through Christ’s Church in this region along the Snake River plain, there is much work to do for the glory of God.  Providentially, there is a renewed anticipation for the outpourings of God’s love and grace upon people as they look up to Him. We have been earnestly praying.

In ten weeks, on Thursday, January 26, Will Graham, the grandson of Billy Graham, will be here in our river city. At The Waterfront in the Snake River Landing, we are gathering at 6:00 pm for our public Launch of the Idaho Falls Look Up Tour with Will Graham. This is an opportunity to meet and hear Will speak to us from God’s Word and to worship and fellowship with faithful ambassadors of Christ serving all throughout our beautiful area of the Intermountain West.  The Eastern Idaho Worship Collective will lead us in songs of worship to the Lord.

We invite all the pastoral teams and ministry leaders from Christian congregations throughout the area to join us. We pray for Jesus to be lifted high in the year 2023 so that all might be drawn to Him.

Idaho Falls Look Up Tour Prayer Meeting

On Election Day, Tuesday, November 8, River of Life Church hosted an Idaho Falls Look Up Tour prayer meeting that began at 7:00 pm. Pastor Robert Legg introduced the evening and opened in prayer. Pastor Zach Kenyon and the worship team led us in several songs of worship. We had four people, Michelle Talaski, Pastor Ty Orr, Izak Contreras, and Pastor James Peterson, who led in prayer where each were immediately followed by small group circles of prayer among everyone. Pastor Enrique Banos closed in prayer while Pastor Oscar Perdomo translated in English. More than 150 people gathered for this prayer event, and 26 of those people were Christian pastors in the region. We seek the presence, power, and intervention of a good God in the Intermountain West. More to come in the days ahead.

National Day of Prayer 2022, Evening Prayer for the Nation, Idaho Falls

Charles Barnes wrote out this prayer and lifted up our nation to God on the National Day of Prayer, May 5, 2022, at the church building of Fuente de Restauracion in downtown Idaho Falls:

“On this National Day of Prayer we acknowledge that You, Jesus, are King, King of the nations, and King of this nation.  We acknowledge that today we are one nation under God and we seek Your liberty and Your justice for all.  May this nation at this time seek You and Your salvation, for You alone can provide true salvation.

I praise You for Your work establishing and keeping this nation throughout its relatively short history.  Thank you for the covenants that our founders made with you, that dedicated this nation to Your glory.  Thank you for the faith of the founders of this nation who knew You and sought Your will as they worked to form a government, looking to the laws revealed in Your Word as the basis for the US constitution. 

Thank You that at many times of crisis in the history of this nation, You intervened to save it from dissolution or subjugation.

Thank You for Your mercy and patience with us when we as a nation have forgotten our covenants with you and fallen at the feet of idols and false gods.

Thank You for the times that You have revived Your church in this nation, times when your people cried out to You and sought You earnestly in prayer.

Thank You for the godly men and women You raised up in this nation throughout its history, to stand in the gap in prayer, to proclaim Your Word, to be Your under-shepherds, to take on national leadership roles. And Lord I thank You for the thousands of men and women and families in this nation that You have raised up and empowered to go into all the world, proclaiming that You are king, proclaiming the gospel, discipling the nations.

On this day in the year 2022 we ask You to again have mercy upon our nation, for the many ways we have turned away from You, for seeking our own will rather than Yours, for leaders who blaspheme Your name, for us as believers when we have ignored our divine and holy calling, and failed to pass on to new generations the faith of our forefathers. Forgive us for the ways our politicians and judges are ignoring or perverting our own constitution, replacing our fundamental law with a form of Marxism.  Forgive us for throwing You out of public schools and welcoming philosophies that deny Your truth, replacing it with secular humanism and other philosophies contrary to your Word. Forgive us for the ways we have allowed death to reign in our nation.

Lord, You so loved the world, the people of this world, including the people of this nation, that You gave you Son that they might have life, eternal life, abundant life.  We ask that you pour out Your Spirit of life on this nation. 

[Jesus, we’ve already prayed for the churches of our city and now we echo those prayers for the churches of our nation.] Pour out your Spirit on the churches of America, to be cleansed from apathy, from ignorance, from luke-warmness, from impotence, from worldliness.  Teach us and empower us to walk in holiness, in truth, in love, in faith, to walk in the Spirit and put to death the deeds of the flesh.  May we know the fellowship of Your sufferings and the power of Your resurrection.  May we declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into Your marvelous light. May we abide in You, the true vine, and allow Your life and work in and through us to bring an abundant harvest.

Pour out Your Spirit on the families of America.  Turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.  Infuse marriages in this nation with Your sacrificial love, with patience and humility, with peace and joy that comes from You, and where needed, with reconciliation, with restoration, with wholeness.  Restore the sacredness of the marriage covenant, forgive us for taking it so lightly.  May Your presence in our families heal and restore honor and strength.  Protect us from the dangerous ideology of critical race theory; keep it out of our schools.  Protect our youth from confusion over their sexuality and accepting ideas that do harm.

Pour out Your Spirit on the youth of America.  Deliver them from the evils of our age. Deliver them from the destructive narratives pushed by elements in our nation, on social and national media, the entertainment industry, in schools and even by some businesses.  Deliver our youth from the immorality of our culture.  Deliver them from the temptations of our culture.  Stop the violence we see in schools in this nation.  Empower parents to oppose immoral and harmful teachings in our schools. Raise up many young people in this nation to become like David, having hearts that seek after you, and having courage to face and defeat the Goliaths of our day. Pour out your Spirit on parents who home school their children, to raise up a generation ready to overcome the evils of our day.  Pour out Your Spirit on teachers in both private and public schools.

Pour out Your Spirit on the immigrants and refugees that have come to this nation, from many countries of the world. You know their hearts and their needs.  May they find refuge in You, may they find new life in You, may they find Your salvation.  May they find the freedom and opportunity they seek.  May they be a blessing to this nation by your grace and through the work of Your Spirit.  But stop the human trafficking across our borders, stop the gangs that bring drugs, stop the people who exhort or take advantage of legitimate immigrants, stop the terrorists that seek to harm this nation. 

Pour out Your Spirit on the judges in the courts throughout the nation, that they may decide cases with justice and fairness.  May they be immune to political pressure, and not show partiality, prejudice or personal bias.  May they look to You for wisdom and discernment.

Pour out Your Spirit on the men and women in the prisons and jails of America.  Grant freedom to those who were wrongly convicted.  Release those who were imprisoned solely for political reasons. Thank you for the revivals and conversions we hear about in some of our prisons and jails.  Keep these men and women who have put their trust in You in Your word and use them as Your witnesses.  We pray for the jail and prison ministries in this nation, to have Your blessing and power.

Pour out your Spirit on members of Congress.  You oppose the proud and You know the members of Congress who are arrogant, deceived, or cooperating with enemies of this nation.  Turn their hearts to You, may Your Holy Spirit convict them and lead them to the cross. You also know the men and women in Congress fighting for truth and righteousness – encourage them, protect them and their families, give them wisdom to pull down every stronghold and every argument raised up against the knowledge of God.

Pour out your Spirit on the President and his family and all the members of his cabinet.  I pray for their salvation.  Clear the mind of the President and fill it with knowledge of Your will, fill it with Your word.  Break all evil influences within our executive branch of government.

Pour out your Spirit on the CEO’s, CFO’s and other executives and board members of the corporations of this nation. Shield them from pressure to do evil. May they use their influence for good. Deliver them from the temptation of riches and power. Free them from bondage to the global elites.

Pour out Your Spirit on the physicians and health care workers of America.  We have come through two years of an epidemic that has taken many lives and caused much confusion.  Thank You for every health worker who sought the best for the patients they cared for; thank You for the compassion and strength you gave them during the epidemic. Renew their strength. Provide for health care workers laid off for reasons of conscience.  Restore trust in our health care system, as the truth of the epidemic becomes clearer and health agencies and organizations take appropriate actions.  Reign in the research into biological weapons funded by this country.

Pour out Your Spirit on our policemen, sheriffs, other law enforcement personnel, firefighters and other first responders.  Keep them safe in their jobs.  Give them courage.  Comfort the families of those killed in the line of duty. May Your strong hand stop the violence in our cities.

Pour out Your Spirit on the pastors of America and their families.  Refresh them in their calling, renew their strength like eagles.  Give them the heart of Jesus, the power of Elijah and the wisdom of Solomon.  Draw them daily into your presence, near to Your throne, to behold Your glory.  Fill them with Your Spirit.

Jesus, you told us to love our enemies and pray for and those who persecute us.  We know much of your church around the world is experiencing persecution and occasionally we see or hear of it within our borders.  So I pray for both the persecuted and those doing the persecuting, for Your will to be done, for Your kingdom to come, for deliverance from evil. 

Lord, you raise up the humble and are opposed to the proud.  You remove kings and raise up kings.  So I ask that You would put in office the men and women You desire in our elections this year.  I pray for the candidates in each of the 435 seats in the House of Representative, for candidates in each of the 35 open Senate seats and candidates in state races, that Your Spirit of truth would envelop them, giving them courage to be totally honest in their campaigning, fair in speaking of their opponents, and resisting all corrupt influences.  Give them hearts that seek after Your righteousness.  We pray that the elections this year would be fair, with all attempts at fraud thwarted. 

You extend Your love and salvation to all who call upon Your name, for You so loved the world.  So I pray for a mighty work of Your Spirit in this nation turning hearts from idols to the true and living God, for it is only You who can give life, new life, abundant life.

Jesus, your word tells us to owe nothing to anyone except to love one another, but our nation is drowning in debt – national debt and personal or consumer debt.  Set us free from the bondage that results from this debt, and from the greed that causes much of it.  Give our lawmakers courage to resist the temptation to create unrealistic budgets, to use gimmicks to fund pet projects which bloat the national debt, causing inflation that will eventually lead to catastrophic collapse of the economy.  Give our lawmakers courage to be fiscally responsible and legislate in ways that create economic opportunity. I pray that You would uproot and cast down the powers that are manipulating the economy for evil. I pray that You would remove control of the Federal Reserve Bank from globalist elites, and stop the Federal Reserve, other banks and government agencies from freezing assets of citizens whom the globalists want to silence or control.

Lord, You’ve told us that Your ways are higher than our ways and Your thoughts are higher than our thoughts.  Give us eyes to see what You are doing in our nation and ears to hear Your voice.  May we discern your judgements and respond in faith and obedience.

Parts of our country are experiencing an extreme drought and more than half, including most of Idaho some level of drought.  Please send rain to Texas and Nevada, Oregon and Montana.

Your Word tells us that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 

Our enemy is a liar and the father of lies.  His lies are flooding our nation with disinformation, godless agendas and narratives.  Equip your church with the belt of truth and the sword of the Spirit as we encounter and digest news, media of all kinds, political ads, so called politically correct thinking, even when couched in the language of research or science.  Give us courage to stand for truth, to proclaim truth. May we speak truth, one to another.  Bring to nothing the efforts of the federal government to create a Disinformation Governance Board, which we know from history will only silence the truth.

Our enemy is the accuser and tempter, and we see so much immorality and sin in our nation.  We declare the total sufficiency of the blood of Christ for forgiveness of all who have put their trust in You.  We declare that in Christ there is no condemnation.  Cloth us with the breastplate of righteousness.  Teach us the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus that sets us free from the law of sin and death.

Our enemy is the thief who comes to kill and destroy.  Lord I cry to You to reach out and touch mothers who would kill their babies and anyone considering killing themselves.  I cry out to you to stay the hand of death and save.  I pray for the Justice Aleto writing the court’s opinion in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, that would be a victory for life, that their leaked opinion which overturns Roe vs Wade would hold. I pray that You would give wisdom, insight, and divine guidance to Colonel Gail Curley, the investigator looking into the leak of the draft opinion of the Court on the abortion case. We pray also for the justices of the Idaho Supreme Court reviewing House Bill 366, the heatbeat law, that they would let it stand and not strike it down.

Lord, our enemy enslaves and reigns in tyranny. We see our freedoms, which we know come from Your hand, being eroded, even denied in this country.  Wake us up, keep us alert, equip us to overcome in Your name and for Your glory.  We seek freedom not to indulge our flesh, but to obey You and Your Word, and to fulfill our high calling to be a witness to the nations.  I confess that in many ways America has not been the Light on the hill, a blessing to all nations that You desire and our forefathers envisioned.  Forgive us, renew our strength to fulfill Your purposes for us in this nation.”

2022 Public Bible Reading Event (April 20-May 5)

Place: The lawn of the Bonneville County Courthouse

Times: Typically, reading between 8:00 am through 5:00 pm, leading up to the National Day of Prayer on Thursday, May 5


  • (Wednesday, April 20) Genesis – Finished reading
  • (Wednesday, April 20) ExodusFinished reading
  • (Wednesday, April 20) Leviticus – Finished reading
  • (Thursday, April 21) Numbers – Finished reading
  • (Thursday, April 21) Deuteronomy – Finished reading
  • (Thursday, April 21) Joshua – Finished reading
  • (Friday, April 22) Judges – Finished reading
  • (Friday, April 22) Ruth – Finished reading
  • (Friday, April 22) I Samuel – Finished reading
  • (Friday, April 22) II Samuel – Finished reading
  • (Monday, April 25) I Kings – Finished reading
  • (Monday, April 25) II Kings – Finished reading
  • (Monday, April 25) I Chronicles – Finished reading
  • (Monday, April 25) II Chronicles – Finished reading
  • (Tuesday, April 26) Ezra – Finished reading
  • (Tuesday, April 26) Nehemiah – Finished reading
  • (Tuesday, April 26) Esther – Finished reading
  • (Tuesday, April 26) Job – Finished reading
  • (Tuesday, April 26) Psalms 1-100 – Finished reading
  • (Wednesday, April 27) Psalms 100-150 – Finished reading
  • (Wednesday, April 27) Proverbs – Finished reading
  • (Wednesday, April 27) Ecclesiastes – Finished reading
  • (Wednesday, April 27) Song of Solomon – Finished reading
  • (Thursday, April 28) Isaiah – Finished reading
  • (Thursday, April 28) Jeremiah – Finished reading
  • (Friday, April 29) Lamentations – Finished reading
  • (Friday, April 29) Ezekiel – Finished reading
  • (Friday, April 29) Daniel – Finished reading
  • (Friday, April 29) Hosea – Finished reading
  • (Friday, April 29) Joel – Finished reading
  • (Friday, April 29) Amos – Finished reading
  • (Friday, April 29) Obadiah Finished reading
  • (Friday, April 29) Jonah – Finished reading
  • (Friday, April 29) Micah – Finished reading
  • (Friday, April 29) Nahum – Finished reading
  • (Friday, April 29) Habakkuk – Finished reading
  • (Friday, April 29) Zephaniah – Finished reading
  • (Friday, April 29) Haggai – Finished reading
  • (Friday, April 29) Zechariah – Finished reading
  • (Friday, April 29) Malachi – Finished reading


  • (Monday, May 2) Mathew – Finished reading
  • (Monday, May 2) Mark – Finished reading
  • (Monday, May 2) Luke – Finished reading
  • (Tuesday, May 3) John – Finished reading
  • (Tuesday, May 3) Acts – Finished reading
  • (Tuesday, May 3) Romans – Finished reading
  • (Tuesday, May 3) I Corinthians – Finished reading
  • (Tuesday, May 3) II Corinthians – Finished reading
  • (Wednesday, May 4) Galatians – Finished reading
  • (Wednesday, May 4) Ephesians – Finished reading
  • (Wednesday, May 4) Philippians – Finished reading
  • (Wednesday, May 4) Colossians – Finished reading
  • (Wednesday, May 4) I Thessalonians – Finished reading
  • (Wednesday, May 4) II Thessalonians – Finished reading
  • (Wednesday, May 4) I Timothy – Finished reading
  • (Wednesday, May 4) II Timothy – Finished reading
  • (Wednesday, May 4) Titus – Finished reading
  • (Wednesday, May 4) Philemon – Finished reading
  • (Wednesday, May 4) Hebrews – Finished reading
  • (Wednesday, May 4) James – Finished reading
  • (Wednesday, May 4) I Peter – Finished reading
  • (Wednesday, May 4) II Peter – Finished reading
  • (Wednesday, May 4) I John – Finished reading
  • (Wednesday, May 4) II John – Finished reading
  • (Wednesday, May 4) III John – Finished reading
  • (Wednesday, May 4) Jude – Finished reading
  • (Thursday, May 5 – NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER) Revelation – Finished reading

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.