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Numbers 2     Psalm 36     Ecclesiastes 12      Philemon


Numbers 2

Arrangement of the Camp

Numbers 2:1 The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 2 “The people of Israel shall camp each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ houses. They shall camp facing the tent of meeting on every side. 3 Those to camp on the east side toward the sunrise shall be of the standard of the camp of Judah by their companies, the chief of the people of Judah being Nahshon the son of Amminadab, 4 his company as listed being 74,600. 5 Those to camp next to him shall be the tribe of Issachar, the chief of the people of Issachar being Nethanel the son of Zuar, 6 his company as listed being 54,400. 7 Then the tribe of Zebulun, the chief of the people of Zebulun being Eliab the son of Helon, 8 his company as listed being 57,400. 9 All those listed of the camp of Judah, by their companies, were 186,400. They shall set out first on the march.

10 “On the south side shall be the standard of the camp of Reuben by their companies, the chief of the people of Reuben being Elizur the son of Shedeur, 11 his company as listed being 46,500. 12 And those to camp next to him shall be the tribe of Simeon, the chief of the people of Simeon being Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai, 13 his company as listed being 59,300. 14 Then the tribe of Gad, the chief of the people of Gad being Eliasaph the son of Reuel, 15 his company as listed being 45,650. 16 All those listed of the camp of Reuben, by their companies, were 151,450. They shall set out second.

17 “Then the tent of meeting shall set out, with the camp of the Levites in the midst of the camps; as they camp, so shall they set out, each in position, standard by standard.

18 “On the west side shall be the standard of the camp of Ephraim by their companies, the chief of the people of Ephraim being Elishama the son of Ammihud, 19 his company as listed being 40,500. 20 And next to him shall be the tribe of Manasseh, the chief of the people of Manasseh being Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur, 21 his company as listed being 32,200. 22 Then the tribe of Benjamin, the chief of the people of Benjamin being Abidan the son of Gideoni, 23 his company as listed being 35,400. 24 All those listed of the camp of Ephraim, by their companies, were 108,100. They shall set out third on the march.

25 “On the north side shall be the standard of the camp of Dan by their companies, the chief of the people of Dan being Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai, 26 his company as listed being 62,700. 27 And those to camp next to him shall be the tribe of Asher, the chief of the people of Asher being Pagiel the son of Ochran, 28 his company as listed being 41,500. 29 Then the tribe of Naphtali, the chief of the people of Naphtali being Ahira the son of Enan, 30 his company as listed being 53,400. 31 All those listed of the camp of Dan were 157,600. They shall set out last, standard by standard.”

32 These are the people of Israel as listed by their fathers’ houses. All those listed in the camps by their companies were 603,550. 33 But the Levites were not listed among the people of Israel, as the LORD commanded Moses.

34 Thus did the people of Israel. According to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so they camped by their standards, and so they set out, each one in his clan, according to his fathers’ house.


Psalm 36

How Precious Is Your Steadfast Love

Psalm 36:1 To The Choirmaster. Of David, The Servant Of The LORD.

1  Transgression speaks to the wicked
deep in his heart;
there is no fear of God
before his eyes.
2  For he flatters himself in his own eyes
that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.
3  The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit;
he has ceased to act wisely and do good.
4  He plots trouble while on his bed;
he sets himself in a way that is not good;
he does not reject evil.

5  Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
6  Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
your judgments are like the great deep;
man and beast you save, O LORD.

7  How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8  They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
9  For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light do we see light.

10  Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
and your righteousness to the upright of heart!
11  Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me,
nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
12  There the evildoers lie fallen;
they are thrust down, unable to rise.


Ecclesiastes 12

Remember Your Creator in Your Youth

Ecclesiastes 12:1 Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; 2 before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, 3 in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, 4 and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low— 5 they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets— 6 before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, 7 and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. 8 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.

Fear God and Keep His Commandments

9 Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. 10 The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.

11 The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. 12 My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.


Philemon

Greeting

Philemon 1 Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To Philemon our beloved fellow worker 2 and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house:
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philemon’s Love and Faith

4 I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, 6 and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. 7 For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

Paul’s Plea for Onesimus

8 Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, 9 yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— 10 I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. 11 (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) 12 I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. 13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. 15 For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

17 So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. 20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.

21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. 22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.

Final Greetings

23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers. 25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

The Reformation Study Bible


What I'm Reading

Our Fundamentalist Betters

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 3/1/2006

     As I write, I find myself visiting Gwinnett County, Georgia. It’s a good thing that I am only visiting. If I actually lived here, I’d find myself on the wrong side of the law. It seems the county recently passed a law that says you may not have more than eight people living in a single house at a time. Me, my wife, and my seven children puts us over the limit. The law, I’m pretty sure, wasn’t designed to keep families like mine out of the county. That wasn’t the express intent of the county commissioners. Instead, I believe the intent, though this too wasn’t expressed, was to discourage certain immigrant groups from settling here. Rather than pass a law against those immigrant groups, which wouldn’t be politically correct, they came up with their clumsy solution that also affects large families. This particular law has run smack into another law, the law of unintended consequences. Such always happens when we try an end-around around honesty. When we try to have our way, while hiding our convictions, we lose everything we seek.

     It is no new insight to note that in America the evangelical church is worldly and anemic. We are so earthly minded that we are no heavenly good. The anemia comes from the worldliness. But whence comes the worldliness? Like any other sin, we have options for placing its advent. We could argue that it began with the latest fad to hit the church. Or we could go back to the beginning, to the garden. Both have their advantages. It might be more helpful, however, to see the beginning of this descent at the height of the fundamentalist-modernist controversy.

     Fundamentalism is so named for a fundamental reason. It was a movement that concerned itself with affirming, defending, and maintaining the fundamentals of the faith. As a movement, it affirmed the authority of the Bible. It affirmed the accounts therein of creation, of miracles, of the virgin birth, of the death and resurrection of Jesus. It affirmed the necessity of conversion through faith in the finished work of Christ. It affirmed, in short, the defining issues of historical evangelicalism. Why, then, isn’t the controversy called “the evangelical-modernist” controversy? To get at that answer we must ask another. What is it that distinguishes evangelicals and fundamentalists? Suddenly our problem becomes clear. An evangelical is a fundamentalist that wants the respect of modernists, and sells his soul to get it.

     That is to say, the difference between a fundamentalist and an evangelical isn’t the content of their respective beliefs, but the way in which those beliefs are held. Fundamentalists, to their credit, clung to the fundamentals like a pit bull on a t-bone. There was nothing attractive or sophisticated about it, but everyone knew you’d never tear the two apart. The evangelical, on the other hand, sought to find, at least culturally, a middle ground. Yes, we believe in the authority of the Bible, but we believe it for nice, professional, academic reasons. Indeed, all that we believe we believe for nice, professional, academic reasons. What separates evangelicals from fundamentalists is that we evangelicals don’t breathe fire, and we have fancy degrees hanging in our studies, instead of pictures of Billy Sunday. We evangelicals are they who cut this deal with the modernists, “We will call you brother, if you will call us scholar.”

     Please don’t misunderstand. The point isn’t that the right way to believe in the fundamentals is to be stupid. Instead, the point is that the right way to believe in the fundamentals is with a holy indifference to what others think about us. Anything less leads us right where we are. That is, any movement that begins with a fear of those we are seeking to win has already been won by those that are feared. We thought we were defending the fundamentals, but we were giving away the store. Like the Gwinnett county officials, our failure to demonstrate the courage of our convictions led to exactly what we didn’t want. Weakness disguised as compromise compromised our convictions, and exposed our weakness. Because we were too worldly to not care, we have become too worldly to matter.

     We still follow that same path today. For fear of offending the lost, we will not tell them they are lost. For fear of looking narrow and close-minded, we have made peace not just with the deadly secularism of modernism, but with the doubly deadly folly of postmodernism. There the culture itself reflects our uncertainty, refusing to make affirmations, just like us. In our pride we have embraced a humility that won’t stand for anything.

     Our Shepherd, however, calls us to a different path. He tells us that having those outside the faith revile us for our faith is something to be sought, not something to be avoided, that those who experience the disdain of the world for His name’s sake are blessed. The fundamentalists of the last century were laughed at and scorned. And for that they earned the praise of Jesus. May we find the courage not only to affirm the fundamentals, but may we be given a double portion of the spirit of the fundamentalists. They fought the good fight, while we collaborated. They kept the faith, while we merely kept our positions in our communities. May we learn to fear no man, and to fear God. For such is the beginning of wisdom.

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     R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.

R.C. Sproul Jr. Books

Machen’s God-Centered Vision

By John Piper 3/1/2006

     J. Gresham Machen wielded his powers against modernism as an historian and as a student of the New Testament. He argued on historical grounds that from the beginning the church was a witnessing church (Acts 1:8) and a church devoted to the apostles’ teaching. In other words, her life was built on events without which there would be no Christianity. These events demanded faithful witnesses who tell the objective truth about the events, since they are essential. Moreover, the life of the church was built on the apostles’ teaching (Acts 2:42), the authoritative interpretation of the events. Thus Machen’s response to modernism stands: it is not a different kind of Christianity — it is not Christianity at all. The foundational truths have been surrendered; or worse, the concept of truth has been surrendered to pragmatism, so that even affirmations are denials, because they are affirmed as useful and not as true.

     The structure of the modernism of Machen’s day is not too different from the postmodernisms of our day. In some churches the triumph of modernism is complete. But it is still a menace at the door of all our churches and schools and agencies. One of our great protections will be the awareness of stories like Machen’s — the enemy he faced, the battle he fought, the weapons he used (and failed to use), the losses he sustained, the price he paid, and the triumphs he wrought. If we do not know history, we will be weak and poor in our efforts to be faithful in our day.

     Our hope for the church and for the spread of the true Gospel lies not ultimately in our strategies but in God. And there is every hope that He will triumph. But when we step back now and look at Machen’s life and work, what can we learn for our day?

     First, Machen’s life and thought issues a call for all of us to be honest, open, clear, straightforward, and guileless in our use of language. He challenges us, as does the apostle Paul (2 Cor. 2:17; 4:2; Eph. 4:25; 1 Thess. 2:3–4), to say what we mean and mean what we say, and to repudiate duplicity, trickery, sham, verbal manipulating, sidestepping, and evasion. Machen shows us that such dishonesty is not new and that it is destructive to the church and the cause of Christ.

     Next, Machen’s life teaches us the importance of founding and maintaining institutions in the preservation and spreading of the true Gospel. Visions of truth and worldviews like Machen’s are preserved not just in the minds of a few disciples but in charters and covenants and enclaves and books and journals and durable organizations and long-term official commitments. Yet sometimes in the name of preserving the truth, institutions often come to stand in the way of spreading the truth. Nevertheless, they are not necessarily bad and are probably a good tension with the more charismatic, spontaneous focus on individualism in ministry.

     Third, Machen’s interaction with modernism shows the value of a God-centered vision of all reality. A God-centered worldview gives balance and stability in dealing with error. It enables us to see how an error relates to the larger issues of life and thought. The sovereignty of God and His supremacy over all of life, causes one to see everything in relation to more things because they all relate to God, and God relates to all things.

     Fourth, Machen’s engagement in the debates of his day points us to the value and necessity of controversy, as well as the inevitability and pain of criticism, even from our brothers.

     His colleague, Charles Erdman, publicly accused Machen of “unkindness, suspicion, bitterness and intolerance” (see J. Gresham Machen: A Biographical Memoir). When he voted against a church resolution in favor of the national Prohibition and the 18th Amendment, he was criticized as a secret drunkard and promoter of vice. Since he was single, he was criticized as being naive and unaware of the responsibilities of the family.

     There is in all of us the desire to be liked by others. If it is strong enough, we may go to unwise lengths to avoid criticism. We may even think we can be kind enough to everyone so as to avoid criticism. This will not work, especially if we have any public role. It is true the Bible says we are to let our light shine that men might see our good deeds and give glory to God (Matt. 5:16). And it is true we are to silence the ignorance of foolish men by our good deeds (1 Peter 2:15). But there is also the truth that the world called the most loving master of the house Beelzebul (Matt. 10:25). You cannot be kind enough and merciful enough that no one will criticize you, and thus we must forsake all notions that a life devoted to compassion will be spared criticism.

     Thus Machen rose to meet the intellectual challenge of his day with his remarkable intellectual powers. He saw that an intellectual cultural atmosphere uncongenial to the categories of truth will make the spread of the Gospel all the harder. Maybe Machen put too much hope in the intellectual power of the church to transform the mindset of a nation and make evangelism easier. Yet in our even more anti-intellectual world of the twenty-first century we would do well to listen to Machen here rather than criticize him.

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     John Piper is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.

John Piper Books:

The Liberal Agenda

By R.C. Sproul 3/1/2006

     When any discussion develops concerning Christianity and liberalism, it is crucial that one gives a proper definition of liberalism. The term liberal can mean anything from being free in one’s thinking to being a proponent of the latest fad in the realm of theology or any other ideology. The term liberal shifts with the sands of time in as much as yesterday’s liberal may be considered today’s conservative without changing views.

     However, when we speak of liberalism in the field of theology, we are not thinking of a frame of mind or a philosophical bent but a distinct historical movement that captured the minds of many churchmen in the nineteenth century. Nineteenth-century liberalism followed closely on the heels of enlightenment thought and was married philosophically to many of the ideas that defined modernism. The root idea that defined liberalism was the influence of the philosophy of naturalism. Naturalism asserts that all reality can be explained in purely natural categories without any appeal to the supernatural. As a result, nineteenth-century liberalism saw a wholesale attack on all things supernatural contained within historic orthodox Christianity.

     The principal targets of nineteenth-century liberalism included the miracles attributed to Jesus in the New Testament (not to mention all of the miracles recorded in the Old Testament). Those events that are defined or described in Scripture as being miraculous, indeed, caused by the supernatural agency of God, were rejected as naïve, pre-scientific myths that found their way into the original documents of Scripture. The miraculous acts of Jesus were explained away. For example, the feeding of the five thousand was sometimes described as an act of fraud by which Jesus had hidden a cache of fish and loaves in a cave with a secret opening concealed by His long flowing robe. And like the magician who pulls sausages or scarves endlessly out of his sleeves, so Jesus, standing in front of the concealed entrance of the cave, was assisted in His magical work by the disciples, who, working as a bucket brigade, were feeding the fish and loaves through the secret entrance into Jesus’ cloak, out His sleeves, to the masses. Another tack taken by the liberals was to give a moral explanation to the miracles of Jesus. In the case of the feeding of the five thousand, what Jesus did was to persuade those who brought lunches with them to share their food with those who had brought none. This was an “ethical miracle,” by which Jesus promoted the ethic of sharing with one’s fellow human being.

     Next on the target list were the supernatural aspects of the life of Jesus. Of particular concern for nineteenth-century liberals was their assault against the virgin birth. Not only was the virgin birth rejected, but every supernatural aspect of Jesus’ life, including the transfiguration, His atonement as a transcendent supernatural event, His resurrection, His ascension, and His return at the end of the age. All of these things were cast aside as so many accretions of early church mythology. Obviously, since the Bible reports the person and work of Christ in supernatural terms involving angels, miracles, and the fulfillment of predictive prophecy, all of those aspects found in sacred Scripture were also rejected. The Bible was the favorite target of this assault, by which critical scholars rejected all predictive prophecy and anything that smacked of the supernatural, reducing the Bible to just another human book of the ancient world.

     This new wave of thinking swept through Europe, with its roots principally in Germany, and then it crossed the ocean to theological seminaries in the United States and produced a crisis within many churches. What does one do with billions of dollars worth of church property and the thousands of people who are ordained to be clergy who no longer believe the historic content of orthodox Christianity? Some took the position that the only honest response to this skepticism was to resign from the ministry and find employment in another line of work. However, the overwhelming majority of those who espoused this view decided simply to restructure the mission of the church. The mission of the church became no longer an enterprise of bringing personal redemption supernaturally between the soul and God; rather, it sought social redemption by alleviating, as far as possible, human suffering. This gave way to the birth of the so-called “social gospel,” which saw the good news found in the church’s mission to meet the humanitarian needs of society. The Gospel itself was given a new definition in terms of social action. Along with the denials of particular aspects of historic Christianity, a denial of the importance of Christian doctrine also came in its wake. Doctrine was something that was derived from the teaching of the Bible, and since the Bible was now suspect, there was no need for any significant maintenance of orthodox Christian doctrine.

     In every age, the church is threatened by heresy, and heresy is bound up in false doctrine. It is the desire of all heretics to minimize the importance of doctrine. When doctrine is minimized, heresy can exercise itself without restraint. In the twentieth century, the Swiss theologian, Emil Brunner, wrote his treatise on the person of Christ titled The Mediator. In that book, Brunner used one word to describe the essence of nineteenth-century liberalism: “unbelief.” He saw in liberalism not a simple change of nuance in the content of the Christian faith but a wholesale rejection of the very heart and soul of biblical Christianity. The twentieth century saw the continuation of the impact of liberalism, particularly in the mainline denominations in America, with the advent of so-called neo-liberalism following the radical criticism of men like Rudolf Bultmann and his successors.

     This liberal agenda has by no means disappeared from the life of the church. It has gained almost total control of the mainline denominations and has made its influence felt strongly within evangelical circles. Within evangelicalism itself, we have seen a serious erosion of biblical authority, a willingness to negotiate the biblical Gospel itself, and a widespread rejection of doctrine as being unimportant and in no way foundational to the Christian faith. Liberalism stands in every generation as a flat rejection of the faith. It must not be viewed as a simple subset or denominational impulse of Christianity; it must be seen for what it is — the antithesis of Christianity based on a complete rejection of the biblical Christ and His Gospel.

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Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

R.C. Sproul Books:

Confounding the Postmodern Mind

By Gene Edward Veith 3/1/2006

     Back in the last century, lots of churchmen were intimidated by modernism — with its triumphant science, dogmatic rationalism, and trust in progress. They figured that if Christianity is going to survive, it has to adapt to the times and to the new cultural climate. So modernist theologians jettisoned the supernatural claims of Christianity, from the miracles of Scripture to the resurrection of Christ.

     Such teachings, they assumed, were old, the products of a less-enlightened way of thinking, and were not credible to “modern man.” Thus, Christianity needed to be updated, recast so as to accord with modern science and progressive ideas. After this modernist makeover, Christianity looked pretty much like what non-believers believed in. Churches taught the same things the non-Christians taught. Since there was little difference between the church and the world, “modern man” — far from flocking to these newly relevant churches — decided, quite properly, that since these churches had nothing to offer other than what he already had, he might as well just sleep in on Sunday mornings.

     Those who opposed the modernist theologians were the “fundamentalists,” those Christians who defended the fundamentals of the faith. The modernists did manage to give the term “fundamentalist” a negative connotation. But in reality, the fundamentalists won. Supernatural Christianity did not die out, as the modernists assumed it would. Though the fundamentalists had their missteps and insecurities, they transmuted into “evangelicals” who have come to reign ascendant in American Christianity.

     Today, the very tenets of modernism that gave it vast authority, are now thoroughly critiqued and ridiculed. Science? A cultural construction that rapes the environment. Rationalism? An illusion, based on the assumption that there is only one truth. Objectivity? Impossible to achieve, since all meaning is slanted. Progress? A claim of cultural imperialism made impossible in light of our modern wars and systems of oppression.

     Postmodernists counter with the claim that truth is not a discovery, but a construction. Our thoughts are determined by our culture, and since there are many cultures — and even more individual constructions — there are many truths. To try to persuade anyone is to impose one’s own construction of reality on someone else, which no one has the right to do.

     Postmodernists also dislike “fundamentalism,” but not for the reasons modernists did. Postmodernists dislike fundamentalists not for believing in the supernatural, holding to irrational notions, believing in things they don’t understand, or living in the past. Postmodernists are against fundamentalism for “believing in only one truth.” Thus, postmodernists often accuse modernists of being “fundamentalists.”

     Here is the great irony: Many of today’s evangelical theologians, the heirs of the fundamentalists, are now embracing postmodernism. Why? Because they think this new ideology will free them from the challenge of modernism. Not realizing that particular war is over, many evangelical theologians are enlisting postmodernism as an ally. In doing so, of course, they also have to reject, though for a different reason, the fundamentals of orthodox Christianity.

     The desire for God to be “open,” the insistence that Scripture is indeterminate and open to infinite interpretation, the teaching that no one is damned, that there are multiple paths to God, that followers of other religions can be saved, are all manifestations of postmodernism in contemporary evangelical theology. So are evangelical feminism, calls to tone down biblical morality, “the emerging church,” and the notion that our positive thoughts can create a new reality.

     The most common assertion of postmodernist evangelicalism is that “postmodern persons [they can’t say ‘man’ anymore] are unable to accept ready-made religious doctrines.” The emphasis on believing objective Christian doctrines is too “modernist.” Rather, Christians are to be encouraged to cultivate their own subjective spirituality, based on their personal experiences of the “mysteries” of faith.

     In capitulating to postmodernism, these churchpeople are ending up in the same place as those who capitulated to modernism. They preach an eviscerated Christianity that is incapable of changing lives or saving the lost. Trying to be relevant, they make themselves irrelevant. Trying to get people to come to church, they only succeed in giving them reasons to stay at home.

     Believers in Christianity’s fundamentals can agree with the modernists that reason, science, and objectivity have their place. They can also agree with the postmodernists that reason has its limits, that human ideologies are tainted not so much with other political ideologies as with sin, that mysteries do abound.

     Christians dare not succumb to either rationalism or relativism; rather, because of our mind’s limits and our sins, we must be dependent on revelation. The Word of God breaks into our narrow, human minds with God’s judgment and His grace, confounding both the modernists and the postmodernists, as well as whatever will come next.

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     Dr. Gene Edward Veith is provost emeritus and professor of literature emeritus at Patrick Henry College and director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Gene Edward Veith Books:

The Real Prayer of Jabez

By Steven Lawson 2/1/2006

     Riding a tidal wave of surging popularity, few Christian books have burst onto the publishing scene and been as widely received as The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life. In only its sixth year of circulation, this brief, ninety-three-page book has sold a staggering ten million copies, pushing its way to the top of the New York Times best-seller list. In its wake, a virtual Prayer of Jabez sub-culture has emerged, complete with journals, backpacks, jewelry, vanilla-scented candles, and myriads of assorted marketing paraphernalia. Unfortunately, many well-meaning evangelicals have been swept up in this trendy phenomenon.

     Prefacing this work, author Bruce Wilkinson writes, “I want to teach you how to pray a daring prayer that God always answers. It is brief — only one sentence with four parts…but I believe it contains the key to a life of extraordinary favor with God.… In fact, thousands of believers who are applying its truths are seeing miracles happen on a regular basis.” But is the prayer of Jabez really the single greatest key to a spiritual life that is pleasing to God? Is Wilkinson’s teaching true to the full counsel of God? Hardly.

     Those with doctrinal moorings and spiritual discernment know that this simplistic approach to the Christian life is an inadequate means by which to view God, true spirituality, and prayer. True, certain features of the book can be cited positively, such as its much-needed emphasis upon prayer. But The Prayer of Jabez, quite frankly, suffers from a deficient theology. The book is seriously plagued by the following things:

     First, an inadequate view of prayer, trivializing its truly profound nature; second, a misguided focus upon prosperity, overtly emphasizing miracles and financial blessings; third, a defective doctrine of providence that fails to see God sovereignly and actively involved in all of life. Polemics aside, however, it will do us well to revisit the prayer of Jabez — not the book, but the biblical text — and discover what this prayer actually teaches.

     Tucked away in a long genealogical record (1 Chron. 4), Jabez emerges from relative obscurity as one who “was more honorable than his brothers” (v. 9). A spiritually strong man, he was highly esteemed in his day, more virtuous and upstanding than others. His extraordinary piety is well documented in that a city was named after him, a place where “the families of scribes” gathered (1 Chron. 2:55). Moreover, his name, Jabez, means, “He will cause pain,” a perpetual reminder of the agony he caused during delivery. Yet, despite such a difficult entrance into this world, there was a divinely scripted plan for his life, sovereignly orchestrated for God’s glory and his good.

     With complete dependence upon God in prayer, Jabez “called upon…God (Elohim)” (1 Chron. 4:10a), the divine name meaning the Supreme One, Mighty Ruler, and Sovereign Lord (Gen. 1:1). By appealing to this name, he acknowledged that God providentially reigns over all the works of His hands (Ps. 103:19). Moreover, He is the God “of Israel,” closely related to His chosen ones (Amos 3:2). To Jabez, God is both infinite and intimate, both accessible and able to answer his prayers.

     In petitioning God, Jabez prayed, “Oh that you would bless me” (v. 10b). That is, he asked God to extend His undeserved favor toward him. Specifically, Jabez asked, “Enlarge my border” (v. 10c), thereby requesting that God would expand his territory by defeating his enemies, the Canaanites, expelling them from the adjacent territory. In the days of Moses and Joshua, God had promised that He would give the Promised Land to Israel. Accordingly, Jabez prayed for this increase in land.

     Is it right to ask God for material things? Of course it is. Jesus Himself taught His disciples to pray for their “daily bread” (Matt. 6:11; Luke 11:3). God desires us to petition Him for all good things needed to fulfill His will, even for physical provisions (James 4:2). But, ultimately, God is sovereign and will answer prayer as He wills, not as man wills. To be sure, the motive of every prayer must be for the glory of God, not the greed of man. As lowly servants before our exalted King, we should make certain that our prayers are always humble requests, never haughty demands.

     Furthermore, Jabez prayed “that your hand might be with me” (v. 10d), a petition that the invisible hand of Providence would empower him in this heroic endeavor. The truth is, God’s work must always be done in God’s power, or it will surely fail (Zech. 4:6). Moreover, Jabez requested “that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain” (v. 10e). In this, he asked for God’s supernatural protection to be upon him throughout this conflict. To be sure, all God’s servants are exposed to constant danger and desperately need divine protection from Satan’s relentless assaults.

     With unwavering faith, Jabez placed this entire matter in the hands of God — and there are no more reliable, or more capable, and no more powerful hands than those of our sovereign God. What was the result of such a humble prayer? Simply this, that God “granted what he asked” (v. 10f). Not because Jabez used the right formula in prayer. Nor because he somehow manipulated God. For God is not a genie to be conjured out of a bottle and used for one’s own personal ends. Rather, God sovereignly chose to be glorified through Jabez in answering his petition. The prayer of Jabez is not a mindless mantra that God always answers, chanted for self-advancement. Instead, it teaches us to seek God faithfully. When He alone is magnified, we will be truly blessed indeed.

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     Steven J. Lawson is president of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to bring about biblical reformation in the church today, as well as the Professor of Preaching in the masters and doctoral programs at The Master's Seminary, Sun Valley, California.

Steven J. Lawson Books:

Numbers 2; Psalm 36; Eccl. 12; Philemon

By Don Carson 4/25/2018

     Among the insights the Psalms convey, some of the most penetrating deal with the nature of wickedness and of wicked people. Rarely are these put into abstract categories. They are almost always functional and relational.

     What lies at the heart of the “sinfulness of the wicked”? “There is no fear of God before his eyes” (Ps. 36:1). This means something more than that the wicked person is foolishly unafraid of the punishment that God will finally mete out (though it does not mean less than that). It means that the wicked are so blind that they do not see the ultimate realities. They either do not see God at all, or, scarcely less horribly, they do not see God as he is.

     All appropriate behavior and outlook for human beings made in the image of God find their reference point and measure in God himself. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of both knowledge (Prov. 1:7) and wisdom (Prov. 9:10), for “knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10). The converse is utter folly: “fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Prov. 1:7). Small wonder the psalmist insists that it is the fool who says, “There is no God” (Ps. 14:1). Scarcely less foolish is the conjuring up of domesticated gods we can manage, or of savage gods that are brutal and immoral, or of impersonal gods that depersonalize God’s image-bearers. When one is blind to the true God, including his glorious holiness that must rightly instill fear in image-bearers as rebellious as we, there is no stopping place in our descent into the abyss of folly.

     The blindness of the wicked extends to their assessment of themselves. “For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin” (Ps. 36:2). If he could see well enough to detect his sin, to see it for what it is — rebellion against the living God — and hate it for its sheer vileness and utter arrogance before the majestic holiness of his Maker, inevitably he would also fear God. The twin blindnesses are one.

     This, of course, is why philosophical debates about the existence of God can never be resolved by reason alone. It is not that God is unreasonable, still less that he has left himself without witness. Rather, the tragedy and ignominy of human sin leave us, apart from God’s grace, horribly blind. Yet this blindness is culpable blindness: the wicked have no fear of God before their eyes. Paul understands the point so well that he makes this the culminating proof-text in his proof of human lostness (Rom. 3:18). Thank God for the next thirteen verses the apostle pens.

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Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).

Don Carson Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 42

Why Are You Cast Down, O My Soul?
42 To The Choirmaster. A Maskil Of The Sons Of Korah.

5 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation 6 and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
8 By day the LORD commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
9 I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     27. On the whole, since Scripture places the principal part of worship in the invocation of God (this being the office of piety which he requires of us in preference to all sacrifices), it is manifest sacrilege to offer prayer to others. Hence it is said in the psalm: "If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god, shall not God search this out?" (Ps. 44:20, 21). Again, since it is only in faith that God desires to be invoked, and he distinctly enjoins us to frame our prayers according to the rule of his word: in fine, since faith is founded on the word, and is the parent of right prayer, the moment we decline from the word, our prayers are impure. But we have already shown, that if we consult the whole volume of Scripture, we shall find that God claims this honour to himself alone. In regard to the office of intercession, we have also seen that it is peculiar to Christ, and that no prayer is agreeable to God which he as Mediator does not sanctify. And though believers mutually offer up prayers to God in behalf of their brethren, we have shown that this derogates in no respect from the sole intercession of Christ, because all trust to that intercession in commending themselves as well as others to God. Moreover, we have shown that this is ignorantly transferred to the dead, of whom we nowhere read that they were commanded to pray for us. The Scripture often exhorts us to offer up mutual prayers; but says not one syllable concerning the dead; nay, James tacitly excludes the dead when he combines the two things, to "confess our sins one to another, and to pray one for another," (James 5:16). Hence it is sufficient to condemn this error, that the beginning of right prayer springs from faith, and that faith comes by the hearing of the word of God, in which there is no mention of fictitious intercession, superstition having rashly adopted intercessors who have not been divinely appointed. While the Scripture abounds in various forms of prayer, we find no example of this intercession, without which Papists think there is no prayer. Moreover, it is evident that this superstition is the result of distrust, because they are either not contented with Christ as an intercessor, or have altogether robbed him of this honour. This last is easily proved by their effrontery in maintaining, as the strongest of all their arguments for the intercession of the saints, that we are unworthy of familiar access to God. This, indeed, we acknowledge to be most true, but we thence infer that they leave nothing to Christ, because they consider his intercession as nothing, unless it is supplemented by that of George and Hypolyte, and similar phantoms.

28. But though prayer is properly confined to vows and supplications, yet so strong is the affinity between petition and thanksgiving, that both may be conveniently comprehended under one name. For the forms which Paul enumerates (1 Tim. 2:1) fall under the first member of this division. By prayer and supplication we pour out our desires before God, asking as well those things which tend to promote his glory and display his name, as the benefits which contribute to our advantage. By thanksgiving we duly celebrate his kindnesses toward us, ascribing to his liberality every blessing which enters into our lot. David accordingly includes both in one sentence, "Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me," (Ps. 50:15). Scripture, not without reason, commands us to use both continually. We have already described the greatness of our want, while experience itself proclaims the straits which press us on every side to be so numerous and so great, that all have sufficient ground to send forth sighs and groans to God without intermission, and suppliantly implore him. For even should they be exempt from adversity, still the holiest ought to be stimulated first by their sins, and, secondly, by the innumerable assaults of temptation, to long for a remedy. The sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving can never be interrupted without guilt, since God never ceases to load us with favour upon favour, so as to force us to gratitude, however slow and sluggish we may be. In short, so great and widely diffused are the riches of his liberality towards us, so marvellous and wondrous the miracles which we behold on every side, that we never can want a subject and materials for praise and thanksgiving. To make this somewhat clearer: since all our hopes and resources are placed in God (this has already been fully proved), so that neither our persons nor our interests can prosper without his blessing, we must constantly submit ourselves and our all to him. Then whatever we deliberate, speak, or do, should be deliberated, spoken, and done under his hand and will; in fine, under the hope of his assistance. God has pronounced a curse upon all who, confiding in themselves or others, form plans and resolutions, who, without regarding his will, or invoking his aid, either plan or attempt to execute (James 4:14; Isaiah 30:1; 31:1). And since, as has already been observed, he receives the honour which is due when he is acknowledged to be the author of all good, it follows that, in deriving all good from his hand, we ought continually to express our thankfulness, and that we have no right to use the benefits which proceed from his liberality, if we do not assiduously proclaim his praise, and give him thanks, these being the ends for which they are given. When Paul declares that every creature of God "is sanctified by the word of God and prayers" (1 Tim. 4:5), he intimates that without the word and prayers none of them are holy and pure, word being used metonymically for faith. Hence David, on experiencing the loving-kindness of the Lord, elegantly declares, "He hath put a new song in my mouth," (Ps. 40:3); intimating, that our silence is malignant when we leave his blessings unpraised, seeing every blessing he bestows is a new ground of thanksgiving. Thus Isaiah, proclaiming the singular mercies of God, says, "Sing unto the Lord a new song (Is. 42:10)." In the same sense David says in another passage, "O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall show forth thy praise," (Ps. 51:15). In like manner, Hezekiah and Jonah declare that they will regard it as the end of their deliverance "to celebrate the goodness of God with songs in his temple," (Is. 38:20; Jonah 2:10). David lays down a general rule for all believers in these words, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord," (Ps. 116:12, 13). This rule the Church follows in another psalm, "Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the heathen, to give thanks unto thy holy name, and to triumph in thy praise," (Ps. 106:47). Again, "He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer. This shall be written for the generation to come: and the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord." "To declare the name of the Lord in Zion, and his praise in Jerusalem," (Ps. 102:18, 21). Nay, whenever believers beseech the Lord to do anything for his own name's sake, as they declare themselves unworthy of obtaining it in their own name, so they oblige themselves to give thanks, and promise to make the right use of his lovingkindness by being the heralds of it. Thus Hosea, speaking of the future redemption of the Church, says, "Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously; so will we render the calves of our lips," (Hos. 14:2). Not only do our tongues proclaim the kindness of God, but they naturally inspire us with love to him. "I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications," (Ps. 116:1). In another passage, speaking of the help which he had experienced, he says, "I will love thee, O Lord, my strength," (Ps. 18:1). No praise will ever please God that does not flow from this feeling of love. Nay, we must attend to the declaration of Paul, that all wishes are vicious and perverse which are not accompanied with thanksgiving. His words are, "In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God," (Phil. 4:6). Because many, under the influence of moroseness, weariness, impatience, bitter grief and fear, use murmuring in their prayers, he enjoins us so to regulate our feelings as cheerfully to bless God even before obtaining what we ask. But if this connection ought always to subsist in full vigor between things that are almost contrary, the more sacred is the tie which binds us to celebrate the praises of God whenever he grants our requests. And as we have already shown that our prayers, which otherwise would be polluted) are sanctified by the intercession of Christ, so the Apostle, by enjoining us "to offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually" by Christ (Heb. 13:15), reminds us, that without the intervention of his priesthood our lips are not pure enough to celebrate the name of God. Hence we infer that a monstrous delusion prevails among Papists, the great majority of whom wonder when Christ is called an intercessor. The reason why Paul enjoins, "Pray without ceasing; in every thing give thanks," (1 Thess. 5:17, 18), is, because he would have us with the utmost assiduity, at all times, in every place, in all things, and under all circumstances, direct our prayers to God, to expect all the things which we desire from him, and when obtained ascribe them to him; thus furnishing perpetual grounds for prayer and praise.

29. This assiduity in prayer, though it specially refers to the peculiar private prayers of individuals, extends also in some measure to the public prayers of the Church. These, it may be said, cannot be continual, and ought not to be made, except in the manner which, for the sake of order, has been established by public consent. This I admit, and hence certain hours are fixed beforehand, hours which, though indifferent in regard to God, are necessary for the use of man, that the general convenience may be consulted, and all things be done in the Church, as Paul enjoins, "decently and in order," (1 Cor. 14:40). But there is nothing in this to prevent each church from being now and then stirred up to a more frequent use of prayer and being more zealously affected under the impulse of some greater necessity. Of perseverance in prayer, which is much akin to assiduity, we shall speak towards the close of the chapter (sec. 51, 52). This assiduity, moreover, is very different from the battologi'an, vain speaking, which our Saviour has prohibited (Mt. 6:7). For he does not there forbid us to pray long or frequently, or with great fervor, but warns us against supposing that we can extort anything from God by importuning him with garrulous loquacity, as if he were to be persuaded after the manner of men. We know that hypocrites, because they consider not that they have to do with God, offer up their prayers as pompously as if it were part of a triumphal show. The Pharisee, who thanked God that he was not as other men, no doubt proclaimed his praises before men, as if he had wished to gain a reputation for sanctity by his prayers. Hence that vain speaking, which for a similar reason prevails so much in the Papacy in the present day, some vainly spinning out the time by a reiteration of the same frivolous prayers, and others employing a long series of verbiage for vulgar display. [479] This childish garrulity being a mockery of God, it is not strange that it is prohibited in the Church, in order that every feeling there expressed may be sincere, proceeding from the inmost heart. Akin to this abuse is another which our Saviour also condemns, namely, when hypocrites for the sake of ostentation court the presence of many witnesses, and would sooner pray in the market-place than pray without applause. The true object of prayer being, as we have already said (sec. 4, 5), to carry our thoughts directly to God, whether to celebrate his praise or implore his aid, we can easily see that its primary seat is in the mind and heart, or rather that prayer itself is properly an effusion and manifestation of internal feeling before Him who is the searcher of hearts. Hence (as has been said), when our divine Master was pleased to lay down the best rule for prayer, his injunction was, "Enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly," (Mt. 6:6). Dissuading us from the example of hypocrites, who sought the applause of men by an ambitious ostentation in prayer, he adds the better course--enter thy chamber, shut thy door, and there pray. By these words (as I understand them) he taught us to seek a place of retirement which might enable us to turn all our thoughts inwards and enter deeply into our hearts, promising that God would hold converse with the feelings of our mind, of which the body ought to be the temple. He meant not to deny that it may be expedient to pray in other places also, but he shows that prayer is somewhat of a secret nature, having its chief seat in the mind, and requiring a tranquillity far removed from the turmoil of ordinary cares. And hence it was not without cause that our Lord himself, when he would engage more earnestly in prayer, withdrew into a retired spot beyond the bustle of the world, thus reminding us by his example that we are not to neglect those helps which enable the mind, in itself too much disposed to wander, to become sincerely intent on prayer. Meanwhile, as he abstained not from prayer when the occasion required it, though he were in the midst of a crowd, so must we, whenever there is need, lift up "pure hands" (1 Tim. 2:8) at all places. And hence we must hold that he who declines to pray in the public meeting of the saints, knows not what it is to pray apart, in retirement, or at home. On the other hand, he who neglects to pray alone and in private, however sedulously he frequents public meetings, there gives his prayers to the wind, because he defers more to the opinion of man than to the secret judgment of God. Still, lest the public prayers of the Church should be held in contempt, the Lord anciently bestowed upon them the most honourable appellation, especially when he called the temple the "house of prayer," (Isa. 56:7). For by this expression he both showed that the duty of prayer is a principal part of his worship, and that to enable believers to engage in it with one consent his temple is set up before them as a kind of banner. A noble promise was also added, "Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion: and unto thee shall the vow be performed," [480] (Ps. 65:1). By these words the Psalmist reminds us that the prayers of the Church are never in vain; because God always furnishes his people with materials for a song of joy. But although the shadows of the law have ceased, yet because God was pleased by this ordinance to foster the unity of the faith among us also, there can be no doubt that the same promise belongs to us--a promise which Christ sanctioned with his own lips, and which Paul declares to be perpetually in force.

30. As God in his word enjoins common prayer, so public temples are the places destined for the performance of them, and hence those who refuse to join with the people of God in this observance have no ground for the pretext, that they enter their chamber in order that they may obey the command of the Lord. For he who promises to grant whatsoever two or three assembled in his name shall ask (Mt. 18:20), declares, that he by no means despises the prayers which are publicly offered up, provided there be no ostentation, or catching at human applause, and provided there be a true and sincere affection in the secret recesses of the heart. [481] If this is the legitimate use of churches (and it certainly is), we must, on the other hand, beware of imitating the practice which commenced some centuries ago, of imagining that churches are the proper dwellings of God, where he is more ready to listen to us, or of attaching to them some kind of secret sanctity, which makes prayer there more holy. For seeing we are the true temples of God, we must pray in ourselves if we would invoke God in his holy temple. Let us leave such gross ideas to the Jews or the heathen, knowing that we have a command to pray without distinction of place, "in spirit and in truth," (John 4:23). It is true that by the order of God the temple was anciently dedicated for the offering of prayers and sacrifices, but this was at a time when the truth (which being now fully manifested, we are not permitted to confine to any material temple) lay hid under the figure of shadows. Even the temple was not represented to the Jews as confining the presence of God within its walls, but was meant to train them to contemplate the image of the true temple. Accordingly, a severe rebuke is administered both by Isaiah and Stephen, to those who thought that God could in any way dwell in temples made with hands (Isa. 66:2; Acts 7:48).

31. Hence it is perfectly clear that neither words nor singing (if used in prayer) are of the least consequence, or avail one iota with God, unless they proceed from deep feeling in the heart. Nay, rather they provoke his anger against us, if they come from the lips and throat only, since this is to abuse his sacred name, and hold his majesty in derision. This we infer from the words of Isaiah, which, though their meaning is of wider extent, go to rebuke this vice also: "Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid," (Isa. 29:13). Still we do not condemn words or singing, but rather greatly commend them, provided the feeling of the mind goes along with them. For in this way the thought of God is kept alive on our minds, which, from their fickle and versatile nature, soon relax, and are distracted by various objects, unless various means are used to support them. Besides, since the glory of God ought in a manner to be displayed in each part of our body, the special service to which the tongue should be devoted is that of singing and speaking, inasmuch as it has been expressly created to declare and proclaim the praise of God. This employment of the tongue is chiefly in the public services which are performed in the meeting of the saints. In this way the God whom we serve in one spirit and one faith, we glorify together as it were with one voice and one mouth; and that openly, so that each may in turn receive the confession of his brother's faith, and be invited and incited to imitate it.

     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain      Institutes of the Christian Religion




  • John MacArthur
  • John MacArthur
  • John MacArthur

#1 The Adoption of the Believer | Grace To You

 

#2 The Christian’s Assurance of Salvation | Grace To You

 

#3 A Perfect Portrait of Saving Faith 1 | Grace To You

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     1/1/2005    A Divine Comedy

     Sadly, I must admit the unfortunate truth that I am a former member of a boy band. In January of 1993 I was chosen to be one of the first members of the pop group “The Backstreet Boys.” As a singer in the five-member group, I was trained to sing and dance, and I was professionally trained to be an entertainer in the world of show business. After several months of living the life of an up-and-coming pop-music star, one week before our first photo-shoot, I walked into the office of our manager and quit. I told him very simply that I was not called to be an entertainer, but that I believed God was calling me to be a minister.

     Two years after my decision to quit the group, I was approached by the same manager and was asked to consider becoming the first member of a new pop group that was later named “‘NSYNC.” After considering his offer for nearly a week, I came to the same conclusion as before. The Lord had not called me out of the world in order to entertain the world. The Lord made it clear to me that I was to serve Him alone and that my life belonged to Him, not to the world.

     The world of show business is the world of man-centered entertainment. The foundational philosophy of man-centered entertainment is to do whatever it takes in order to attract millions of fans and to make millions of dollars. If the entertainment gurus are not sensitive to the whims and fancies of their target audiences, and if they are not sensitive to every new cultural fad that enters the daily scene, they will fail to draw the numbers and make their millions.

     Unfortunately, this has become the philosophy of many evangelicals. They have fallen victim to the seductive notion that the church is to be sensitive to the whims and fancies of those contemplating their allegience to Christ and their worship of Him. And as I consider the state of the evangelical church at the beginning of the twenty-first century, I observe a people who have exchanged God-centered worship for man-centered entertainment that is founded upon the ever-changing principles of the culture rather than upon the unchanging principles of the Word of God. For He has not called us to invent our own carefully devised principles that govern our worship of Him, He has called us to worship Him in all of life coram Deo, according to His established Word, which transcends the current trends of modern culture and the human traditionalism of the past.

     click here for article source

     Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     The U.S. Senate, starting this day, April 25, 1789, decided to open every session with prayer, continuing the practice of the Continental Congress during the Revolution. The first chaplain was Bishop Samuel Provoost, who conducted George Washington's Inaugural Service at St. Paul's Chapel. Though all 61 Senate Chaplains have been Christian, leaders of other faiths have periodically been invited to offer prayer. After World War II, U.S. Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall prayed: "Our liberty is under God and can be found nowhere else. May our faith be… not merely stamped upon our coins, but expressed in our lives."

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


God understands our prayers even
when we can't find the words to say them.
--- Author Unknown
For Catechists and Those They Teach: Prayer from A to Z

“Wait on the Lord" is a constant refrain in the Psalms, and it is a necessary word, for God often keeps us waiting. He is not in such a hurry as we are, and it is not his way to give more light on the future than we need for action in the present, or to guide us more than one step at a time. When in doubt, do nothing, but continue to wait on God. When action is needed, light will come.
--- J.I. Packer
Knowing God

Let’s be honest, we would sooner have control than real conversion; we would sooner have well-oiled church societies than transformed people. Cosmetic piety takes away our anxiety about God and about ourselves, but it does not address the real and subtle ways that we "lose our soul."
--- Andreas Ebert and Richard Rohr
The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective

Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work;
be always at it whilst you live;
cease not a day from this work;
be killing sin ... or it will be killing you.
--- The Mortification of Sin (Puritan Paperbacks)

... from here, there and everywhere

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Forty-Sixth Chapter / Trust In God Against Slander

     THE VOICE OF CHRIST

     MY CHILD, stand firm and trust in Me. For what are words but words? They fly through the air but hurt not a stone. If you are guilty, consider how you would gladly amend. If you are not conscious of any fault, think that you wish to bear this for the sake of God. It is little enough for you occasionally to endure words, since you are not yet strong enough to bear hard blows.

     And why do such small matters pierce you to the heart, unless because you are still carnal and pay more heed to men than you ought? You do not wish to be reproved for your faults and you seek shelter in excuses because you are afraid of being despised. But look into yourself more thoroughly and you will learn that the world is still alive in you, in a vain desire to please men. For when you shrink from being abased and confounded for your failings, it is plain indeed that you are not truly humble or truly dead to the world, and that the world is not crucified in you.

     Listen to My word, and you will not value ten thousand words of men. Behold, if every malicious thing that could possibly be invented were uttered against you, what harm could it do if you ignored it all and gave it no more thought than you would a blade of grass? Could it so much as pluck one hair from your head?

     He who does not keep his heart within him, and who does not have God before his eyes is easily moved by a word of disparagement. He who trusts in Me, on the other hand, and who has no desire to stand by his own judgment, will be free from the fear of men. For I am the judge and discerner of all secrets. I know how all things happen. I know who causes injury and who suffers it. From Me that word proceeded, and with My permission it happened, that out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed. I shall judge the guilty and the innocent; but I have wished beforehand to try them both by secret judgment.

     The testimony of man is often deceiving, but My judgment is true—it will stand and not be overthrown. It is hidden from many and made known to but a few. Yet it is never mistaken and cannot be mistaken even though it does not seem right in the eyes of the unwise.

     To Me, therefore, you ought to come in every decision, not depending on your own judgment. For the just man will not be disturbed, no matter what may befall him from God. Even if an unjust charge be made against him he will not be much troubled. Neither will he exult vainly if through others he is justly acquitted. He considers that it is I Who search the hearts and inmost thoughts of men, that I do not judge according to the face of things or human appearances. For what the judgment of men considers praiseworthy is often worthy of blame in My sight.

     The Disciple

     O Lord God, just Judge, strong and patient, You Who know the weakness and depravity of men, be my strength and all my confidence, for my own conscience is not sufficient for me. You know what I do not know, and, therefore, I ought to humble myself whenever I am accused and bear it meekly. Forgive me, then, in Your mercy for my every failure in this regard, and give me once more the grace of greater endurance. Better to me is Your abundant mercy in obtaining pardon than the justice which I imagine in defending the secrets of my conscience. And though I am not conscious to myself of any fault, yet I cannot thereby justify myself, because without Your mercy no man living will be justified in Your sight.

The Imitation Of Christ

Andrew Murray's Absolute Surrender
     Practical religion. The Christian life

     You sometimes hear the expression used, religious flesh. What is meant by that? It is simply an expression made to give utterance to this thought: My human nature and my human will and my human effort can be very active in religion, and after being converted, and after receiving the Holy Spirit, I may begin in my own strength to try to serve God.

     I may be very diligent and doing a great deal, and yet all the time it is more the work of human flesh than of God's Spirit. What a solemn thought, that man can, without noticing it, be shunted off from the line of the Holy Spirit on to the line of the flesh; that he can be most diligent and make great sacrifices, and yet it is all in the power of the human will! Ah, the great question for us to ask of God in self-examination is that we may be shown whether our religious life is lived more in the power of the flesh than in the power of the Holy Spirit. A man may be a preacher, he may work most diligently in his ministry, a man may be a Christian worker, and others may tell of him that he makes great sacrifices, and yet you can feel there is a want about it. You feel that he is not a spiritual man; there is no spirituality about his life. How many Christians there are about whom no one would ever think of saying: "What a spiritual man he is!" Ah! there is the weakness of the Church of Christ. It is all in that one word--flesh.


Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 15:20-21
     by D.H. Stern

20     A wise son is a joy to his father,
and only a fool despises his mother.

21     Folly appeals to one who lacks sense,
but a person of discernment goes straight ahead.


Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Instant in season

     Be instant in season, out of season. ---
2 Tim. 4:2.

     Many of us suffer from the morbid tendency to be instant “out of season.” The season does not refer to time, but to us. “Be instant in season, out of season,” whether we feel like it or not. If we do only what we feel inclined to do, some of us would do nothing for ever and ever. There are unemployables in the spiritual domain, spiritually decrepit people, who refuse to do anything unless they are supernaturally inspired. The proof that we are rightly related to God is that we do our best whether we feel inspired or not.

     One of the great snares of the Christian worker is to make a fetish of his rare moments. When the spirit of God gives you a time of inspiration and insight, you say—‘Now I will always be like this for God.’ No, you will not, God will take care you are not. Those times are the gift of God entirely. You cannot give them to yourself when you choose. If you say you will only be at your best, you become an intolerable drag on God; you will never do anything unless God keeps you consciously inspired. If you make a god of your best moments, you will find that God will fade out of your life and never come back until you do the duty that lies nearest, and have learned not to make a fetish of your rare moments.


My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition

Lament for Prytherch
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

           Lament for Prytherch

When I was young, when I was young!
  Were you ever young, Prytherch, a rich farmer:
  Cows in the byre, sheep in the pen. A brown
  egg under each hen,
  The barns oozing corn like honey?
  You are old now; time's geometry
  Upon your face by which we tell
  Your sum of years has with sharp care
  Conspired and crossed your brow with grief.
  Your heart that is dry as a dead leaf
  Undone by frosts's cruel chemistry
  Clings in vain to the bare bough
  Where once in April a bird sang.

Selected poems, 1946-1968

Ekron
     Ekron in two places?

     I was asked why the Bible mentions Ekron being in two places. See the following: EKRON One of the lordships of the Philistines (Josh. 13:3), listed in one place as within the lot of Judah (Josh. 15:11, 45–6) but in another as within that of Dan (Josh. 19:43). Despite the reference in
Judges
( 1:18–19) it seems that the Israelites did not take Ekron in the early stages of the conquest. According to the Bible it was held by the Israelites in the time of Samuel
(
1 Sam. 7:14), but after the defeat of Goliath the Philistines fled to the gates of Ekron (1 Sam. 17:52). According to
2 Kings (1:2) there was a temple there, dedicated to Baal-Zebub. In 712 bc Ekron was captured by Shalmaneser V of Assyria and in 701 bc by Sennacherib. It is not mentioned again until the Hellenistic period, when Alexander Balas granted Ekron and the villages around it to Jonathan the Hasmonean. From that time onwards it was in the Judean kingdom. It continued to be mentioned in sources of the late Roman period. Eusebius (Onom. 22:9) called Akaron 'a very large Jewish village', east of the road from Ashdod to Jabneh. The biblical and post-biblical towns are also portrayed on the Medaba map.

          Ekron has been identified with several sites. Despite the similarity of its name to that of the Arab village of Agir, this identification has definitely been ruled out. Today it is identified with Tel Miqneh (Khirbet el-Muqanna), northeast of Ashdod.

     Excavations carried out since 1981 at Tel Miqneh on behalf of the Albright Institute, the Hebrew University and Brandeis University, under the direction of T. Dothan and S. Gittin. In the excavations 13 occupation levels were distinguished. The four earliest levels (
13–10) are represented by flint tools and pottery of the Chalcolithic period, Early Bronze Age I-II, Middle Bronze Age IIA-B, and Late Bronze Age I-II. Level 9, of the Iron Age I (12th century bc), contained a 13 feet wide city wall with a stone base, supported by bricks on the outside. The pottery of this level is Mycenaean and Philistine. The following Levels 8 (12th-11th century bc) and 7 (11th century bc) are represented by brick walls and pottery similar to that of Level 9. In Level 6 (end of 11th century bc) a two-room structure built of brick and paved with pebbles was discovered. Another structure probably had a cultic function. The site was abandoned and resettled in the 10th-9th centuries bc (Levels 5–3). The main feature of this period is a stone city wall and a gate with two rooms on each side, built in the 8th century bc. Its foundations penetrate down to the earlier Iron Age II occupation level. Inside the city were numerous oil presses, attesting that Iron Age Ekron was a major olive oil producing center. The last two levels contain burials of a late period. The destruction of Ekron is attributed to Sennacherib in 701 bc.

Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land

Teacher's Commentary
     The Land Divided: Joshua 13–19

(2)     The long day (Joshua 10:12–14). Israel made a surprise attack on an army gathered by five Southern kings. This enemy was routed and fled. During the panicked rout, the enemy soldiers were struck down by great hailstones falling from the sky, as well as by Joshua's men. Determined to crush their enemy before they could reach the safety of their walled cities, Joshua cried out, "Sun, stand still over Gibeon!" (Joshua 10:12) The biblical text reports, "The sun stood still, and the moon stopped" (Joshua 10:13).

     Some have suggested that what happened here was a miracle involving refraction of light. The day was apparently lengthened. Others have argued that the request really was for the sun to "be silent"; that is, to stop shining so strongly that its heat would sap the strength of the pursuing Israelites. However, the language of the text, and particularly the statement that this day was unique and twice the normal length between noon and sunset, seems to indicate that the day was miraculously prolonged.

(3)     Total destruction. The ruthlessness with which Israel dealt with the Canaanites has raised a theological question, since the extermination was done at God's express command (cf. Deuteronomy 7:1–5; 20:16–18;
Joshua 11:20
). How can this be reconciled with the New Testament picture of a God of love?

     Materially and culturally the Canaanites had an advanced culture. Archeology has shown well-planned cities with homes of good design and construction. Drainage systems had been installed, trade was carried on with distant countries, skilled workmanship was shown in metals and pottery. But for all the cultural advancement, the Palestinian religious and moral life was in a great decline.

     When Abraham lived in Palestine, there was no developed cult of Baal (a nature and fertility god). But over the centuries the worship of Baal and his female counterpart had come to dominate Canaan, and with this worship had come a host of associated immoral practices described in Leviticus 18. The sentence of destruction was passed to protect Israel from contamination by the surrounding peoples.

     But it is also important to realize that the Canaanites were not destroyed out of hand. In Abraham's day there had been some knowledge of God (see Genesis 14:17–20). In fact, God refused to dispossess the Canaanites in Abraham's time because "the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure" (Genesis 15:16).

     We must look at the events of the Conquest in the light of divine judgment on sin. God did not command Joshua to destroy an innocent people. God chose to use Israel as the means by which He brought a well-deserved judgment on one of the most immoral cultures of the civilized world. And even within that context, those like Rahab who would turn to God could hope for deliverance.

     And so, within a number of months, the army of the Lord completed the rout of the enemy and was ready to take its rest.

     The majority of the Book of Joshua describes not the Conquest but the distribution of the inheritance to the 12 tribes of Israel. Large portions of territory were blocked out and the different tribes challenged to possess their land.

     This often meant continuing to battle with Canaanites who still lived there. The power to resist Israel in a massive way had been shattered in Joshua's campaigns. Yet pockets of resistance were still found in each tribe's allotment. These mopping-up operations would keep God's people dependent on Him—and would make sure that they did not lose their skill in war.

     With the victory won, the fighting men of those tribes which had settled across the Jordan but had come into the land with their brothers to help them fight, could return home. Throughout the occupied land of Palestine, the victorious Hebrews began to enjoy the rest which God had promised, and which through His faithfulness had now come true.


The Teacher's Commentary

Joshua 17:18
     Pulpit Commentary

     I. The lot of Joseph. I. NO COMPROMISE WITH SIN. The Israelites, as we have seen, were promised the possession of Palestine on condition that they should exterminate its inhabitants. They did not do this, either (1) because they were indisposed to the exertion, as in the case of the Jebusites (ch. 15:63), or (2) because they found the process of exacting tribute more convenient. No type of the ordinary conduct of Christians is more precisely accurate. Constantly in youth they either (1) will not give themselves the trouble to root out evil habits, but give way to them, because the task is so difficult, or (2) indulge themselves in sin because it is so pleasant. The consequences are a disastrous captivity to sinful habits which lasts half a lifetime, and leaves its mark upon the sinner for his whole life. Great and mighty deliverers may arise within, as they did in Israel, but there is a liability to relapse, which long asserts itself. Instances of these truths are hardly difficult to find.

     II. THEY THAT TOUCH PITCH SHALL BE DEFILED THEREWITH. The command to exterminate the Israelites was not an arbitrary one. It was given because of the terrible depravity of the Phœnician people, and because of the equally terrible attractiveness of their sins. God well knew (and the narrative in Num. 26 is sufficient to prove it to us) that the Israelites could not resist the contamination of this evil influence if they allowed themselves to be exposed to it. But they did not, or would not, believe this. And consequently, till the Babylonish captivity, with its stern lessons, taught them better, they continued to fall lower and lower into the abominations of the abominable, revolting, and unfeeling worship of their neighbours; nor was it surprising, when we find that Solomon, with all his wisdom, could not escape the contagion. We may learn thus that neither intellect, nor prudence, nor even the sanctifying influences of a holy calling, will enable us to resist the allurements of bad company, when we voluntarily surrender ourselves to them. The only safe way for the Israelites to meet the Canaanites was in battle array, with arms in their hands. So the Christian’s only safeguard against evil company is never to enter it, save on the path of duty, and never to part with his weapons of faith and prayer. “Surely,” then, “in vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird”
(Prov. 1:17).

     III. WE MUST MAKE THE MOST OF THE OPPORTUNITIES WE HAVE. Ephraim complained of the narrowness of his lot, instead of cutting down the woods and thus finding room in what had been assigned to him. He is the type of many Christians who complain of the scantiness of their opportunities, while they are leaving one half of them unemployed. God will not vouchsafe us more opportunities if we neglect those He gives us. He did not give five more talents to the man who kept the one he had wrapped in a napkin.

     IV. WE MUST NOT MAKE CIRCUMSTANCES A REASON FOR NOT DOING OUR DUTY. The Ephraimites wanted an increase of territory, no doubt at some one else’s expense, while they did not make the most of their own. They not only did not cut down the wood, but they assigned as a reason for not driving out the Canaanites that they had chariots of iron, in spite of the promise God had given them that these should not be a hindrance to their success. So men assign circumstances now (1) as a reason why they succumb to temptation, (2) as a reason why they do not combat evil habits, (3) as a reason why they leave work undone which they ought to have undertaken and carried out. Let such remember Joshua’s words, “Thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong.”

     V. GOD’S BLESSINGS WILL NOT BE GIVEN TO THOSE WHO NEGLECT THE CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH THEY WERE PROMISED. Ephraim had inherited blessings, and was fully conscious of the fact. Yet he makes this a reason why God should prosper him without any effort on his own part. So Christians very often expect God to work out their salvation for them without any labour or effort of their own. They permit evil tempers to take root in their hearts, and to grow and flourish there. They make no effort to cast them out, because “God bath blessed them hitherto.” They are called to inherit God’s blessings, and so they think they will have them without any trouble. They are “called to be saints,” and expect to be so without the self-discipline saintliness requires. God will not fulfil such expectations. He has promised “His Holy Spirit to them that ask it,” but He expects them to “work out their own salvation” with His aid. Those who would appropriate the promises of Christianity without the endeavour necessary to give them effect, either become self-deceiving professors, who “have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof,” or if more sincere in heart and less capable of hypocrisy, fall back into a state of indifference because their Christian calling has failed to realise all the hopes that they had formed.


The Pulpit Commentary (23 Volume Set)

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Ketubbot 66b

     D’RASH

     "You ran the red light!" "I did not. You're a liar!" Two men, involved in a traffic accident, bring different perspectives to what happened. Shouting and pushing ensue as each accuses the other of lying. Within a few minutes, a police officer arrives and starts to sort out the details. One man says: "I was driving behind a sixteen-wheeler. When I saw this guy making a turn, I slammed on my brakes but it was too late. If he had been looking where he was going, I wouldn't have hit him."

     The other responds: "It didn't happen that way. I was waiting at the intersection, and the light had turned yellow when the tractor trailer made the turn. I clearly saw that his light had turned red by the time he made the turn." After a lengthy discussion with the two drivers, the police officer ascertains that one man saw the accident happening, while the other only claims that he did not cause the accident. He cannot recall when the light changed; in fact, he can't even remember seeing the traffic light, since his vision was partially obscured by the truck.

     Here is a modern example where "We did not see it" is no proof! The police officer is likely to write up his report based on the first driver's version, since he saw what happened. The second driver's account is based on his claim that he was innocent. His supporting evidence is what he did not see. Negative evidence, what was not seen, carries less weight than positive testimony, what was seen.

     The teaching of the Gemara points not only to testimony but also our ability as humans to see others and be aware of them. Our individual, subjective experience is only part of reality. Yet, we often hear the words "I didn't see it" as an excuse for our selfishness, callousness, or egocentricity. A generation ago, those living in Europe maintained exemption from some of the blame for the Nazi atrocities by claiming ignorance. The world said: "How could you let that happen?" Many in Europe answered: "We did not know what was happening. We did not see!" The world answered: " 'We did not see it' is no excuse!"

     The inability to see human ills, though they exist just under the surface of society, is common in our day and age as well. There are beggars and the homeless in every metropolitan area of our country. Nonetheless, when we are in a city, we may walk by them and not, in our indifference, really see them. Their numbers are too great. Their clothes are too shabby. Their misfortune is too sad for us really to pay attention, and we let them become nonhumans. It would hurt us so if we truly saw their poverty, broken lives, and desperation. Thus, we pass them by—on foot, in our cars, by train, even when their stories are told on television or in the newspaper—and we choose not to see. But "We did not see them" is no excuse. It holds no weight in the eyes of the Jewish tradition, which puts the burden of proof on those who could see but choose not to.

     We have an obligation to delve, to find out, to see more of the world than that which we want to see. If we do not, if we ignore the ugly truth, we ultimately bear some of the guilt and part of the blame, for "We did not see" is neither proof nor excuse.

     Everything is according to local custom.

     Text / Mishnah (6:4): If she agreed to bring in money, selas are equal to six dinars. The husband undertakes ten dinars of pocket money for each maneh for the box. Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says; "Everything is according to local custom."

     Gemara: But this is the same as "He must agree to bring fifteen maneh"! first it was taught about major trade, then about minor trade. And we need both: For if it was taught only about major trade, it might apply only to major trade where the profit is great, but not to minor trade where the profit is less. And if it was taught only about minor trade, it might apply only to minor trade where administrative costs are incidental, but not to major trade where administrative costs are great. Thus, we need both.

     Context / Tosefta or "Addition" is a collection of rabbinic laws from the time of the Mishnah, roughly the third century C.E. It is divided into the same six orders as the Mishnah, with almost every tractate having its Tosefta. The Tosefta is roughly four times the size of the Mishnah and, therefore, often presents not only parallel teachings but new material not mentioned in the Mishnah. For the student of rabbinic literature, the Tosefta's additions often clarify issues in the Mishnah. For example, the Tosefta on Ketubbot describes specific marriage practices that were common in Judea and the Galilee in the first two centuries of the Common Era. Some of these are not mentioned in the Mishnah.

     The section from the Mishnah, like the Tosefta which parallels it in the sixth chapter of Ketubbot, teaches about the amount that a husband and wife agree to bring into the marriage. The wife's dowry ("she agreed to bring in money …") is assigned a value different from its usual rate, for the Rabbis are intentionally overvaluing the dowry: First, the sela is a coin usually worth four dinars, but in this case, the Rabbis assign it a value of six dinars. Second, the maneh is a coin usually worth one hundred dinars, and for each maneh she brings into the marriage, he must bring in ten dinars. These will insure the wife of sufficient funds from "the box," what is sometimes referred to as "pin money," that is, funds for the wife's own use.

     The Gemara then asks: Isn't this rule the same as what we learned in the previous Mishnah, that if she brings in 1,000 dinars, "he must agree to bring fifteen maneh"? The Gemara then proceeds to explain the difference between this Mishnah and the previous one, since in each case, the husband adds fifty percent valuation over the usual rate. The reason we need each Mishnah is to teach about both large sums and small sums. If we had only the previous Mishnah, we would think that the husband adds fifty percent in the case of large-money transactions, but in the case of pocket money, the exchange rate is usual. And if we had only this Mishnah, we might think that we inflate the rate only where this increase is incidental, in the case of the wife's money "from the box," but where a fifty percent surcharge would be a huge sum, perhaps there is no overvaluation. Thus, we need both teachings.

     The Mishnah and Gemara teach us that a husband may not decrease from the customary amount brought into a marriage, nor may he increase that amount. In a male-oriented society, it would certainly be to the wife's disadvantage for her husband to reduce his financial commitment to the marriage. In the future, she may not have that to live on. What is less easily understood is how increasing that amount would be a disadvantage. Would it not be to the woman's benefit for him to increase certain financial contributions? Our Mishnah is based on the concept that not every act of generosity is truly beneficent or desirable. The Mishnah assumes that this couple does not live in a vacuum but as part of a society with certain roles and expectations. If this specific husband gives the wife more by increasing his financial contribution to the marriage, he may simultaneously be harming other brides. What happens to the next bride, whose husband cannot increase the amount? Will many more brides be hurt because they cannot receive the additional sum? Will the very institution of marriage be impaired, since other husbands cannot increase their base amount to this new, higher standard? Every time we "up the ante" and attempt to establish a new, stricter norm of behavior—ostensibly a positive and favorable action—we must carefully consider the impact on those for whom the new standard will be a burden.

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Jewish History from Alexander to Hadrian
     Herod, King of Judea and Client of Rome

     Herod the Great was arguably the most powerful and influential Jewish monarch in history. During his long reign (40–4 B.C.E.), he amassed extraordinary wealth, implemented an elaborate and comprehensive building program, and transformed Judea from a small petty kingdom into an economic center of the Eastern Mediterranean. Jerusalem, too, changed from a crowded and dilapidated provincial city into a major pilgrimage site and tourist attraction of the Greco-Roman world. Despite his significant achievements, Herod’s reign was not a smooth one. In his early years, one of his major concerns was establishing and maintaining his own legitimacy. As a usurper who had risen to power through Roman support, his claims to legitimacy were somewhat suspect. In addition to legitimacy issues, he also had to contend with the ambitions of Cleopatra, who wanted to reclaim the Ptolemaic Empire and annex Judea to her kingdom. Through astute political maneuvering, he was able to keep Cleopatra at bay and rule in relative security until 30 B.C.E. In that year, Herod’s patron Antony, along with Cleopatra, was defeated by Octavian Caesar at the Battle of Actium. Like his father before him, Herod wisely saw the benefit of switching loyalties, so he quickly sailed to Rhodes to persuade the victorious Octavian that he could fit well into his new regime as a loyal and friendly client king. Octavian confirmed Herod’s position and enlarged his kingdom (J.W. 1.386–97; Ant. 15.187–201). For the next twenty-six years, Herod provided a stable and friendly ally on the eastern border and promoted economic development and Romanization in Judea. As a reward for his services, Octavian, who after 27 B.C.E. was known as Augustus, bestowed upon Herod additional territories such as Trachonitis, Batanea, and Auranitis in 24/23 B.C.E. and Ulatha and Paneas in 20. He also ceded Herod control of the copper mines on Cyprus and half of their revenue. Thus, by the end of his reign, Herod ruled over a kingdom that rivaled all previous Jewish monarchies in size, wealth, and importance within the Mediterranean world.

     Despite his numerous political and economic successes, Herod’s reign was also marked by considerable domestic difficulties. His relationship with his Jewish subjects was periodically strained partially due to his somewhat ambiguous attitude toward Judaism. Internal dissension among his own family also caused Herod numerous problems and resulted in the execution of three sons and one wife as well as several other relatives and friends. Finally, a series of riots and disturbances broke out after his death in 4 B.C.E. Such social disorder suggests considerable dissatisfaction with the regime among many of his subjects. Despite these failings, Herod achieved enough legitimacy and security during his reign to rule without any significant threat to the stability of his kingdom. Furthermore, he was able to bequeath his kingdom to his three chosen successors, his sons Herod Archelaus, Herod Antipas, and Herod Philip.


The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     April 25

     It is by grace you have been saved, through faith. --- Ephesians 2:8.

     There are many definitions of faith. (Classic Sermons on the Grace of God (Kregel Classic Sermons Series) ) It means to “trust.” Faith is not merely an expression of belief. It is a venture of the whole personality in trusting One who is worthy.

     Nor is it right to think, as some people do, that faith belongs only to religion. All life is by faith. When you board a bus you have faith, faith that the driver knows his or her job. When you go to a restaurant for a meal you have faith, faith that the food is wholesome and well cooked.

     Even science proceeds largely by faith. No one can prove the great principles on which scientists proceed, such principles as the uniformity of nature and the conservation of energy. But to proceed at all, scientists must assume such basic principles. All business, too, is built on credit. The word credit is simply the Latin form of trust.

     We find faith everywhere. But only in religion do we find it supremely. Just as in the scale of values nothing about a person is so precious as the soul, so faith through which that soul can be saved must ever be the supreme expression of human trust.

     If you have never yet ventured on Christ, I plead with you to do so now. If you have already received a timid faith, I urge you to venture on him far more completely, to recognize that the real purpose of faith is to unite the person who believes with the person on whom he or she believes, and that only as you are united with Christ through faith can you have the quality of life that is the pure silver of eternity.

     This is the glad, good news that the evangelists carried everywhere in the first century and that their true followers have echoed in all the centuries since.
--- William E. Sangster


Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers

On This Day
     The Combative Bishop  April 25

     No generation is without its Christian heroes, but they were scarce in the tenth century. Ratherius might have been one but for his headstrong style. He was brilliant and religious, but opinionated and envious.

     Ratherius was born near Verona, Italy. He excelled in school and eventually became a monk. In 931 he was consecrated Bishop of Verona. His tenure was turbulent, for he railed against the sins of the clergy. “The cohabitation of clergy with women,” he wrote, “is so customary, so public, that they think it lawful.” It wasn’t just immoral relationships that Ratherius had in mind, but wedded ones. He was merciless on priests who married, calling their unions “adulteries.”

     The concept of a celibate clergy reaches early into church history. In the Eastern Church, the early councils approved marriage for clergymen. But the Western Church wasn’t so sure. At the Council of Nicaea, an idea arose for ministers to leave their wives and devote themselves to the single life. The scheme was rejected, but a few years later Pope Siricius ordered celibacy for priests. Later, Pope Leo decreed that if a married man entered the ministry, he was not to “put away” his wife, but to live with her “as brother and sister.”

     The issue was being vigorously debated during the days of Ratherius, and the Bishop of Verona knew what he believed—that the single life allows full devotion to Christ. But his aggressive stance on that and other issues provoked backlash. He was deposed and imprisoned for two years, during which time, being without books, he wrote one entitled The Combat. He escaped to Southern France and supported himself by tutoring rich children. Being restored to his bishopric, he was soon deposed again. This time he became abbot of Alna, but he argued with his monks about the Eucharist. They sighed with relief when he returned a third time to Verona. Once again he was exiled, returning to the abbotship of Alna. He stayed there awhile then moved to other positions here and there before dying on April 25, 974.

     Love each other as brothers and sisters and honor others more than you do yourself. Never give up. Eagerly follow the Holy Spirit and serve the Lord. Let your hope make you glad. Be patient in time of trouble and never stop praying. And do your best to live at peace with everyone.
--- Romans 12:10-12,18.


On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - April 25

     “Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.”
--- Song of Solomon 2:10.

     Lo, I hear the voice of my Beloved! He speaks to me! Fair weather is smiling upon the face of the earth, and he would not have me spiritually asleep while nature is all around me awaking from her winter’s rest. He bids me “Rise up,” and well he may, for I have long enough been lying among the pots of worldliness. He is risen, I am risen in him, why then should I cleave unto the dust? From lower loves, desires, pursuits, and aspirations, I would rise towards him. He calls me by the sweet title of “My love,” and counts me fair; this is a good argument for my rising. If he has thus exalted me, and thinks me thus comely, how can I linger in the tents of Kedar and find congenial associates among the sons of men? He bids me “Come away.” Further and further from everything selfish, grovelling, worldly, sinful, he calls me; yea, from the outwardly religious world which knows him not, and has no sympathy with the mystery of the higher life, he calls me. “Come away” has no harsh sound in it to my ear, for what is there to hold me in this wilderness of vanity and sin? O my Lord, would that I could come away, but I am taken among the thorns, and cannot escape from them as I would. I would, if it were possible, have neither eyes, nor ears, nor heart for sin. Thou callest me to thyself by saying “Come away,” and this is a melodious call indeed. To come to thee is to come home from exile, to come to land out of the raging storm, to come to rest after long labour, to come to the goal of my desires and the summit of my wishes. But Lord, how can a stone rise, how can a lump of clay come away from the horrible pit? O raise me, draw me. Thy grace can do it. Send forth thy Holy Spirit to kindle sacred flames of love in my heart, and I will continue to rise until I leave life and time behind me, and indeed come away.


          Evening - April 25

     “If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him."
Revelation 3:20.

     What is your desire this evening? Is it set upon heavenly things? Do you long to enjoy the high doctrine of eternal love? Do you desire liberty in very close communion with God? Do you aspire to know the heights, and depths, and lengths, and breadths? Then you must draw near to Jesus; you must get a clear sight of him in his preciousness and completeness: you must view him in his work, in his offices, in his person. He who understands Christ, receives an anointing from the Holy One, by which he knows all things. Christ is the great master-key of all the chambers of God: there is no treasure-house of God which will not open and yield up all its wealth to the soul that lives near to Jesus. Are you saying, “O that he would dwell in my bosom?” “Would that he would make my heart his dwelling-place for ever?” Open the door, beloved, and he will come into your souls. He has long been knocking, and all with this object, that he may sup with you, and you with him. He sups with you because you find the house or the heart, and you with him because he brings the provision. He could not sup with you if it were not in your heart, you finding the house; nor could you sup with him, for you have a bare cupboard, if he did not bring provision with him. Fling wide, then, the portals of your soul. He will come with that love which you long to feel; he will come with that joy into which you cannot work your poor depressed spirit; he will bring the peace which now you have not; he will come with his flagons of wine and sweet apples of love, and cheer you till you have no other sickness but that of “love o’erpowering, love divine.” Only open the door to him, drive out his enemies, give him the keys of your heart, and he will dwell there for ever. Oh, wondrous love, that brings such a guest to dwell in such a heart!

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     April 25

          HE LIVES

     Alfred H. Ackley, 1887–1960

     He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. (Matthew 28:6)

     “Why should I worship a dead Jew?”

     This challenging question was posed by a sincere young Jewish student who had been attending evangelistic meetings conducted by the author and composer of this hymn, Alfred H. Ackley. In his book, Forty Gospel Hymn Stories, George W. Sanville records Mr. Ackley’s answer to this searching question, which ultimately prompted the writing of this popular gospel hymn:

     He lives! I tell you, He is not dead, but lives here and now! Jesus Christ is more alive today than ever before. I can prove it by my own experience, as well as the testimony of countless thousands.

     Mr. Sanville continues:

     Mr. Ackley’s forthright, emphatic answer, together with his subsequent triumphant effort to win the man for Christ, flowered forth into song and crystallized into a convincing sermon on “He Lives!” In his re-reading of the resurrections of the Gospels, the words “He is risen” struck him with new meaning. From the thrill within his own soul came the convincing song—“He Lives!” The scriptural evidence, his own heart, and the testimony of history matched the glorious experience of an innumerable cloud of witnesses that “He Lives,” so he sat down at the piano and voiced that conclusion in song. He says, “The thought of His ever-living presence brought the music promptly and easily.”

     The hymn first appeared in Triumphant Service Songs, a hymnal published by the Rodeheaver Company in 1933. It has been a favorite with evangelical congregations since that time.

     I serve a risen Savior; He’s in the world today;
I know that He is living, whatever men may say;
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
and just the time I need Him He’s always near.

     In all the world around me I see His loving care,
and tho my heart grows weary I never will despair;
I know that He is leading thru all the stormy blast;
the day of His appearing will come at last.

     Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian, lift up your voice and sing
eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the King!
The hope of all who seek Him, the help of all who find,
none other is so loving, so good and kind.

     Chorus: He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart !
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.


     For Today: Job 19:25; Romans 6:9, 10; Philippians 3:10, 11; Revelation 1:18.

     Determine to greet everyone in such a way that they will know unmistakably that Jesus is alive and living in your life. Sing as you go ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)


     Sect. V. — BUT this is still more intolerable, — Your enumerating this subject of “Free-will” among those things that are “useless, and not necessary;” and drawing up for us, instead of it, a “Form” of those things which you consider “necessary unto Christian piety.” Such a form as, certainly, any Jew or any Gentile utterly ignorant of Christ, might draw up. For of Christ you make no mention in one iota. As though you thought, that there may be Christian piety without Christ, if God be but worshipped with all the powers as being by nature most merciful.

     What shall I say here, Erasmus? To me, you breathe out nothing but Lucian, and draw in the gorging surfeit of Epicurus. If you consider this subject “not necessary” to Christians, away, I pray you, out of the field; I have nothing to do with you. I consider it necessary.

     If, as you say, it be “irreligious,” if it be “curious,” if it be “superfluous,” to know, whether or not God foreknows any thing by contingency; whether our own will does any thing in those things which pertain unto eternal salvation, or is only passive under the work of grace; whether or not we do, what we do of good or evil, from necessity, or rather from being passive; what then, I ask, is religious; what is grave; what is useful to be known? All this, Erasmus, is to no purpose whatever. And it is difficult to attribute this to your ignorance, because you are now old, have been conversant with Christians, and have long studied the Sacred Writings: therefore you leave no room for my excusing you, or having a good thought concerning you.

     And yet the Papists pardon and put up with these enormities in you: and on this account, because you are writing against Luther: otherwise, if Luther were not in the case, they would tear you in pieces tooth and nail. Plato is a friend; Socrates is a friend; but Truth is to be honoured above all. For, granting that you have but little understanding in the Scriptures and in Christian piety, surely even an enemy to Christians ought to know what Christians consider useful and necessary, and what they do not. Whereas you, a theologian, a teacher of Christians, and about to draw up for them a “Form” of Christianity, not only in your sceptical manner doubt of what is necessary and useful to them, but go away into the directly opposite, and, contrary to your own principles, by an unheard of assertion, declare it to be your judgment, that those things are “not necessary:” whereas, if they be not necessary, and certainly known, there can remain neither God, nor Christ, nor Gospel, nor Faith, nor any thing else, even of Judaism, much less of Christianity! In the name of the Immortal God, Erasmus, what an occasion, yea, what a field do you open for acting and speaking against you! What could you write well or correctly concerning “Free-will,” who confess, by these your declarations, so great an ignorance of the Scripture and of Godliness? But I draw in my sails: nor will I here deal with you in my words (for that perhaps I shall do hereafter) but in your own.


The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library


Psalm 36 - 40

10-22-2014 / W7142 | Jon Courson





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