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4/4/2018     Yesterday     Tomorrow
Leviticus 7     Psalm 7-8     Proverbs 22     1 Thessalonians 1

Leviticus 7

Leviticus 7:1 This is the law of the guilt offering. It is most holy. 2 In the place where they kill the burnt offering they shall kill the guilt offering, and its blood shall be thrown against the sides of the altar. 3 And all its fat shall be offered, the fat tail, the fat that covers the entrails, 4 the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys. 5 The priest shall burn them on the altar as a food offering to the LORD; it is a guilt offering. 6 Every male among the priests may eat of it. It shall be eaten in a holy place. It is most holy. 7 The guilt offering is just like the sin offering; there is one law for them. The priest who makes atonement with it shall have it. 8 And the priest who offers any man’s burnt offering shall have for himself the skin of the burnt offering that he has offered. 9 And every grain offering baked in the oven and all that is prepared on a pan or a griddle shall belong to the priest who offers it. 10 And every grain offering, mixed with oil or dry, shall be shared equally among all the sons of Aaron.

11 “And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings that one may offer to the LORD. 12 If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil. 13 With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with loaves of leavened bread. 14 And from it he shall offer one loaf from each offering, as a gift to the LORD. It shall belong to the priest who throws the blood of the peace offerings. 15 And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten on the day of his offering. He shall not leave any of it until the morning. 16 But if the sacrifice of his offering is a vow offering or a freewill offering, it shall be eaten on the day that he offers his sacrifice, and on the next day what remains of it shall be eaten. 17 But what remains of the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day shall be burned up with fire. 18 If any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offering is eaten on the third day, he who offers it shall not be accepted, neither shall it be credited to him. It is tainted, and he who eats of it shall bear his iniquity.

19 “Flesh that touches any unclean thing shall not be eaten. It shall be burned up with fire. All who are clean may eat flesh, 20 but the person who eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of the LORD’s peace offerings while an uncleanness is on him, that person shall be cut off from his people. 21 And if anyone touches an unclean thing, whether human uncleanness or an unclean beast or any unclean detestable creature, and then eats some flesh from the sacrifice of the LORD’s peace offerings, that person shall be cut off from his people.”

22 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, You shall eat no fat, of ox or sheep or goat. 24 The fat of an animal that dies of itself and the fat of one that is torn by beasts may be put to any other use, but on no account shall you eat it. 25 For every person who eats of the fat of an animal of which a food offering may be made to the LORD shall be cut off from his people. 26 Moreover, you shall eat no blood whatever, whether of fowl or of animal, in any of your dwelling places. 27 Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people.”

28 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 29 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever offers the sacrifice of his peace offerings to the LORD shall bring his offering to the LORD from the sacrifice of his peace offerings. 30 His own hands shall bring the LORD’s food offerings. He shall bring the fat with the breast, that the breast may be waved as a wave offering before the LORD. 31 The priest shall burn the fat on the altar, but the breast shall be for Aaron and his sons. 32 And the right thigh you shall give to the priest as a contribution from the sacrifice of your peace offerings. 33 Whoever among the sons of Aaron offers the blood of the peace offerings and the fat shall have the right thigh for a portion. 34 For the breast that is waved and the thigh that is contributed I have taken from the people of Israel, out of the sacrifices of their peace offerings, and have given them to Aaron the priest and to his sons, as a perpetual due from the people of Israel. 35 This is the portion of Aaron and of his sons from the LORD’s food offerings, from the day they were presented to serve as priests of the LORD. 36 The LORD commanded this to be given them by the people of Israel, from the day that he anointed them. It is a perpetual due throughout their generations.”

37 This is the law of the burnt offering, of the grain offering, of the sin offering, of the guilt offering, of the ordination offering, and of the peace offering, 38 which the LORD commanded Moses on Mount Sinai, on the day that he commanded the people of Israel to bring their offerings to the LORD, in the wilderness of Sinai.

Psalm 7

In You Do I Take Refuge

Psalm 7:1 A Shiggaion Of David, Which He Sang To The Lord Concerning The Words Of Cush, A Benjaminite.

1  O LORD my God, in you do I take refuge;
save me from all my pursuers and deliver me,
2  lest like a lion they tear my soul apart,
rending it in pieces, with none to deliver.

3  O LORD my God, if I have done this,
if there is wrong in my hands,
4  if I have repaid my friend with evil
or plundered my enemy without cause,
5  let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it,
and let him trample my life to the ground
and lay my glory in the dust. Selah

6  Arise, O LORD, in your anger;
lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies;
awake for me; you have appointed a judgment.
7  Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you;
over it return on high.

8  The LORD judges the peoples;
judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness
and according to the integrity that is in me.
9  Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end,
and may you establish the righteous—
you who test the minds and hearts,
O righteous God!
10  My shield is with God,
who saves the upright in heart.
11  God is a righteous judge,
and a God who feels indignation every day.

12  If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword;
he has bent and readied his bow;
13  he has prepared for him his deadly weapons,
making his arrows fiery shafts.
14  Behold, the wicked man conceives evil
and is pregnant with mischief
and gives birth to lies.
15  He makes a pit, digging it out,
and falls into the hole that he has made.
16  His mischief returns upon his own head,
and on his own skull his violence descends.

17  I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness,
and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.

Psalm 8

How Majestic Is Your Name

Psalm 8  To The Choirmaster: According To The Gittith. A Psalm Of David.

1  O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
2  Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.

3  When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4  what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

5  Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6  You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
7  all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
8  the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

9  O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Proverbs 22

Proverbs 22:1

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
and favor is better than silver or gold.
2  The rich and the poor meet together;
the LORD is the Maker of them all.
3  The prudent sees danger and hides himself,
but the simple go on and suffer for it.
4  The reward for humility and fear of the LORD
is riches and honor and life.
5  Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked;
whoever guards his soul will keep far from them.
6  Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.
7  The rich rules over the poor,
and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
8  Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity,
and the rod of his fury will fail.
9  Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed,
for he shares his bread with the poor.
10  Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out,
and quarreling and abuse will cease.
11  He who loves purity of heart,
and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend.
12  The eyes of the LORD keep watch over knowledge,
but he overthrows the words of the traitor.
13  The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside!
I shall be killed in the streets!”
14  The mouth of forbidden women is a deep pit;
he with whom the LORD is angry will fall into it.
15  Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,
but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.
16  Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth,
or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.

Words of the Wise

17  Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise,
and apply your heart to my knowledge,
18  for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,
if all of them are ready on your lips.
19  That your trust may be in the LORD,
I have made them known to you today, even to you.
20  Have I not written for you thirty sayings
of counsel and knowledge,
21  to make you know what is right and true,
that you may give a true answer to those who sent you?

22  Do not rob the poor, because he is poor,
or crush the afflicted at the gate,
23  for the LORD will plead their cause
and rob of life those who rob them.
24  Make no friendship with a man given to anger,
nor go with a wrathful man,
25  lest you learn his ways
and entangle yourself in a snare.
26  Be not one of those who give pledges,
who put up security for debts.
27  If you have nothing with which to pay,
why should your bed be taken from under you?
28  Do not move the ancient landmark
that your fathers have set.
29  Do you see a man skillful in his work?
He will stand before kings;
he will not stand before obscure men.

1 Thessalonians 1


1 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace.

The Thessalonians’ Faith and Example

2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

ESV Study Bible

What I'm Reading

William Lane Craig Explains The Resurrection of Jesus In Ireland

By Wintery Knight 3/16/2017

     I have a couple of friends in Northern Ireland, and one sent me an alert about this article in The Irish News, authored by the top living defender of Christianity, William Lane Craig.

     Most churches don’t do a good job of explaining the vital importance of the resurrection when discussing why anyone should consider Christianity as a worldview. Here is how William Lane Craig sets the stage for his defense of the resurrection:

     Most people are happy to agree that God exists; but in our pluralistic society it has become politically incorrect to claim that God has revealed Himself decisively in Jesus.

     What justification can Christians offer for thinking that the Christian God is real?

     The answer of the New Testament is the resurrection of Jesus. It is God’s vindication of Jesus’ radical personal claims to divine authority.

     So how do we know that Jesus is risen from the dead? It is crucial that Christians are able to present objective evidence in support of our beliefs. Otherwise our claims hold no more water than the assertions of anyone else claiming to have a private experience of God.

     Fortunately, Christianity, as a religion rooted in history, makes claims that can in important measure be investigated historically.

     Suppose, then, that we approach the New Testament writings, not as inspired Scripture, but merely as a collection of Greek documents coming down to us out of the first century, without any assumption as to their reliability other than the way we normally regard other sources of ancient history.

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     RE: Wintery Knight: For now, I prefer to keep anonymous, although I may add additional details to this page later.

     My political views are a mixture of conservative and libertarian. I believe in free market capitalism and liberty, and especially in religious liberty.  I favor a strong defense abroad, “peace through strength”, as Reagan would have it.

     Theologically, I am a conservative evangelical Protestant Christian. I favor the old-earth (14 billion-year universe) perspective, and I am a firm supporter of intelligent design. Socially, I am pro-life, pro-chastity, pro-abstinence and pro-traditional-marriage.

     You can read my story in more detail here.

Londonistan: 423 New Mosques; 500 Closed Churches

By Giulio Meotti 4/2/2017

     British multiculturalists are feeding Islamic fundamentalism. Muslims do not need to become the majority in the UK; they just need gradually to Islamize the most important cities. The change is already taking place.

     British personalities keep opening the door to introducing Islamic sharia law. One of the leading British judges, Sir James Munby, said that Christianity no longer influences the courts and these must be multicultural, which means more Islamic. Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, and Chief Justice Lord Phillips, also suggested that the English law should "incorporate" elements of sharia law.

     British universities are also advancing Islamic law. The academic guidelines, "External speakers in higher education institutions", provide that "orthodox religious groups" may separate men and women during events. At the Queen Mary University of London, women have had to use a separate entrance and were forced to sit in a room without being able to ask questions or raise their hands, just as in Riyadh or Tehran.

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     Giulio Meotti is an Italian journalist with Il Foglio who writes a twice-weekly column for Arutz Sheva. He is the author of the book "A New Shoah", that researched the personal stories of Israel's terror victims, published by Encounter and of "J'Accuse: the Vatican Against Israel" published by Mantua Books. His writing has appeared in publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, Frontpage and Commentary.

Free From God

By Timothy Fox 2/11/2016

     I recall an online conversation I had with a skeptic about spiritual things. To gain some clarification, I asked if he was an atheist or agnostic. His response? “I’m free!” Now, although this in no way answers the question, it does illustrate what people think about religion. It’s some form of mental slavery that you must liberate yourself from. Then you can be free to live your life however you wish. And freedom is a very important thing!

     But whenever we talk about freedom, we need to ask two questions: 1) Free fromwhat? and 2) Free to do what? Thinking of the American Revolution, our founders wanted to be 1) free from England’s rule and 2) free to govern themselves. So our enlightened skeptic friend claimed he was free, meaning, I suppose, that he was 1) free from God/religion/dogma/whatever and 2) free to do whatever he wanted. [1]It’s a powerful statement, if you assume that religion is nothing more than a form of slavery. But is it?

     The divine ball and chain | I’ve heard many of the New Atheists compare God to a divine tyrant. And I’ve heard many people refer to their spouses as the “ball and chain,” again using the prisoner/slave metaphor. So let me adopt this analogy for myself.

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     Timothy Fox has a passion to equip the church to engage the culture. He is a part-time math teacher, full-time husband and father. He has an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University as well as an M.A. in Adolescent Education of Mathematics and a B.S. in Computer Science, both from Stony Brook University. He and his wife, Diane, have a two-year-old son and a baby girl on the way.
     Fox loves to teach the basics, breaking down the big ideas for the average layperson. But he’s mainly here for comedic relief, to keep this place from getting boring and to make sure the other guys don’t take themselves too seriously. He also blogs at apologers.wordpress.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @TimothyDFox.

My 16-Year-Old Doesn't Believe

By Jonathan McKee 4/2/2017

     I’m not sure if it’s because more American young people actually don’t believe, or if it’s simply because our culture applauds this mindset, but I’m hearing the question more and more from today’s parents. It comes in many forms.

     “What do I do when my 16-year-old doesn’t want to go to church anymore?”

     “My 17-year-old claims he’s an atheist. How do I respond to that?”

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     Jonathan McKee, creator of TheSource4Parents.com, helps thousands of parents understand the rapidly changing world of youth culture while providing practical parenting tips and helps along the way. In addition to his parenting workshops, Jonathan is a popular conference speaker and the author of numerous books about connecting with teenagers.

     Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including If I Had a Parenting Do-Over: 7 Vital Changes I'd Make52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid: How to Engage with Kids Who Can’t Seem to Pry Their Eyes from Their Devices!; Sex Matters; The Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls, and the Phone in Your Pocket: 101 Real-World Tips for Teenaged Guys; and youth ministry books like Ministry by Teenagers: Developing Leaders from WithinConnect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation (Youth Specialties (Paperback)); and the The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenagers. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience andspeaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.

God’s Goodness and Difficult Old Testament Passages

By Michael Austin 4/13/2015

     Old Testament passages dealing with slavery, the status of women, and the destruction of peoples such as the Canaanites and Amalekites have seemed morally problematic to both Christians and non-Christians. These passages, among others, are difficult because they portray God as seemingly condoning and even commanding actions that are, at least on the face of it, immoral. They are thought to be inconsistent or at least in tension with the claim that God is omnibenevolent and morally perfect. A variety of responses have been given with respect to such morally problematic passages. One response, the Concessionary Morality Response (CMR), includes the claim that portions of biblical morality are concessionary insofar as they (i) fall short of God’s ideal morality for human beings; and (ii) are instances of God making allowances for the hardness of human hearts and its consequences in human cultures. My purpose in this essay is to consider the plausibility of the Concessionary Morality Response as a biblical and philosophical component of a defense of God’s perfect moral character.[1]

     First, however, consider something which C.S. Lewis once said about the doctrine of hell. In his book The Problem of Pain, Lewis says that “There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than this, if it lay in my power.” I find myself in a similar position with respect to some of the passages at issue in this essay. I would prefer that they not be in the Bible, because as Alvin Plantinga observes, these passages “can constitute a perplexity”[2] for followers of Christ. Moreover, if I came across such passages within the sacred writings of another religion, this would at least initially be a reason for me to reject the claims of that religion. Nevertheless, these passages are present in the Scriptures, and as morally and intellectually responsible followers of Christ we need to deal with them as best we can.

     I will set aside several other explanations that have been given for how we are to deal with these perplexing passages. Perhaps some of the following possibilities described by Plantinga are correct:

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     I’m a philosopher, author, and speaker. I’m interested in our quest for life. We want happiness, contentment, a life with meaning and purpose, but we don’t know how to get it. Or if we do know, we often struggle to experience such a life.  I think the key to such a life is character. What matters most is not what happens to us. What matters most is who we are, and who we are becoming.
     I think that for the follower of Jesus, we have a role to play in developing our character, but we do so in dependence on and in union with Christ. For those of a different faith, or no faith at all, I hope that the content on this site will be of interest and useful to you, serving as an inside look at what thoughtful and deep Christianity might look like in our contemporary culture.
     I address these issues in practical ways on my blog, Cultivating Character in Christ. You can find information about my bookssubscribe to my blog, or check out some of the topics I speak about for a variety of audiences.

Leviticus 7; Psalms 7-8; Proverbs 22; 1 Thess. 1

By Don Carson 4/4/2018

     Psalm 7 Is the second of fourteen Psalms that are linked in the title to some historical event (the first is Ps. 3). We cannot know the details, but clearly David felt terribly betrayed when he was falsely charged by someone close to him who should have known better. We shall focus on the last four verses (7:15-17):

     He who is pregnant with evil and conceives trouble gives birth to disillusionment.
     He who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made.
     The trouble he causes recoils on himself; his violence comes down on his own head.
     I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness,
     and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.

     The colorful language makes the point tellingly. Here is someone carefully digging a pit to serve as a trap for someone else — but the digger falls in himself. The first line pictures someone “pregnant with evil” and “conceiv[ing] trouble,” but giving birth not to the trouble they intended to produce, but to (their own) disillusionment. The psalmist then expresses his conviction more straightforwardly in verse 16: “The trouble he causes recoils on himself; his violence comes down on his own head.”

     David’s conviction is grounded neither in some impersonal force (“right wins out in the end”) nor in some Pollyanna-like optimism (“I’m sure it will turn out all right”), but in the righteousness of God: “I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High” (7:17). David is not blind to the injustices of the world, but he lives in a theistic universe where right will finally prevail because God is just.

     If we cast our minds more broadly through the pages of Scripture (not to mention our own experience), it is easy to think of instances where the tricks and traps set by evil people recoiled on themselves before they could do any real damage. Haman hangs on the gallows he has prepared for Mordecai. But in many cases judgment falls on the perpetrator in this life, only after he or she has succeeded in doing enormous damage. David could not help but know this: he had been caught himself. He succeeded in sleeping with Bathsheba and murdering her husband Uriah before he was caught, and had to face judgment himself. Judas Iscariot’s life ended horribly, but not before he had betrayed his Master. Ahab faced prophetic wrath, but only after his wicked queen Jezebel had managed to malign Naboth and had him killed in order to steal his vineyard.

     But the ultimate sanction is at the last judgment, without which there is no final justice in this universe.

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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).

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Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 36

How Precious Is Your Steadfast Love
36 To The Choirmaster. Of David, The Servant Of The 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.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     1. In farther illustration of the subject, let us consider what kind of righteousness man can have, during the whole course of his life, and for this purpose let us make a fourfold division. Mankind, either endued with no knowledge of God, are sunk in idolatry; or, initiated in the sacraments, but by the impurity of their lives denying him whom they confess with their mouths, are Christians in name only; or they are hypocrites, who with empty glosses hide the iniquity of the heart; or they are regenerated by the Spirit of God, and aspire to true holiness. In the first place, when men are judged by their natural endowments, not a iota of good will be found from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot, unless we are to charge Scripture with falsehood, when it describes all the sons of Adam by such terms as these: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." "The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth." "The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man that they are vanity." "They are all gone aside: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that does good, no, not one." In short, that they are flesh, under which name are comprehended all those works which are enumerated by Paul; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness idolatry witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulation, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and all kinds of pollution and abomination which it is possible to imagine. [422] Such, then, is the worth on which men are to plume themselves. But if any among them possess an integrity of manners which presents some semblance of sanctity among men, yet because we know that God regards not the outward appearance, we must penetrate to the very source of action, if we would see how far works avail for righteousness. We must, I say, look within, and see from what affection of the heart these works proceed. This is a very wide field of discussion, but as the matter may be explained in few words, I will use as much brevity as I can.

2. First, then, I deny not, that whatever excellent endowments appear in unbelievers [423] are divine gifts. Nor do I set myself so much in opposition to common sense, as to contend that there was no difference between the justice, moderation, and equity of Titus and Trojan, and the rage, intemperance, and cruelty of Caligula, Nero, and Domitian; between the continence of Vespasian, and the obscene lusts of Tiberius; and (not to dwell on single virtues and vices) between the observance of law and justice, and the contempt of them. So great is the difference between justice and injustice, that it may be seen even where the former is only a lifeless image. For what order would remain in the world if we were to confound them? Hence this distinction between honorable and base actions God has not only engraven on the minds of each, but also often confirms in the administration of his providence. For we see how he visits those who cultivate virtue with many temporal blessings. Not that that external image of virtue in the least degree merits his favor, but he is pleased thus to show how much he delights in true righteousness, since he does not leave even the outward semblance of it to go unrewarded. Hence it follows, as we lately observed, that those virtues, or rather images of virtues, of whatever kind, are divine gifts, since there is nothing in any degree praiseworthy which proceeds not from him.

3. Still the observation of Augustine is true, that all who are strangers to the true God, however excellent they may be deemed on account of their virtues are more deserving of punishment than of reward, because, by the pollution of their heart, they contaminate the pure gifts of God (August. contra Julia. Lib. 4). For though they are instruments of God to preserve human society by justice, continence, friendship, temperance, fortitude, and prudence, yet they execute these good works of God in the worst manner, because they are kept from acting ill, not by a sincere love of goodness, but merely by ambition or self-love, or some other sinister affection. Seeing then that these actions are polluted as in their very source, by impurity of heart, they have no better title to be classed among virtues than vices, which impose upon us by their affinity or resemblance to virtue. In short, when we remember that the object at which righteousness always aims is the service of God, whatever is of a different tendency deservedly forfeits the name. Hence, as they have no regard to the end which the divine wisdom prescribes, although from the performance the act seems good, yet from the perverse motive it is sin. Augustine, therefore, concludes that all the Fabriciuses, the Scipios, and Catos, [424] in their illustrious deeds, sinned in this, that, wanting the light of faith, they did not refer them to the proper end, and that, therefore, there was no true righteousness in them, because duties are estimated not by acts but by motives.

4. Besides, if it is true, as John says, that there is no life without the Son of God (1 John 5:12), those who have no part in Christ, whoever they be, whatever they do or devise, are hastening on, during their whole career, to destruction and the judgment of eternal death. For this reason, Augustine says, "Our religion distinguishes the righteous from the wicked, by the law, not of works but of faith, without which works which seem good are converted into sins," (August. ad Bonif. Lib. 3, c. 5). He finely expresses the same idea in another passage, when he compares the zeal of such men to those who in a race mistake the course (August. Præf in Ps. 31). He who is off the course, the more swiftly he runs is the more distant from the goal and, therefore, the more unhappy. It is better to limp in the way than run out of the way. Lastly, as there is no sanctification without union with Christ, it is evident that they are bad trees which are beautiful and fair to look upon, and may even produce fruit, sweet to the taste, but are still very far from good. Hence we easily perceive that every thing which man thinks, designs, and performs, before he is reconciled to God by faith, is cursed, and not only of no avail for justification, but merits certain damnation. And why do we talk of this as if it were doubtful, when it has already been proved by the testimony of an apostle, that "without faith it is impossible to please God?" (Heb. 11:6).

5. But the proof will be still clearer if divine grace is set in opposition to the natural condition of man. For Scripture everywhere proclaims that God finds nothing in man to induce him to show kindness, but that he prevents him by free liberality. What can a dead man do to obtain life? But when he enlightens us with the knowledge of himself, he is said to raise us from the dead, and make us new creatures (John 5:25). On this ground we see that the kindness of God toward us is often commended, especially by the apostle: "God," says he, "who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ," (Eph. 2:4). In another passage, when treating of the general call of believers under the type of Abraham, he says, "God quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were," (Rom. 4:17). If we are nothing, what, pray, can we do? Wherefore, in the Book of Job the Lord sternly represses all arrogance in these words, "Who has prevented me, that I should repay him? whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine," (Job 41:11). Paul explaining this sentence applies it in this way,--Let us not imagine that we bring to the Lord any thing but the mere disgrace of want and destitution (Rom. 11:35). Wherefore, in the passage above quoted, to prove that we attain to the hope of salvation, not by works but only by grace, he affirms that "we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them," (Eph. 2:10); as if he had said, Who of us can boast of having challenged God by his righteousness, seeing our first power to act aright is derived from regeneration? For, as we are formed by nature, sooner shall oil be extracted from stone than good works from us. It is truly strange how man, convicted of such ignominy, dares still to claim any thing as his own. Let us acknowledge, therefore, with that chosen vessel, that God "has called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace;" and "that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward men appeared not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us;" that being justified by his grace, we might become the heirs of everlasting life (2 Tim. 1:9; Tit. 3:4, 5). By this confession we strip man of every particle of righteousness, until by mere mercy he is regenerated unto the hope of eternal life, since it is not true to say we are justified by grace, if works contribute in any degree to our justification. The apostle undoubtedly had not forgotten himself in declaring that justification is gratuitous, seeing he argues in another place, that if works are of any avail, "grace is no more grace," (Rom. 11:6). And what else does our Lord mean, when he declares, "I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance?" (Mt. 9:13). If sinners alone are admitted, why do we seek admission by means of fictitious righteousness?

6. The thought is ever and anon recurring to me, that I am in danger of insulting the mercy of God by laboring with so much anxiety to maintain it, as if it were doubtful or obscure. Such, however, is our malignity in refusing to concede to God what belongs to him until most strongly urged that I am obliged to insist at greater length. But as Scripture is clear enough on this subject, I shall contend in its words rather than my own. Isaiah, after describing the universal destruction of the human race, finely subjoins the method of restitution. "The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment. And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him" (Isaiah 59:15, 16). Where is our righteousness, if the prophet says truly, that no man in recovering salvation gives any assistance to the Lord? Thus another prophet, introducing the Lord as treating concerning the reconciliation of sinners, says, "I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies." "I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy," (Hosea 2:19, 23). If a covenant of this kind, evidently forming our first union with God, depends on mercy, there is no foundation left for our righteousness. And, indeed, I would fain know, from those who pretend that man meets God with some righteousness of works, whether they imagine there is any kind of righteousness save that which is acceptable to Him. If it were insane to think so, can any thing agreeable to God proceed from his enemies, whom he abominates with all their deeds? Truth declares that we are all the avowed and inveterate enemies of God until we are justified and admitted to his friendship (Rom. 5:6; Col. 1:21). If justification is the beginning of love, how can the righteousness of works precede it? Hence John, to put down the arrogant idea, carefully reminds us that God first loved us (1 John 4:10). The Lord had formerly taught the same thing by his Prophet: "I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him," (Hosea 14:4). Assuredly he is not influenced by works if his love turns to us spontaneously. But the rude and vulgar idea entertained is, that we did not merit the interposition of Christ for our redemption, but that we are aided by our works in obtaining possession of it. On the contrary, though we may be redeemed by Christ, still, until we are ingrafted into union with him by the calling of the Father, we are darkness, the heirs of death, and the enemies of God. For Paul declares that we are not purged and washed from our impurities by the blood of Christ until the Spirit accomplishes that cleansing in us (1 Cor. 6:11). Peter, intending to say the same thing, declares that the sanctification of the Spirit avails "unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ," (1 Pet. 1:2). If the sprinkling of the blood of Christ by the Spirit gives us purification, let us not think that, previous to this sprinkling, we are anything but sinners without Christ. Let us, therefore, hold it as certain, that the beginning of our salvation is as it were a resurrection from death unto life, because, when it is given us on behalf of Christ to believe on him (Phil. 1:29), then only do we begin to pass from death unto life.

7. Under this head the second and third class of men noted in the above division is comprehended. Impurity of conscience proves that as yet neither of these classes is regenerated by the Spirit of God. And, again, their not being regenerated proves their want of faith. Whence it is clear that they are not yet reconciled, not yet justified, since it is only by faith that these blessings are obtained. What can sinners, alienated from God, produce save that which is abominable in his sight? Such, however, is the stupid confidence entertained by all the wicked, and especially by hypocrites, that however conscious that their whole heart teems with impurity, they yet deem any spurious works which they may perform as worthy of the approbation of God. Hence the pernicious consequence, that though convicted of a wicked and impious minds they cannot be induced to confess that they are devoid of righteousness. Even acknowledging themselves to be unrighteous, because they cannot deny it, they yet arrogate to themselves some degree of righteousness. This vanity the Lord admirably refutes by the prophet: "Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean. Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the Lord; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean," (Haggai 2:11-14). I wish these sentiments could obtain full credit with us, and be deeply fixed on our memories. For there is no man, however flagitous the whole tenor of his life may be, who will allow himself to be convinced of what the Lord here so clearly declares. As soon as any person, even the most wicked, has performed some one duty of the law, he hesitates not to impute it to himself for righteousness; but the Lord declares that no degree of holiness is thereby acquired, unless the heart has previously been made pure. And not contented with this, he declares that all the works performed by sinners are contaminated by impurity of heart. Let us cease then to give the name of righteousness to works which the mouth of the Lord condemns as polluted. How well is this shown by that elegant similitude? It might be objected, that what the Lord has commanded is inviolably holy. But he, on the contrary, replies, that it is not strange that those things which are sanctified in the law are contaminated by the impurity of the wicked, the unclean hand profaning that which is sacred by handling it.

8. The same argument is admirably followed out by Isaiah: "Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my foul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands I will hide mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes," (Isaiah 1:13-16, compared with ch. 58) What is meant by the Lord thus nauseating the observance of his law? Nay, indeed, he does not repudiate any thing relating to the genuine observance of the law, the beginning of which is as he uniformly declares the sincere fear of his name. When this is wanting, all the services which are offered to him are not only nugatory but vile and abominable. Let hypocrites now go, and while keeping depravity wrapt up in their heart, study to lay God under obligation by their works. In this way they will only offend him more and more. "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord; but the prayer of the upright is his delight," (Prov. 15:8. ) We hold it, therefore, as indubitable, indeed it should be notorious to all tolerably verdant with Scriptures that the most splendid works performed by men, who are not yet truly sanctified, are so far from being righteousness in the sight of the Lord, that he regards them as sins. And, therefore it is taught with perfect truth, that no man procures favor with God by means of works, but that, on the contrary, works are not pleasing to God unless the person has previously found favor in his sight. [425] Here we should carefully observe the order which scripture sets before us. Moses says that "the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering," (Gen. 4:4). Observe how he says that the Lord was propitious (had respect) to Abel, before he had respect to his works. Wherefore, purification of heart ought to precede, in order that the works performed by us may be graciously accepted by God: for the saying of Jeremiah is always true, "O Lord, are not thine eyes upon the truth?" (Jer. 5:3). Moreover the Holy Spirit declared by the mouth of Peter, that it is by faith alone the heart is purified (Acts 15:9). Hence it is evident, that the primary foundation is in true and living faith.

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

  • Michael Horton
  • John MacArthur
  • R.C. Sproul

#1 Is the Doctrine of Inerrancy Defensible? | Ligonier


#2 Does the Doctrine of the Divine Decrees Eliminate Human Will? | Ligonier


#3 What Is Evil & Where Did It Come From? | Ligonier


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     9/1/2007    Integrity, Coram Deo

     What will people say about me after I die?” Have you ever asked yourself that question? It is a question that has haunted me for years, and it is one of the most captivating questions anyone can ask himself. In truth, it would do us good to ask ourselves such questions with some frequency: “What will I contribute to the world, the church, and the kingdom of God before I die?” Such questions, the hard questions concerning death, are in fact the very questions of life. In asking ourselves questions about the reality of our lives in the eyes of the analytical world, we may in turn provide ourselves with answers that change the way we live, both before the eyes of men openly and before the eyes of God privately.

     Throughout history, men, both great and small, have shaped the world around them, and wherever I travel, I am always on the lookout for the burial places of great men. The graves of history’s victors and villains fascinate me to no end. And whether they were penned by friends or by foes, the epitaphs on gravestones reveal the sentiments of those who knew the departed, leaving the legacy of their opinions engraved in stone for generations to come.

     A few days ago I was in England and made a brief visit to London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral, wherein is found the epitaph: “Sacred to the memory of General Charles George Gordon who at all times and everywhere gave his strength to the weak, his substance to the poor, his sympathy to the suffering, his heart to God.” Truly, a magnificent legacy to which the world is able to bear witness as scores of visitors ponder the epitaph of a mere man whose character is enshrined in accordance with the opinions of mere men. And while such opinions should not be disregarded, they are only opinions, opinions of men who cannot feel the hearts of others and who certainly cannot see the actions of others at all times and in all places.

     It is only the Lord who knows us for who we truly are, and just as we cannot hide from His presence, neither can we fool Him by closing our eyes and pretending He’s not there. For just as David prayed, “As for me, You uphold me in my integrity, and set me before Your face forever” (Ps. 41:12 nkjv) so we must earnestly seek to be men and women of integrity, not merely before the face of men but before the face of God, coram Deo. For what matters is not simply how men regard us after we die, but how God regards us in this life and the next.

     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

     Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated this day, April 4th, 1968. He had been pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and rose to national prominence through the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Awarded the Nobel Prize in 1964, Congress set aside his birthday as a National Holiday in 1986. He said: “I have a dream…where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers….I have a dream that one day…. the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

Grace will not suffer a vacuum, any more than nature.
--- Johann Albrecht Bengel
   New Testament word studies, Set of Two Volumes. (Kregel reprint library)

It is difficult to rebuke well; that is, at a right time, in a right spirit, and in a right manner.
--- John Henry Newman
   The Gospel Of St. Mark, Illustrated From Ancient And Modern Authors...

One of the first things which a physician says to his patient is, ~Let me see your tongue.~ A spiritual advisor might often do the same.
--- Nehemiah Adams
   The Gospel Of St. Mark, Illustrated From Ancient And Modern Authors...

A man said to the universe: "Sir I exist!" "However," replied the universe, "The fact has not created in me a sense of obligation."
--- Stephen Crane
   Best Remembered Poems

... from here, there and everywhere

RE: Leviticus 7
     Leviticus Rabbah 9:7

     For example, in the second century A.D., Rabbi Menahem of Galilee taught that “In the World to Come all sacrifices will be annulled, but the thanksgiving sacrifice will never be annulled” (Leviticus Rabbah 9:7). This is a remarkable vision. We have a Jewish rabbi, not long after the time of Jesus, foreseeing a future age in which all of the many sacrifices described in the Torah would cease, and just one would remain: the “sacrifice of thanksgiving” (see Leviticus 7). That’s what Rabbi Menahem expected; what did Jesus expect?).

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper

Journal of John Woolman 4/4
     University of Virginia Libray 1994

     In the course of a few weeks it pleased the Lord to visit me with a pleurisy; and after I had lain a few days and felt the disorder very grievous, I was thoughtful how it might end. I had of late, through various exercises, been much weaned from the pleasant things of this life; and I now thought if it were the Lord's will to put an end to my labors and graciously to receive me into the arms of his mercy, death would be acceptable to me; but if it were his will further to refine me under affliction, and to make me in any degree useful in his church, I desired not to die. I may with thankfulness say that in this case I felt resignedness wrought in me and had no inclination to send for a doctor, believing, if it were the Lord's will through outward means to raise me up, some sympathizing Friends would be sent to minister to me; which accordingly was the case. But though I was carefully attended, yet the disorder was at times so heavy that I had no expectation of recovery. One night in particular my bodily distress was great; my feet grew cold, and the cold increased up my legs towards my body; at that time I had no inclination to ask my nurse to apply anything warm to my feet, expecting my end was near. After I had lain near ten hours in this condition, I closed my eyes, thinking whether I might now be delivered out of the body; but in these awful moments my mind was livingly opened to behold the church; and strong engagements were begotten in me for the everlasting well-being of my fellow-creatures. I felt in the spring of pure love that I might remain some time longer in the body, to fill up according to my measure that which remains of the afflictions of Christ, and to labor for the good of the church; after which I requested my nurse to apply warmth to my feet, and I revived. The next night, feeling a weighty exercise of spirit and having a solid friend sitting up with me, I requested him to write what I said, which he did as follows: --

     "Fourth day of the first month, 1770, about five in the morning. -- I have seen in the Light of the Lord that the day is approaching when the man that is most wise in human policy shall be the greatest fool; and the arm that is mighty to support injustice shall be broken to pieces; the enemies of righteousness shall make a terrible rattle, and shall mightily torment one another; for He that is omnipotent is rising up to judgment, and will plead the cause of the oppressed; and He commanded me to open the vision."

     Near a week after this, feeling my mind livingly opened, I sent for a neighbor, who, at my request, wrote as follows: --

     "The place of prayer is a precious habitation; for I now saw that the prayers of the saints were precious incense; and a trumpet was given to me that I might sound forth this language; that the children might hear it and be invited together to this precious habitation, where the prayers of the saints, as sweet incense, arise before the throne of God and the Lamb. I saw this habitation to be safe, -- to be inwardly quiet when there were great stirrings and commotions in the world.

     "Prayer, at this day, in pure resignation, is a precious place: the trumpet is sounded; the call goes forth to the church that she gather to the place of pure inward prayer; and her habitation is safe."

John Woolman's Journal

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Twenty-Sixth Chapter / The Excellence Of A Free Mind, Gained Through Prayer Rather Than By Study

     The Disciple

     IT IS the mark of a perfect man, Lord, never to let his mind relax in attention to heavenly things, and to pass through many cares as though he had none; not as an indolent man does, but having by the certain prerogative of a free mind no disorderly affection for any created being.

     Keep me, I beg You, most merciful God, from the cares of this life, lest I be too much entangled in them. Keep me from many necessities of the body, lest I be ensnared by pleasure. Keep me from all darkness of mind, lest I be broken by troubles and overcome. I do not ask deliverance from those things which worldly vanity desires so eagerly, but from those miseries which, by the common curse of humankind, oppress the soul of Your servant in punishment and keep him from entering into the liberty of spirit as often as he would.

     My God, Sweetness beyond words, make bitter all the carnal comfort that draws me from love of the eternal and lures me to its evil self by the sight of some delightful good in the present. Let it not overcome me, my God. Let not flesh and blood conquer me. Let not the world and its brief glory deceive me, nor the devil trip me by his craftiness. Give me courage to resist, patience to endure, and constancy to persevere. Give me the soothing unction of Your spirit rather than all the consolations of the world, and in place of carnal love, infuse into me the love of Your name.

     Behold, eating, drinking, clothing, and other necessities that sustain the body are burdensome to the fervent soul. Grant me the grace to use such comforts temperately and not to become entangled in too great a desire for them. It is not lawful to cast them aside completely, for nature must be sustained, but Your holy law forbids us to demand superfluous things and things that are simply for pleasure, else the flesh would rebel against the spirit. In these matters, I beg, let Your hand guide and direct me, so that I may not overstep the law in any way.

The Imitation Of Christ

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

     How often we ask: How can a person know the will of God? And people want, when they are in perplexity, to pray very earnestly that God should answer them at once. But God can only reveal His will to a heart that is humble and tender and empty. God can only reveal His will in perplexities and special difficulties to a heart that has learned to obey and honor Him loyally in little things and in daily life.

     That brings me to the third thought--Note the disposition to which the Spirit reveals God's will.

     What do we read here? There were a number of men ministering to the Lord and fasting, and the Holy Spirit came and spoke to them. Some people understand this passage very much as they would in reference to a missionary committee of our day. We see there is an open field, and we have had our missions in other fields, and we are going to get on to that field. We have virtually settled that, and we pray about it. But the position was a very different one in those former days. I doubt whether any of them thought of Europe, for later on even Paul himself tried to go back into Asia, till the night vision called him by the will of God. Look at those men. God had done wonders. He had extended the Church to Antioch, and He had given rich and large blessing. Now, here were these men ministering to the Lord, serving Him with prayer and fasting. What a deep conviction they have--"It must all come direct from Heaven. We are in fellowship with the risen Lord; we must have a close union with Him, and somehow He will let us know what He wants."

     And there they were, empty, ignorant, helpless, glad and joyful, but deeply humbled.

     "O Lord," they seem to say, "we are Thy servants, and in fasting and prayer we wait upon Thee. What is Thy will for us?"

Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 14:7-9
     by D.H. Stern

7     Keep clear of a fool,
for you won’t hear a sensible word from him.
8     The wisdom of the cautious makes him know where he is going,
but the folly of fools misleads them.
9     Guilt offerings make a mockery of fools;
but among the upright there is good will.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)

The Great Divorce - A Dream
     C.S. Lewis


     ‘Well, come,’ said the Spirit: and for a few paces he supported the hobbling shadow forward to the East.

     ‘Of course,’ said the Ghost, as if speaking to itself, ‘there’ll always be interesting people to meet …’

     ‘Everyone will be interesting.’

     ‘Oh—ah—yes, to be sure. I was thinking of people in our own line. Shall I meet Claude? Or Cézanne? Or—.’

     ‘Sooner or later—if they’re here.’

     ‘But don’t you know?’

     ‘Well, of course not. I’ve only been here a few years. All the chances are against my having run across them … there are a good many of us, you know.’

     ‘But surely in the case of distinguished people, you’d hear?’

     ‘But they aren’t distinguished—no more than anyone else. Don’t you understand? The Glory flows into everyone, and back from everyone: like light and mirrors. But the light’s the thing.’

     ‘Do you mean there are no famous men?’

     ‘They are all famous. They are all known, remembered, recognised by the only Mind that can give a perfect judgement.’

     ‘Oh, of course, in that sense …’ said the Ghost.

     ‘Don’t stop,’ said the Spirit, making to lead him still forward.

     ‘One must be content with one’s reputation among posterity, then,’ said the Ghost.

     ‘My friend,’ said the Spirit. ‘Don’t you know?’

     ‘Know what?’

     ‘That you and I are already completely forgotten on the Earth?’

     ‘Eh? What’s that?’ exclaimed the Ghost, disengaging its arm. ‘Do you mean those damned Neo-Regionalists have won after all?’

     ‘Lord love you, yes!’ said the Spirit, once more shaking and shining with laughter. ‘You couldn’t get five pounds for any picture of mine or even of yours in Europe or America to-day. We’re dead out of fashion.’

     ‘I must be off at once,’ said the Ghost. ‘Let me go! Damn it all, one has one’s duty to the future of Art. I must go back to my friends. I must write an article. There must be a manifesto. We must start a periodical. We must have publicity. Let me go. This is beyond a joke!’

     And without listening to the Spirit’s reply, the spectre vanished.

The Great Divorce

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Those borders of distrust

     Behold, the hour cometh, … that ye shall be scattered.
--- John 16:32.

     Jesus is not rebuking the disciples, their faith was real, but it was disturbed; it was not at work in actual things. The disciples were scattered to their own interests, alive to interests that never were in Jesus Christ. After we have been perfectly related to God in sanctification, our faith has to be worked out in actualities. We shall be scattered, not into work, but into inner desolations and made to know what internal death to God’s blessings means. Are we prepared for this? It is not that we choose it, but that God engineers our circumstances so that we are brought there. Until we have been through that experience, our faith is bolstered up by feelings and by blessings. When once we get there, no matter where God places us or what the inner desolations are, we can praise God that all is well. That is faith being worked out in actualities.

     “… and shall leave Me alone.” Have we left Jesus alone by the scattering of His providence? Because we do not see God in our circumstances? Darkness comes by the sovereignty of God. Are we prepared to let God do as He likes with us—prepared to be separated from conscious blessings? Until Jesus Christ is Lord, we all have ends of our own to serve; our faith is real, but it is not permanent yet. God is never in a hurry; if we wait, we shall see that God is pointing out that we have not been interested in Himself, but only in His blessings. The sense of God’s blessing is elemental.

     “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Spiritual grit is what we need.

My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition

     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas


All my life
  I was face to face
  with her, at meal-times,
  by the fire, even
  in the ultimate intimacies
  of the bed. You could have asked,
  then, for information
  about her? There was a room
  apart she kept herself in,
  teasing me by leading me
  to its glass door, only
  to confront me with
  my reflection. I learned from her
  even so. Walking her shore
  I found things cast up
  from her depths that spoke
  to me of another order,
  worshipper as I was
  of untamed nature. She fetched
  her treasures from art's
  storehouse: pieces of old

  lace, delicate as frost;
  china from a forgotten
  period; a purse more valuable
  than anything it could contain.
  Coming in from the fields
  with my offering of flowers
  I found her garden
  had forestalled me in providing
  civilities for my desk.
  ' Tell me about life'
  I would say, 'you who were
  its messenger in the delivery
  of our child'. Her eyes had a
  fine shame, remembering her privacy
  being invaded from further off than
  she expected. 'Do you think
  death is the end?' frivolously
  I would ask her. I recall
  now the swiftness of its arrival
  wrenching her lip down, and how
  the upper remained firm,
  reticent as the bud that is
  the precursor of the flower.

Collected Later Poems: 1988-2000

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Rosh Hashanah 25a–b


     A wedding ceremony can take less than thirty minutes, the reception lasts a few hours. But people sense that this moment is so important, and so wonderful, that they want it to last as long as possible. Traditional Judaism, in its reluctance to let the wedding day slip away too quickly, “adds from the ordinary onto the sacred.” There is the aufruf, when the groom (and nowadays, sometimes the bride) is called to the Torah and the couple are given the community’s blessing, often on the Shabbat before the wedding. The day of the marriage begins with the tenaim, the signing of a formal engagement contract by the two families, accompanied by the breaking of a plate. Then there is the ḥusan’s tish, “the groom’s table,” where the men gather to sing, study, and celebrate with their friends. As part of the Bedeken, or veiling ceremony, the women attend the bride with songs of joy and praise, and then lead her in dance to the wedding canopy. Following the reception, the husband and wife traditionally remain in the community for the week. Each night, they attend another dinner in their honor, sponsored by different friends or family members. At the conclusion of these meals, a special prayer, the Sheva Berakhot, “the seven blessings,” is added to the routine grace after meals. In secular wedding culture, the bachelor parties, rehearsal dinners, and cocktail hours serve a similar function before the wedding, while the post-wedding breakfasts and “after-parties” all have the same intention of making this wonderful celebration last a little bit longer.

     There are two kinds of moments in life: The ordinary and the special. The former far outnumber the latter. But it is the latter, those unique, sacred events and times that give meaning and joy to our lives. The challenge we face is how to savor them when they do come. The Rabbis tried to protect these moments and to prolong them. By starting Shabbat before sunset and ending it only after the stars had come out, two things were accomplished: A “fence” was erected around the day, that made sure ordinary weekday work, like lighting candles, was not done, by accident or by neglect, during the actual sacred time. And another hour was added on to the seventh day. One additional hour on top of the regular twenty-four may not amount to all that much. Yet, the Rabbis were teaching us to cherish each of our special moments, to hold on to them while we have them, and to let them last, even if for only a little while longer. It is one of the great secrets of life—to add from the ordinary on to the sacred.

     Jephthah in his generation is like Samuel in his generation.

     Text / Our Rabbis taught: “Why were the names of the elders not mentioned explicitly? So that people would not say: ‘Is so-and-so like Moses and Aaron? Is so-and-so like Nadav and Abihu? Is so-and-so like Eldad and Medad?’ It says ‘Samuel said to the people: “The Lord, … He who appointed Moses and Aaron” [1 Sam. 12:6]’ and it says ‘And the Lord sent Jerubbaal and Bedan and Jephthah and Samuel’ [1 Sam. 12:11]. Jerubbaal is Gideon. Why is he called Jerubbaal? Because he fought with Baal. Bedan is Samson. Why is he called Bedan? Because he came from Dan. Jephthah is Jephthah.
     It says: ‘Moses and Aaron among His priests, Samuel, among those who call on His name’ [Psalms 99:6]. The text has equated three of the most important men of the world, to tell you that Jerubbaal in his generation is like Moses in his generation; Bedan in his generation is like Aaron in his generation; Jephthah in his generation is like Samuel in his generation—to teach you that even the least important man in the world, once he has been appointed a leader of the community is considered as among the greatest of the great.”

     Context / Then He said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord, with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy elders of Israel, and bow low from afar.” (
Exodus 24:1)
     [Moses] gathered seventy of the people’s elders and stationed them around the tent. Then the Lord came down in a cloud and spoke to him; He drew upon the spirit that was on him and put it upon the seventy elders. And when the spirit rested upon them, they spoke in ecstasy, but did not continue. Two men, one named Eldad and the other Medad, had remained in the camp; yet the spirit rested upon them—they were among those recorded, but they had not gone out to the tent—and they spoke in ecstasy in the camp. (
Numbers 11:24–26)

     The Gemara brings together three verses (two from the book of Samuel, one from Psalms) that mention Israelite leaders. First, the lesser-known names are identified. Jerubbaal is Gideon (Judges 6–8); Bedan is Samson (Judges 14–16). Together with Jephthah (Judges 11–12), they were three of the shoftim or judges who led the Israelites in the period between Joshua and King Saul. Each is known, among other things, for his weaknesses: Gideon lacked courage and required constant assurance from God. Samson showed bad judgement in the choice of women he pursued. Jephthah ended up sacrificing his own daughter as a consequence of a rash vow he made to God.

     Then, the Gemara notes the incongruity of mentioning these three inferior leaders together with three of the greatest ones: Moses, Aaron, and Samuel. (Samuel was the prophet and judge who led Israel and anointed Saul and David as kings.) Rabbinic methodology is interesting: All three verses contain the name of Samuel. The Rabbis deduce that all the names mentioned in the three verses are somehow similar or equal. Indeed, the verses explicitly state that God appointed or sent the leaders, and thus whether great or mediocre, they have the authority of God behind them.

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

The Challenge / Overview / Deuteronomy
     Teacher's Commentary

     The Book of Deuteronomy is one of the most significant in the Old Testament. Jesus often quoted Deuteronomy. When tempted by Satan in His own wilderness (Matt. 4), Jesus quoted this great book three times!

     “Deutero-nomy” means “second law.” But the book is far more than a restatement of the Law given at Sinai. This book is also a commentary on the Law’s deeper meanings. As we study
Deuteronomy we sense the deep love that underlies God’s gift of Law—and the love for God that is necessary if any person is to be obedient to Him.

I. Moses’ First Sermon Deut. 1:1–4:43
II. Moses’ Second Sermon Deut. 4:44–28:68
III. Moses’ Third Sermon Deut. 29:1–30:20
IV. Moses’ Last Days Deut. 31:1–34:12

     “You”. In this first sermon Moses reviewed what God had done for Israel. But in looking back on what happened to the first, now-dead generation, Moses talked of what God did for “you” and of how “you” responded to God. In the Old Testament there is a strong sense of corporate responsibility for the acts not only of the present community but also of past generations. God’s mighty acts of deliverance were performed not just for the
Exodus generation, but for “you” the living. In the same way, the living are to identify with and to learn from the sins and failures of past generations.

     The Book of
Deuteronomy is both important and fascinating. It’s a book that puts new stress on personal relationship with God. Here the phrase “Yahweh our God” (The LORD our God) is not only introduced, it is repeated. The Law is not some rigid set of impersonal rules. It is a vital expression of the love relationship that flows from God to His people, and is expressed by the people in obedient response.

     This book does have many passages that are parallel to teaching already given in Exodus. For instance:

Ex. 21:1–11 matches Deut. 15:12–18
Ex. 21:12–14 matches Deut. 19:1–13
Ex. 22:21–24 matches Deut. 24:17–22
Ex. 22:29 matches Deut. 15:19–23
Ex. 23:2–8 matches Deut. 16:18–20
Ex. 23:10–13 matches Deut. 15:1–11
Ex. 23:14–17 matches Deut. 16:1–17
Ex. 23:19a matches Deut. 26:2–10

     Still, some 50 percent of the content of
Deuteronomy is new. And what is repeated is often expanded by exhortations or by explanation of the deeper meaning of the duplicated laws.

     Many have pointed out that
Deuteronomy has great historical significance. It is written in a well-known contemporary form. It has the structure of a national constitution: a treaty between a ruler and his subjects.

     This form is important because of the message it contained for Israel. God’s redeemed people had a faith relationship with the Lord. Now God established the fact that in this relationship He is the Ruler, they the subjects. He is ready to bind Himself by solemn treaty to fulfill His obligations as their Ruler. But they must also bind themselves by the same treaty to fulfill their obligations as His subjects.

     In essence, this kind of treaty spelled out the obligations of Ruler and ruled, and set the pattern for a harmonious relationship between the two.

     The well-known form of this treaty, followed in the structure of
Deuteronomy, included:

     Historical Prologue Reviewing the relationship
  which the Ruler has with His subjects.

Basic Stipulations
  Specifying the general principles
  that are to guide behavior.

Detailed Stipulations
  Expanding on certain rules
  that are to be followed.

Document Clause
  Calling for ratification by the subjects themselves.

  Explaining the benefits
  the Ruler provides for good subjects.

  Explaining the punishments due subjects
  who violate treaty stipulations.

  Summarizing the treaty.

     How is this form seen in
Deuteronomy ? Here are the passages that fit this treaty format.

Prologue: Deut. 1:6–3:29.
Basic Stipulations: Deut. 5:1–11:32.
Detailed Stipulations: Deut. 12:1–26:19.
Document Clause: Deut. 27:1–26.
Blessings: Deut. 28:1–14.
Cursings: Deut. 28:15–68.
Recapitulation: Deut. 29:1–30:10

     So the very form of Deuteronomy held an important message for Israel. This nation had as its ruler not some human tyrant, but God Himself! There was no need for a human king in Israel, for God Himself was King. There was no need for a human military leader, for God Himself would lead, protect, and bless.

     If only Israel would live according to the covenant regulations God gave, the Lord was committed to do His people good.

     Moses’ first sermon then was particularly fitting. In it, Moses revealed what God had done for “us,” His special people. And in that review of the relationship between God and His people, there are many lessons for you and me, and for those whom we are called to teach!

The Teacher's Commentary

Deut / The Word Of God
     Pulpit Commentary

     Vers. 1–5.—The Word of God full of hidden treasure. We cannot get very far in these preliminary verses ere we are struck with a phrase which is a most suggestive one, and should not be lightly passed over, viz. “On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab, began Moses to declare this law,” literally, to dig it, i.e. to go deeply into it, and to turn up again its contents, so that, to all the advantage of a generation of culture, the people might see that there was more meaning, and also more glory in the Law of God than they were able to discern in the first years of their national existence. Observe—

     I. THERE IS A MINE OF WEALTH IN THE LAW OF GOD. This is the case, even if we thereby intend the Mosaic Law alone. Its theology, its ethics, its directory of religious faith and worship, its civil and political code for the Hebrew commonwealth, are all so pure and elevated, that no account can be given of how any man at that age of the world could have propounded such a system, save that he was taught of God (cf.
2 Pet. 1:21). If, moreover, we would see how the devout Hebrews estimated the Law, let us turn to Ps. 19.; 103:7, et seq. Our Saviour honoured the Law, and maintained it in all its integrity (cf. Matt. 5:17, 18). He removed the glosses by which it had in his time become disfigured, but he never depreciated it. We are by no means to confound “the Law” with the abstract idea of “law.” See how sharply the Apostle Paul distinguishes between these two in Rom. 3., especially in ver. 21, “But now there has been manifested a righteousness of God apart from law, being witnessed by THE Law and the prophets.” The Law given by Moses is based on the gospel (cf. Gal. 3). If, however, to all that Moses gave, we add all “the grace and the truth” which came in by Jesus Christ, how unsearchably vast is the wealth stored up for us in the “Word of everlasting Truth!”

     II. THE EFFORT OF DIGGING INTO THIS MINE WILL BE WELL REPAID. How much difference there is between a man who knows only what men say about the Book, and one who knows the Book for himself! (
Here is my great sadness. So many Christians can tell you what their pastor says, but they do not read the Word for themselves. They do not let the Holy Spirit talk to them. Instead, they wait upon their pastor.) The one may be easily beguiled into the belief that it is so out of date that it is scarcely worth while to study it at all. The other will find it so far ahead of the actual attainments of the wisest and best of men, that he will pity those who dismiss it with but a glance from afar. The continuous, careful, thorough student of the Law of Moses, will be ever discovering a richness in it which will at once astonish and enrapture him. Its harmony with, its historical preparation for, the gospel, will be continually disclosing to him new proofs of its Divine original, that will be worth more to him than any merely “external evidence.” And when the whole Word of God is made the constant study of one whose heart is open to the truth and loyal to God, such a one will find fuller and richer meaning in single words, such as göel, “grace,” “righteousness,” etc., when these words are put to their highest use in Divine revelation, than in whole tomes of merely human lore!

     III. THE WORD SHOULD BE DUG INTO, THAT WE MAY APPROPRIATE ITS CONTENTS, BY ENLIGHTENED REASON AND LOWLY FAITH. These treasures are for the use of all, not merely to gratity them with the consciousness of ever making new discoveries, but to make them richer in the accumulating stores of holy thought. And if we, in the right spirit, explore these sacred pages, we shall ourselves become richer in knowledge, in gladness, in hope. If we cultivate a willingness to do God’s will, and seek to know the truth for the purpose of doing the right, we shall find that much that is “hidden from the wise and prudent” is, by means of the Book, “revealed unto babes.”

     IV. THE MORE WE THUS DIG INTO THE BOOK OF THE LAW, THE MORE EXHAUSTLESS IT WILL SEEM. No one is there, who lovingly and prayerfully studies it, who will not come to say, with a feeling that becomes intenser year by year, “There remaineth very much land to be possessed.” “High as the heaven is above the earth, so are” God’s “ways higher than” our “ways, and” God’s “thoughts than” our “thoughts”!

     V. THE ACCUMULATING STORES OF HOLY THOUGHT SHOULD BE TRANSMUTED BY US INTO THE WEALTH OF HOLY LIFE. It is not for nought that our God has so enriched this world with thoughts from heaven. It is not merely that the intellect may be furnished or the taste for research gratified. Oh no; it is for our life. Heaven has poured forth its wealth upon earth, that earth may send up its love and loyalty to heaven. Precious are the riches of truth. The riches of holiness are more precious still. God gives us the first that we may yield him the second. God would win Israel’s love by unveiling his own. So now, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” How great will be our guilt, how severe our condemnation, if we let such priceless disclosures remain unnoticed and unused! It were better for us not to have known the way of righteousness than, after we have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto us. May we, through the Spirit, so use the truth of God as to find our joy and salvation in the God of the truth!

The Pulpit Commentary (23 Volume Set)

Early Jewish Biblical Interpretation
     JAMES L. KUGEL / The Rise of the Bible

     The idea of a specific set of writings called the Bible did not exist before the end of the Second Temple period. Before that, there existed a somewhat inchoate group of books considered sacred by one or more of the various religious communities that flourished during this period. The heart of Scripture, all communities agreed, was the Torah or Pentateuch, that is, the biblical books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These books were attributed to the authorship of Moses, and from an early time their laws in particular were looked to for guidance in matters of daily life. Along with them were other works—historical writings covering the period from the death of Moses to later times; prophetic books and visions associated with various figures from the past; psalms, hymns, and similar works, many attributed to King David; wise sayings and other wisdom writings, some attributed to King Solomon; and so forth. Some of these texts were actually composed within the Second Temple period, but many went back far earlier, to the time before the Babylonian exile in the sixth century B.C.E. For example, most modern scholars agree that large parts of our biblical books of Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, and Micah go back to the eighth century B.C.E.; to a still earlier period belong a number of other texts—for example, some of the songs and psalms found in the Bible, along with a portion of the historical and legendary material later included in different books.

     If these texts had thus been preserved for hundreds of years before the start of the Second Temple period, they must have played some active role in the lives of those who preserved them. After all, the parchment or papyrus on which texts were generally written begins to disintegrate after a century or so; recopying books was a tedious, and expensive, process. If these writings were nonetheless saved and recopied, it seems likely that, far back into the biblical period, people were using them for some purpose. Ancient laws were no doubt written down to preserve their exact wording, so that they might be explicated and applied to real-life cases; if p 123 psalms and hymns were similarly recorded, it was probably because they were an actual part of the liturgy in use at one or another ancient sanctuary; tales of past heroes and their doings were written down to be read in court or at festive occasions; and so forth.

     Nevertheless, it is only some time after the return from the Babylonian Exile at the end of the sixth century B.C.E. that we begin to find frequent reference to the Scripture (principally the Pentateuch) and its interpretation. This is truly the time when these ancient texts begin to move to center stage in Judaism. Several factors combined to make Scripture so important.

     One of these is a rather universal phenomenon. Scripture may have come to play a particularly important role in Judaism, but in many religions and civilizations (some of them quite unrelated to Judaism), writings from the ancient past also play a special role—the Vedas in Hinduism, the Zoroastrian Avesta, the writings of Confucius, and so forth. What is behind this phenomenon? With regard to premodern societies, our own view of knowledge as a dynamic, ever-expanding thing is rather inappropriate. In such societies people generally conceived of knowledge as an altogether static, unchanging thing, and they therefore tended to attach great significance to the wisdom found in writings from the ancient past. Indeed, as the chronological distance between such writings and themselves increased, so too did the esteem in which these ancient pronouncements were held. After all, what the ancients knew, or what had been revealed to them, was timeless truth, part of that great, static corpus of knowledge; it could never be displaced by later insights (nor would anyone want it to be).

     Israel’s ancient writings had no doubt long enjoyed a similar cachet. But added to this were several more specific things that heightened the role of Scripture in the early postexilic period. The first was the fact of the Babylonian Exile itself. Though it lasted scarcely more than half a century, it profoundly disrupted things for the exiled Jews. Institutions like the royal court, the Jerusalem Temple, and other formerly crucial centers were no more; soon, the traditions and ways of thought associated with them began to fade. Instead, the exiles’ heads were now filled with foreign institutions, a foreign language, and a way of thinking that hardly bothered to take account of the tiny nation from which they had come. Under such circumstances, Israel’s ancient writings offered an island of refuge. Here, the royal court and the Jerusalem Temple still lived in their full glory; here the God of Israel still reigned supreme, and His people and their history occupied center stage; and here was the exiles’ old language, the Judean idiom, written down in the classical cadences of its greatest prophets and sages. It seems altogether likely that, during those years in Babylon, such writings as had accompanied the Judeans into exile only grew in importance—if not for all, then at least for some significant segment of the population. And once the exile was over, these same ancient texts continued in this role: they were the history of the nation and its pride, a national literature and more than that, a statement about the ongoing importance of the remnants of that kingdom, for its God, and for the world.

The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     April 4

     The stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.
Mark 16:4.

     Make no effort to hide the fact. ( Westminster Sermons: Volume 2 - At Fast and Festival ) Death is the great enigma of life. Humanly speaking, it is an insoluble mystery; it is the one secret of the universe that is kept, the silence that is never broken. Death is one of the rare things that can be predicted of all people, the common end to a path of glory or to a road of shame. To the weary and despairing it may come as a friend; the cynical and disillusioned may meet it with indifference; to the healthy and happy it may appear as a foe. But as friend or foe or cold companion, it comes to all. All our plans for the future are made subject to its approval. There is no earthly tie too sacred for death to loosen. It reduces the exalted and the lowly to the common denominator of dust.

     Moreover, the mystery is as old as humanity. From the dimmest beginnings of history, we find people pondering the problem of the beyond. In the upward movement of the human race, we find people nursing their hopes on a variety of dreams and passing in turn from belief in a dim spirit life to the shadowy existence called Sheol and finally to the vision of a life fuller and grander than this. But it was still a mystery. These dreams were dreams, interesting speculations, but nothing more. Death was still “the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns” (Hamlet). This was the great stone that blocked the path of human aspiration. What certainty was there of the continuity of life? What modest individual could find in himself or in herself anything worthy to endure for all eternity? Of what abiding worth was love—even our highest—if it ended in the passionless calm of death?

     Then came the first Easter day and—the stone was rolled away! That stone! Mark says it was very large. And now it is rolled away, for one traveler returned. Death is an abysmal cavern no more, but a tunnel with a golden light at the farther end. It is no more a blind alley but a thoroughfare, no more a cul-de-sac but a highway. The mystery is a mystery no more.

     “And,” says Paul, “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Rom. 8:11).
--- William E. Sangster.

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

On This Day
     Another Brilliant Bishop  April 4

     Isidore was born about 560 in Seville, Spain, into a noble Christian family. He was the youngest child and was personally educated by his much-older brother, Leander, the close friend of Pope Gregory the Great. Though severe in his methods, Leander managed to furnish his little brother with both a brilliant mind and a tender heart.

     When Isidore became pastor in Seville he concerned himself with establishing schools for the young, converting false teachers to orthodoxy, and evangelizing Jews. He established seminaries in every Spanish diocese for training young ministers.

     But he did more. He compiled history’s first encyclopedia, the Etymologiae. It became the most used textbook of the Middle Ages, containing entries on medicine, arithmetic, grammar, history, science, and theology. Isidore also developed a dictionary of synonyms, a book on astronomy, a summary of world history, a set of biographies of illustrious men, books on biblical characters, and many books of sermons and theological studies. He became known as the greatest teacher in Spain.

     The highlight of his career came late in his 37-year ministry. He presided over the great Spanish church council of Toledo which opened on December 5, 633. At this council, it was determined that baptismal candidates should be plunged into water only once, not three times. The council also approved the singing of hymns, not just the words of Scripture. And it forbade the compulsory conversion of Jews.

     Two years later when he sensed he was dying, Isidore began distributing his goods to the poor. Four days before his death he asked two friends to carry him to the church of St. Vincent the Martyr. Once there he had one of them cover him with sackcloth and the other put ashes on his head. The old scholar then raised his hands to heaven and prayed loudly, confessing his sins and pleading for grace. A crowd assembled, and Isidore requested their prayers and forgave his debtors. He preached to the people about love, then distributed his remaining possessions. Returning home, he took to his bed and died peacefully on Thursday, April 4, 636.

     When God divided out the wind and the water, And when he decided the path for rain and lightning, He also determined the truth and defined wisdom. God told us, “Wisdom means that you respect me, the Lord, And turn from sin.”
--- Job 28:25-28.

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - April 4

     "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." --- 2 Corinthians 5:21.

     Mourning Christian! why weepest thou? Art thou mourning over thine own corruptions? Look to thy perfect Lord, and remember, thou art complete in him; thou art in God’s sight as perfect as if thou hadst never sinned; nay, more than that, the Lord our Righteousness hath put a divine garment upon thee, so that thou hast more than the righteousness of man—thou hast the righteousness of God. O thou who art mourning by reason of inbred sin and depravity, remember, none of thy sins can condemn thee. Thou hast learned to hate sin; but thou hast learned also to know that sin is not thine—it was laid upon Christ’s head. Thy standing is not in thyself—it is in Christ; thine acceptance is not in thyself, but in thy Lord; thou art as much accepted of God to-day, with all thy sinfulness, as thou wilt be when thou standest before his throne, free from all corruption. O, I beseech thee, lay hold on this precious thought, perfection in Christ! For thou art “complete in him.” With thy Saviour’s garment on, thou art holy as the Holy one. “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” Christian, let thy heart rejoice, for thou art “accepted in the beloved”—what hast thou to fear? Let thy face ever wear a smile; live near thy Master; live in the suburbs of the Celestial City; for soon, when thy time has come, thou shalt rise up where thy Jesus sits, and reign at his right hand; and all this because the divine Lord “was made to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

          Evening - April 4

     "Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord."Isaiah 2:3.

     It is exceedingly beneficial to our souls to mount above this present evil world to something nobler and better. The cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches are apt to choke everything good within us, and we grow fretful, desponding, perhaps proud and carnal. It is well for us to cut down these thorns and briers, for heavenly seed sown among them is not likely to yield a harvest; and where shall we find a better sickle with which to cut them down than communion with God and the things of the kingdom? In the valleys of Switzerland many of the inhabitants are deformed, and all wear a sickly appearance, for the atmosphere is charged with miasma, and is close and stagnant; but up yonder, on the mountain, you find a hardy race, who breathe the clear fresh air as it blows from the virgin snows of the Alpine summits. It would be well if the dwellers in the valley could frequently leave their abodes among the marshes and the fever mists, and inhale the bracing element upon the hills. It is to such an exploit of climbing that I invite you this evening. May the Spirit of God assist us to leave the mists of fear and the fevers of anxiety, and all the ills which gather in this valley of earth, and to ascend the mountains of anticipated joy and blessedness. May God the Holy Spirit cut the cords that keep us here below, and assist us to mount! We sit too often like chained eagles fastened to the rock, only that, unlike the eagle, we begin to love our chain, and would, perhaps, if it came really to the test, be loath to have it snapped. May God now grant us grace, if we cannot escape from the chain as to our flesh, yet to do so as to our spirits; and leaving the body, like a servant, at the foot of the hill, may our soul, like Abraham, attain the top of the mountain, there to indulge in communion with the Most High.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     April 4

          WOUNDED FOR ME

     W. G. Ovens, 1870–1945 (verse 1)

     Gladys W. Roberts, 1888–? (verses 2-5)

     To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.
(1 Peter 2:21)

     Death by crucifixion was one of the worst forms of dying. No Roman citizen was ever crucified; this horrible death was reserved only for Rome’s enemies. The Roman scourge was a most dreadful instrument of torture and suffering. It was made of sinews of oxen, and sharp bones were inter-twisted among the sinews so that every time the lash came down upon a body, these pieces of bone inflicted fearful lacerations and literally tore off chunks of flesh from the person’s bones. This is what Christ endured in accomplishing our redemption. But the physical suffering was not the worst. Rather, the weight of human sin and the separation from God the Father because of His wrath against sin were the real causes of the Savior’s death.

     But simply knowing about Christ’s suffering and death is not enough. We must personally appropriate this to our own lives. We must say, “It was for me!” We must allow the Holy Spirit to do in us subjectively all that Christ has done for us objectively. Then, after we have experienced this redemptive work in our own lives, we must humbly, lovingly, and thoughtfully “follow in His steps” and seek to restore others.

     The five stanzas of this thoughtful hymn cover the whole story of redemption, from the Savior’s suffering to His second coming. When this hymn is sung, then, all of the verses must be used; none can be deleted. Start softly and slowly and gradually build to a thrilling climax—“O how I praise Him—He’s coming for me!”

     Wounded for me, wounded for me, there on the cross He was wounded for me; gone my transgressions, and now I am free, all because Jesus was wounded for me.
     Dying for me, dying for me, there on the cross He was dying for me; now in His death my redemption I see, all because Jesus was dying for me.
     Risen for me, risen for me, up from the grave He has risen for me; now evermore from death’s sting I am free, all because Jesus has risen for me.
     Living for me, living for me, up in the skies He is living for me; daily He’s pleading and praying for me, all because Jesus is living for me.
     Coming for me, coming for me, one day to earth He is coming for me; then with what joy His dear face I shall see; O how I praise Him—He’s coming for me!

     For Today: Psalm 65:3; 103:12; Isaiah 53; Ephesians 2:5.

     Let your soul rejoice as you review the complete redemption Christ has provided for you. Sing this hymn as you go realizing that He was ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

A Guide to Fervent Prayer
     A.W. Pink | (1886-1952)

          That He Is “the God of All Grace” Is Uniquely a Gospel Truth

     Thirdly, let us contemplate its Object: “The God of all grace.” Nature does not reveal Him as such, for man has to work hard and earn what he obtains from her. The workings of Providence do not, for there is a stern aspect as well as a benign one to them; and, as a whole, they rather exemplify the truth that we reap as we sow. Still less does the Law, as such, exhibit God in this character, for its reward is a matter of debt and not of grace. It is only in the Gospel that He is clearly made manifest as “the God of all grace.” Our valuation of Him as such is exactly proportioned by our devaluation of ourselves, for grace is the gratuitous favor of God to the undeserving and ill-deserving. Therefore we cannot truly appreciate it until we are made sensible of our utter unworthiness and vileness. He might well be the God of inflexible justice and unsparing wrath to rebels against His government. Such indeed He is to all who are outside of Christ, and will continue so for all eternity. But the glorious Gospel discovers to hell-deserving sinners the amazing grace of God to pardon, and to cleanse the foulest who repent and believe. Grace devised the plan of redemption; grace executed it; and grace applies it and makes it effectual. Peter previously made mention of “the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10), for nothing less will avail for those who are guilty of “manifold transgressions” and “mighty sins” (Amos 5:12). The grace of God is manifold not only numerically but in kind, in the rich variety of its manifestations. Every blessing we enjoy is to be ascribed to grace. But the appellation “the God of all grace” is even more comprehensive; yea, it is incomprehensible to all finite intelligences. This title, as we have seen, is set over against what is said of the devil in verse 8, where he is portrayed in all his terribleness: as our adversary for malice; likened to a lion for strength; to a roaring lion for dread; described as walking about for unwearied diligence, “seeking whom he may devour” unless God prevent. How blessed and consolatory is the contrast: “But God” — the Almighty, the Self-sufficient and All-sufficient One — “the God of all grace.” How comforting is the singling out of this attribute when we have to do with Satan in temptation! If the God of all grace be for us, who can be against us? When Paul was so severely tried by the messenger (angel) of Satan who was sent to buffet him, and he thrice prayed for its removal, God assured him of His relief: “My grace is sufficient for thee” (2 Cor. 12:9).

          The God of All Grace: A Great Encouragement to Prayer

     Though mention is made frequently in the Scriptures of the grace of God and of His being gracious, yet nowhere but in this verse do we find him denominated “the God of all grace.” There is a special emphasis here that claims our best attention: not simply is He “the God of grace,” but “the God of all grace.” As Goodwin showed, He is “the God of all grace” (1) essentially in His own character, (2) in His eternal purpose concerning His people, and (3) in His actual dealings with them. God's people personally receive constant proof that He is indeed so; and those of them whose thoughts are formed by His Word know that the benefits with which He daily loads them are the out-workings of His everlasting design of grace toward them. But they need to go still farther back, or raise their eyes yet higher, and perceive that all the riches of grace He ordained, and of which they are made the recipients, are from and in His very nature. “The grace in His nature is the fountain or spring; the grace of His purposes is the wellhead, and the grace in His dispensations the streams,” says Goodwin. It was the grace of His nature that caused Him to form “thoughts of peace” toward His people (Jer. 29:11), as it is the grace in His heart that moves Him to fulfil the same. In other words, the grace of His very nature, what He is in Himself, is such that it guarantees the making good of all His benevolent designs.

     As He is the Almighty, self-sufficient and omnipotent, with whom all things are possible, so He is also an all-gracious God in Himself—lacking no perfection to make Him infinitely benign. There is therefore a sea of grace in God to feed all the streams of His purposes and dispensations that are to issue therefrom. Here then is our grand consolation: all the grace there is in His nature, which makes Him to be the “God of all grace” to His children, renders certain not only that He will manifest Himself as such to them, but guarantees the supply of their every need and ensures the lavishing of the exceeding riches of His grace upon them in the ages to come (Eph. 2:7). Look then beyond those streams of grace of which you are now the partaker to the God-man, Jesus the Anointed One, who is “full of grace” (John 1:14), and ask for continual and larger supplies from Him. The straitness is in ourselves and not in Him, for in God there is a boundless and limitless supply. I beg you (as I urge myself) to remember that when you come to the mercyseat (to make known your requests) you are about to petition “the God of all grace.” In Him there is an infinite ocean to draw upon, and He bids you come to Him, saying, “open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Ps. 8 1:10). Not in vain has He declared, “According to your faith be it unto you.”

          Only by Faith Can We Enjoy the God of All Grace

     The Giver is greater than all His gifts, yet there must be a personal and appropriating faith in order for any of us to enjoy Him. Only thus can we particularize what is general. God is the God of all grace to all saints, but faith has to be individually directed toward God by me if I am to know and delight in Him for what He actually is. We have an example of this in Psalm 59, where David declared, “The God of my mercy shall prevent [or “anticipate”] me” (v. 10 brackets mine). There we find him appropriating God to himself personally. Observe, first, how David lays hold of the essential mercy of God, that mercy which is embedded in His very nature. He exults again in verse 17: “Unto thee, O my strength, will I sing: for God is my defence, and the God of my mercy”.) The God of all grace is my Strength. He is my God, and therefore the God of my mercy. I lay claim to Him as such; all the mercy there is in Him is mine. Since He is my God, then all that is in Him is mine. It was, after all, the mercy and grace that are in Him that moved Him to set His love upon me and to enter into covenant with me, saying, “I will be his God, and he shall be my son” (Rev. 2 1:7). Says Goodwin:

     “You [have] heard [it said], God is the God of all grace to the brotherhood; I tell thee, if any soul had all the needs that all the brotherhood have, if nothing would serve his turn, but all the grace of God that He hath for the whole, yea, in the whole of Himself, He would lay it out for thee...Poor soul, thou usest to say, this or that is my sin, and it is so; a grievous sin perhaps, and I am prone to it. And again, this is my misery; but withal, I beseech thee to consider, that God is the God of thy mercy, and that all the mercy in God, upon occasion, and for a need, is thine, and all upon as good a title as that sin is thine; for the free donation of God, and of His will, is as good a title as the inheritance of sin in thee.”

     Thus we see that God's mercy shall be employed on our behalf in our hour of need as though each of us were His only child. Just as surely as we had inherited the guilt and miseries of Adam's transgressions have we, who are in Christ, title to all of God's grace and mercy.

     Furthermore, observe that David lays hold of the purposing mercy of God. Each individual saint has appointed and allotted to him that which he may call “my mercy.” God has set apart in His decree a portion so abundant that it can never be exhausted either by your sins or your needs. “The God of all mercy shall prevent me.” From all eternity He has anticipated and made full provision in advance for all my needs, just as a wise father has a medicine chest prepared with remedies for the ailments of his children. “And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear” (Isa. 65:24). What an amazing condescension it is that God should make this a characteristic of Himself, that He becomes the God of the mercy of every particular child of His!

     Finally, let us lay hold of His dispensing mercy, that which is actually bestowed upon us moment by moment. Here, too, has the believer every occasion to say “The God of my mercy,” for every blessing enjoyed by me proceeds from His hand. This is no empty title of His, for the fact that David's use of it is recorded for us in Holy Writ ensures that He will make it good. When I use it in true faith and childlike dependence upon Him, He binds Himself to take care of my interests in every way. Not only is He my God personally, but also of my needs.

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