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Judges 15     Acts 19     Jeremiah 28     Mark 14


Judges 15

Samson Defeats the Philistines

Judges 15 1 After some days, at the time of wheat harvest, Samson went to visit his wife with a young goat. And he said, “I will go in to my wife in the chamber.” But her father would not allow him to go in. 2 And her father said, “I really thought that you utterly hated her, so I gave her to your companion. Is not her younger sister more beautiful than she? Please take her instead.” 3 And Samson said to them, “This time I shall be innocent in regard to the Philistines, when I do them harm.” 4 So Samson went and caught 300 foxes and took torches. And he turned them tail to tail and put a torch between each pair of tails. 5 And when he had set fire to the torches, he let the foxes go into the standing grain of the Philistines and set fire to the stacked grain and the standing grain, as well as the olive orchards. 6 Then the Philistines said, “Who has done this?” And they said, “Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because he has taken his wife and given her to his companion.” And the Philistines came up and burned her and her father with fire. 7 And Samson said to them, “If this is what you do, I swear I will be avenged on you, and after that I will quit.” 8 And he struck them hip and thigh with a great blow, and he went down and stayed in the cleft of the rock of Etam.

9 Then the Philistines came up and encamped in Judah and made a raid on Lehi. 10 And the men of Judah said, “Why have you come up against us?” They said, “We have come up to bind Samson, to do to him as he did to us.” 11 Then 3,000 men of Judah went down to the cleft of the rock of Etam, and said to Samson, “Do you not know that the Philistines are rulers over us? What then is this that you have done to us?” And he said to them, “As they did to me, so have I done to them.” 12 And they said to him, “We have come down to bind you, that we may give you into the hands of the Philistines.” And Samson said to them, “Swear to me that you will not attack me yourselves.” 13 They said to him, “No; we will only bind you and give you into their hands. We will surely not kill you.” So they bound him with two new ropes and brought him up from the rock.

14 When he came to Lehi, the Philistines came shouting to meet him. Then the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him, and the ropes that were on his arms became as flax that has caught fire, and his bonds melted off his hands. 15 And he found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, and put out his hand and took it, and with it he struck 1,000 men. 16 And Samson said,

“With the jawbone of a donkey,
heaps upon heaps,
with the jawbone of a donkey
have I struck down a thousand men.”

17 As soon as he had finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone out of his hand. And that place was called Ramath-lehi.

18 And he was very thirsty, and he called upon the Lord and said, “You have granted this great salvation by the hand of your servant, and shall I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” 19 And God split open the hollow place that is at Lehi, and water came out from it. And when he drank, his spirit returned, and he revived. Therefore the name of it was called En-hakkore; it is at Lehi to this day. 20 And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.


Acts 19

Paul in Ephesus

Acts 19 1 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John's baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. 7 There were about twelve men in all.

8 And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. 10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

The Sons of Sceva

11 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. 13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15 But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. 18 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19 And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.

A Riot at Ephesus

21 Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” 22 And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.

23 About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. 24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. 25 These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. 26 And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. 27 And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”

28 When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul's companions in travel. 30 But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him. 31 And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater. 32 Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. 33 Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward. And Alexander, motioning with his hand, wanted to make a defense to the crowd. 34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

35 And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, “Men of Ephesus, who is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky? 36 Seeing then that these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash. 37 For you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess. 38 If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. 39 But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly. 40 For we really are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.” 41 And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.


Jeremiah 28

Hananiah the False Prophet

Jeremiah 28 1 In that same year, at the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the fifth month of the fourth year, Hananiah the son of Azzur, the prophet from Gibeon, spoke to me in the house of the Lord, in the presence of the priests and all the people, saying, 2 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. 3 Within two years I will bring back to this place all the vessels of the Lord's house, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon. 4 I will also bring back to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all the exiles from Judah who went to Babylon, declares the Lord, for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.”

5 Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to Hananiah the prophet in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the Lord, 6 and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord make the words that you have prophesied come true, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the Lord, and all the exiles. 7 Yet hear now this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. 8 The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. 9 As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.”

10 Then the prophet Hananiah took the yoke-bars from the neck of Jeremiah the prophet and broke them. 11 And Hananiah spoke in the presence of all the people, saying, “Thus says the Lord: Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all the nations within two years.” But Jeremiah the prophet went his way.

12 Sometime after the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke-bars from off the neck of Jeremiah the prophet, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 13 “Go, tell Hananiah, ‘Thus says the Lord: You have broken wooden bars, but you have made in their place bars of iron. 14 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have put upon the neck of all these nations an iron yoke to serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and they shall serve him, for I have given to him even the beasts of the field.’” 15 And Jeremiah the prophet said to the prophet Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. 16 Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will remove you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have uttered rebellion against the Lord.’”

17 In that same year, in the seventh month, the prophet Hananiah died.


Mark 14

The Plot to Kill Jesus

Mark 14 1 It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, 2 for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.”

Jesus Anointed at Bethany

3 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. 4 There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? 5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. 6 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. 9 And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

Judas to Betray Jesus

10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11 And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.

The Passover with the Disciples

12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 13 And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” 16 And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

17 And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18 And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” 19 They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” 20 He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

Institution of the Lord's Supper

22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

Jesus Foretells Peter's Denial

26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.

Jesus Prays in Gethsemane

32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. 41 And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus

43 And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” 45 And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 46 And they laid hands on him and seized him. 47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 48 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” 50 And they all left him and fled.

A Young Man Flees

51 And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, 52 but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.

Jesus Before the Council

53 And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. 54 And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. 55 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. 56 For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. 57 And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. 60 And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” 61 But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63 And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? 64 You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. 65 And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.

Peter Denies Jesus

66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

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The End of Soap Oprah

By Carl R. Trueman 3/1/2011

     The passing of the Oprah Winfrey Show is surely worthy of being described with that most overworked of clichés, as “the end of an era.” Except, of course, it is not the end of an era so much as the morphing of Ms. Winfrey’s career into a new form. It is hard to imagine that the public has seen the last of her, and the values and culture that her show represented are here for the foreseeable future.

     I well remember one of my sisters raving about how “Oprah says this, Oprah says that!” in the late nineteen-eighties, which I expect was about the time her show was starting to enjoy international success. At the time, I assumed it was just another bland American show, designed to showcase beautiful people with vast wealth and minimal personality. In fact, of course, the program proved to be far more than that. It was not simply the chat-show equivalent of a soap opera, designed to fill a few idle moments that the viewing public might have in an afternoon; it became a powerful force within wider society.

     Take, for example, the idea of Oprah’s Book Club. To give credit where credit is due, many of the books chosen for the club are good reads. I confess that, when something I want to read turns out to be an “Oprah Choice,” I try either to find a copy in the store without the dreaded “O” logo on the front or I order online — like most snobs, I like to think I am not a snob, but things like this rather blow my cover. Yet the fact remains: many of the Oprah choices are good reads, and no one can deny that, whatever the motivation, encouraging people to read is on the whole a good and virtuous thing. The marketing power may be somewhat worrying — she can, literally, make almost any book into an overnight bestseller — but, as I said, credit where credit is due.

     Of course, some of the books chosen give very deep insights into the overall view of the world promoted by Oprah. Take, for example, the case of James Frey and his book, A Million Little Pieces, which was chosen by Oprah for her book club in 2005. It became a runaway bestseller, at one point selling 176,000 copies in a single week. The problem, of course, was that the book was not what it was supposed to be. It presented itself as Frey’s autobiographical account of addiction, imprisonment, and an all-around misspent youth. The book turned out to be a pack of lies. Outed by The Smoking Gun website, Frey appeared on Oprah’s show in 2007 to confess his sins. Prior to that, however, there was a most instructive television moment: Frey appeared on Larry King Live to deny the accusations made by The Smoking Gun and, during the interview, Ms. Winfrey herself called the show in order to defend Frey. During her intervention, she told viewers that she had been impressed with the book, not because every jot and tittle of its claims were true, but because it had a key underlying message of redemption.

     Nevertheless, as public outcry grew, and suspicions mounted that Frey’s motivation in passing off fiction as fact was probably motivated more by a desire to become famous and make money than offer his readers an inspiring account of fall and redemption, Oprah changed her tune and forced him to do public penance in that most modern of confessionals, her chat show. But the “poker tell” had occurred with Larry King — for Oprah, it is the emotional impact that counts; truth in the traditional sense is subordinate to truth in an aesthetic sense. Taste is tops.

     Whether Oprah is a cause, a symptom, or something of both, there is no doubt that she is a sign of the times and of the wider culture. The gospel of redemption through therapeutic public self-disclosure is her stock in trade. Frey’s book was initially attractive to her because it articulated one man’s search for his true identity and, as she herself initially claimed in her defense of him, the historical accuracy of his account was not the point at issue. The truth, if you like, is not “out there,” but within each person. That is the constant message of her shows, and it accounts for the vast number of times phrases such as “be true to yourself” and “I just know in my heart that this is true” or their equivalents occur on her show.

     Oprah’s show may be gone, but the soap opera plotline that she exemplified and promoted will live on in our society. The tragedy, of course, is that redemption of the Frey variety is exactly what it is — ultimately little more than wishful thinking. Redemption does not come from the public disclosure of a self that exists only in the imagination but from the self-disclosure of God who enters into history. That may not be tasteful by the exacting standards of the Oprah Winfrey set; but it is truthful.

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     Dr. Carl R. Trueman is Paul Woolley Professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

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Preaching Christ

By R.C. Sproul 4/1/2011

     The church of the twenty-first century faces many crises. One of the most serious is the crisis of preaching. Widely diverse philosophies of preaching vie for acceptance among contemporary clergy. Some see the sermon as a fireside chat; others, as a stimulus for psychological health; still others, as a commentary on contemporary politics. But some still view the exposition of sacred Scripture as a necessary ingredient to the office of preaching. In light of these views, it is always helpful to go to the New Testament to seek or glean the method and message found in the biblical record of apostolic preaching.

     In the first instance, we must distinguish between two types of preaching. The first has been called kerygma; the second, didache. This distinction refers to the difference between proclamation (kerygma) and teaching or instruction (didache). It seems that the strategy of the apostolic church was to win converts by means of the proclamation of the gospel. Once people responded to that gospel, they were baptized and received into the visible church. They then underwent a regular, systematic exposure to the teaching of the apostles, through regular preaching (homilies) and in particular groups of catechetical instruction. In the initial outreach to the Gentile community, the apostles did not go into great detail about Old Testament redemptive history. That knowledge was assumed among Jewish audiences, but it was not held among the Gentiles. Nevertheless, even to the Jewish audiences, the central emphasis of the evangelistic preaching was on the announcement that the Messiah had come and ushered in God’s kingdom.

     If we take time to examine the sermons of the apostles that are recorded in the book of Acts, we see a somewhat common and familiar structure to them. In this analysis, we can discern the apostolic kerygma, the basic proclamation of the gospel. Here the focus in the preaching was on the person and work of Jesus. The gospel itself was called the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is about Him; it involves the proclamation and declaration of what He accomplished in His life, in His death, and in His resurrection. After the details of His death, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of God were preached, the apostles called the people to be converted to Christ—to repent of their sins and receive Christ by faith.

     When we seek to extrapolate from these examples how the apostolic church did evangelism, we must ask: What is appropriate for the transfer of apostolic principles of preaching to the contemporary church? Some churches believe that a person is required to preach the gospel or to communicate the kerygma in every sermon preached. This view sees the emphasis in Sunday morning preaching as one of evangelism, of proclaiming the gospel. Many preachers today, however, say they are preaching the gospel on a regular basis when in some cases they have never preached the gospel at all, because what they call the gospel is not the message of the person and work of Christ and how His accomplished work and its benefits can be appropriated to the individual by faith. Rather, the gospel of Christ is exchanged for therapeutic promises of a purposeful life or having personal fulfillment by coming to Jesus. In messages such as these, the focus is on us rather than on Him.

     On the other hand, in looking at the pattern of worship in the early church, we see that the weekly assembly of the saints involved a coming together for worship, fellowship, prayer, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and devotion to the teaching of the apostles. If we were there, we would see that the apostolic preaching covered the whole of redemptive history and the sum of divine revelation, not being restricted simply to the evangelistic kerygma.

     So, again, the kerygma is the essential proclamation of the life, death, resurrection, ascension, and rule of Jesus Christ, as well as a call to conversion and repentance. It is this kerygma that the New Testament indicates is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). There can be no acceptable substitute for it. When the church loses her kerygma, she loses her identity.

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

R.C. Sproul Books:

Meeting Jesus at an Old Testament Feast

By Dr. John R. Sittema 4/1/2011

     The default sin of the human heart is to put ourselves first. “It really is all about me!” was once a funny t-shirt slogan; it has now become a way of life. Unless preachers and Bible teachers are careful, the way we handle Scripture can actually feed this beast. We rush to application, consumed by the question, “How is this relevant to me?”

     But the Bible is theocentric, not anthropocentric. It is more concerned to trace God’s ways — His character, purposes, and His cosmic redemptive plan (“For God so loved the cosmos”) — than it is to give modern believers character-building resource material (“be courageous like Daniel; lead like Nehemiah; with the faith of Abraham”).

     We must start by remembering the overarching plot of Scripture. The Bible is remarkable: sixty-six books, dozens of human authors, fifteen hundred years in the making, various types of literature. But its grand diversity is held together by a golden thread, a single plot in three movements — creation, fall, redemption — that is unveiled in its first few pages. This plot establishes the crucial backstory to the coming of Jesus Christ. A backstory introduces characters, establishes relationships, and defines key terms. In this case, the Old Testament introduces Jesus, defines His work as Messiah, and establishes the theological framework for understanding God’s redemption.

     A brief glance at two Old Testament festivals is illustrative. The first is Passover, the familiar feast that anchored the exodus. Some of its features (the angel of death, blood on doorposts, a meal eaten in haste) are well known parts of the story. Others are not. What matters is that all are shadows of the coming Christ.

     Jesus ministered in a Jewish context, keeping the Passover with His disciples. But He took pains to show that the customs were more than context; they defined Him.

     The Torah required selected lambs to be put on public display for four days (Ex. 12:3–6) to verify that they were without blemish. Jesus, following the triumphal entry, presented Himself in the temple for that exact period, for that very purpose. He submitted to testing by the Pharisees, Herodians, Sadducees, and scribes (Mark 12:13), tried before the Sanhedrin and Pilate, He proved spotless.

     “This is my body” and “this cup is a new covenant in my blood” are Lord’s Supper keystones, but they were spoken during the Passover Seder. The meal — and the true exodus — are found in Jesus.

     Passover was both a family and a communal feast. The lamb chosen “for the nation” was staked out in the temple courtyard on Passover at 9 a.m, and slaughtered publicly at 3 p.m. So was Jesus — nailed to the cross at 9 a.m., He died at 3 p.m., just as the four-footed beast died in a liturgy that concluded, “It is finished!”

     Why are such details important? Because the point of Jesus’ death — contra pop theology’s selfish twist — is not merely how much physical pain He endured for me. It is, rather, what God accomplished by His death. The answer is found in Passover imagery. The Passover story (Ex. 12:2) began with strange words: “This month shall be for you…the first month of the year.” With Passover, God reset Israel’s calendar. Her old life as slaves was ending, a new life as sons beginning. Jesus’ death announced the same, but on a grander scale. Paul declares, “We have been united with him in a death like his” (Rom. 6:5). But he also exults, “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54). Death with a capital “D” — not only personal physical death, but sin’s devastating reign over the first Adam’s world (Rom. 5:12–21) — was defeated in the cross of Christ.

     If death’s reign was defeated in the cross, where dawns the new? It bursts forth in Jesus’ resurrection on the Feast of Firstfruits. This feast’s Old Testament roots were agricultural: early sheaves were brought to the tabernacle to share God’s bounty with the poor and aliens. But the feast always tilted Israel forward, rehearsing the day when all of life would be “very good” again as it once had been.

     Paul uses festal language to explain this (1 Cor. 15:20). As Jesus’ death conquered death, so, too — as the second Adam — His resurrection dawned a new creation, a kingdom of grace (Rom. 5:21). Christ is the “firstfruits” of this new world. Raised with Him, we, too, who “have the firstfruits of the Spirit” (8:23), are the firstfruits of the new creation (James 1:18).

     Thus the Old Testament Feast of Firstfruits is the ground of a vigorous and practical New Testament eschatology (view of the age to come).

     These are only two brief examples; there are many more feasts, countless temple practices, and narrative stories that serve to rehearse the redemption that would come in Jesus. A gospel shaped by the rich Old Testament backstory is evangelistically more compelling, for it honors the cohesive unity of Scripture. And such a gospel produces disciples with a healthier self-image: they resist the default sin of putting themselves first and learn to deny themselves and follow Him.

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     Dr. John R. Sittema is senior pastor at Christ Church (PCA) in Jacksonville, Fla. He is also a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, N.C., and an adjunct professor at Mid-America Reformed Seminary.

Killing Anger

By John Piper 4/1/2011

     In marriage, anger rivals lust as a killer. My guess is that anger is a worse enemy than lust. It also destroys other kinds of camaraderie. Some people have more anger than they think, because it has disguises. When willpower hinders rage, anger smolders beneath the surface, and the teeth of the soul grind with frustration. It can come out in tears that look more like hurt. But the heart has learned that this may be the only way to hurt back.

     It may come out as silence because we have resolved not to fight. It may show up in picky criticism and relentless correction. It may strike out at people who have nothing to do with its origin. It will often feel warranted by the wrongness of the cause. After all, Jesus got angry (Mark 3:5), and Paul says, “Be angry and do not sin” (Eph. 4:26).

     However, good anger among fallen people is rare. That’s why James says, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19–20). And Paul says, “Men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling” (1 Tim. 2:8), and, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you” (Eph. 4:31).

     Therefore, one of the greatest battles of life is the battle to “put away anger,” not just control its expressions. To help you fight this battle, here are nine biblical weapons.

     First, ponder the rights of Christ to be angry, but then how He endured the cross, as an example of long-suffering: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).

     Second, ponder how much you have been forgiven and how much mercy you have been shown. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32)

     Third, ponder your own sinfulness and take the beam out of your own eye: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:3–5).

     Fourth, think about how you do not want to give place to the Devil, because harbored anger is the one thing the Bible explicitly says opens a door and invites him in: “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Eph. 4:26–27).

     Fifth, ponder the folly of your own self-immolation, that is, numerous detrimental effects of anger to the one who is angry — some spiritual, some mental, some physical, and some relational: “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones” (Prov. 3:7–8)

     Sixth, confess your sin of anger to some trusted friend, as well as to the offender, if possible. This is a great healing act: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16).

     Seventh, let your anger be the key to unlock the dungeons of pride and self-pity in your heart and replace them with love: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:4–7).

     Eighth, remember that God is going to work it all for your good as you trust in His future grace. Your offender is even doing you good, if you will respond with love: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2–4).

     Ninth, remember that God will vindicate your just cause and settle all accounts better than you could. Either your offender will pay in hell or Christ has paid for him. Your payback would be double jeopardy or an offence to the cross: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Rom. 12:19). “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting his cause to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).

     May we kill our anger, and fight for joy and love each day.

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      (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

     John Piper Books:

Young Women, Idolatry & the Powerful Gospel

By Elyse Fitzpatrick 4/1/2011

     We are all inveterate worshipers — it’s just something we do without thinking about it. Worshiping is part of our nature because God created us to worship Him, and, by doing so, we bring both Him and ourselves deep pleasure (Pss. 16:11; 149:4). The world is full of worshipers, and some of them actually worship God. But the truth is that most of us worship idols.

     It’s easy to identify idols that exist outside of us — like statues of Buddha, fast cars, or beautiful houses. Pinpointing the idols that reside within is a little trickier, however. These idols of our hearts are the desires, ideals, or expectations that we worship, serve, and long for. James 1 tells us that these desires motivate us to sin. In James 4, we learn that our desires are the cause of the conflicts in our lives. Our idolatrous desires entice us to sin in order to obtain what we think we must have in order to be happy. Young and old, male and female alike, we’re all driven by our deep desires, our idols.

     Because women have been created with a specific call to relationship — to be their husbands’ helpers (Gen. 2:18) — it is very easy for them to idolize and live for relationships with men, to look to men as the source of their identity and purpose. Many young women, in particular, are tempted to see themselves as having worth only if they are in a relationship with a man. This propensity toward idolizing men is easily seen in family life. How many conflicts have been occasioned by parents’ restricting of contact between their daughter and a guy she thinks she just can’t live without? Frequently, what girls wear, who they hang around with, and what forms of media they embrace are intrinsically tied to getting or keeping the attention and approval of boys. Protestations of Christian allegiance aside, popularity with certain guys is often our daughters’ functional god.

     Of course, the gospel provides a young woman with the ultimate antidote to the worship of any human’s acceptance and approval. The antidote is the worship of the One she was created to worship, Jesus Christ. He, the God-man, can become her identity as she hears Him call her to come and worship Him and find her life in Him rather than in any other man (Col. 3:4). He welcomes and assures her that, although she is an idolater, she is also loved and welcomed by the only Man whose opinion really matters. She doesn’t need to attach herself to anyone other than Him, for in Him she has everything she needs (Phil. 4:19). He is her Bridegroom. She is clothed in His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). She is complete in Him (Col. 2:10).

     Young women, like the rest of us, were created to worship. The sirensong of the world entices them to believe that outward beauty, popularity, and the right boy will satisfy, but it never does — no matter how she pursues these gods, not even if she marries Mr. Right. Like us, she will never be satisfied with worshiping and serving the creation because there is a Creator who has already claimed His place as Husband. He not only deserves our worship, He’s the only One grand enough to captivate our hearts and turn our futile idolatry, our chasing after the wind, into joyful worship. Our young women need to be dazzled by the beauty of their Redeemer King. They need to hear His story, His beauty, His love, His excellencies over and over again so that the images they are tempted to worship will pale in comparison.

     Daughters may begin to learn how to identify idols in their own lives as parents and leaders transparently admit and confess their own struggle with idolatry. When a dad confesses that he longs for a promotion at work more than he should (and is angry when he gets passed over again) or when mom admits that she’s addicted to over-exercise so that she can approve of her appearance, a daughter will feel at liberty to admit her slavery to the boys’ opinions. A young woman who knows that she’s not alone in this struggle for singlehearted devotion will more freely admit her own idolatry and will listen more closely when her parents speak out of hearts drenched in humility. And, of course, parents can also help their daughters by praying that the Holy Spirit would make Jesus more beautiful than anyone else.

     How long has it been since your daughter’s heart was soaked in the gospel truth of this great One who gave His life for her that she might be free to worship Him and rest in His welcoming love? The antidote to idolatrous worship isn’t found in rules prohibiting idolatry. Rules don’t dazzle and captivate. They can’t generate worship. They’re not powerful enough to transform. What is? The glory of the Lord as seen in the face of Jesus Christ. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18; see also 4:6).

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     Elyse M. Fitzpatrick is a retreat and conference speaker, and is the director of Women Helping Women Ministries. You can follow her on Twitter @ElyseFitz.

Judges 15; Acts 19; Jeremiah 28; Mark 14

By Don Carson 8/1/2018

     One of the strangest accounts in the book of Acts concerns the seven sons of Sceva (Acts 19:11-20). Paul’s ministry in Ephesus lasted some considerable time, perhaps two and a half years, and during that time “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul”(19:11). The result is that various “competitors” tried to keep up with him. By itself, this was not surprising. It has always been so. When God especially empowered Moses to perform miracles before Pharaoh, the magicians of Egypt could reproduce most (though not all) of what he did.

     So in Paul’s day some Jews steeped in syncretism traveled around, engaging in some kind of deliverance ministry. They had little idea what they were engaged in. When they saw what Paul was doing in the name of Jesus, they started to refer to that name too, as if it were nothing more than some magic talisman: “They would say, ‘In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.’” (Acts 19:13).

     The seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish priest, were particularly engaged in this operation. One day the evil spirit they were trying to exercise talked back to them: “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” (Acts 19:15). Then the man possessed by this spirit leaped on them and beat up all seven of them.

     Note:

     First, the result of this encounter was entirely beneficial. When the story circulated, many were seized with a healthy fear and an enlarged respect for the name of the Lord Jesus. This was a name so powerful that it could not be treated as a magic formula. This name could not be domesticated. The result was that infatuation with occult practices was curbed. Many confessed their evil deeds, and others brought their occult books and burned them, totaling an enormous value (Acts 19:17-19). “In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power” (Acts 19:20).

     Second, the really striking element is the utterance of the evil spirit: “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” One can understand why Jesus would be known among demonic powers. There is no surprise there. But Paul is known too! His ministry had been assaulting the powers of darkness. He was known to be protected and defended by the living Christ — there is no way the demon could have used the possessed man to beat him up. These other characters were another matter; as far as the demon was concerned, they were a bit of a joke, easily ignored, easily subdued and shamed. But Paul was known!

     Christians engaging the Enemy will be known not only in the courts of heaven but in the courts of hell.

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

Don Carson Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 80

Restore Us, O God
80 To The Choirmaster: According To Lilies. A Testimony. Of Asaph, A Psalm.

8 You brought a vine out of Egypt;
you drove out the nations and planted it.
9 You cleared the ground for it;
it took deep root and filled the land.
10 The mountains were covered with its shade,
the mighty cedars with its branches.
11 It sent out its branches to the sea
and its shoots to the River.
12 Why then have you broken down its walls,
so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
13 The boar from the forest ravages it,
and all that move in the field feed on it.

14 Turn again, O God of hosts!
Look down from heaven, and see;
have regard for this vine,
15 the stock that your right hand planted,
and for the son whom you made strong for yourself.
16 They have burned it with fire; they have cut it down;
may they perish at the rebuke of your face!
17 But let your hand be on the man of your right hand,
the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself!
18 Then we shall not turn back from you;
give us life, and we will call upon your name!

19 Restore us, O LORD God of hosts!
Let your face shine, that we may be saved!

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     32. The design of the Sixth Commandment is, that, since God has bound mankind by a kind of unity, the safety of all ought to be considered by each person; whence it follows that we are forbidden to do violence to private individuals, and are commanded to exercise benevolence.

33. The design of the Seventh Commandment is, that, because God loves purity, we ought to put away from us all uncleanness. He therefore forbids adultery in mind, word, and deed.

34. The design of the Eighth Commandment is, that, since injustice is an abomination to God, he requires us to render to every man what is his own. Now men steal, either by violence, or by malicious imposture, or by craft, or by sycophancy, &c.

35. The design of the Ninth Commandment is, that, since God, who is truth, abhors falsehood, he forbids calumnies and false accusations, by which the name of our neighbour is injured,--and lies, by which any one suffers loss in his fortunes. On the other hand, he requires every one of us to defend the name and property of our neighbour by asserting the truth.

36. The design of the Tenth Commandment is, that, since God would have the whole soul pervaded by love, every desire averse to charity must be banished from our minds; and therefore every feeling which tends to the injury of another is forbidden.

37. We have said that Christ is revealed to us by the Gospel. And, first, the agreement between the Gospel, or the New Testament, and the Old Testament is demonstrated: 1. Because the godly, under both dispensations, have had the same hope of immortality; 2. They have had the same covenant, founded not on the works of men, but on the mercy of God; 3. They have had the same Mediator between God and men--Christ.

38. Next, five points of difference between the two dispensations are pointed out. 1. Under the Law the heavenly inheritance was held out to them under earthly blessings; but under the Gospel our minds are led directly to meditate upon it. 2. The Old Testament, by means of figures, presented the image only, while the reality was absent; but the New Testament exhibits the present truth. 3. The former, in respect of the Law, was the ministry of condemnation and death; the latter, of righteousness and life. 4. The former is connected with bondage, which begets fear in the mind; the latter is connected with freedom, which produces confidence. 5. The word had been confined to the single nation of the Jews; but now it is preached to all nations.

39. The sum of evangelical doctrine is, to teach, 1. What Christ is; 2. Why he was sent; 3. In what manner he accomplished the work of redemption.

40. Christ is God and man: God, that he may bestow on his people righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; Man, because he had to pay the debt of man.

41. He was sent to perform the office, 1. Of a Prophet, by preaching the truth, by fulfilling the prophecies, by teaching and doing the will of his Father; 2. Of a King, by governing the whole Church and every member of it, and by defending his people from every kind of adversaries; 3. Of a Priest, by offering his body as a sacrifice for sins, by reconciling God to us though his obedience, and by perpetual intercession for his people to the Father.

42. He performed the office of a Redeemer by dying for our sins, by rising again for our justification, by opening heaven to us through his ascension, by sitting at the right hand of the Father whence he will come to judge the quick and the dead; and, therefore, he procured for us the grace of God and salvation.

__________________________________________________________________

BOOK 3

43. We receive Christ the Redeemer by the power of the Holy Spirit, who unites us to Christ; and, therefore, he is called the Spirit of sanctification and adoption, the earnest and seal of our salvation, water, oil, a fountain, fire, the hand of God.

44. Faith is the hand of the soul, which receives, through the same efficacy of the Holy Spirit, Christ offered to us in the Gospel.

45. The general office of faith is, to assent to the truth of God, whenever, whatever, and in what manner soever he speaks; but its peculiar office is, to behold the will of God in Christ, his mercy, the promises of grace, for the full conviction of which the Holy Spirit enlightens our minds and strengthens our hearts.

46. Faith, therefore, is a steady and certain knowledge of the divine kindness towards us, which is founded on a gracious promise through Christ, and is revealed to our minds and sealed on our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

47. The effects of faith are four: 1. Repentance; 2. A Christian life; 3. Justification; 4. Prayer.

48. True repentance consists of two parts: 1. Mortification, which proceeds from the acknowledgment of sin, and a real perception of the divine displeasure; 2. Quickening, the fruits of which are--piety towards God, charity towards our neighbour, the hope of eternal life, holiness of life. With this true repentance is contrasted false repentance, the parts of which are, Contrition, Confession, and Satisfaction. The two former may be referred to true repentance, provided that there be contrition of heart on account of the acknowledgment of sin, and that it be not separated from the hope of forgiveness through Christ; and provided that the confession be either private to God alone, or made to the pastors of the Church willingly and for the purpose of consolation, not for the enumeration of offences, and for introducing a torture of the conscience; or public, which is made to the whole Church, or to one or many persons in presence of the whole Church. What was formerly called Ecclesiastical Satisfaction, that is, what was made for the edification of the Church on account of repentance and public confession of sins, was introduced as due to God by the Sophists; whence sprung the supplements of Indulgences in this world, and the fire of Purgatory after death. But that Contrition of the Sophists, and auricular Confession (as they call it), and the Satisfaction of actual performance, are opposed to the free forgiveness of sins.

49. The two parts of a Christian life are laid down: 1. The love of righteousness; that we may be holy, because God is holy, and because we are united to him, and are reckoned among his people; 2. That a rule may be prescribed to us, which does not permit us to wander in the course of righteousness, and that we may be conformed to Christ. A model of this is laid down to us, which we ought to copy in our whole life. Next are mentioned the blessings of God, which it will argue extreme ingratitude if we do not requite.

50. The sum of the Christian life is denial of ourselves.

51. The ends of this self-denial are four. 1. That we may devote ourselves to God as a living sacrifice. 2. That we may not seek our own things, but those which belong to God and to our neighbour. 3. That we may patiently bear the cross, the fruits of which are--acknowledgment of our weakness, the trial of our patience, correction of faults, more earnest prayer, more cheerful meditation on eternal life. 4. That we may know in what manner we ought to use the present life and its aids, for necessity and delight. Necessity demands that we possess all things as though we possessed them not; that we bear poverty with mildness, and abundance with moderation; that we know how to endure patiently fulness, and hunger, and want; that we pay regard to our neighbour, because we must give account of our stewardship; and that all things correspond to our calling. The delight of praising the kindness of God ought to be with us a stronger argument.

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


  • Leadership Risks 9
  • Grace filled leadership 10
  • End Of The World

#1 Greg Perry  
Covenant Theological Seminary


 

#2 Greg Perry   
Covenant Theological Seminary


 

#3 Michael Williams   
Covenant Theological Seminary


 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     9/1/2015    Study Bibles: Soli Deo Gloria

     I was preaching at a church in Bogotá, Colombia, in 2007. The church met in an old warehouse, and although the congregation was rather large, it was quite poor. After my sermon, I met with several pastors from around Bogotá who gathered to discuss gospel ministry in Colombia. The pastors were interested in knowing more about Reformed theology and how they could begin to teach it in their churches.

     At one point in our discussion, one of the pastors took his Bible and placed it on the table in front of me. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was a copy of ESV MacArthur Study Bible, Personal Size in Spanish. I told this pastor how delighted I was to see that he was using Dr. John MacArthur’s study Bible. He told me that it was through Dr. MacArthur’s ministry that he came to learn about Dr. R.C. Sproul’s ministry and Reformed theology. I will never forget what he told me next. He said the study Bible was the only good resource he had to help him prepare his sermons. He went on to explain how he shared that one copy of the study Bible with three other pastors in Bogotá. Each pastor would use it for three months at a time as he prepared his sermons for the upcoming year. They could not afford commentaries, and the study Bible was the best thing they could find for study notes and cross-references.

     My heart sunk upon hearing that each pastor did not have his own study Bible. I left our discussion that day burdened for my fellow pastors and more committed than ever to get good study Bibles into the hands of pastors around the world. I also left our discussion giving thanks to God for the usefulness, affordability, and accessibility of study Bibles. Upon my return to the States, Dr. Sproul, Chris Larson (president of Ligonier Ministries), and I discussed our need to get the Reformation Study Bible translated into Spanish and other major world languages as soon as we could afford to do so. From that discussion, we began to set in motion the plans for a thoroughly revised edition of the Reformation Study Bible so that we might, in turn, begin to translate the study Bible into other languages as we strive to help fulfill the Great Commission in making disciples of all nations. And I am grateful to God that some of the ministries represented in this issue of Tabletalk have been helping to lead the way in translating their study Bibles and getting them into the hands of people around the world to the end that God would be glorified as His people dig deep into His Word and thereby come to love and glorify Him more and more. That is our ultimate aim—to get God’s people not only to read God’s Word but to study God’s Word, love God’s Word, obey God’s Word, apply God’s Word, hide God’s Word in their hearts, and teach God’s Word to their families, their neighbors, and the nations. That is why we publish study Bibles—to help fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus Christ, for His glory, not our own.

     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

     “There she blows!” was the cry as the lookout sighted Moby Dick. Captain Ahab, with his chief mate Starbuck, sailed the oceans of the world to capture this great white whale. But as fate would have it, when the harpoon struck, the rope flew out so fast it entangled Captain Ahab, pulling him under. This American classic was written by Herman Mehlville, who was born this day, August 1, 1819. In the opening chapters Mehlville warned: “With this sin of disobedience… Jonah flouts at God… He thinks that a ship made by men will carry him into countries where God does not reign.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


And what we’ve tried to do is cover the earth with the Gospel of a man
we don’t really know.
We have implemented all kinds of ridiculous,
preposterous programs
that try to get people to know a Jesus that we can’t really even describe.
And we have become like some kind of glorified salesmen
that if we properly (sell the) product we are trying to push,
then maybe you would be willing to give down your life,
lay down your life for somebody that we said is incredible
instead of just allowing you to experience it for yourself.
--- Damon Thompson

When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
--- Wendell Berry
Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community: Eight Essays

Life with Christ is an endless hope; without Him a hopeless end.
--- Unknown

Original sin distorts us. Actual sin distracts us, and indwelling sin manipulates us.
--- Rosaria Butterfield (interview)
... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 20.

     Cestius Sends Ambassadors To Nero. The People Of Damascus Slay Those Jews That Lived With Them. The People Of Jerusalem After They Had [Left Off] Pursuing Cestius, Return To The City And Get Things Ready For Its Defense And Make A Great Many Generals For Their Armies And Particularly Josephus The Writer Of These Books. Some Account Of His Administration.

     1. After this calamity had befallen Cestius, many of the most eminent of the Jews swam away from the city, as from a ship when it was going to sink; Costobarus, therefore, and Saul, who were brethren, together with Philip, the son of Jacimus, who was the commander of king Agrippa's forces, ran away from the city, and went to Cestius. But then how Antipas, who had been besieged with them in the king's palace, but would not fly away with them, was afterward slain by the seditious, we shall relate hereafter. However, Cestius sent Saul and his friends, at their own desire, to Achaia, to Nero, to inform him of the great distress they were in, and to lay the blame of their kindling the war upon Florus, as hoping to alleviate his own danger, by provoking his indignation against Florus.

     2. In the mean time, the people of Damascus, when they were informed of the destruction of the Romans, set about the slaughter of those Jews that were among them; and as they had them already cooped up together in the place of public exercises, which they had done out of the suspicion they had of them, they thought they should meet with no difficulty in the attempt; yet did they distrust their own wives, which were almost all of them addicted to the Jewish religion; on which account it was that their greatest concern was, how they might conceal these things from them; so they came upon the Jews, and cut their throats, as being in a narrow place, in number ten thousand, and all of them unarmed, and this in one hour's time, without any body to disturb them.

     3. But as to those who had pursued after Cestius, when they were returned back to Jerusalem, they overbore some of those that favored the Romans by violence, and some them persuaded [by en-treaties] to join with them, and got together in great numbers in the temple, and appointed a great many generals for the war. Joseph also, the son of Gorion, 31 and Ananus the high priest, were chosen as governors of all affairs within the city, and with a particular charge to repair the walls of the city; for they did not ordain Eleazar the son of Simon to that office, although he had gotten into his possession the prey they had taken from the Romans, and the money they had taken from Cestius, together with a great part of the public treasures, because they saw he was of a tyrannical temper, and that his followers were, in their behavior, like guards about him. However, the want they were in of Eleazar's money, and the subtle tricks used by him, brought all so about, that the people were circumvented, and submitted themselves to his authority in all public affairs.

     4. They also chose other generals for Idumea; Jesus, the son of Sapphias, one of the high priests; and Eleazar, the son of Ananias, the high priest; they also enjoined Niger, the then governor of Idumea, 32 who was of a family that belonged to Perea, beyond Jordan, and was thence called the Peraite, that he should be obedient to those fore-named commanders. Nor did they neglect the care of other parts of the country; but Joseph the son of Simon was sent as general to Jericho, as was Manasseh to Perea, and John, the Esscue, to the toparchy of Thamna; Lydda was also added to his portion, and Joppa, and Emmaus. But John, the son of Matthias, was made governor of the toparchies of Gophnitica and Acrabattene; as was Josephus, the son of Matthias, of both the Galilees. Gamala also, which was the strongest city in those parts, was put under his command.

     5. So every one of the other commanders administered the affairs of his portion with that alacrity and prudence they were masters of; but as to Josephus, when he came into Galilee, his first care was to gain the good-will of the people of that country, as sensible that he should thereby have in general good success, although he should fail in other points. And being conscious to himself that if he communicated part of his power to the great men, he should make them his fast friends; and that he should gain the same favor from the multitude, if he executed his commands by persons of their own country, and with whom they were well acquainted; he chose out seventy of the most prudent men, and those elders in age, and appointed them to be rulers of all Galilee, as he chose seven judges in every city to hear the lesser quarrels; for as to the greater causes, and those wherein life and death were concerned, he enjoined they should be brought to him and the seventy 33 elders.

     6. Josephus also, when he had settled these rules for determining causes by the law, with regard to the people's dealings one with another, betook himself to make provisions for their safety against external violence; and as he knew the Romans would fall upon Galilee, he built walls in proper places about Jotapata, and Bersabee, and Selamis; and besides these, about Caphareccho, and Japha, and Sigo, and what they call Mount Tabor, and Taricheae, and Tiberias. Moreover, he built walls about the caves near the lake of Gennesar, which places lay in the Lower Galilee; the same he did to the places of Upper Galilee, as well as to the rock called the Rock of the Achabari, and to Seph, and Jamnith, and Meroth; and in Gaulonitis he fortified Seleucia, and Sogane, and Gamala; but as to those of Sepphoris, they were the only people to whom he gave leave to build their own walls, and this because he perceived they were rich and wealthy, and ready to go to war, without standing in need of any injunctions for that purpose. The case was the same with Gischala, which had a wall built about it by John the son of Levi himself, but with the consent of Josephus; but for the building of the rest of the fortresses, he labored together with all the other builders, and was present to give all the necessary orders for that purpose. He also got together an army out of Galilee, of more than a hundred thousand young men, all of which he armed with the old weapons which he had collected together and prepared for them.

     7. And when he had considered that the Roman power became invincible, chiefly by their readiness in obeying orders, and the constant exercise of their arms, he despaired of teaching these his men the use of their arms, which was to be obtained by experience; but observing that their readiness in obeying orders was owing to the multitude of their officers, he made his partitions in his army more after the Roman manner, and appointed a great many subalterns. He also distributed the soldiers into various classes, whom he put under captains of tens, and captains of hundreds, and then under captains of thousands; and besides these, he had commanders of larger bodies of men. He also taught them to give the signals one to another, and to call and recall the soldiers by the trumpets, how to expand the wings of an army, and make them wheel about; and when one wing hath had success, to turn again and assist those that were hard set, and to join in the defense of what had most suffered. He also continually instructed them in what concerned the courage of the soul, and the hardiness of the body; and, above all, he exercised them for war, by declaring to them distinctly the good order of the Romans, and that they were to fight with men who, both by the strength of their bodies and courage of their souls, had conquered in a manner the whole habitable earth. He told them that he should make trial of the good order they would observe in war, even before it came to any battle, in case they would abstain from the crimes they used to indulge themselves in, such as theft, and robbery, and rapine, and from defrauding their own countrymen, and never to esteem the harm done to those that were so near of kin to them to be any advantage to themselves; for that wars are then managed the best when the warriors preserve a good conscience; but that such as are ill men in private life will not only have those for enemies which attack them, but God himself also for their antagonist.

     8. And thus did he continue to admonish them. Now he chose for the war such an army as was sufficient, i.e. sixty thousand footmen, and two hundred and fifty horsemen; 34 and besides these, on which he put the greatest trust, there were about four thousand five hundred mercenaries; he had also six hundred men as guards of his body. Now the cities easily maintained the rest of his army, excepting the mercenaries, for every one of the cities enumerated above sent out half their men to the army, and retained the other half at home, in order to get provisions for them; insomuch that the one part went to the war, and the other part to their work, and so those that sent out their corn were paid for it by those that were in arms, by that security which they enjoyed from them.

          The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)

Proverbs 22:8
     by D.H. Stern

8     He who sows injustice reaps trouble,
and the rod of his angry outburst will fail.


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

Rethinking Jephthah’s Foolish Vow
     by Miles Van Pelt 10-14-2014

     Most Christians struggle to understand the narratives recorded in the book of Judges. Consider the opening account where Adonai Bezek is captured by the tribe of Judah, humiliated by having his thumbs and big toes cut off, and then dies in Jerusalem. What about Gideon’s fleece in Judges 6, or Samson’s repeated relationships with illicit women in Judges 14–16? How do we understand and explain such difficult texts? Do we ask, “Who are the Adonai Bezek’s in your life?” or “What would Samson do?” Maybe it would be better to “dare to be a Gideon,” but I don’t think so.

     Another troubling episode recorded in the book of Judges appears in 11:29-40, when the judge Jephthah makes a vow that many have argued cost him the life of his daughter and only child — a human sacrifice. How could Jesus, in good conscience, proclaim that such a narrative testifies to him (John 5:39; Luke 24:44), or how could Paul understand this text as the gospel promised beforehand (Romans 1:2)? Did Jephthah really kill his daughter in order to fulfill a foolish vow made in the heat of battle? For many, the answer to this question is a troubling “yes.” But there is another option.

     It is also possible that Jephthah never intended to sacrificially kill anyone or anything that came out of his house after he had returned from battle. Rather, this vow may be symbolic of a full or complete offering to the LORD as an expression of thanks for his grace in delivering Israel from their oppressors. Let’s consider the evidence together.

     Six Reasons to Reconsider the Human Sacrifice Interpretation

     1. The New Testament evaluation of the judges presented in the book of Judges is positive. Consider Hebrews 11:32–34: “And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah of David and Samuel and the prophets — who by faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.” Notice how the author of the book of Hebrews lists Jephthah with the likes of David, Samuel, and the prophets. Additionally, these men served “by faith” and “executed justice,” not innocent young girls. Could the author of Hebrews rightly include Jephthah in this list if his last act as Judge included the illegal and horrific slaying of his own daughter?

     2. In addition to the New Testament, the book of Judges itself affirms the calling and work of these men. For example, in Judges 2:16–19, it is recorded that the LORD raised up these men to save Israel, not to kill them. Additionally, the text is clear that the LORD was with the judges in their work. So to impugn the work of the judge is to impugn the work of the LORD through that judge. I am not saying that the judges were sinless, perfect people. With regard to their callings, however, they were faithful by God’s grace through the power of his Spirit. Additionally, it is important to observe that when God’s appointed leaders do fall into sin, the Bible is always ready to point it out. Moses struck the rock twice and so was banned from entering the promised land (Num. 20). David committed adultery and murder and received public, prophetic condemnation (2 Sam. 11–12). Even Paul rebuked Peter over the issue of eating with Gentiles (Gal. 2). There is no such condemnation recorded for Jephthah.

     3. In Judges 11:29, it is recorded that the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and then in the next verse (11:30), Jephthah makes his infamous vow. Contextually speaking, therefore, this vow is the result of coming under the influence of the Spirit, not something in opposition to the work of the Spirit. This is a common pattern in the book of Judges. For example, in Judges 6:34, the Spirit of the LORD clothed Gideon, and then two verses later (6:36) he proposed the sign of the fleece. Additionally, with Samson, when the Spirit of the LORD rushed on him he killed a lion (14:6) and defeated the Philistines (14:9; 15:14, 19).

     4. With Jephthah's vow, we must understand that he did not expect some type of animal or household pet to burst forth from the house upon his return. We know this to be true for a couple of reasons. First, in 11:31, the verb “to meet” is always used for people, never for a person encountering an animal. Second, in the ancient world, when men returned from battle, women would customarily come forth in procession in order to participate in celebratory dancing (cf. Ex. 15:20; Jud. 5:28; 1 Sam. 18:6). Give the cultural context in which these events transpired, Jephthah likely assumed that a woman would come out from the house to meet him, perhaps a servant girl or, even better, his mother-in-law, but certainly not an animal. A better translation for 11:31 would include “whoever comes out,” not “whatever comes out.”

     5. With Jephthah’s vow in 11:31, we read that this offering would belong to the LORD, and that it would be offered up as a “[whole] burnt offering.” This particular offering is not used symbolically in any other part of the Old Testament. However, offerings in general, both in the Old and New Testaments, may be used symbolically in order to characterize something offered to the LORD by way of sacrificial giving. For example, in Exodus 29 and Leviticus 8, Aaron and his sons (the Levites) were symbolically offered to the LORD as a wave offering (something completely consumed with fire), a gesture of complete and total dedication to the LORD’s service. In Psalm 51:17, a broken and contrite heart is the sacrifice that the LORD desires. And in Romans 12:1, Paul admonished believers to offer their bodies as living sacrifices to the LORD, an act of spiritual worship. Thus it is clearly possible, and more likely probable, that Jephthah, under the Spirit’s guidance, was using the language of sacrifice symbolically in this context, symbolic of complete and total dedication to the LORD.

     6. The willing fulfillment of this vow by Jephthah’s daughter (11:36) appears to contradict the literal interpretation of a child sacrifice. Not only were such sacrifices clearly forbidden and abominated in Scripture (Deut. 12:31; 18:9–12; cf. 2 Kings 3:27; 23:10; Is. 57:5), but the concern of the text is never death, but always virginity. In 11:37, Jephthah’s daughter requests a two-month leave in order to lament her virginity. Then, in 11:38, the text records that while with her friends, she wept over the fact of her virginity. Then again, in 11:39, it is recorded that Jephthah fulfilled his vow to the LORD, and the text clearly describes how this vow was fulfilled — “that is, she did not know a man.” It appears, therefore, that Jephthah’s vow consisted of offering a member of his house to the full-time service of the LORD, and thus not to the normal duties of a household, such a marriage and having children. Service of this type in not unknown in the Old Testament (Ex. 38:8; 1 Sam. 2:22; cf. 1 Sam. 1:11, 22–28).

     Ultimate Judge

     This is certainly a difficult text to interpret, and both options deserve careful consideration. But consider the book of Judges as a whole. It begins with the faithfulness of Joshua’s generation and the tribe of Judah, but terminates with the tribe of Benjamin becoming Canaanite, as wicked as Sodom (cf. Gen. 13 with Jud. 19-20). As the book develops, God’s people decay into greater and greater wickedness (Jud. 2:19), but the LORD was merciful and continued to send judges in order to deliver his people. The greater the wickedness of the people, the greater the LORD’s salvation through each judge.

     By the end, Gideon must forsake his family, Jephthah must offer up his only child (cf. Gen. 22:2), and Samson must die in order for God’s people to experience salvation from sin and oppression. Does this not sound like the gospel promised beforehand, a sure testimony to the person and work of Jesus? He left his family, the only begotten child of God. He died to finish the work of the judges that he had sent in ages past that we might keenly fix our eyes on him, the author and perfecter of our faith.

Click here to go to source

     Miles Van Pelt is Alan Belcher Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages and academic dean at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. He has published extensively in the area of Hebrew and Aramaic language instruction, including serving as co-author of Basics of Biblical Hebrew. He also serves on the pastoral staff at Grace Reformed Church in Madison, Mississippi.
Mushrooms On The Moor
     by Frank W. Boreham

     PART II | THE HANDICAP

     It was a sunny autumn afternoon. The leaves were rustling about my feet, and the first nip of winter was in the air. It was Saturday, and I was out for a stroll. Suddenly a crowd attracted my attention, and, impelled by that curiosity which such a concourse invariably excites, I drew near to see whether it meant a fire or a fight. It was neither. As I approached I caught sight of young fellows moving in and out among the people, wearing light many-coloured garments, and I guessed that a race was about to be run. Almost as soon as I arrived, the men were called up, arranged in a long line, and preparations made for the start. At a signal two or three of them sprang out from the line and bounded with an easy stride along the load. A few seconds later, three or four more followed; then others; until at last only one was left; and, after a brief period of further waiting, he also left the line and set out in pursuit. It was a handicap, I was told, and this man had started from scratch. It was to be a long race, and it would be some time before any of the runners could be expected back again. The crowd, therefore, dispersed for the time being, breaking up into knots and groups, each of which strolled off to while away the waiting time as its own taste suggested. I turned into a lane that led up into the bush on the hillside, and, from that sheltered and sunny eminence, watched for the first sign of the returning runners.

     Sitting there with nothing to do, it flashed upon me that the scene I had just witnessed was a reflection, as in a mirror, of all human experience and endeavour. Most men are heavily handicapped; it is no good blinking the fact. Ask a man to undertake some office or assume some responsibility in connexion with the church, and he will silence you at once with a narration of the difficulties that stand in his way. Ask a man to act on some board or committee for the management of some charitable or philanthropic enterprise, and he will explain to you that he has not a minute to spare. Ask a man to subscribe to some most necessary or deserving object, and he will tell you of the incessant demands to which he is subjected. Now it is no good putting all this down to cant. We have no right to assume that these are merely the lame excuses of men who, in their secret souls, do not desire to assist us. We must not hastily hurl at them the curse that fell upon Meroz because it came not to the help of the Lord against the mighty. All that they say is perfectly true. The difficulties that debar the first of these men from undertaking the work to which you are calling him are both real and formidable; the second man has every moment of his time fully occupied; the third man, because he is known to be generous, is badgered to death with collecting-lists from the first thing in the morning till the last thing at night. We must not judge these men too harshly. In the uncharitableness of our hearts we imagine that they have given us excuses which are not reasons. The fact is that they have done exactly the reverse; they have given us reasons which are not excuses. We are on safer ground when we recognize frankly that it is very difficult for many men to devote much time, much energy, and much money to the kingdom of God. Many men are heavily handicapped.

     'Isn't that one of the runners just coming in sight now?' a friend asked, pointing along the road. I fancied that he was right, so we rose and strolled down to the spot from which the race had started. We must have been mistaken, for when we emerged from the lane there was no sign of the competitors, I was not sorry, however, that we had returned prematurely; for I noticed the handicapper strolling idly about, and got into conversation with him.

     'There seems to me to be very little sense in a race of this kind,' I suggested to him. 'If those men win who started first, the honour is very small in view of the start they received; whilst if the man who started last fails to win, he feels it to be no disgrace, and comforts himself with the reflection that he was too heavily handicapped. Is that not so?'

     'Oh, no,' replied the handicapper, politely concealing his pity for my simplicity; 'it works out just the other way. It isn't fair, don't you see, to keep those chaps that got away first always running in a class by themselves. It does not call out the best that is in them. But to-day it does them good to feel that they are being matched against some of the finest runners in the State, and they will strain every effort to try to beat the champions. And it does a man like Brown, who started from scratch, no harm to see those fellows all getting ahead of him at the start. He knows very well that he can beat any man in the country on level terms, and in such races he will only put forth just as much effort as is needed to get ahead of his opponent. But there is nothing to show that he could not do much better still if only his opponent were more formidable. In a race like this, however, he knows that anything may happen. His usual rivals have all got a start of him; if he is to defend his good name, he must beat all his previous records and bring his utmost power into play. And so every man in the race is put on his mettle. We consider the handicap a very useful race indeed!'

     'Perhaps so,' I said, feeling that I was beaten, but feebly attempting to cover my retreat; 'but how do you compute the exact starts and handicaps which the different men are to take?'

     'Ah,' he said, 'now you've touched the vital question.' I was gratified at his recognition of the good order of my retirement. 'You see,' he went on, 'we have to look up the men's previous performances and work out the differences in their records with mathematical exactness. But there is something more than that. We have to know the men. You can't adjust the handicaps by rule of three. Anybody who has seen Jones run must have noticed that he's a bit downhearted. He has been beaten every time, and he goes into a race now expecting to be beaten, and is therefore beaten before he starts. He needs encouragement, and we have to consider that fact in arranging his handicap. Then there's Smith. He's too cocksure. He has never had any difficulty in beating men of his own class. He needs putting on his mettle. So we increase his handicap accordingly. It takes a lot of working out, and a lot of thinking about, I tell you. But here they come!'

     There was no mistake this time. A batch of runners came into sight all at once, the officials took their places, and the crowd clustered excitedly round. As we waited, the remarks to which I had just listened took powerful hold upon my mind. The handicaps of life may have been more carefully calculated and more beneficently designed than we have sometimes been inclined to suppose.

     It was a fine finish. As the first batch of men drew nearer I was pleased to notice that Brown, the fellow in light blue, who had started last, was among them. Gradually he drew out from the rest, and, with a magnificent spurt, asserted his superiority and won the race. A few minutes later I took the tram citywards. Just as it was starting, Brown also entered the car. I could not resist the opportunity of congratulating him.

     'It must have taken the heart out of you,' I said, 'to see all the other fellows getting away in front of you, and to find yourself left to the last?'

     'Oh, no,' he replied, with a laugh, 'it's a bit of an honour, isn't it, to see that they think me so much better than everybody else that they fancy I have a sporting chance under such conditions? And, besides, it spurs a fellow to do his best. When you are accustomed to winning races, it doesn't feel nice to be beaten, even in a handicap, and to avoid being beaten you've got to go for all you're worth.'

     I shook hands and left him. But I felt that he had given me something else to think about.

     'It's a bit of an honour!' he had said. 'And, besides, it spurs a fellow to do his best!'

     The next time a man tells me that he cannot help me because he is so heavily handicapped, what a tale I shall have to tell him!

     My Saturday afternoon experience has convinced me that, in the Church, we have tragically misinterpreted the significance of handicaps.

     'I am very heavily handicapped,' we say in the Church, 'therefore I must not attempt this thing!'

     'I am very heavily handicapped,' they say out there at their sports, 'therefore I must put all my strength into it!'

     And who can doubt that the philosophy of the Churchmen is false, or that the philosophy of the sportsmen is sound? There is a great saying of Bacon's that every handicapped man should learn by heart. 'Whosoever,' he says, 'hath anything fixed in his person that doth induce contempt hath also a perpetual spur in himself to rescue and deliver himself from scorn.' Is that why so many of the world's greatest benefactors were men who bore in their bodies the marks of physical affliction—blindness, deafness, disease, and the like? They felt that they were heavily handicapped, and that their handicap called them to make a supreme effort 'to rescue and deliver themselves from scorn.'

     When speaking of the difficulty which a black boy experiences in America in competing with his white rivals, Booker Washington tells us that his own pathetic and desperate struggle taught him that 'success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.' There is a good deal in that. I was once present at a meeting of a certain Borough Council, at which an engineer had to report on a certain proposal which the municipal authorities were discussing. The engineer contented himself with remarking that there were serious difficulties in the way of the execution of the plan. Whereupon the Mayor turned upon the unfortunate engineer and remarked, 'We pay you your salary, Mr. Engineer, not to tell us that difficulties exist, but to show us how to surmount them!' I thought it rather a severe rebuke at the time, but very often since, when I have been tempted to allow my handicaps to divert me from my duty, I have been glad that I heard the poor engineer censured.

     I was once deeply and permanently impressed by a chairman's speech at a meeting in Exeter Hall. That noble old auditorium was crowded from floor to ceiling for the annual missionary demonstration of the Wesleyan Methodist Church. The chair was occupied by Mr. W. E. Knight, of Newark. In the course of a most earnest plea for missionary enthusiasm, Mr. Knight suddenly became personal. 'I was born in a missionary atmosphere,' he said. 'I have lived in it ever since; I hope I shall die in it. Over forty years ago my heart was touched with the story of the world's needs; when I heard such men as Gervase Smith, Dr. Punshon, Richard Roberts, G. T. Perks, and others, I said, "Lord, here am I, send me." I came up to London forty-one years ago as a candidate for the Methodist ministry. I offered myself, but the Church did not see fit to accept my offer. I remember well coming up to the college at Westminster and being told of the decision of the committee by that sainted man, William Jackson. I went to the little room in which I had slept with a broken heart. I despised myself. I was rejected of men, and I felt that I was forsaken of God.' Now here is a man heavily handicapped; but let him finish his story. 'In that moment of darkness,' Mr. Knight continued, 'the deepest darkness of my life, there came to me a voice which has influenced my life from then till now. It said. "If you cannot go yourself, send some one else." I was a poor boy then; I knew that I could not pay for anybody else to go. But time rolled on. I prospered in business. And to-night I shall lay on the altar a sum which I wish the committee to invest, and the interest on that sum will support a missionary in Africa, not during my lifetime only, but as long as capital is capable of earning interest. And, ladies and gentlemen, I assure you that this is a red-letter day in my life!'

     Of course it was! It was the day on which he had turned his handicap to that account for which all handicaps were intended.

     'My handicap was an honour and a spur!' said the champion in the tramcar.

     'My handicap was an honour and a spur!' said the chairman at Exeter Hall.

     Both the champion and the chairman did by means of their handicaps what they could never have done without those handicaps. There can be no doubt about it; handicaps were designed, not as the pitiful excuses of the indolent, but as the magnificent inspirations of the brave.

Mushrooms on the Moor
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers


                Something more about his ways

     He comes where He commands us to leave.

     When Jesus had made an end of commanding His disciples, He departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities. --- Matthew 11:1.

     If when God said ‘Go,’ you stayed, because you were so concerned about your people at home, you robbed them of the teaching and preaching of Jesus Christ Himself. When you obeyed and left all consequences to God, the Lord went into your city to teach; as long as you would not obey, you were in the way. Watch where you begin to debate and to put what you call duty in competition with your Lord’s commands. ‘I know God told me to go, but then my duty was here’; that means you do not believe that Jesus means what he says.

     He teaches where He instructs us not to.

     “Master, … let us make three tabernacles.”

     Are we playing the spiritual amateur providence in other lives? Are we so noisy in our instruction of others that God cannot get anywhere near them? We have to keep our mouths shut and our spirits alert. God wants to instruct us in regard to His Son, He wants to turn our times of prayer into mounts of transfiguration, and we will not let Him. When we are certain of the way God is going to work, He will never work in that way any more.

     He works where He sends us to wait.

     “Tarry ye … until …”" Wait on God and He will work, but don’t wait in spiritual sulks because you cannot see an inch in front of you! Are we detached enough from our own spiritual hysterics to wait on God? To wait is not to sit with folded hands, but to learn to do what we are told.

     These are phases of His ways we rarely recognize.


My Utmost for His Highest

This One
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


                This One

Oh, I know it: the long story,
  The ecstasies, the mutilations;
  Crazed, pitiable creatures
  Imagining themselves a Napoleon,
  A Jesus; letting their hair grow,
  Shaving it off; gorging themselves
  On a dream; kindling
  A new truth, withering by it.

While patiently this poor farmer
  Purged himself in his strong sweat,
  Ploughing under the tall boughs
  Of the tree of the knowledge of
  Good and evil, watching its fruit
  Ripen, abstaining from it.


H'm

Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     Exodus 13:17–18


     Say to a good worker: “Well done!”

     BIBLE TEXT / Exodus 13:17–18 / Now when Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although it was nearer; for God said, “The people may have a change of heart when they see war, and return to Egypt.” So God led the people roundabout, by way of the wilderness at the Sea of Reeds.

     MIDRASH TEXT / Exodus Rabbah 20, 10 / Thus it is written, “Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your deeds, Your enemies cower before Your great strength’ ” (Psalm 66:3). Rabbi Yoḥanan in the name of Rabbi Elazar the son of Rabbi Yosé ha-G’lili says, “Say to a good worker: ‘Well done!’ ” Those who were to be crucified crucified those who were to crucify them; those who were to be killed killed those who were to kill them. Haman plotted to hang Mordecai, and they hung him and his sons. Pharaoh said, “Every boy that is born you shall throw into the Nile …”
(Exodus 1:22), and he was thrown into the sea, as it says, “Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea” (Exodus 15:4). Thus, “Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your deeds.’ ”

     CONTEXT / Someone reading the account of the Exodus from Egypt might question God’s decision to lead the Israelites into the desert. Wouldn’t the shorter, more direct route into Israel have been preferable to the trek through the wilderness? True, God was concerned that the shorter way might have led the Israelites into conflict with the Egyptian troops. But they still faced that superior enemy and overcame them at the Sea of Reeds. What was gained by leading the people on the longer, more circuitous way?

     What was gained, of course, was the miracle at the Sea of Reeds and the ultimate settling of the score with Pharaoh and the Egyptians. What seemed at first like poor planning turned out to be a brilliant strategy. The Israelites—and every subsequent reader of their story—learned critical lessons about God’s awesome might and about God’s attribute of justice.

     The Midrash begins with a quote from the Psalms calling on us to praise God’s power: “How awesome are your deeds, Your enemies cower before Your great strength.” This is a doubly appropriate verse because three lines later we read:

He turned the sea into dry land;
they crossed the river on foot;
we therefore rejoice in Him. (Psalm 66:6)

     Though this connection to the Sea of Reeds is not quoted in our Midrash, the Rabbis were clearly aware of the appropriateness of this verse. They expected the reader either to know it or to look it up and discover it for him or herself. Just as we are surprised to stumble upon the Sea of Reeds in our Psalm, so too the Israelites were surprised to stumble upon the Sea of Reeds in their desert journey. The reader’s experience should mirror that of the Israelites.

     The Psalmist chose elegant language in teaching us how to praise God. Rabbi Yoḥanan, quoting Rabbi Elazar, chooses a more common, earthy way to shower praise: “Say to a good worker: ‘Well done!’ ” The Hebrew phrase translated as “Well done!” is יִישַׁר כֹּחֲךָ/yishar ko-ḥa-kha, which literally means “May your strength be firm (or straight).” To this day, these words are the traditional salutation offered to a person who has had an Aliyah (the honor of being called to the Torah in the synagogue service).

     This section of Midrash ends with a thought about divine justice. Those who were to be crucified crucified those who were to crucify them; those who were to be killed killed those who were to kill them. Our enemies, we are reminded, got what they deserved. The punishment neatly fits the crime. Haman, the villain of the Purim story in the Scroll of Esther, wanted to have Mordecai hanged. In the end, that was the very fate he met. Similarly, Pharaoh began his persecution of the Israelites by ordering that their baby boys be thrown into the waters of the Nile and drowned. He and his people were punished by being thrown into the waters of the Sea of Reeds, where they were drowned. We sometimes find ourselves second-guessing God’s justice when we see bad things occurring in our world. The Midrash tries to assure us: In the end, everything will work out for the best.


Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Take Heart
     August 1

     Delight yourself in the LORD.
--- Psalm 37:4.

     This delight in prayer is a delight in the precepts and promises of God, which are the ground and rules of prayer. Works of Stephen Charnock (5 Volume Set) First, David delights in God’s testimonies and then calls on him with his whole heart. A gracious heart must first delight in precepts and promises before it can turn them into prayers, for prayer is nothing else but presenting God with his own promise, desiring that which he has promised to us. No one was more cheerful in prayer than David, because no one was more rejoicing in the statutes of God. God’s statutes were David’s songs (Ps. 119:54). And the divine Word was sweeter to him than honey. If our hearts do not leap at divine promises, we are likely to have drowsy souls in desiring them. If our eyes are not on the delicacies God sets before us, our desires cannot be strong for him. If we have no delight in the rich legacies of God, how can we sue for them? If we do not delight in the covenant of grace, we will not delight in prayers for grace. The hopes of reward made Moses valiant in suffering, and the joy set before Christ made him so cheerful in enduring the shame (Heb. 12:1–2).

     A delight in prayer itself. A Christian’s heart is—in secret—transported into heaven. There is a delight in coming near God and warming the soul by the fire of his love.

     The angels are cheerful in the act of praise; their work is their glory. Holy souls so delight in this duty that if there were no command, no promise, they would be stepping into God’s courts. They do not think it a good day that passes without some communion with God. David would have taken up his lodgings in the courts of God and regards it as the only blessedness (Ps. 65:4). And so great a delight he had in being in God’s presence that he envies the birds the happiness of building their nests near God’s tabernacle. There is a delight in the holiness of prayer; natural men or women under some troubles may delight in God’s comforting and easing presence—but not in his sanctifying presence. They may delight to pray to God as a storehouse to supply their wants—but not as a refiner’s fire to purge away thir dross. Prayer, as praise, is a melody to God in the heart (Eph. 5:19). And the soul loves to be fingering the instrument and touching the strings.
--- Stephen Charnock


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

On This Day
     The Protestant Passover  August 1

     We can’t blame churchmen in England for agonizing every time a new monarch was crowned, for the religious persuasion of the kings determined who would be burned. Anxiety continued even in the days of Isaac Watts and his fellow pastor, Thomas Bradbury. During their day, Queen Anne and the parliament passed the “Schism Bill,” to take effect August 1, 1714. Many predicted it would reestablish Catholicism in England “with mighty gust,” and that Baptists and other Dissenters would again be racked and burned. A terrible storm gathered, and even the stalwart Bradbury grew anxious.

     In the early hours of August 1, Bishop Burnet was passing through Smithfield in London where martyrs of previous eras had died. Seeing Bradbury there, he asked, “Why are you so buried in thought, Mr. Bradbury?”

     “I have been wondering, bishop,” replied Bradbury, “whether I shall have the resolution of that noble army of martyrs whose ashes are deposited in this place. Similar times of persecution are at hand, and I shall be called to suffer.”

     “Then you have not heard the news! The queen is seriously ill. I am on my way to obtain the latest particulars. I will dispatch a messenger with the earliest intelligence of her death. If you are in the pulpit when he arrives he will drop a handkerchief from the gallery.”

     Later that Morning Bradbury ascended his pulpit, and in the middle of his sermon a handkerchief fluttered from the gallery. For weeks he had lived in suspense. Now the news descended with the handkerchief: Anne is dead; the Schism bill, lost; the danger, past. His blood surged, but he continued his sermon without pause. Only in his concluding prayer did he reveal to his stunned congregation that God had “delivered these kingdoms from evil counsels.” He prayed for “His Majesty, King George,” then quoted Psalm 89.

     For years, Dissenters regarded August 1, 1714 as a day of deliverance, the “Protestant Passover.” And the commemoration continues every time we sing the anthem Watts wrote on that occasion: O God Our Help in Ages Past, Our Hope for Years to Come.

     Our LORD, I will sing of your love forever.
     Everyone yet to be born
     Will hear me praise your faithfulness.
     I will tell them,
     “God’s love can always be trusted,
     And his faithfulness lasts as long as the heavens.”
     --- Psalm 89:1,2.


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

The Existence and Attributes of God
     Stephen Charnock

          DISCOURSE I - ON THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

     PSALM 14:1.—The fool hath said in his heart There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

     THIS psalm is a description of the deplorable corruption by nature of every son of Adam, since the withering of that common root. Some restrain it to the Gentiles, as a wilderness full of briers and thorns, as not concerning the Jews, the garden of God, planted by his grace, and watered by the dew of heaven. But the apostle, the best interpreter, rectifies this in extending it by name to Jews, as well as Gentiles, (Rom. 6:9.) “We have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin,” and (ver. 10–12) cites part of this psalm and other passages of scripture for the further evidence of it, concluding by Jews and Gentiles, every person in the world naturally in this state of corruption.

     The psalmist first declares the corruption of the faculties of the soul, The fool hath said in his heart; secondly, the streams issuing from thence, they are corrupt, &c.: the first in atheistical principles, the other in unworthy practice; and lays all the evil, tyranny, lust, and persecutions by men, (as if the world were only for their sake) upon the neglects of God, and the atheism cherished in their hearts. The fool, a term in scripture signifying a wicked man, used also by the heathen philosophers to signify a vicious person, גבל as coming from נבל signifies the extinction of life in men, animals, and plants; so the word נבל is taken, a plant that hath lost all that juice that made it lovely and useful. So a fool is one that hath lost his wisdom, and right notion of God and divine things which were communicated to man by creation; one dead in sin, yet one not so much void of rational faculties as of grace in those faculties, not one that wants reason, but abuses his reason. In Scripture the word signifies foolish.

     Said in his heart; that is, he thinks, or he doubts, or he wishes. The thoughts of the heart are in the nature of words to God, though not to men. It is used in the like case of the atheistical person, (Ps. 10:11, 13) “He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten; he hath said in his heart, Thou wilt not require it.” He doth not form a syllogism, as Calvin speaks, that there is no God: he dares not openly publish it,   Not so today. The fool proclaims his atheism and the foolish are the majority.  though he dares secretly think it. He cannot raze out the thoughts of a Deity, though he endeavors to blot those characters of God in his soul. He hath some doubts whether there be a God or no: he wishes there were not any, and sometimes hopes there is none at all. He could not so ascertain himself by convincing arguments to produce to the world, but he tampered with his own heart to bring it to that persuasion, and smothered in himself those notices of a Deity; which is so plain against the light of nature, that such a man may well be called a fool for it.

     There is no God ולטנאשׁ לית non potestas Domini, Chaldae. It is not Jehovah, which name signifies the essence of God, as the prime and supreme being; but Eloahia,   ( In other words, atheism can be either the denial or doubting of God's bare existence (absolute and sceptical atheism respectfully, as Charnock categorizes them), but also includes the denial or drastic revision of God's essence - the classic seventeenth-century meaning of the term. Charnock justifies this point exegetically from his understanding of the Hebrew text of Psalm 14:1 which uses the Hebrew form he transliterates as Eloahia, and Latinises as potestas Dei, 'power of God'. The fool is not so much involved in denying the bare existence of God as in the denial of God's power and jurisdiction, a denial which inevitably has profound practical implications. In fact what Charnock is really going to deal with in this treatise is not atheism as understood in the modern world, but practical atheism: the rejection of God's character as demonstrated in licentious living. This, of course, allows Charnock to broaden the application of the verse, and thus the 'foolishness' of its subject to include the usual suspects: Arminians and Socinians. Though not mentioned explicitly, there is no doubt that it is them he has in mind. Reason, Faith and History: Philosophical Essays for Paul Helm )   which name signifies the providence of God, God as a rector and judge. Not that he denies the existence of a Supreme Being, that created the world, but his regarding the creatures, his government of the world, and consequently his reward of the righteous or punishments of the wicked.

     There is a threefold denial of God, 1. Quoad existentiam; this is absolute atheism. 2. Quoad Providentiam, or his inspection into, or care of the things of the world, bounding him in the heavens. 3. Quoad naturam, in regard of one or other of the perfections due to his nature.

     Of the denial of the providence of God most understand this, not excluding the absolute atheist, as Diagoras is reported to be, nor the skeptical atheist, as Protagoras, who doubted whether there were a God. Those that deny the providence of God, do in effect deny the being of God; for they strip him of that wisdom, goodness, tenderness, mercy, justice, righteousness, which are the glory of the Deity. And that principle, of a greedy desire to be uncontrolled in their lusts, which induceth men to a denial of Providence, that thereby they might stifle those seeds of fear which infect and embitter their sinful pleasures, may as well lead them to deny that there is any such being as a God. That at one blow, their fears may be dashed all in pieces and dissolved by the removal of the foundation: as men who desire liberty to commit works of darkness, would not have the lights in the house dimmed, but extinguished. What men say against Providence, because they would have no check in their lusts, they may say in their hearts against the existence of God upon the same account; little difference between the dissenting from the one and disowning the other.

     They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. He speaks of the atheist in the singular, “the fool;” of the corruption issuing in the life in the plural; intimating that though some few may choke in their hearts the sentiments of God and his providence, and positively deny them, yet there is something of a secret atheism in all, which is the fountain of the evil practices in their lives, not an utter disowning of the being of a God, but a denial or doubting of some of the rights of his nature. When men deny the God of purity, they must needs be polluted in soul and body, and in their actions.

     When the sense of religion is shaken off, all kinds of wickedness is eagerly rushed into, whereby they become as loathsome to God as putrefied carcases are to men. Not one or two evil actions is the product of such a principle, but the whole scene of a man’s life is corrupted and becomes execrable.    Think of today and remember Charnock lived 1628 – 1680.

     No man is exempted from some spice of atheism by the depravation of his nature, which the psalmist intimates, “there is none that doeth good:” though there are indelible convictions of the being of a God, that they cannot absolutely deny it; yet there are some atheistical bubblings in the hearts of men, which evidence themselves in their actions. As the apostle, (Tit. 1:16,) “They profess that they know God, but in works they deny him.” Evil works are a dust stirred up by an atheistical breath. He that habituates himself in some sordid can scarcely be said seriously and firmly to believe that there is a God in being; and the apostle doth not say that they know God, but they profess to know him: true knowledge and profession of knowledge are distinct. It intimates also to us, the unreasonableness of atheism in the consequence, when men shut their eyes against the beams of so clear a sun, God revengeth himself upon them for their impiety, by leaving them to their own wills, lets them fall into the deepest sink and dregs of iniquity; and since they doubt of him in their hearts, suffers them above others to deny him in their works, this the apostle discourseth at large. The text then is a description of man’s corruption.

     1. Of his mind. The fool hath said in his heart. No better title than that of a fool is afforded to the atheist.
     2. Of the other faculties, 1. In sins of commission, expressed by the loathsomeness (corrupt, abominable),
     2. In sins of omission (there is none that doeth good) he lays down the corruption of the mind as the cause, the corruption of the other faculties as the effect.

     I. It is a great folly to deny or doubt of the existence or being of God: or, an atheist is a great fool.

     II. . Practical atheism is natural to man in his corrupt state. It is against nature as constituted by God, but natural, as nature is depraved by man: the absolute disowning of the being of a God is not natural to men, but the contrary is natural; but an inconsideration of God, or misrepresentation of his nature, is natural to man as corrupt.

     III. A secret atheism, or a partial atheism, is the spring of all the wicked practices in the world: the disorders of the life spring from the ill dispositions of the heart.

     For the first, every atheist is a grand fool. If he were not a fool, he would not imagine a thing so contrary to the stream of the universal reason of the world, contrary to the rational dictates of his own soul, and contrary to the testimony of every creature, and link in the chain of creation: if he were not a fool, he would not strip himself of humanity, and degrade himself lower than the most despicable brute. It is a folly; for though God be so inaccessible that we cannot know him perfectly, yet he is so much in the light, that we cannot be totally ignorant of him; as he cannot be comprehended in his essence, he cannot be unknown in his existence; it is as easy by reason to understand that he is, as it is difficult to know what he is. The demonstrations reason furnisheth us with for the existence of God, will be evidences of the atheist’s folly. One would think there were little need of spending time in evidencing this truth, since in the principle of it, it seems to be so universally owned, and at the first, proposal and demand, gains the assent of most men.

     But, 1. Doth not the growth of atheism among us render this necessary? may it not justly be suspected, that the swarms of atheists are more numerous in our times, than history records to have been in any age, when men will not only say it in their hearts, but publish it with their lips, and boast that they have shaken off those shackles which bind other men’s consciences? Doth not the bare-faced debauchery of men evidence such a settled sentiment, or at least a careless belief of the truth, which lies at the root, and sprouts up in such venomous branches in the world? Can men’s hearts be free from that principle wherewith their practices are so openly depraved? It is true, the light of nature shines too vigorously for the power of man totally to put it out; yet loathsome actions impair and weaken the actual thoughts and considerations of a Deity, and are like mists that darken the light of the sun, though they cannot extinguish it: their consciences, as a candlestick, must hold it, though their unrighteousness obscure it, (Rom. 1:18.) “Who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” The engraved characters of the law of nature remain, though they daub them with their muddy lusts to make them illegible: so that since the inconsideration of a Deity is the cause of all the wickedness and extravagances of men; and as Austin saith, the proposition is always true, the fool hath said in his heart, &c. and more evidently true in this age than any, it will not be unnecessary to discourse of the demonstrations of this first principle. The apostles spent little time in urging this truth; it was taken for granted all over the world, and they were generally devout in the worship of those idols they thought to be gods: that age run from one God to many, and our age is running from one God to none at all.

     2. The existence of God is the foundation of all religion. The whole building totters if the foundation be out of course: if we have not deliberate and right notions of it, we shall perform no worship, no service, yield no affection to him. If there be not a God, it is impossible there can be one, for eternity is essential to the notion of a God; so all religion would be vain, and unreasonable to pay homage to that which is not in being, nor can ever be. We must first believe that he is, and that he is what he declares himself to be, before we can seek him, adore him, and devote our affections to him. We cannot pay God a due and regular homage, unless we understand him in his perfections, what he is; and we can pay him no homage at all, unless we believe that he is.

     3. It is fit we should know why we believe, that our belief of a God may appear to be upon undeniable evidence, and that we may give a better reason for his existence, than that we have heard our parents and teachers tell us so, and our acquaintance think so. It is as much as to say there is no God, when we know not why we believe there is, and would not consider the arguments for his existence.

     4. It is necessary to depress that secret atheism which is in the heart of every man by nature. Though every visible object which offers itself to our sense, presents a deity to our minds, and exhorts us to subscribe to the truth of it; yet there is a root of atheism springing up sometimes in wavering thoughts and foolish imaginations, inordinate actions, and secret wishes. Certain it is, that every man that doth not love God, denies God; now can he that disaffects him, and hath a slavish fear of him, wish his existence, and say to his own heart with any cheerfulness, there is a God, and make it his chief care to persuade himself of it? he would persuade himself there is no God, and stifle the seeds of it in his reason and conscience, that he might have the greatest liberty to entertain the allurements of the flesh. It is necessary to excite men to daily and actual considerations of God and his nature, which would be a bar to much of that wickedness which overflows in the lives of men.

     5. Nor is it unuseful to those who effectually believe and love him; for those who have had a converse with God, and felt his powerful influences in the secrets of their hearts, to take a prospect of those satisfactory accounts which reason gives of that God they adore and love; to see every creature justify them in their owning of him, and affections to him: indeed the evidences of a God striking upon the conscience of those who resolve to cleave to sin as their chiefest darling, will dash their pleasures with unwelcome mixtures.


The Existence and Attributes of God, Volume 7 of 50 Greatest Christian Classics, 2 Volumes in 1

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - August 1

     “Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn.” --- Ruth 2:2.

     Downcast and troubled Christian, come and glean to-day in the broad field of promise. Here are abundance of precious promises, which exactly meet thy wants. Take this one: “He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax.” Doth not that suit thy case? A reed, helpless, insignificant, and weak, a bruised reed, out of which no music can come; weaker than weakness itself; a reed, and that reed bruised, yet, he will not break thee; but on the contrary, will restore and strengthen thee. Thou art like the smoking flax: no light, no warmth, can come from thee; but he will not quench thee; he will blow with his sweet breath of mercy till he fans thee to a flame. Wouldst thou glean another ear? “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” What soft words! Thy heart is tender, and the Master knows it, and therefore he speaketh so gently to thee. Wilt thou not obey him, and come to him even now? Take another ear of corn: “Fear not, thou worm Jacob, I will help thee, saith the Lord and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” How canst thou fear with such a wonderful assurance as this? Thou mayest gather ten thousand such golden ears as these! “I have blotted out thy sins like a cloud, and like a thick cloud thy transgressions.” Or this, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Or this, “The Spirit and the Bride say, Come, and let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will let him take the water of life freely.” Our Master’s field is very rich; behold the handfuls. See, there they lie before thee, poor timid believer! Gather them up, make them thine own, for Jesus bids thee take them. Be not afraid, only believe! Grasp these sweet promises, thresh them out by meditation and feed on them with joy.


          Evening - August 1

     “Thou crownest the year with thy goodness.” --- Psalm 65:11.

     All the year round, every hour of every day, God is richly blessing us; both when we sleep and when we wake his mercy waits upon us. The sun may leave us a legacy of darkness, but our God never ceases to shine upon his children with beams of love. Like a river, his lovingkindness is always flowing, with a fulness inexhaustible as his own nature. Like the atmosphere which constantly surrounds the earth, and is always ready to support the life of man, the benevolence of God surrounds all his creatures; in it, as in their element, they live, and move, and have their being. Yet as the sun on summer days gladdens us with beams more warm and bright than at other times, and as rivers are at certain seasons swollen by the rain, and as the atmosphere itself is sometimes fraught with more fresh, more bracing, or more balmy influences than heretofore, so is it with the mercy of God; it hath its golden hours; its days of overflow, when the Lord magnifieth his grace before the sons of men. Amongst the blessings of the nether springs, the joyous days of harvest are a special season of excessive favour. It is the glory of autumn that the ripe gifts of providence are then abundantly bestowed; it is the mellow season of realization, whereas all before was but hope and expectation. Great is the joy of harvest. Happy are the reapers who fill their arms with the liberality of heaven. The Psalmist tells us that the harvest is the crowning of the year. Surely these crowning mercies call for crowning thanksgiving! Let us render it by the inward emotions of gratitude. Let our hearts be warmed; let our spirits remember, meditate, and think upon this goodness of the Lord. Then let us praise him with our lips, and laud and magnify his name from whose bounty all this goodness flows. Let us glorify God by yielding our gifts to his cause. A practical proof of our gratitude is a special thank-offering to the Lord of the harvest.


Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     August 1

          I AM THINE, O LORD

     Fanny J. Crosby, 1820–1915

     Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith. (Hebrews 10:22)

     Each new day requires a fresh renewal of our dedication to the Lord. The strongest of Christians can be drawn away by the pressures of daily living. And we are vulnerable to the lusts of the flesh and the eyes as well as the subtle temptations that constitute the “pride of life” (1 John 2:16). The warning of Scripture is clear: “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). God must always have His rightful place on the throne of the heart. Nothing in life—not job, not recreation, not even family—should have the top priority of our daily concerns. Anything that replaces the Lordship of Christ can become idolatrous and cause us to be susceptible to a spiritual disaster. We must each day say, “I am Thine, O Lord.”

     Fanny Crosby wrote this consecration hymn while visiting in the home of the composer of the music, William H. Doane, in Cincinnati. The family’s conversation that night centered around the blessedness of enjoying the nearness of God. Suddenly in a moment of inspiration, Fanny started giving the words of the hymn—line by line, verse by verse, and then the chorus. Soon after Doane supplied the music, and another of the more than 8,000 Fanny Crosby hymns was born. Since that day in 1875, these moving lines have ministered to and challenged countless numbers of God’s people to keep their lives dedicated to their Lord:

     I am Thine, O Lord—I have heard Thy voice, and it told Thy love to me; but I long to rise in the arms of faith and be closer drawn to Thee.
     Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord, by the pow’r of grace divine; let my soul look up with a steadfast hope and my will be lost in Thine.
     O the pure delight of a single hour that before Thy throne I spend, when I kneel in pray’r and with Thee, my God, I commune as friend with friend.
     There are depths of love that I cannot know till I cross the narrow sea; there are heights of joy that I may not reach till I rest in peace with Thee.
     Chorus: Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord, to the cross where Thou hast died; draw me nearer, nearer, nearer, blessed Lord, to Thy precious, bleeding side.


     For Today: Psalm 16:11; 73:28; Romans 12:1, 2; 1 Corinthians 7:22–24; Hebrews 12:28

     Begin this new day, with all of its unknown pressures and temptations, with this musical prayer upon your lips ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

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


     Sect. CIV. — THE next passage which the Diatribe takes up is that of Isaiah xlv. 9, “Shall the clay say to Him that fashioneth it, what makest Thou?” And that of Jeremiah xviii. 6, “Behold as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in Mine hand.” Here the Diatribe says again — “these passages are made to have more force in Paul, than they have in the places of the prophets from which they are taken; because, in the prophets they speak of temporal affliction, but Paul uses them, with reference to eternal election and reprobation.” — So that, here again, temerity or ignorance in Paul, is insinuated.

But before we see how the Diatribe proves, that neither of these passages excludes “Free-will,” I will make this remark: — that Paul does not appear to have taken this passage out of the Scriptures, nor does the Diatribe prove that he has. For Paul usually mentions the name of his author, or declares that he has taken a certain part from the Scriptures; whereas, here, he does neither. It is most probable, therefore, that Paul uses this general similitude according to his spirit in support of his own cause, as others have used it in support of theirs. It is in the same way that he uses this similitude. “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump’” which, 1 Cor. v. 6, he uses to represent corrupt morals: and applies it in another place (Gal. v. 9) to those who corrupt the Word of God: so Christ also speaks of the “leaven of Herod” and “of the Pharisees.” (Mark viii. 15; Matt. xvi. 6).

Supposing, therefore, that the prophets use this similitude, when speaking more particularly of temporal punishment; (upon which I shall not now dwell, lest I should be too much occupied about irrelevant questions, and kept away from the subject point,) yet Paul uses it, in his spirit, against “Free-will.” And as to saying that the liberty of the will is not destroyed by our being as clay in the hand of an afflicting God, I know not what it means, nor why the Diatribe contends for such a point: for, without doubt, afflictions come upon us from God against our will, and impose upon us the necessity of bearing them, whether we will or no: nor is it in our power to avert them: though we are exhorted to bear them with a willing mind.


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