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Romans 1-4
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Romans 1:1     Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the Gospel of God 2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. 5 Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, 6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;

     7 To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints:
     Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Desire to Visit Rome

     8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the Gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, 10 making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established— 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.

     13 Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles. 14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. 15 So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the Gospel to you who are in Rome also.

The Just Live by Faith

     16 For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness

     18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they (That is you and me) are without excuse,

     Psalm 19:1 states, The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

     24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

     26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

     28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

God’s Righteous Judgment

Romans 2:1     Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. 3 And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: 7 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; 10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God.

     12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my Gospel.

The Jews Guilty as the Gentiles

     17 Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, 18 and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, 19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. 21 You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? 22 You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? 24 For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written.

Circumcision of No Avail

     25 For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? 27 And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.

God’s Judgment Defended

Romans 3:1     What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? 2 Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God. 3 For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? 4 Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar.

     As it is written:

“That You may be justified in Your words,
And may overcome when You are judged.”

     5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) 6 Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world?

     7 For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.

All Have Sinned

     9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.

     10 As it is written:

“There is none righteous, no, not one;
11     There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
12     They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”
13     “Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;
“The poison of asps is under their lips”;
14     “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
15     “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     Destruction and misery are in their ways;
17     And the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

     19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

God’s Righteousness Through Faith


21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,

     God, because in his mercy he willed to forgive sinful men, and, being truly merciful, willed to forgive them righteously, that is, without in any way condoning their sin, purposed to direct against his own very self in the person of his Son the full weight of that righteous wrath which they deserved ( Charles E. B. Cranfield Romans Commentary ).    ( The Cross of Christ )

26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Boasting Excluded

     27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. 29 Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, 30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.

Abraham Justified by Faith

Romans 4:1 What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.

David Celebrates the Same Truth

     5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:

7     “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
And whose sins are covered;
8     Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.”

Abraham Justified Before Circumcision

     9 Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. 10 How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.

The Promise Granted Through Faith

     13 For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, 15 because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.

     16 Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all 17 (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; 18 who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” 19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. 20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 22 And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.”

     23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, 24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.

The Holy Bible: containing the Old and New Testaments with the Apocryphal / Deuterocanonical Books [New Revised Standard Version]

What I'm Reading

God...justifies the wicked’ (Rom. 4:5)

By John R.W. Stott from The Cross Of Christ

     Paul must have shocked his Roman readers when he wrote that ‘God...justifies the wicked’ (Rom. 4:5). How could God conceivably do such a thing? It was outrageous that the Divine Judge should practise what – in the very same Greek words – he had forbidden human judges to do. Besides, how could the Righteous One declare the unrighteous righteous? The very thought was preposterous.

     In order to summarize Paul’s defence of the divine justification of sinners, I will select four of his key phrases, which relate successively to justification’s source, ground, means and effects. First, the source of our justification is indicated in the expression justified by his grace (Rom. 3:24), that is, by his utterly undeserved favour. Since it is certain that ‘there is no-one righteous, not even one’ (Rom. 3:10), it is equally certain that no-one can declare himself to be righteous in God’s sight. (Ps. 143:2. Cf. Pss. 51:4; 130:3; Job 25:4.) Self-justification is a sheer impossibility (Rom. 3:20). Therefore, ‘it is God who justifies’ (Rom. 8:33); only he can. And he does it ‘freely’ (Rom. 3:24, dōrean, ‘as a free gift, gratis’), not because of any works of ours, but because of his own grace. In Tom Wright’s neat epigram, ‘no sin, no need for justification: no grace, no possibility of it’. (From his essay ‘Justification: The Biblical Basis and its Relevance for Contemporary Evangelicalism’, in Great Acquittal, p.16.)

     Grace is one thing, however; justice is another. And justification has to do with justice. To say that we are ‘justified by his grace’ tells us the source of our justification, but says nothing about a righteous basis of it, without which God would contradict his own justice. So another key expression of Paul’s, which introduces us to the ground of our justification, is justified by his blood (Rom. 5:9). Justification is not a synonym for amnesty, which strictly is pardon without principle, a forgiveness which overlooks – even forgets (amnēstia is ‘forgetfulness’) – wrongdoing and declines to bring it to justice. No, justification is an act of justice, of gracious justice. Its synonym is ‘the righteousness of God’ (Rom. 1:17; 3:21), which might for the moment be explained as his ‘righteous way of righteoussing the unrighteous’. Dr J. I. Packer defines it as ‘God’s gracious work of bestowing upon guilty sinners a justified justification, acquitting them in the court of heaven without prejudice to his justice as their Judge’. (From his article ‘Justification’ in New Bible Dictionary, p.647.) When God justifies sinners, he is not declaring bad people to be good, or saying that they are not sinners after all; he is pronouncing them legally righteous, free from any liability to the broken law, because he himself in his Son has borne the penalty of their law-breaking. That is why Paul is able to bring together in a single sentence the concepts of justification, redemption and propitiation (Rom. 3:24–25). The reasons why we are ‘justified freely by God’s grace’ are that Christ Jesus paid the ransom-price and that God presented him as a propitiatory sacrifice. In other words, we are ‘justified by his blood’. There could be no justification without atonement.

     Thirdly, the means of our justification is indicated in Paul’s favourite expression justified by faith. (E.g. Rom. 3:28; 5:1; Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:9.) Grace and faith belong indissolubly to one another, since faith’s only function is to receive what grace freely offers. We are not, therefore, justified ‘by’ our faith, as we are justified ‘by’ God’s grace and ‘by’ Christ’s blood. God’s grace is the source and Christ’s blood the ground of our justification; faith is only the means by which we are united to Christ. As Richard Hooker put it with his usual precision: ‘God doth justify the believing man, yet not for the worthiness of his belief, but for his worthiness who is believed.’ (From Hooker’s ‘Definition of Justification’, being Chapter xxxiii of his Ecclesiastical Polity, which began to be published in 1593.)

     Further, if faith is only the means, it is also the only means. Although the word ‘only’ does not occur in the Greek of Romans 3:28, it was a right instinct of Luther’s, as we have seen, and indeed a correct translation, to render Paul’s expression ‘we maintain that a man is justified by faith only, apart from observing the law’. The point of his writing ‘by faith apart from works of law’ was to exclude law-works altogether, leaving faith as the sole means of justification. And Paul has already given his reason in the previous verse, namely to exclude boasting. For unless all human works, merits, co-operation and contributions are ruthlessly excluded, and Christ’s sin-bearing death is seen in its solitary glory as the only ground of our justification, boasting cannot be excluded. Cranmer saw this clearly: ‘This saying, that we be justified by faith only, freely, and without works, is spoken for to take away clearly all merit of our works, as being unable to deserve our justification at God’s hands,...and thereby wholly for to ascribe the merit and deserving of our justification unto Christ only and his most precious bloodshedding....And this form of speaking we use in the humbling of ourselves to God, and to give all the glory to our Saviour Christ, who is best worthy to have it.’ (From Cranmer’s ‘Sermon on Salvation’ in the First Book of Homilies, pp.25 and 29.)

     Fourthly, what are the effects of our justification? I think we can deduce them from another, and sometimes neglected, Pauline expression, namely that we are justified in Christ. (Gal. 2:17. Cf. Rom. 8:1; 2 Cor. 5:21; Eph. 1:6.) To say that we are justified ‘through Christ’ points to his historical death; to say that we are justified ‘in Christ’ points to the personal relationship with him which by faith we now enjoy. This simple fact makes it impossible for us to think of justification as a purely external transaction; it cannot be isolated from our union with Christ and all the benefits which this brings. The first is membership of the Messianic community of Jesus. If we are in Christ and therefore justified, we are also the children of God and the true (spiritual) descendants of Abraham. Further, no racial, social or sexual barrier can come between us. This is the theme of Galatians 3:26–29. Tom Wright is surely correct in his emphasis that ‘justification is not an individualist’s charter, but God’s declaration that we belong to the covenant community’. (Tom Wright, ‘Justification: The Biblical Basis’ from Great Acquittal, p.36.) Secondly, this new community, to create which Christ gave himself on the cross, is to be ‘eager to do what is good’, and its members are to devote themselves to good works. (Titus 2:14; 3:8.) So there is no ultimate conflict between Paul and James. They may have been using the verb ‘justify’ in different senses. They were certainly writing against different heresies, Paul against the self-righteous legalism of the Judaizers and James against the dead orthodoxy of the intellectualizers. Yet both teach that an authentic faith works, Paul stressing the faith that issues in works, and James the works that issue from faith. (E.g. Gal. 5:6; 1 Thess. 1:3; Jas 2:14–26.)

The Cross of Christ

The Politics of Solomon’s Dream

By Alastair Roberts 7/24/2017

      (1 Ki 3:5–14)5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” 6 And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. 7 And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”
     10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you. 14 If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.”

     Our passage finds the young King Solomon, David’s son, having successfully navigated the precarious early days of his reign, secured his right as the heir of the dynasty against pretenders and threats to his throne, and established a strategic alliance with Pharaoh by marrying his daughter. Now that the ship of the kingdom is finally on an even keel, Solomon’s task of ruling Israel can truly begin.

     Within the story of the early life of Solomon, there are various details that recall the Genesis story of the Garden of Eden. Solomon constructs the temple, a building replete with garden symbolism—pomegranates, lilies, cedars, olive wood, and streams of water moving out—and containing images of guarding cherubim, as God appointed in the Garden of Eden. This new construction is associated with a time of peace and rest after the wars and struggles of King David’s reign.

     As king, Solomon is like a restored Adam, established by God to reign in a kingdom of peace. Peter Leithart remarks:

     Solomon asks for wisdom, more specifically for “discernment of good and evil” … (3:9), using a phrase similar to that found in Gen. 2–3 to describe the tree in the garden … a tree that gives wisdom. Solomon’s request can thus be described as a request for access to the tree forbidden to Adam. Like Adam, Solomon goes into “deep sleep” in order to receive a bride, but Solomon awakes in the company of Lady Wisdom. As in 1 Kgs. 2, Solomon is a new and improved Adam.

     As 1 Kings 3 recalls the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, it also alerts us to a movement beyond the order of Genesis. In Genesis 2 and 3, that tree—the tree associated with wisdom and authoritative rule in the wider world—was forbidden to Adam and Eve, yet the wisdom and authority its fruit once promised is here given by God to Solomon.

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     Alastair Roberts Alastair Roberts (@zugzwanged) recently completed doctoral studies at the University of Durham. He participates in the Mere Fidelity podcast and is a contributing editor for Political Theology Today.

Why Believing in Miracles is Not Illogical

By Lenny Esposito 1/24/2017

     When Christians believe in miracles, are they being irrational? A recent Pew Research article entitled "Why America's 'nones' left religion behind" held this interesting quote:

     About half of current religious "nones" who were raised in a religion (49%) indicate that a lack of belief led them to move away from religion. This includes many respondents who mention "science" as the reason they do not believe in religious teachings, including one who said "I'm a scientist now, and I don't believe in miracles." Others reference "common sense," "logic" or a "lack of evidence" – or simply say they do not believe in God.1

     There's a whole lot in that paragraph to unpack. However, the claim that faith is somehow against logic caught my eye. Just how would Christianity be illogical? One claim made by atheists is that believing in miracle accounts like those presented in the Bible is itself illogical.

     The charge that believing in miracles is illogical as a long history, and most will point to David Hume's famous essay "On Miracles" in his An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. There, he makes this charge:

     A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature. There must, therefore, be a uniform experience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event would not merit that appellation. And as a uniform experience amounts to a proof, there is here a direct and full proof, from the nature of the fact, against the existence of any miracle.2

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     Lenny Esposito is president and founder of Come Reason Ministries, a Christian apologetics organization, and author of the popular www.comereason.org Web site. He has taught apologetics and Christian worldview for over 17 years and has authored hundreds articles dealing with intellectually strenuous topics such as the existence of God, theology, philosophy, social issues and Biblical difficulties.
     Lenny is an in-demand speaker, teaching at conferences, churches, and schools across the nation. He is a contributor to the popular Apologetics Study Bible for Students and his articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and the Southern California Christian Times. He has debated many topics on faith and reason and the rationality of the Christian worldview; his most recent debate being against well-known atheists and author Dr. Richard Carrier on the question "Does God Exist?"
     Lenny is a pioneer in online ministry efforts when he began using the Web to reach others near its beginnings in 1995. He produces one of the top 16 apologetics podcasts according to Apologetics 315 and his site has been viewed millions of times by visitors from nearly every country in the world.
Lenny is a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society and the Evangelical Theological Society.

God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness

By Blaise Pascal

     When I see the blind and wretched state of man, when I survey the whole universe in its dumbness and man left to himself with no light, as though lost in this corner of the universe, without knowing who put him there, what he has come to do, what will become of him when he dies, incapable of knowing anything, I am moved to terror, like a man transported in his sleep to some terrifying desert island, who wakes up quite lost and with no means of escape. Then I marvel that so wretched a state does not drive people to despair.

     I see other people around me, made like myself. I ask them if they are any better informed than I, and they say they are not. Then these lost and wretched creatures look around and find some attractive objects to which they become addicted and attached. For my part I have never been able to form such attachments, and considering how very likely it is that there exists something besides what I can see, I have tried to find out whether God has left any traces of himself.

Blaise Pascal, Pensées

God’s Righteous Judgment

     If human beings have sinned (which they have), and if they are responsible for their sins (which they are), then they are guilty before God. Guilt is the logical deduction from the premises of sin and responsibility. We have done wrong, by our own fault, and are therefore liable to bear the just penalty of our wrongdoing.

     This is the argument of the early chapters of the letter to the Romans. Paul divides the human race into three major sections, and shows how each knows something of its moral duty, but has deliberately suppressed its knowledge in order to pursue its own sinful course. As John put it, ‘This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil’ (John 3:19). Nothing is more serious than this deliberate rejection of the light of truth and goodness. Paul begins with decadent Roman society. Its people have known God’s power and glory from the creation, and his holiness from their conscience, but they have refused to live up to their knowledge. Instead, they have turned from worship to idolatry. So God has given them over to immorality and other forms of anti-social behaviour (Rom. 1:18–32).

     The second section of humanity that Paul addresses is the self-righteous world, whose knowledge of God’s law may be either in the Scriptures (Jews) or in their hearts (Gentiles). In either case they do not live up to their knowledge (2:1–16). The third section is the specifically Jewish world, whose members pride themselves on the knowledge they have and on the moral instruction they give to others. Yet the very law they teach they also disobey. This being so, their privileged status as God’s covenant people will not render them immune to his judgment (2:17 – 3:8).

The Cross of Christ

Hamartia | Sin

     The New Testament uses five main Greek words for sin, which together portray its various aspects, both passive and active. The commonest is hamartia, which depicts sin as a missing of the target, the failure to attain a goal. Adikia is ‘unrighteousness’ or ‘iniquity’, and ponēria is evil of a vicious or degenerate kind. Both these terms seem to speak of an inward corruption or perversion of character. The more active words are parabasis (with which we may associate the similar paraptōma), a ‘trespass’ or ‘transgression’, the stepping over a known boundary, and anomia, ‘lawlessness’, the disregard or violation of a known law. In each case an objective criterion is implied, either a standard we fail to reach or a line we deliberately cross.

     It is assumed throughout Scripture that this criterion or ideal has been established by God. It is, in fact, his moral law, which expresses his righteous character. It is not the law of his own being only, however; it is also the law of ours, since he has made us in his image and in so doing has written the requirements of his law in our hearts (Rom. 2:15). There is, thus, a vital correspondence between God’s law and ourselves, and to commit sin is to commit ‘lawlessness’ (1 John 3:4), offending against our own highest welfare as well as against the authority and love of God.

     The emphasis of Scripture, however, is on the godless self-centredness of sin. Every sin is a breach of what Jesus called ‘the first and great commandment’, not just by failing to love God with all our being, but by actively refusing to acknowledge and obey him as our Creator and Lord. We have rejected the position of dependence which our createdness inevitably involves, and made a bid for independence. Worse still, we have dared to proclaim our self-dependence, our autonomy, which is to claim the position occupied by God alone. Sin is not a regrettable lapse from conventional standards; its essence is hostility to God (Rom. 8:7), issuing in active rebellion against him. It has been described in terms of ‘getting rid of the Lord God’ in order to put ourselves in his place in a haughty spirit of ‘God-almightiness’. Emil Brunner sums it up well: ‘Sin is defiance, arrogance, the desire to be equal with God,...the assertion of human independence over against God,...the constitution of the autonomous reason, morality and culture.’ It is appropriate that he entitled the book from which this quotation is taken Man in Revolt.

     Once we have seen that every sin we commit is an expression (in differing degrees of self-consciousness) of this spirit of revolt against God, we shall be able to accept David’s confession: ‘Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight’ (Ps. 51:4). In committing adultery with Bathsheba, and in arranging to have her husband Uriah killed in battle, David had committed extremely serious offences against them and against the nation. Yet it was God’s laws which he had broken and thereby ultimately against God that he had chiefly offended.

The Cross of Christ

The Politics of Premature Rule—Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

By Alastair Roberts 2/27/2017

     (Ge 2:15–17) 15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” NRSV
     (Ge 3:1–7) 3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’ ” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; 5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

     It might be argued that the story of the Fall has become a victim of its own success. As it is such a prominent landmark in the scriptural narrative on account of its paradigmatic features or theological significance, many of the actual lineaments of the account lie under-examined, neglected beneath those dimensions of it that most answer to the specific concerns of its Christian readers.

     Furthermore, in attending to the theologically definitive entrance of Sin and Death into the world, we may fail to appreciate the manner in which the man and woman’s sin in Eden is the event that initiates a series of escalating ingresses of these forces into God’s good creation. In the ugly litany of Cain’s slaying of Abel, the polygamous Lamech’s vengeance, the sin of the sons of God, and the saturation of the entire world and the consciousness of humankind with evil prior to the Flood, we see the dark blot of Sin steadily spreading out, until it envelops all.

     Even beyond the opening chapters of Genesis, the tragic events of the Garden of Eden reverberate in numerous later scriptural accounts, as Sin’s entropic grip upon the world tightens. In events such as Noah’s drunkenness in his vineyard, Israel’s idolatry with the golden calf, or in the sins of Solomon’s reign, Sin’s relentless hold is rediscovered at those very moments where hope most tantalizes.

     Our lection introduces the narrative with the charge given to the adam, when he was first placed within the garden. This charge particularizes the more general blessing given in 1:28, commissioning the adam to exercise dominion in and establish the fruitfulness of the garden in particular, presumably before venturing out into the lands beyond the garden mentioned in the preceding verses. The narrative implies that the garden is to serve as an archetypal model for his task of the cultivation of the earth more generally (cf. 2:5); as the adam learns to serve and keep the divinely ordered realm of the garden, he will gain the necessary wisdom and skills to bring God’s beautiful and good order to bear upon the wider creation.

     God repeats the permission of 1:29 at this juncture, albeit with reference to the trees of the garden in particular, and with one explicit exception: the adam must not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that is in its midst on pain of death (permission to eat of the tree of life is implicitly granted). The gravity of the divine sanction attached to the prohibition suggests the sacred status of the tree and its fruit.

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     Alastair Roberts Alastair Roberts (@zugzwanged) recently completed doctoral studies at the University of Durham. He participates in the Mere Fidelity podcast and is a contributing editor for Political Theology Today.

Paul, A Jew

By James S. Stewart

     It is clear, to begin with, that all through his life— after his conversion to Christianity, no less than before it— the fact that he had been born a Jew filled Paul with an intense sense of gratitude to God. Despised among the nations the Jews might be; but it never occurred to the apostle, not even when confronting the most cultured and critical Greek audiences, to make any secret of his origin. Jewish lineage, he felt, was not a thing to be apologetic about: on the contrary, it was a unique cause for thanksgiving. He would not indeed boast about it, for when a man has really seen Christ and caught His Spirit (as Paul once said himself) "boasting is excluded," and all that attitude of pride is finished: one thing only is left for him to glory in, the cross by which he has been saved. Still he does tell the Corinthians that if his apostolic authority and his right to speak were questioned, and if it were permissible in answer to forget the Christian spirit just for a moment and "have his little boast as well as others" (so Dr. Moffatt translates it, rightly conserving the playful turn of the apostle's thought), he could soon produce satisfactory credentials. "Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I." Similarly, he writes to the Philippians that if he chose to rely on outward privilege (meaning, of course, that he does not so choose—but if he did) he could outvie even the Judaizing teachers themselves: "I was circumcised on the eighth day after birth; I belonged to the race of Israel, to the tribe of Benjamin; I was the Hebrew son of Hebrew parents, a Pharisee as regards the Law, in point of ardour a persecutor of the Church, immaculate by the standard of legal righteousness." According to St. Luke's narrative in the Book of Acts, the apostle's defence before Agrippa opened with the plea, "My manner of life from my youth . . . know all the Jews . . . that in the strictest sect of our religion, I lived a Pharisee." The same note is heard again in the letter to the Galatians: "I outstripped many of my own age in my zeal for the traditions of my fathers." Damascus brought many great discoveries in its train, and many new convictions came to Paul as direct corollaries of the revolutionizing experience through which he then passed: one of the greatest was the discovery of a human brotherhood in which the old lines of Jew and Gentile, Greek and barbarian, bond and free, had been obliterated, and the old barriers had for ever vanished. Yet right to the end there remained clearly stamped upon his mind the thought of God's surpassing goodness to the chosen people ; and it baffled and bewildered and hurt him more than he could tell that Israel, "entrusted with the oracles of God," starting with an initial advantage so huge and so decisive, should have stood back watching others, who had no such privilege, pressing forward into a fullness of life and a glory of service that she herself refused to enter. Why should this have happened? he wonders. Why this startling disloyalty to the God whose blessing of Israel had been so unstinted, so royally extravagant? Facing the tragic problem, Paul heaps up the splendours his nation had inherited, the unique privileges which ought surely to have made Judaism the first to recognize and hail its Lord : "they are Israelites, theirs is the Sonship, the Glory, the covenants, the Divine legislation, the Worship, and the promises; the patriarchs are theirs, and theirs too (so far as natural descent goes) is the Christ." All this is the Jew's prerogative, his mandate straight from God, in which Paul claims a share. "I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham." But how much his birth and lineage meant to him may be gathered best of all from the way in which, even in his people's stubbornness and blindness and downright apostasy, he clings to them with the yearning and fervour of his soul, refusing, like God with Ephraim, to let them go. "I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh." Hearing these words, white-hot with love and wild with all regret, words surely as moving as anything in the literature of the world, we seem to watch the centuries falling away, and Paul the born Jew takes his stand with that other great priestly and vicarious soul, the lonely Jew who stood before God on Sinai in the morning of Israel's days, and cried "Yet now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin—; and if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book which Thou hast written." The great, human, god-like cry, wrung from Paul's heart in Romans, is the real index of what his ancestral faith stood for in his experience. To be "a Hebrew of the Hebrews "—that was a priceless and enduring privilege. Even to Paul the Christian, it was a gift of God.

     (Ro 3:27) Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. NRSV

     (Ga 6:14) May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. NRSV

     (2 Co 11:16) I repeat, let no one think that I am a fool; but if you do, then accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. NRSV

     (2 Co 11:22) Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. NRSV

     (Php 3:5–6) circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. NRSV

     (Ac 26:4) “All the Jews know my way of life from my youth, a life spent from the beginning among my own people and in Jerusalem. NRSV

     (Ga 1:14) I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. NRSV

     (Ro 3:2) Much, in every way. For in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. NRSV

     (Ro 9:4) They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; NRSV

     (Ro 11:1) I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. NRSV

     (Ro 9:3) For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. NRSV

     (Ex 32:30–34) On the next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. But now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31 So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin; they have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will only forgive their sin—but if not, blot me out of the book that you have written.” 33 But the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. 34 But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; see, my angel shall go in front of you. Nevertheless, when the day comes for punishment, I will punish them for their sin.” NRSV

A Man in Christ: The Vital Elements of St. Paul's Religion (Classic Reprint)

  • Human Rights
  • Vernacular Principle
  • Israelite Monotheism

#1 Diane B. Obenchain  
Yale University Divinity School


#2 John D. Witvliet   
Yale University Divinity School


#3 Baruch Levine   
Yale University Divinity School


  Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     New Jersey is being invaded by Martians! This was the script of a 1938 radio drama based on the novel War of the Worlds, written by H.G. Wells, who died this day, August 13, 1946. Wells’ novel inspired a boy named Robert Goddard that space flight was possible and he grew up to be the father of modern rocketry. H.G. Wells also wrote the best sellers The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, and The First Men in the Moon. Though a skeptic, in his Outlines of History, H.G. Wells described the U.S. Constitution, saying: “Its spirit is indubitably Christian.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

Pride is the deification of self
--- Oswald Chambers

If thou desire the love of God and man,
be humble, for the proud heart,
as it loves none but itself,
is beloved of none but itself.
Humility enforces where neither virtue,
nor strength, nor reason can prevail.
--- Francis Quarles

Not merely in the words you say,
Not merely in your deeds confessed,
But in the most unconscious way
Is Christ expressed.
And from your eyes He beckons me,
And from your heart His love is shed,
Till I lose sight of you …
And see Christ the Lord instead.
--- Unknown

... from here, there and everywhere

What Happened To the word Sin?
     A Psychologist Wants To Know

     Perhaps it is a deep-seated reluctance to face up to the gravity of sin which has led to its omission from the vocabulary of many of our contemporaries. One acute observer of the human condition, who has noticed the disappearance of the word, is the American psychiatrist Karl Menninger. He has written about it in his book, Whatever Became of Sin? Describing the malaise of western society, its general mood of gloom and doom, he adds that ‘one misses any mention of “sin”’. ‘It was a word once in everyone’s mind, but is now rarely if ever heard. Does that mean’, he asks, ‘that no sin is involved in all our troubles...? Has no-one committed any sins? Where, indeed, did sin go? What became of it?’. Enquiring into the causes of sin’s disappearance, Dr Menninger notes first that ‘many former sins have become crimes’, so that responsibility for dealing with them has passed from church to state, from priest to policeman, while others have dissipated into sicknesses, or at least into symptoms of sickness, so that in their case punishment has been replaced by treatment. A third convenient device called ‘collective irresponsibility’ has enabled us to transfer the blame for some of our deviant behaviour from ourselves as individuals to society as a whole or to one of its many groupings.
     Dr Menninger goes on to plead not only for the reinstatement of the word ‘sin’ in our vocabulary, but also for a recognition of the reality which the word expresses. Sin cannot be dismissed as merely a cultural taboo or social blunder. It must be taken seriously. He takes preachers to task for soft-pedalling it, and adds: ‘The clergyman cannot minimize sin and maintain his proper role in our culture’. For sin is ‘an implicitly aggressive quality – a ruthlessness, a hurting, a breaking away from God and from the rest of humanity, a partial alienation, or act of rebellion....Sin has a willful, defiant or disloyal quality: someone is defied or offended or hurt’. To ignore this would be dishonest. To confess it would enable us to do something about it. Moreover, the reinstatement of sin would lead inevitably to ‘the revival or reassertion of personal responsibility’. In fact the ‘usefulness’ of reviving sin is that responsibility would be revived with it.

( The Cross of Christ )

Recapture the Wonder
     Borrowed from Ravi Zacharias

     Somewhere in the 1980s, I picked up this quote. I do not know who gave it to me or who the author is. But whoever penned it had profound insight:
     In the 1950s kids lost their innocence. They were liberated from their parents by well-paying jobs, cars, and lyrics in music that gave rise to a new term–the generation gap.
     In the 1960s, kids lost their authority. It was a decade of protest–church, state, and parents were all called into question and found wanting. Their authority was rejected, yet nothing ever replaced it.
     In the 1970s, kids lost their love. It was the decade of me-ism dominated by hyphenated words beginning with self. Self-image, Self-esteem, Self-assertion... It made for a lonely world. Kids learned everything there was to know about sex and forgot everything there was to know about love, and no one had the nerve to tell them there was a difference.
     In the 1980s, kids lost their hope. Stripped of innocence, authority, and love and plagued by the horror of a nuclear nightmare, large and growing numbers of this generation stopped believing in the future.
     To bring it up to date, I have added two more paragraphs:
     In the 1990s kids lost their power to reason. Less and less were they taught the very basics of language, truth, and logic and they grew up with the irrationality of a postmodern world.
     In the new millennium, kids woke up and found out that somewhere in the midst of all this change, they had lost their imagination. Violence and perversion entertained them till none could talk of killing innocents since none was innocent anymore.
     Now go back and look at the list and see the progression. If the word innocence can be replaced by the word wonder, then you see how the slide into despair began. Wonder has a direct bearing on hopelessness and evil. The loss of wonder sets the stage for evil, until truth itself dies at the altar of a desecrated imagination.

Recapture the Wonder

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 7.

     Vespasian, When He Had Taken The City Gadaea Marches To Jotapata. After A Long Siege The City Is Betrayed By A Deserter, And Taken By Vespasian.

     1. So Vespasian marched to the city Gadara, and took it upon the first onset, because he found it destitute of any considerable number of men grown up and fit for war. He came then into it, and slew all the youth, the Romans having no mercy on any age whatsoever; and this was done out of the hatred they bore the nation, and because of the iniquity they had been guilty of in the affair of Cestius. He also set fire not only to the city itself, but to all the villas and small cities that were round about it; some of them were quite destitute of inhabitants, and out of some of them he carried the inhabitants as slaves into captivity.

     2. As to Josephus, his retiring to that city which he chose as the most fit for his security, put it into great fear; for the people of Tiberias did not imagine that he would have run away, unless he had entirely despaired of the success of the war. And indeed, as to that point, they were not mistaken about his opinion; for he saw whither the affairs of the Jews would tend at last, and was sensible that they had but one way of escaping, and that was by repentance. However, although he expected that the Romans would forgive him, yet did he choose to die many times over, rather than to betray his country, and to dishonor that supreme command of the army which had been intrusted with him, or to live happily under those against whom he was sent to fight. He determined, therefore, to give an exact account of affairs to the principal men at Jerusalem by a letter, that he might not, by too much aggrandizing the power of the enemy, make them too timorous; nor, by relating that their power beneath the truth, might encourage them to stand out when they were perhaps disposed to repentance. He also sent them word, that if they thought of coming to terms, they must suddenly write him an answer; or if they resolved upon war, they must send him an army sufficient to fight the Romans. Accordingly, he wrote these things, and sent messengers immediately to carry his letter to Jerusalem.

     3. Now Vespasian was very desirous of demolishing Jotapata, for he had gotten intelligence that the greatest part of the enemy had retired thither, and that it was, on other accounts, a place of great security to them. Accordingly, he sent both foot-men and horsemen to level the road, which was mountainous and rocky, not without difficulty to be traveled over by footmen, but absolutely impracticable for horsemen. Now these workmen accomplished what they were about in four days' time, and opened a broad way for the army. On the fifth day, which was the twenty-first of the month Artemisius, [Jyar,] Josephus prevented him, and came from Tiberias, and went into Jotapata, and raised the drooping spirits of the Jews. And a certain deserter told this good news to Vespasian, that Josephus had removed himself thither, which made him make haste to the city, as supposing that with taking that he should take all Judea, in case he could but withal get Josephus under his power. So he took this news to be of the vastest advantage to him, and believed it to be brought about by the providence of God, that he who appeared to be the most prudent man of all their enemies, had, of his own accord, shut himself up in a place of sure custody. Accordingly, he sent Placidus with a thousand horsemen, and Ebutius a decurion, a person that was of eminency both in council and in action, to encompass the city round, that Josephus might not escape away privately.

     4. Vespasian also, the very next day, took his whole army and followed them, and by marching till late in the Evening, arrived then at Jotapata; and bringing his army to the northern side of the city, he pitched his camp on a certain small hill which was seven furlongs from the city, and still greatly endeavored to be well seen by the enemy, to put them into a consternation; which was indeed so terrible to the Jews immediately, that no one of them durst go out beyond the wall. Yet did the Romans put off the attack at that time, because they had marched all the day, although they placed a double row of battalions round the city, with a third row beyond them round the whole, which consisted of cavalry, in order to stop up every way for an exit; which thing making the Jews despair of escaping, excited them to act more boldly; for nothing makes men fight so desperately in war as necessity.

     5. Now when the next day an assault was made by the Romans, the Jews at first staid out of the walls and opposed them, and met them, as having formed themselves a camp before the city walls. But when Vespasian had set against them the archers and slingers, and the whole multitude that could throw to a great distance, he permitted them to go to work, while he himself, with the footmen, got upon an acclivity, whence the city might easily be taken. Josephus was then in fear for the city, and leaped out, and all the Jewish multitude with him; these fell together upon the Romans in great numbers, and drove them away from the wall, and performed a great many glorious and bold actions. Yet did they suffer as much as they made the enemy suffer; for as despair of deliverance encouraged the Jews, so did a sense of shame equally encourage the Romans. These last had skill as well as strength; the other had only courage, which armed them, and made them fight furiously. And when the fight had lasted all day, it was put an end to by the coming on of the night. They had wounded a great many of the Romans, and killed of them thirteen men; of the Jews' side seventeen were slain, and six hundred wounded.

          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 22:26-27
     by D.H. Stern

26     Don’t be one of those who give pledges,
guaranteeing loans made to others;
27     for if you don’t have the wherewithal to pay,
they will take your bed away from underneath you.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
Mushrooms On The Moor
     by Frank W. Boreham


     Wild horses shall not drag from me the wonderful secret that suggested my theme. Suffice it to say that it had to do with the naming of a baby. And the naming of a baby is really one of the most momentous events upon which the sentinel stars look down. There is more in it than a cursory observer would suppose. Tennyson recognized this when his first son was born, the son who was destined to become the biographer of his distinguished sire and the Governor-General of our Australian Commonwealth. Whilst revelling in the proud ecstasies of early fatherhood, he sought the companionship of his intimate friend, Henry Hallam, the historian. They were strolling together one day in a beautiful English churchyard.

     'What name do you mean to give him?' asked Hallam.

     'Well, we thought of calling him Hallam,' replied the poet.

     'Oh! had you not better call him Alfred, after yourself?' suggested the historian.

     'Aye!' replied the naïve bard, 'but what if he should turn out to be a fool?'

     Ah, there's the rub. It turned out all right, as it happened. The boy was no fool, as the world very well knows; but if you examine the story under a microscope you will discover that it is encrusted with a golden wealth of philosophy. For the point is that the baby's name sets before the baby a certain standard of achievement. The baby's name commits the baby to something. Names, even in the ordinary life of the home and the street, are infinitely more than mere tags attached to us for purposes of convenience and identification.

     In describing the striking experiences through which he passed on being made a freeman, Booker T. Washington, the slave who carved his way to statesmanship, tells us that his greatest difficulty lay in regard to a name. Slaves have no names; no authentic genealogy; no family history; no ancestral traditions. They have, therefore, nothing to live up to. Mr. Booker Washington himself invented his own name. 'More than once,' he says 'I tried to picture myself in the position of a boy or man with an honoured and distinguished ancestry. As it is, I have no idea who my grandmother was. The very fact that the white boy is conscious that, if he fails, he will disgrace the whole family record is of tremendous value in helping him to resist temptations. And the fact that the individual has behind him a proud family history serves as a stimulus to help him to overcome obstacles when striving for success.' Every student of biography knows how frequently men have been restrained from doing evil, or inspired to lofty achievement, by the honour in which a cherished memory has compelled them to hold the names they are allowed to bear. Every schoolboy knows the story of the Grecian coward whose name was Alexander. His cowardice seemed the more contemptible because of his distinguished name; and his commander, Alexander the Great, ordered him either to change his name or to prove himself brave.

     I notice that the American people have lately been rudely awakened to a recognition of the fact that a nation that can boast of a splendid galaxy of illustrious names stands involved, not only in a great and priceless heritage, but also in a weighty national responsibility. Three citizens of the United States, bearing three of the most distinguished names in American history, have recently figured with painful prominence before the criminal courts of that country. 'It is not rarely,' as a leading American journal remarks, 'that a man who has acquired credit and reputation ruins his own good name by some act of fraud or passion. It is much rarer that the case appears of one who soils the good name of a distinguished father. But it is without parallel that three names, borne by men the most famous in our annals, should all have been so foully soiled by their sons.' And the pitiable element in the case is not relieved by the circumstance that these unhappy men have clearly inherited, with their fathers' names, something of their fathers' genius. The fact is that American soil has proved singularly congenial to the growth of greatness. The length of America's scroll of fame is altogether out of proportion to the brevity of her history. The stirring epochs of her short career have developed a phenomenal wealth of leaders in all the arts and crafts of national life. In statesmanship, in arms, in letters, and in inventive science, she can produce a record of which many nations, very much older, might be pardonably proud. And she therefore displays a perfectly natural and honourable solicitude when she looks with serious concern on the untoward happenings that have recently smudged some of those fair names which she so justly regards as the shining hoard and cherished legacy which have been bequeathed to her by a singularly eventful past.

     'Names!' exclaims Carlyle's Teufelsdrockh. 'Could I unfold the influence of names, I were a second greater Trismegistus!' Names occupy a place in literature peculiarly their own. From Homer downwards, all great writers have recognized their magical value. The most superficial readers of the Iliad and the Odyssey must have noticed how liberally every page is sprinkled with capital letters. The name of a god or of a hero blazes like an oriflamme in almost every line. And Macaulay, in accounting for the peculiar charm of Milton, says that none of his poems are more generally known or more frequently repeated than those that are little more than muster-rolls of names. 'They are not always more appropriate,' he says, 'or more melodious than other names. But they are charmed names. Every one of them is the first link in a long chain of associated ideas. Like the dwelling-place of our infancy revisited in manhood, like the song of our country heard in a strange land, these names produce upon us an effect wholly independent of their intrinsic value. One transports us back to a remote period of history. Another places us among the novel scenes and manners of a distant region. A third evokes all the dear, classical recollections of childhood—the schoolroom, the dog-eared Virgil, the holiday, and the prize. A fourth brings before us the splendid phantoms of chivalrous romance—the trophied lists, the embroidered housings, the quaint devices, the haunted forests, the enchanted gardens, the achievements of enamoured knights, and the smiles of rescued princesses.'

     To tell the whole truth, I rather suspect that Macaulay appreciated this subtle art so highly in Milton because he himself had mastered the trick so thoroughly. He knew what magic slumbered in that wondrous wand. His own dexterity in conjuring with heroic names is at least as marvellous as Milton's. In his Victorian Age in Literature, Mr. G. K. Chesterton says that Macaulay felt and used names like trumpets. 'The reader's greatest joy is in the writer's own joy,' he says, 'when he can let his last phrase fall like a hammer on some resounding names, such as Hildebrand or Charlemagne, the eagles of Rome or the pillars of Hercules. As with Sir Walter Scott, some of the best things in his prose and poetry are the surnames that he did not make. That is exactly where Macaulay is great. He is almost Homeric. The whole triumph turns upon mere names.' We have all wondered at the uncanny ingenuity that Bunyan and Dickens displayed in the manufacture of names to suit their droll and striking characters; but we are compelled to confess that Homer and Milton and Macaulay reveal a still higher phase of genius, for they succeed in marshalling with rhythmic and dramatic effect the actual names that living men have borne, and in weaving those names into glorious pageants of extraordinary impressiveness and splendour.

     It is very odd, the way in which history and prophecy meet and mingle in the naming of the baby. A friend of mine has just named his child after John Wesley. He has clearly done so in the fond hope that the august virtues of the great Methodist may be duplicated and revived in a generation that is coming. It is an ingenious device for transferring the moral excellences of the remote past to the dim and distant regions of an unborn future. The phenomenon sometimes becomes positively pathetic. I remember reading, in the stirring annals of the Melanesian Mission, of a native boy whom Bishop John Selwyn had in training at Norfolk Island. He had been brought from one of the most barbarous of the South Sea peoples, and did not promise particularly well. One day Bishop Selwyn had occasion to rebuke him for his stubborn and refractory behaviour. The boy instantly flew into a passion and struck the Bishop a cruel blow in the face. It was an unheard-of incident, and all who saw it stood aghast. The Bishop said nothing, but turned and walked quietly away. The conduct of the lad continued to be most recalcitrant, and he was at last returned to his own island as incorrigible. There he soon relapsed into all the debasements of a savage and cannibal people. Many years afterwards a missionary on that island was summoned post-haste to visit a sick man. It proved to be Dr. Selwyn's old student. He was dying, and desired Christian baptism. The missionary asked him by what name he would like to be known. 'Call me John Selwyn,' the dying man replied, 'because he taught me what Christ was like that day when I struck him.'

     We have a wonderful way of associating certain qualities with certain names. The name becomes fragrant, not as the rose is fragrant, but as the clay is fragrant that has long lain with the rose. I see that two European newspapers have recently taken a vote as to the most popular name for a boy and the most popular name for a girl. And in the result the names of John and Mary hopelessly outdistanced all competitors. But why? There is nothing in the name of John or in that of Mary to account for such general attachment. Some names, like Lily, or Rose, or Violet, suggest beautiful images, and are loved on that account. But the name of John and the name of Mary suggest nothing but the memory of certain wearers. How, then, are we to account for it? The riddle is easily read. Long, long ago, on a green hill far away, there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and the disciple whom Jesus loved. And, when Mary left that awful and tragic scene, she left it, as Jesus Himself desired that she should leave it, leaning on the arm of John. And because those two were first in the human love of Jesus, their names have occupied a place of special fondness in the hearts of all men ever since. Like the fly held in the amber, the memory of great and sterling qualities is encased and perpetuated in the very names we bear.

     I like to dwell on that memorable scene that took place at the burial of Longfellow. A notable company gathered at the poet's funeral; and, among them, Emerson came up from Concord. His brilliant and majestic powers were in ruins. He stood for a long, long time looking down into the quiet, dead face of Longfellow, but said nothing. At last he turned sadly away, and, as he did so, he remarked to those who stood reverently by, 'The gentleman we are burying to-day was a sweet and beautiful soul, but I forget his name!' Yes, that is the beauty of it all. The name perpetuates and celebrates the memory of the goodness; but the memory of the goodness lingers after the memory of the name is lost. I shall enjoy the fragrance of the roses over my lattice when I can no longer recall the names by which they are distinguished.

     Mrs. Booth used to love to tell a beautiful story of a man whose saintly life left its permanent and gracious impress upon her own. He seemed to grow in grace and charm and in all nobleness with every day he lived. At the last he could speak of nothing but the glories of his Saviour, and his face was radiant with awe and affection whenever he mentioned that holy name. It chanced that, as he was dying, a document was discovered that imperatively required his signature. He held the pen for one brief moment, wrote, and fell back upon the pillows, dead. And on the paper he had written, not his own name, but the Name that is above every name. Within sight of the things within the veil, that seemed to be the only name that mattered.

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

                Quench not the Spirit

     Quench not the spirit. --- 1 Thess. 5:19.

     The voice of the Spirit is as gentle as a zephyr, so gentle that unless you are living in perfect communion with God, you never hear it. The checks of the Spirit come in the most extraordinarily gentle ways, and if you are not sensitive enough to detect His voice you will quench it, and your personal spiritual life will be impaired. His checks always come as a still small voice, so small that no one but the saint notices them.

     Beware if in personal testimony you have to hark back and say—‘Once, so many years ago, I was saved.’ If you are walking in the light, there is no harking back, the past is transfused into the present wonder of communion with God. If you get out of the light you become a sentimental Christian and live on memories, your testimony has a hard, metallic note. Beware of trying to patch up a present refusal to walk in the light by recalling past experiences when you did walk in the light. Whenever the Spirit checks, call a halt and get the thing right, or you will go on grieving Him without knowing it.

     Suppose God has brought you up to a crisis and you nearly go through but not quite, He will engineer the crisis again, but it will not be so keen as it was before. There will be less discernment of God and more humiliation at not having obeyed; and if you go on grieving the Spirit, there will come a time when that crisis cannot be repeated, you have grieved Him away. But if you go through the crisis, there will be the psalm of praise to God. Never sympathize with the thing that is stabbing God all the time. God has to hurt the thing that must go.

My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition

     the Poetry of RS Thomas


As life improved, their poems
  Grew sadder and sadder. Was there oil
  For the machine? It was
  The vinegar in the poet's cup.

The tins marched to the music
  Of the conveyer belt. A billion
  Mouths opened. Production,
  Production, the wheels

Whistled. Among the forests
  Of metal the one human
  Sound was the lament of
  The poets for the deciduous language.


Comment On Romans
     Scot McKnight

     I want to avoid words like “penal” for two reasons: (1) for some it’s nothing but a red flag that (2) sets off caricatures of what retribution means. Frankly, Sharon Baker’s book is laced up with caricatures of what retribution and justice and substitutionary atonement must mean. There’s no reason to go there, then, with the word penal.

     So, let’s talk
Roman 3:26: why does Paul say God must be both just and the justifier? This isn’t Anselm; this is Paul — 1st Century; a Jew; a Christian; this isn’t medieval punitive justice nor the medieval justice system. It’s 1st Century. For Paul God can’t forgive willy-nilly; justice is involved to be justifier.

     The two fundamental means of forgiveness in the Bible are (1) the OT sacrificial system, and I’m thinking here esp of Yom Kippur, and (2) the cross of Christ. God forgives us by means of these events and I think it could be said God doesn’t forgive apart from those two means. So, something is done in order to establish the ground of forgiveness.

     Put differently, God evidently thinks something must be done in order for forgiveness to occur, and however you read those two events, it comes down to Christ paying the debt of death on our behalf, instead of us. I think of Paul’s statement that he became sin who knew no sin. Clearly there is some kind of transference of sin/debt/guilt onto Christ so that we need not bear the load/debt. The moment you acknowledge that Christ took upon himself due us you’ve got the justice system at work, even if you make it entirely covenantal and relational. (That’s not the issue here, unless it gets to be exaggerated judicial system.)

     I believe all forgiveness is the result of God’s forgiveness and we don’t forgive out of the goodness of our own hearts. As God has forgiven so we forgive by extending that forgiveness.

     So, I would say Jesus’ words “forgive them” are rooted in Jesus’ belief in how forgiveness occurs. Furthermore, those folks won’t experience reconciliation with God apart from repentance and faith, both of which are connected to God being just in justifying.

   Comment by Scot McKnight — October 4, 2010 @ 1:09 pm on his web blog

Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     Exodus 20:20–21

     The place my heart loves, my feet lead me there.

Exodus 20:20–21 / With Me, therefore, you shall not make any gods of silver, nor shall you make for yourselves any gods of gold. Make for Me an altar of earth and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your sacrifices of well-being, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come to you and bless you.

     MIDRASH TEXT / Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishmael, Yitro 11 / In every place … that I reveal Myself to you—the Temple. From this it has been taught: The Actual Name [of God] is forbidden to be uttered outside [of the Temple]. Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov says, “If you come to My House, I will come to your house. But if you do not come to My House, I will not come to your house.”

     The place my heart loves, my feet lead me there. From this they said, “Whenever ten people enter the synagogue, the Divine Presence is with them, as it says, ‘God stands in the divine assembly …’ ” [
Psalm 82:1]. And from where [do we know that the Divine Presence is with] even three who render judgement? As it says, “… among the divine beings He pronounces judgement” [ibid.].

     And from where [do we know that the Divine Presence is with] even two? As it says, “In this vein have those who revere the Lord been talking to one another” [
Malachi 3:16].

     And from where [do we know that the Divine Presence is with] even one? As it says, “In every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come to you.”

     CONTEXT / Our passage from Exodus indicates that sacrifices could be offered in any number of places as long as there were no idols there and the offerings were brought in accordance with the proper procedures. Indeed, sacrifices during the forty years in the wilderness were brought to the portable Tabernacle; after the Israelites entered the land of Israel, sacrifices were offered in many sites. The Book of Deuteronomy introduces laws centralizing the cult: All offerings had to be brought to the one “place,” which God would choose. The Rabbis understood this to be the Temple in Jerusalem. Thus, even though the Torah had originally said “every place,” it actually was to be “the only place,” the Temple.

     The Actual Name [of God] is forbidden to be uttered outside [of the Temple]. This refers to the Tetragrammaton, the four letters that comprise the divine name (spelled yod-heh-vav-heh in Hebrew). To this very day, we never pronounce these letters or say the explicit name of God. Instead, we say Adonai (meaning “My Lord”). However, the four-letter name of God was, on occasion, pronounced inside the Temple (most notably on the Day of Atonement by the Kohen Gadol).

     Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov says, “If you come to My House, I will come to your house. But if you do not come to My House, I will not come to your house.” If people come to worship at the Temple, the only place where God’s name is actually pronounced aloud, they can be assured that God will be there with them. Where God’s (actual) name is, God (actually) is. One can imagine that praying to an “invisible God”—one who could not be represented by a figure made of silver or gold—might have led to doubts among the people (“Is God really here? Does God really hear our prayers?). The Midrash responds with its strong answer: God is here (in the Temple in Jerusalem). If you come to the Temple, you will find God’s presence.

     These doubts were heightened with the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. How was a Jew to enter God’s presence in the absence of the place where God had previously “resided?” Rabbinic Judaism attempted to deal with this monumental loss. The interpretation that follows shows that the average Jew could find God outside of the Temple in Jerusalem. “The place my heart loves, my feet lead me there.” On the one hand, this can be understood as the words of God: Any place where Jews gather to worship, I will be there. On the other hand, it can also be applied to those who love God and who make it their business, despite distance or hardship, to attend a holy place of worship.

     Two additional biblical verses (from
Psalm 82 and the prophet Malachi) are brought to prove that God’s presence is to be found even in small groups: ten (a minyan); three (a beit-din, or court); and two (study-partners). The Rabbis then ask, And from where [do we know that the Divine Presence is with] even one, that God’s presence resides with an individual? As it says, “In every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come to you.” Note how the Rabbis believe that God can be both everywhere and in a specific place: “In every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come to you.” “If you come to My House, I will come to your house.” The omnipresent God can be found even by an individual who calls to God.

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Take Heart
     August 13

     Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.
Matthew 6:19.

     “Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: he bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it” (
Ps. 39:6). (The Early Church Fathers--Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: First Series: 14 Volumes (The Early Church Fathers, First Series , So14)) What is more mad, more unhappy? All day long you are harassed by labor, all night agitated by fear. That your coffer may be filled with money, your soul is in a fever of anxiety.

     You bustle about in vain. Suppose that all your undertakings succeed. You bustle about, not fruitlessly indeed—still in vain. You are heaping up treasure and do not know for whom you gather it. For yourself?—you, who must die so soon? For your children?—those who must die so soon? It is a great futility—ones who must soon die lay up for those who must soon die also.

     Let us then give ear to Jesus Christ: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.… But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” What more do you wait for?

     The voice of prediction is, “Heaven and earth will pass away” (
Matt. 24:35). The voice of warning is, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.” If then you believe God in his prediction, if you do not despise his warning, let what he says be done. You will not lose what you have given away but will follow what you have only sent ahead of you. What you have on earth—with anxiety—you shall possess in heaven free from care. Transport your goods, then. I am giving you counsel for keeping, not for losing. “You will have,” says he, “treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Matt. 19:21), that I may bring you to your treasure.

     If what we have must be transported, let us transfer it to that place from where we cannot lose it. What are the poor to whom we give but our carriers, by whom we convey our goods from earth to heaven? Give then—you are only giving to your carriers. “How,” say you, “do they carry it to heaven? For I see that they make an end of it by eating.” No doubt they carry it not by keeping it but by making it their food. Have you forgotten? “Whatever,” says Christ, “you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” He has received it who gave you something to give. He has received it who, in the end, will give his own self to you.
Augustine of Hippo

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

On This Day
     Maximus  August 13

     Maximus Confessor was born in Constantinople about 580. His family belonged to the old Byzantine aristocracy, and Maximus was afforded a good education. He proved an able leader and became Imperial Secretary under Emperor Heraclius. But he resigned. Driven by spiritual passion, he entered a monastery and eventually became the abbot. His theological and literary skills blossomed. The Greek church was inundated with his writings, and men as brilliant as John Scotus Erigena in the West and John of Damascus in the East drew wisdom from his pen.

     In the course of time, Maximus led the fight against a heresy called Monothelitism—the teaching that Christ had a divine, but no human, will. This became the fight of his life. For many years, Maximus in the East and Pope Martinus I in the Western church held the line for orthodoxy—that Christ has two natures (human and divine), and two wills (not separated or mixed but in harmony).

     The emperor, unimpressed, advanced Monothelitism. Pope Martinus was deposed, imprisoned with common criminals, exposed to cold and hunger, and finally banished to a cavern on the Black Sea where he died in 655. Maximus was treated even worse. Though now a feeble 73-year-old man, he was seized, dragged across the empire, placed on trial in Constantinople, and banished to a remote spot where he suffered greatly from cold and hunger. After several months, a commission was sent to interview him, headed by Theodosius, Bishop of Caesarea, a Monothelitist. Maximus so eloquently defended the two natures of Christ that Theodosius left a converted man.

     Another delegation was sent, and the emperor offered Maximus great rewards to convert to Monothelitism, and great suffering if he refused. He refused and was beaten, spat on, robbed of his possessions, imprisoned for six years, then flogged. His tongue and right hand were whacked off. He was displayed at a pillory in each of the 12 quarters of the city, then imprisoned for the rest of his life—which proved only a few weeks. He died August 13, 662 at age 82. But his sufferings paved the way for the triumph of his doctrine.

     The Word became a human being and lived here with us. We saw his true glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father. From him all the kindness and all the truth of God have come down to us.
--- John 1:14.

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - August 13

     “The cedars of Lebanon which he hath planted.” --- Psalm 104:16.

     Lebanon’s cedars are emblematic of the Christian, in that they owe their planting entirely to the Lord. This is quite true of every child of God. He is not man-planted, nor self-planted, but God-planted. The mysterious hand of the divine Spirit dropped the living seed into a heart which he had himself prepared for its reception. Every true heir of heaven owns the great Husbandman as his planter. Moreover, the cedars of Lebanon are not dependent upon man for their watering; they stand on the lofty rock, unmoistened by human irrigation; and yet our heavenly Father supplieth them. Thus it is with the Christian who has learned to live by faith. He is independent of man, even in temporal things; for his continued maintenance he looks to the Lord his God, and to him alone. The dew of heaven is his portion, and the God of heaven is his fountain. Again, the cedars of Lebanon are not protected by any mortal power. They owe nothing to man for their preservation from stormy wind and tempest. They are God’s trees, kept and preserved by him, and by him alone. It is precisely the same with the Christian. He is not a hot-house plant, sheltered from temptation; he stands in the most exposed position; he has no shelter, no protection, except this, that the broad wings of the eternal God always cover the cedars which he himself has planted. Like cedars, believers are full of sap, having vitality enough to be ever green, even amid winter’s snows. Lastly, the flourishing and majestic condition of the cedar is to the praise of God only. The Lord, even the Lord alone hath been everything unto the cedars, and, therefore David very sweetly puts it in one of the Psalms, “Praise ye the Lord, fruitful trees and all cedars.” In the believer there is nothing that can magnify man; he is planted, nourished, and protected by the Lord’s own hand, and to him let all the glory be ascribed.

          Evening - August 13

     “And I will remember my covenant.” --- Genesis 9:15.

     Mark the form of the promise. God does not say, “And when ye shall look upon the bow, and ye shall remember my covenant, then I will not destroy the earth,” but it is gloriously put, not upon our memory, which is fickle and frail, but upon God’s memory, which is infinite and immutable. “The bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant.” Oh! it is not my remembering God, it is God’s remembering me which is the ground of my safety; it is not my laying hold of his covenant, but his covenant’s laying hold on me. Glory be to God! the whole of the bulwarks of salvation are secured by divine power, and even the minor towers, which we may imagine might have been left to man, are guarded by almighty strength. Even the remembrance of the covenant is not left to our memories, for we might forget, but our Lord cannot forget the saints whom he has graven on the palms of his hands. It is with us as with Israel in Egypt; the blood was upon the lintel and the two side-posts, but the Lord did not say, “When you see the blood I will pass over you,” but “When I see the blood I will pass over you.” My looking to Jesus brings me joy and peace, but it is God’s looking to Jesus which secures my salvation and that of all his elect, since it is impossible for our God to look at Christ, our bleeding Surety, and then to be angry with us for sins already punished in him. No, it is not left with us even to be saved by remembering the covenant. There is no linsey-wolsey here—not a single thread of the creature mars the fabric. It is not of man, neither by man, but of the Lord alone. We should remember the covenant, and we shall do it, through divine grace; but the hinge of our safety does not hang there—it is God’s remembering us, not our remembering him; and hence the covenant is an everlasting covenant.

Morning and Evening: A New Edition of the Classic Devotional Based on The Holy Bible, English Standard Version

Amazing Grace
     August 13


     Henry F. Lyte, 1793–1847

     Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24)

     Every believer has a cross of some kind that Christ expects him to carry cheerfully each day as a demonstration of his discipleship. Life is a matter of choices. If we have made a decision to follow Christ, there must be purposeful self-denial in our lives or we have not really learned the meaning of true discipleship. Salvation is free, but discipleship is costly. Bearing the cross involves a willingness to look beyond our own affairs and to share the load of others in order that they too may have a personal relationship with the Savior.

     Henry Lyte spent the last 23 years of his life ministering to an Anglican parish of humble fishermen in Devonshire, England. In spite of his cross of frail health, Lyte worked tirelessly to build up a Sunday school of more than 800 children, and he contributed to a great spiritual and moral change in the hardened community around him. Also during these years, he had a number of books of poetry published as well as 80 hymn texts.

     In everything he attempted amidst numerous difficulties, Henry Lyte demonstrated that he truly denied himself, took up his cross, and faithfully followed and served his Lord.

     Jesus, I my cross have taken, all to leave and follow Thee; destitute, despised, forsaken—Thou from hence my all shalt be. Perish ev’ry fond ambition—all I’ve sought and hoped and known! Yet how rich is my condition—God and heav’n are still my own!
     Let the world despise and leave me; they have left my Savior too; human hearts and looks deceive me—Thou art not, like man, untrue. And while Thou shalt smile upon me, God of wisdom, love, and might, foes may hate, and friends may shun me—Show Thy face, and all is bright!
     Haste thee, on from grace to glory, armed by faith and winged by prayer; Heav’n’s eternal days before thee—God’s own hand shall guide thee there. Soon shall close thy earthly mission; swift shall pass thy pilgrim days; hope shall change to glad fruition, faith to sight, and prayer to praise!

     For Today: 2 Kings 18:1–7; Matthew 10:38; Mark 10:21; Luke 9:23, 62; 1 Peter 2:21

     Purpose in your heart to deny yourself, cheerfully enduring whatever your cross may be, and then serve God by serving someone else. Begin by reflecting seriously on the words of this hymn ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

Book Of Common Prayer
     Sunday, August 13, 2017 | After Pentecost

Proper 14, Sunday
Year 1

Psalms (Morning)     Psalm 66, 67
Psalms (Evening)     Psalm 19, 46
Old Testament     2 Samuel 13:1–22
New Testament     Romans 15:1–13
Gospel     John 3:22–36

Index of Readings

Psalms (Morning)
Psalm 66, 67

To the leader. A Song. A Psalm.

1 Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;
2 sing the glory of his name;
give to him glorious praise.
3 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.
4 All the earth worships you;
they sing praises to you,
sing praises to your name.”     Selah

5 Come and see what God has done:
he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.
6 He turned the sea into dry land;
they passed through the river on foot.
There we rejoiced in him,
7 who rules by his might forever,
whose eyes keep watch on the nations—
let the rebellious not exalt themselves.     Selah

8 Bless our God, O peoples,
let the sound of his praise be heard,
9 who has kept us among the living,
and has not let our feet slip.
10 For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried.
11 You brought us into the net;
you laid burdens on our backs;
12 you let people ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.

13 I will come into your house with burnt offerings;
I will pay you my vows,
14 those that my lips uttered
and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.
15 I will offer to you burnt offerings of fatlings,
with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams;
I will make an offering of bulls and goats.     Selah

16 Come and hear, all you who fear God,
and I will tell what he has done for me.
17 I cried aloud to him,
and he was extolled with my tongue.
18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened.
19 But truly God has listened;
he has given heed to the words of my prayer.

20 Blessed be God,
because he has not rejected my prayer
or removed his steadfast love from me.

To the leader: with stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song.

1 May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us,     Selah
2 that your way may be known upon earth,
your saving power among all nations.
3 Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.

4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth.     Selah
5 Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.

6 The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, has blessed us.
7 May God continue to bless us;
let all the ends of the earth revere him.

Psalms (Evening)
Psalm 19, 46

To the leader. A Psalm of David.

1 The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.

In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy,
and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them;
and nothing is hid from its heat.

7 The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the decrees of the LORD are sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever;
the ordinances of the LORD are true
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey,
and drippings of the honeycomb.

11 Moreover by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can detect their errors?
Clear me from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from the insolent;
do not let them have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

To the leader. Of the Korahites. According to Alamoth. A Song.

1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.     Selah

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
6 The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.     Selah

8 Come, behold the works of the LORD;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”
11 The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.     Selah

Old Testament
2 Samuel 13:1–22

13 Some time passed. David’s son Absalom had a beautiful sister whose name was Tamar; and David’s son Amnon fell in love with her. 2 Amnon was so tormented that he made himself ill because of his sister Tamar, for she was a virgin and it seemed impossible to Amnon to do anything to her. 3 But Amnon had a friend whose name was Jonadab, the son of David’s brother Shimeah; and Jonadab was a very crafty man. 4 He said to him, “O son of the king, why are you so haggard morning after morning? Will you not tell me?” Amnon said to him, “I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.” 5 Jonadab said to him, “Lie down on your bed, and pretend to be ill; and when your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘Let my sister Tamar come and give me something to eat, and prepare the food in my sight, so that I may see it and eat it from her hand.’ ” 6 So Amnon lay down, and pretended to be ill; and when the king came to see him, Amnon said to the king, “Please let my sister Tamar come and make a couple of cakes in my sight, so that I may eat from her hand.”

7 Then David sent home to Tamar, saying, “Go to your brother Amnon’s house, and prepare food for him.” 8 So Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house, where he was lying down. She took dough, kneaded it, made cakes in his sight, and baked the cakes. 9 Then she took the pan and set them out before him, but he refused to eat. Amnon said, “Send out everyone from me.” So everyone went out from him. 10 Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food into the chamber, so that I may eat from your hand.” So Tamar took the cakes she had made, and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother. 11 But when she brought them near him to eat, he took hold of her, and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.” 12 She answered him, “No, my brother, do not force me; for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do anything so vile! 13 As for me, where could I carry my shame? And as for you, you would be as one of the scoundrels in Israel. Now therefore, I beg you, speak to the king; for he will not withhold me from you.” 14 But he would not listen to her; and being stronger than she, he forced her and lay with her.

15 Then Amnon was seized with a very great loathing for her; indeed, his loathing was even greater than the lust he had felt for her. Amnon said to her, “Get out!” 16 But she said to him, “No, my brother; for this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other that you did to me.” But he would not listen to her. 17 He called the young man who served him and said, “Put this woman out of my presence, and bolt the door after her.” 18 (Now she was wearing a long robe with sleeves; for this is how the virgin daughters of the king were clothed in earlier times.) So his servant put her out, and bolted the door after her. 19 But Tamar put ashes on her head, and tore the long robe that she was wearing; she put her hand on her head, and went away, crying aloud as she went.

20 Her brother Absalom said to her, “Has Amnon your brother been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother; do not take this to heart.” So Tamar remained, a desolate woman, in her brother Absalom’s house. 21 When King David heard of all these things, he became very angry, but he would not punish his son Amnon, because he loved him, for he was his firstborn. 22 But Absalom spoke to Amnon neither good nor bad; for Absalom hated Amnon, because he had raped his sister Tamar.

New Testament
Romans 15:1–13

15 We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor. 3 For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” 4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, 6 so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

7 Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

“Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,
and sing praises to your name”;
10 and again he says,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”;
11 and again,
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples praise him”;
12 and again Isaiah says,
“The root of Jesse shall come,
the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
in him the Gentiles shall hope.”

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

John 3:22–36

22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he spent some time there with them and baptized. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim because water was abundant there; and people kept coming and were being baptized 24 —John, of course, had not yet been thrown into prison.

25 Now a discussion about purification arose between John’s disciples and a Jew. 26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27 John answered, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. 28 You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true. 34 He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.

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