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8/2/2017
Proverbs 19-21
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Proverbs 19:1     Better is the poor who walks in his integrity
Than one who is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.

2     Also it is not good for a soul to be without knowledge,
And he sins who hastens with his feet.

3     The foolishness of a man twists his way,
And his heart frets against the Lord.

4     Wealth makes many friends,
But the poor is separated from his friend.

5     A false witness will not go unpunished,
And he who speaks lies will not escape.

6     Many entreat the favor of the nobility,
And every man is a friend to one who gives gifts.
7     All the brothers of the poor hate him;
How much more do his friends go far from him!
He may pursue them with words, yet they abandon him.

8     He who gets wisdom loves his own soul;
He who keeps understanding will find good.
9     A false witness will not go unpunished,
And he who speaks lies shall perish.

10     Luxury is not fitting for a fool,
Much less for a servant to rule over princes.

11     The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger,
And his glory is to overlook a transgression.

12     The king’s wrath is like the roaring of a lion,
But his favor is like dew on the grass.

13     A foolish son is the ruin of his father,
And the contentions of a wife are a continual dripping.

14     Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers,
But a prudent wife is from the Lord.

15     Laziness casts one into a deep sleep,
And an idle person will suffer hunger.

16     He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul,
But he who is careless of his ways will die.

17     He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord,
And He will pay back what he has given.
18     Chasten your son while there is hope,
And do not set your heart on his destruction.

19     A man of great wrath will suffer punishment;
For if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.

20     Listen to counsel and receive instruction,
That you may be wise in your latter days.

21     There are many plans in a man’s heart,
Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.

22     What is desired in a man is kindness,
And a poor man is better than a liar.

23     The fear of the Lord leads to life,
And he who has it will abide in satisfaction;
He will not be visited with evil.

24     A lazy man buries his hand in the bowl,
And will not so much as bring it to his mouth again.

25     Strike a scoffer, and the simple will become wary;
Rebuke one who has understanding, and he will discern knowledge.

26     He who mistreats his father and chases away his mother
Is a son who causes shame and brings reproach.

27     Cease listening to instruction, my son,
And you will stray from the words of knowledge.

28     A disreputable witness scorns justice,
And the mouth of the wicked devours iniquity.

29     Judgments are prepared for scoffers,
And beatings for the backs of fools.


Proverbs 20:1     Wine is a mocker, Strong drink is a brawler,
And whoever is led astray by it is not wise.

2     The wrath of a king is like the roaring of a lion;
Whoever provokes him to anger sins against his own life.

3     It is honorable for a man to stop striving,
Since any fool can start a quarrel.

4     The lazy man will not plow because of winter;
He will beg during harvest and have nothing.

5     Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water,
But a man of understanding will draw it out.

6     Most men will proclaim each his own goodness,
But who can find a faithful man?

7     The righteous man walks in his integrity;
His children are blessed after him.

8     A king who sits on the throne of judgment
Scatters all evil with his eyes.

9     Who can say, “I have made my heart clean,
I am pure from my sin”?

10     Diverse weights and diverse measures,
They are both alike, an abomination to the Lord.

11     Even a child is known by his deeds,
Whether what he does is pure and right.

12     The hearing ear and the seeing eye,
The Lord has made them both.

13     Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty;
Open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with bread.

14     “It is good for nothing,” cries the buyer;
But when he has gone his way, then he boasts.

15     There is gold and a multitude of rubies,
But the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.
16     Take the garment of one who is surety for a stranger,
And hold it as a pledge when it is for a seductress.

17     Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man,
But afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel.

18     Plans are established by counsel;
By wise counsel wage war.

19     He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets;
Therefore do not associate with one who flatters with his lips.

20     Whoever curses his father or his mother,
His lamp will be put out in deep darkness.

21     An inheritance gained hastily at the beginning
Will not be blessed at the end.

22     Do not say, “I will recompense evil”;
Wait for the Lord, and He will save you.

23     Diverse weights are an abomination to the Lord,
And dishonest scales are not good.

24     A man’s steps are of the Lord;
How then can a man understand his own way?

25     It is a snare for a man to devote rashly something as holy,
And afterward to reconsider his vows.

26     A wise king sifts out the wicked,
And brings the threshing wheel over them.

27     The spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord,
Searching all the inner depths of his heart.

28     Mercy and truth preserve the king,
And by lovingkindness he upholds his throne.

29     The glory of young men is their strength,
And the splendor of old men is their gray head.

30     Blows that hurt cleanse away evil,
As do stripes the inner depths of the heart.


Proverbs 21:1     The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord,
Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.

2     Every way of a man is right in his own eyes,
But the Lord weighs the hearts.

3     To do righteousness and justice
Is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

4     A haughty look, a proud heart,
And the plowing of the wicked are sin.

5     The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty,
But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.

6     Getting treasures by a lying tongue
Is the fleeting fantasy of those who seek death.

7     The violence of the wicked will destroy them,
Because they refuse to do justice.

8     The way of a guilty man is perverse;
But as for the pure, his work is right.

9     Better to dwell in a corner of a housetop,
Than in a house shared with a contentious woman.

10     The soul of the wicked desires evil;
His neighbor finds no favor in his eyes.

11     When the scoffer is punished, the simple is made wise;
But when the wise is instructed, he receives knowledge.

12     The righteous God wisely considers the house of the wicked,
Overthrowing the wicked for their wickedness.

13     Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor
Will also cry himself and not be heard.

14     A gift in secret pacifies anger,
And a bribe behind the back, strong wrath.

15     It is a joy for the just to do justice,
But destruction will come to the workers of iniquity.

16     A man who wanders from the way of understanding
Will rest in the assembly of the dead.

17     He who loves pleasure will be a poor man;
He who loves wine and oil will not be rich.

18     The wicked shall be a ransom for the righteous,
And the unfaithful for the upright.

19     Better to dwell in the wilderness,
Than with a contentious and angry woman.

20     There is desirable treasure,
And oil in the dwelling of the wise,
But a foolish man squanders it.

21     He who follows righteousness and mercy
Finds life, righteousness and honor.

22     A wise man scales the city of the mighty,
And brings down the trusted stronghold.

23     Whoever guards his mouth and tongue
Keeps his soul from troubles.

24     A proud and haughty man—“Scoffer” is his name;
He acts with arrogant pride.

25     The desire of the lazy man kills him,
For his hands refuse to labor.
26     He covets greedily all day long,
But the righteous gives and does not spare.

27     The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination;
How much more when he brings it with wicked intent!

28     A false witness shall perish,
But the man who hears him will speak endlessly.

29     A wicked man hardens his face,
But as for the upright, he establishes his way.

30     There is no wisdom or understanding
Or counsel against the Lord.

31     The horse is prepared for the day of battle,
But deliverance is of the Lord.

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




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  Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     The Navy torpedo boat PT 109 was rammed this day, August 2, 1943, by a Japanese destroyer and sunk. The commander, who sustained permanent back injury, helped the survivors swim miles to shore, only to find that they far behind enemy lines in the Solomon Islands. After a daring rescue, he was awarded the Medal of heroism. Though his brother was killed in the war, this commander went on to become a Congressman, Senator, and America’s 35th President. His name was John F. Kennedy, who stated in his Inaugural Address: “The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


We fear the silence.
So we struggle with prayer.
We long for noise and business,
Least we encounter God …
     And ourselves.
Richard Adams


We stumble and fall constantly even when we are most enlightened. But when we are in true spiritual darkness, we do not even know that we have fallen.
--- Thomas Merton


Forgiveness—when God buries our sins and does not mark the grave.
--- Louis Paul Lehman

... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 21.

     Concerning John Of Gichala. Josephus Uses Stratagems Against The Plots John Laid Against Him And Recovers Certain Cities Which Had Revolted From Him.

     1. Now as Josephus was thus engaged in the administration of the affairs of Galilee, there arose a treacherous person, a man of Gischala, the son of Levi, whose name was John. His character was that of a very cunning and very knavish person, beyond the ordinary rate of the other men of eminence there, and for wicked practices he had not his fellow any where. Poor he was at first, and for a long time his wants were a hinderance to him in his wicked designs. He was a ready liar, and yet very sharp in gaining credit to his fictions: he thought it a point of virtue to delude people, and would delude even such as were the dearest to him. He was a hypocritical pretender to humanity, but where he had hopes of gain, he spared not the shedding of blood: his desires were ever carried to great things, and he encouraged his hopes from those mean wicked tricks which he was the author of. He had a peculiar knack at thieving; but in some time he got certain companions in his impudent practices; at first they were but few, but as he proceeded on in his evil course, they became still more and more numerous. He took care that none of his partners should be easily caught in their rogueries, but chose such out of the rest as had the strongest constitutions of body, and the greatest courage of soul, together with great skill in martial affairs; as he got together a band of four hundred men, who came principally out of the country of Tyre, and were vagabonds that had run away from its villages; and by the means of these he laid waste all Galilee, and irritated a considerable number, who were in great expectation of a war then suddenly to arise among them.

     2. However, John's want of money had hitherto restrained him in his ambition after command, and in his attempts to advance himself. But when he saw that Josephus was highly pleased with the activity of his temper, he persuaded him, in the first place, to intrust him with the repairing of the walls of his native city, [Gischala,] in which work he got a great deal of money from the rich citizens. He after that contrived a very shrewd trick, and pretending that the Jews who dwelt in Syria were obliged to make use of oil that was made by others than those of their own nation, he desired leave of Josephus to send oil to their borders; so he bought four amphorae with such Tyrian money as was of the value of four Attic drachmae, and sold every half-amphora at the same price. And as Galilee was very fruitful in oil, and was peculiarly so at that time, by sending away great quantities, and having the sole privilege so to do, he gathered an immense sum of money together, which money he immediately used to the disadvantage of him who gave him that privilege; and, as he supposed, that if he could once overthrow Josephus, he should himself obtain the government of Galilee; so he gave orders to the robbers that were under his command to be more zealous in their thievish expeditions, that by the rise of many that desired innovations in the country, he might either catch their general in his snares, as he came to the country's assistance, and then kill him; or if he should overlook the robbers, he might accuse him for his negligence to the people of the country. He also spread abroad a report far and near that Josephus was delivering up the administration of affairs to the Romans; and many such plots did he lay, in order to ruin him.

     3. Now at the same time that certain young men of the village Dabaritta, who kept guard in the Great Plain laid snares for Ptolemy, who was Agrippa's and Bernice's steward, and took from him all that he had with him; among which things there were a great many costly garments, and no small number of silver cups, and six hundred pieces of gold; yet were they not able to conceal what they had stolen, but brought it all to Josephus, to Taricheae. Hereupon he blamed them for the violence they had offered to the king and queen, and deposited what they brought to him with Eneas, the most potent man of Taricheae, with an intention of sending the things back to the owners at a proper time; which act of Josephus brought him into the greatest danger; for those that had stolen the things had an indignation at him, both because they gained no share of it for themselves, and because they perceived beforehand what was Josephus's intention, and that he would freely deliver up what had cost them so much pains to the king and queen. These ran away by night to their several villages, and declared to all men that Josephus was going to betray them: they also raised great disorders in all the neighboring cities, insomuch that in the Morning a hundred thousand armed men came running together; which multitude was crowded together in the hippodrome at Taricheae, and made a very peevish clamor against him; while some cried out, that they should depose the traitor; and others, that they should burn him. Now John irritated a great many, as did also one Jesus, the son of Sapphias, who was then governor of Tiberias. Then it was that Josephus's friends, and the guards of his body, were so affrighted at this violent assault of the multitude, that they all fled away but four; and as he was asleep, they awaked him, as the people were going to set fire to the house. And although those four that remained with him persuaded him to run away, he was neither surprised at his being himself deserted, nor at the great multitude that came against him, but leaped out to them with his clothes rent, and ashes sprinkled on his head, with his hands behind him, and his sword hanging at his neck. At this sight his friends, especially those of Taricheae, commiserated his condition; but those that came out of the country, and those in their neighborhood, to whom his government seemed burdensome, reproached him, and bid him produce the money which belonged to them all immediately, and to confess the agreement he had made to betray them; for they imagined, from the habit in which he appeared, that he would deny nothing of what they suspected concerning him, and that it was in order to obtain pardon that he had put himself entirely into so pitiable a posture. But this humble appearance was only designed as preparatory to a stratagem of his, who thereby contrived to set those that were so angry at him at variance one with another about the things they were angry at. However, he promised he would confess all: hereupon he was permitted to speak, when he said, "I did neither intend to send this money back to Agrippa, nor to gain it myself; for I did never esteem one that was your enemy to be my friend, nor did I look upon what would tend to your disadvantage to be my advantage. But, O you people of Tarieheae, I saw that your city stood in more need than others of fortifications for your security, and that it wanted money in order for the building it a wall. I was also afraid lest the people of Tiberias and other cities should lay a plot to seize upon these spoils, and therefore it was that I intended to retain this money privately, that I might encompass you with a wall. But if this does not please you, I will produce what was brought me, and leave it to you to plunder it; but if I have conducted myself so well as to please you, you may if you please punish your benefactor."

          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 22:9
     by D.H. Stern

9     He who is generous is blessed,
because he shares his food with the poor.

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

     II | GOG AND MAGOG

     Gog and Magog, let it be dearly understood, are the two tall poplar-trees that keep ceaseless vigil by my gate. I state this fact baldly and unequivocally at the very outset in order to set at rest, once and for ever, all controversies and disputations on that fascinating point. Historians will reach down the ponderous and dusty tomes that litter up their formidable shelves, and will tell me that Gog and Magog were two famous British giants whose life-sized statues, fourteen feet high, have stood for more than two hundred years in the Guildhall in London. But that is all that the historians know about it! Theologians, and especially theologians of a certain school, will remind me that Gog and Magog are biblical characters. Are they not mentioned in the prophecy of Ezekiel and in the Book of Revelation? And then, looking gravely over their spectacles, these learned-looking gentlemen will ask me if I am seriously of opinion that the inspired writers were referring to my pair of lofty poplars. I hasten to assure these nervous and unimaginative gentlemen that I propose to commit myself to no such heresy. Like Mrs. Gamp, I would not presume. For ages past these cryptic titles have provided my excellent friends with ground for interminable speculation, and for the most ingenious exploits of interpretation. How could I have the heart to exclusively allocate to these stately sentinels that guard my gate the titles that have afforded the interpreters such endless pleasure? I would as soon attempt to snatch from a boy his only peg-top, or from a girl her only doll, as embark upon so barbarous an atrocity. How could they ever again declare, with the faintest scrap of confidence, that Gog and Magog represented any particular pair of princes or potentates if I deliberately anticipate them by walking off with both labels and coolly attaching them to my two poplar-trees? The thing is absurd upon the face of it. And so I repeat that for the purposes of this article, and for the purposes of this article only, Gog and Magog are the two tall poplar-trees that keep ceaseless vigil by my gate.

     Trees are very lovable things. We all like Beaconsfield the better because he was so passionately devoted to the trees at Hughenden. He was so fond of them that he directed in his will that none of them should ever be cut down. So I am not ashamed of my tenderness for Gog and Magog. There they stand, down at the gate; the one on the one side, and the other on the other. Huge giants they are, with a giant's strength and a giant's stature, but with more than a giant's grace. From whichever direction I come, they always seem to salute me with a welcome as soon as I come round the bend in the road. It is always pleasant when home has something about it that can be seen at a distance. The last half-mile on the homeward road is the half-mile in which the climax of weariness is reached. It is like the last straw that breaks the camel's back. But if there is a light at the window, or some clear landmark that distinguishes the spot, the very sight of the familiar object lures the traveller on, and in actual sight of home he forgets his fatigue.

     It is a very pleasant thing to have two glorious poplars at your gate. They always seem to be craning, straining, towering upward to catch the first glimpse of you; and they make home seem nearer as soon as you come within sight of them. Gog and Magog are such companionable things. They always have something to say to you. It is true that they talk of little but the weather; but then, that is what most people talk about. I like to see them in August, when a certain olive sheen mantles their branches and tells you that the swallows will soon be here. I like to see them in October, when they are a towering column of verdure, every leaf as bright as though it has just been varnished. I even like to see them in April, when they strew the paths with a rustling litter of bronze and gold. They tell me that winter is coming, with its long evenings, its roaring fires, and its insistence on the superlative attractions of home. There never dawns a day on which Gog and Magog are not well worth looking at and well worth listening to.

     But although I have been speaking of Gog and Magog as though they were as much alike as two peas, the very reverse is the case. No two things—not even the two peas—are exactly alike. When God makes a thing He breaks the mould. The two peas do not resemble each other under a microscope. Macaulay, in his essay on Madame D'Arblay, declares that this extraordinary range of distinctions within very narrow limits is one of the most notable things in the universe. 'No two faces are alike,' he says, 'and yet very few faces deviate very widely from the common standard. Among the millions of human beings who inhabit London, there is not one who could be taken by his acquaintance for another; yet we may walk from Paddington to Mile End without seeing one person in whom any feature is so overcharged that we turn round to stare at it. An infinite number of varieties lies between limits which are not very far asunder. The specimens which pass those limits on either side form a very small minority.'

     So is it with trees. When you first drive up an avenue of poplars you regard each tree as the exact duplicate of all the others. There is certainly a general similarity, just as, in some households, there is a striking family likeness. But just as, after spending a few days with that household, you no longer mistake Jack for Charlie, or Jessie for Jean, and even laugh at yourself for ever having been so stupid, so, when you get to know the poplars better, you no longer suppose that they are all alike. You soon detect the marks of individuality among them; and, if one were felled and brought you, you could describe with perfect accuracy the two trees between which it stood. That is particularly the case with Gog and Magog. A casual visitor would remark, as he approached the house, that we had a pair of gigantic poplars at the front gate. It does not occur to him to distinguish between them. For aught he knows, or for aught he cares, Gog might be Magog, or Magog might be Gog. But to us the thing is absurd. We know them so well that we should as soon think of mistaking one of the children for another as of mistaking Gog for Magog, or Magog for Gog. We salute the tall trees every morning when we rise; we pass them with mystic greetings of our own a dozen times a day; and, before retiring at night, we like to peep from the front windows and see their gigantic forms grandly silhouetted against the evening sky. Gog is Gog, and Magog is Magog; and the idea of mistaking the one for the other seems ludicrous in the extreme. The solar system is as full of mysteries as a conjurer's portmanteaux; but, of all the mysteries that it contains, the mystery of individuality is surely the most inscrutable of all.

     'What is the difference between Gog and Magog?' somebody wants to know; and I am glad that somebody asked the question, for it gives me the opportunity of pointing out that between Gog and Magog there is all the difference in the world. There is a difference in girth; there is a difference in height; and there is a difference in fibre. I have just run a tape round both trees. Magog gives a measurement of just six feet; whilst Gog puts those puny proportions to shame with a record of seven feet six inches. I have not attempted to climb the trees; but I can see at a glance that Gog is at least eight feet taller than his brother. Nor do these measurements sum up the whole of Gog's advantage. For you cannot glance at the twins without seeing that Gog is incalculably the sturdier. In the trunk of Magog there is a huge cavity into which a child could creep and be perfectly concealed; but Gog is as sound as a bell. Any one who has seen two brothers grow up side by side—the one sturdy, masculine, virile, and full of health; the other, puny, delicate, fragile, and threatened with disease—knows how I feel whenever I pass between these two sentries at the gate. I am full of admiration for the glorious strength of Gog; I am touched to tenderness by the comparative frailty of poor Magog. It is odd that two trees of the same age, growing together under precisely identical conditions, should have turned out so differently. There must be a reason for it. Is there? There is!

     The fact is, Gog gets all the wind. I have often watched the storm come sweeping down on the two tall trees, and it is grand to watch them. The huge things sway and bend like tossing plumes, and sometimes you almost fancy that they will break like reeds before the fury of the blast. Great branches are torn off; smaller boughs and piles of twigs are scattered all around like wounded soldiers on a hotly contested field; but the trees outlive the storm, and you love them all the better for it. But, all the time, you can see that it is Gog that is doing the fighting. The fearful onslaught breaks first upon him; and the force of the attack is broken by the time it reaches Magog. It may be that Gog is very fond of Magog, and, pitying his frailty, seeks to shelter him. It certainly looks like it. But, if so, it is a mistaken kindness. It is just because Gog has had to bear the brunt of so many attacks that he has sent down his roots so deeply and has become so magnificently strong. It is because Magog has always been protected and sheltered that he is so feeble, and cuts so sorry a figure beside his stouter brother.

     And now I find myself sitting at the feet of Gog and Magog, not only literally but metaphorically, and they begin to teach me things. It is not half a bad thing to be living in a world that has some fight in it. It is a good thing for a man to be buffeted and knocked about. I fancy that Gog and Magog could say some specially comforting things to parents. The tendency among us is to try to secure for our children the kind of life that Magog leads, hidden, sheltered, and protected. Yet nobody can take a second glance at poor Magog—his shorter stature, his smaller girth, his softer fibre—without entertaining the gravest doubts concerning the wisdom of so apparently considerate a choice. It is perfectly natural, and altogether creditable to the fond hearts and earnest solicitude of doting parents, that they should seek to rear their children like hot-house plants, protected from the nipping frosts and frigid blasts of a chilling world. But it can be overdone. A great meeting, attended by five thousand people, was recently held in London to deal with the White Slave question. And I was greatly struck by the fact that one of the most experienced and observant of the speakers—the Rev. J. Ernest Rattenbury, of the West London Mission—declared with deep emotion and impressive emphasis that 'it is the girls who come from the sheltered homes who stand in the greatest peril.' Perhaps I shall render the most practical service if I put the truth the other way. Instead of dwelling so much on Magog, look at Gog. I know fathers and mothers who are inclined to break their hearts because their boys and girls have had to go out from the shielding care of their homes into the rough and tumble of the great world. Look at Gog, I say again, look at Gog!

     Was it not Alfred Russel Wallace who tried to help an emperor-moth, and only harmed it by his ill-considered ministry? He came upon the creature beating its wings and struggling wildly to force its passage through the narrow neck of its cocoon. He admired its fine proportions, eight inches from the tip of one wing to the tip of the other, and thought it a pity that so handsome a creature should be subjected to so severe an ordeal. He therefore took out his lancet and slit the cocoon. The moth came out at once; but its glorious colours never developed. The soaring wings never expanded. The indescribable hues and tints and shades that should have adorned them never appeared. The moth crept moodily about; drooped perceptibly; and presently died. The furious struggle with the cocoon was Nature's wise way of developing the splendid wings and of sending the vital fluids pulsing through the frame until every particle blushed with their beauty. The naturalist had saved the little creature from the struggle, but had unintentionally ruined and slain it in the process. It is the story of Gog and Magog over again.

     In my college days I used to go down to a quaint little English village for the week-end in order to conduct services in the village chapel on Sunday. I was always entertained by a little old lady whose face haunts me still. It was so very human, and so very wise, and withal so very beautiful; and the white ringlets on either side completed a perfect picture. She dwelt in a modest little cottage on top of the hill. It was a queer, tumble-down old place with crooked rafters and crazy lattice windows.

     Roses and honeysuckle clambered all over the porch, straggled along the walls, and even crept under the eaves into the cottage itself. The thing that impressed me when I first went was the extraordinary number of old Bessie's visitors. On Saturday nights they came one after another, young men and sedate matrons, old men and tripping maidens, and each desired to see her alone. She was very old; she had known hunger and poverty; the deeply furrowed brow told of long and bitter trouble. She was a great sufferer, too, and daily wrestled with her pitiless disease. But, like the sturdier of the poplars by my gate, she had gathered into herself the force of all the cruel winds that had beaten so savagely upon her. And the result was that her own character had become so strong and so upright and so beautiful that she was recognized as the high-priestess of that English countryside, and every man and maiden who needed counsel or succour made a beaten path to her open door.

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


                The discipline of difficulty

     In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. --- John 16:33.

     An average view of the Christian life is that it means deliverance from trouble. It is deliverance in trouble, which is very different. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High … there shall no evil befall thee”—no plague can come nigh the place where you are at one with God.

     If you are a child of God, there certainly will be troubles to meet, but Jesus says do not be surprised when they come. “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world, there is nothing for you to fear.” Men who before they were saved would scorn to talk about troubles, often become ‘fushionless’ after being born again because they have a wrong idea of a saint.

     God does not give us overcoming life: He gives us life as we overcome. The strain is the strength. If there is no strain, there is no strength. Are you asking God to give you life and liberty and joy? He cannot, unless you will accept the strain. Immediately you face the strain, you will get the strength. Overcome your own timidity and take the step, and God will give you to eat of the tree of life and you will get nourishment. If you spend yourself out physically, you become exhausted; but spend yourself spiritually, and you get more strength. God never gives strength for tomorrow, or for the next hour, but only for the strain of the minute. The temptation is to face difficulties from a commonsense standpoint. The saint is hilarious when he is crushed with difficulties because the thing is so ludicrously impossible to anyone but God.


My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition

Echoes
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


                Echoes

What is this? said God. The obstinacy
  Of its refusal to answer
  Enraged him. He struck it
  Those great blows it resounds
  With still. It glowered at
  Him, but remained dumb,
  Turning on its slow axis
  Of pain, reflecting the year
  In its seasons. Nature bandaged
  Its wounds. Healing in
  The smooth sun, it became
  Fair. God looked at it
  Again, reminded of
  An intention. They shall answer
  For you, he said. And at once
  There were trees with birds
  Singing, and through the trees
  Animals wandered, drinking
  Their own scent, conceding
  An absence. Where are you?
  He called, and riding the echo
  The shapes came, slender
  As trees, but with white hands,
  Curious to build. On the altars
  They made him the red blood
  Told what he wished to hear.


H'm

Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     D’RASH


     The English author and Anglican clergyman Sydney Smith, in the early nineteenth century, wrote that “Praise is the best diet for us, after all.” Smith was right; we are often too quick to criticize others for the jobs they do. We think that praising another might cause a bloated sense of self or a swelled head. And we especially decry praising an “underling,” someone in an inferior position, as demeaning.

     The reality, though, is that most people work better when they receive praise rather than criticism (or no comment at all). But this is only half the picture: Most people also work better when they give praise. Just as a compliment does wonders for the other, its also improves us. Lauding another can and should give us a good sense, making us more optimistic and cheerful. A few words of approval allow us not to take things, or people, for granted.

     In the Talmud, Ṙabbi Meir holds that a person should recite one hundred blessings each day! Perhaps this is why Jewish tradition incorporated so many blessings into everyday life. We need them much more than God does: Birkat ha-Mazon, the blessings after a meal, may not change God, but it should sensitize us to an appreciation of the everyday blessing of food. Birkhot ha-Shaḥar, the Morning blessings, thank God for the most basic gifts of each day—consciousness upon waking, the ability to stand up and get dressed, the fact that we are created in God’s image and that we are free. It’s possible that God’s day would be much the same without our reciting these words; our day, on the other hand, would be significantly diminished.

     ANOTHER D’RASH

     Why was the traditional Jewish greeting to someone who had done well יִישַׁר כֹּחֲךָ/yishar ko-ḥa-kha (or in its Yiddishized form, Yoshr koyaḥ)? Of all the things we could say to them, of all the blessings we could bestow upon them, why a phrase that means “May your strength be straight?”

     A clue may be found in the Bible, which provides us with many stories of human beings struggling with strength. Samson is famous for his physical strength. The Book of Judges relates several tales of his prowess: He tore apart a lion with his bare hands; he carried off the gate of the city of Gaza on his shoulders; he killed a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass. Yet, despite the fact that Samson lived at a time when the Philistines were oppressing the Israelites, he didn’t use his great strength to help his people. He squandered the gift that God had blessed him with, and instead used his power to settle personal scores with people he never should have been involved with in the first place. Only in dying did he use his strength to defeat the enemy and free his nation.

     David had many strengths—fighter, musician, poet, politician, but none was as great as his charisma. David had the almost magical ability to attract people to him. He used his gift to unify the tribes of Israel into a mighty nation-state. Kings and princes, prophets and commoners all adored him. So did married women. David used his powerful position to conduct an illicit and ultimately destructive affair with Bathsheba.

     Solomon’s great strength was of a different kind: He was known as the wisest of men. He used his wisdom for much good. It enabled him to judge the difficult cases that came before him, the most famous being of the two mothers who claimed the same baby as their own. He used his intellectual strength to build a Temple to expand his nation into a world power, and to compose three thousand proverbs and more than a thousand songs. However, in the end, Solomon applied his great wisdom to further his own glory and ambition. He imposed a complex bureaucracy upon the people that included heavy taxes and forced labor. He had a thousand wives; many of these marriages were entered into to seal alliances with foreign powers. His lavish life-style so drained the nation who paid for it that it sowed the seeds of the splitting of the kingdom into two nations.

     Strength, we are taught, is morally neutral. It can be used for good, if it is controlled and kept straight, or it can be bent and twisted for evil. יִישַׁר כֹּחֲךָ/Yishar ko-ḥa-kha is both an acknowledgment of the strength in another person, as well as an exhortation to use it in a morally appropriate and straight way.


Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Take Heart
     August 2

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

     [This delight in prayer is] a delight in the things asked. Works of Stephen Charnock (5 Volume Set) This heavenly cheerfulness is most in heavenly things. What delight others have in asking worldly goods, a gracious heart has in begging the light of God’s face. Souls cannot be dull in prayer who seriously consider they pray for no less than heaven and happiness, no less than the glory of the great God. A gracious person is never weary of spiritual things, as people are never weary of the sun; though spiritual things are enjoyed every day, yet we long for them to rise again. From this delight in the matter of prayer, the saints have redoubled and repeated their petitions and redoubled the Amen at the end of prayer, to show the great affections to those things they have asked. The soul loves to think of those things the heart is set on, and frequent thoughts express a delight.

     [Delight in prayer is] a delight in those graces and affections that are exercised in prayer. A gracious heart is most delighted with that prayer in which grace has been more stirring, and gracious affections have been boiling over. The soul desires not only to speak to God, but to make melody to God; the heart is the instrument, but graces are the strings, and prayer is touching them, and therefore the soul is more displeased with the flagging of its graces than with missing an answer. There may be a delight in gifts, in a person’s own gifts, in the gifts of another, in the pomp and varnish of devotion, but a delight in exercising spiritual graces is an ingredient in this true delight. The Pharisees are marked by Christ to make long prayers, self-glorifying in an outward bravery of words, as if they were playing the courtiers with God and complimenting him; the publican had a short prayer but more grace: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” There is reliance and humility. A gracious heart labors to bring flaming affections, and if it cannot bring flaming grace, it will bring smoking grace; Christians desire the preparation of their hearts as well as the answer of their prayers.
--- Stephen Charnock


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

On This Day
     Arrow from Nowhere  August 2

     William the Conqueror may have conquered England during the Norman Invasion of 1066, but he never conquered his own appetites. He was ruthless, harsh, wrathful—and always hungry. He grew so stout that his coffin proved too small for him, and on his death attendants had trouble stuffing the corpse into place. It burst open during the effort.

     His son Rufus moved quickly to seize the throne. He inherited all his father’s vices, none of his virtues, and is remembered as one of history’s worst men. He was officially William II, but commonly called Rufus because of his red hair, or, some say, his red face. He had reason to be red-faced. His cruelty was sadistic, and he derived perverse pleasure by watching animals tortured and innocent men subjected to screaming degrees of pain.

     Rufus was incorrigible. Once while recovering from a severe illness he vowed never to become a good man. His sexual appetite was unquenchable. It was said he rose a worse man every Morning and lay down a worse man every night.

     Rufus passionately hated Christ, Christianity, and the clergy. His profane and blasphemous words continually shocked his contemporaries. He plundered churches, robbing them of their offerings and treasuries. He sold church positions to the highest bidder. He kept the archbishopric of Canterbury vacant before finally appointing good Anselm to the office. And he converted sacred cemeteries into royal parks to satisfy his thirst for hunting.

     It was this last indiscretion that took his life. He had seized land for a hunter’s paradise called New Forest. On August 2, 1100, while hot on the chase, he was struck by a powerful arrow that flew from nowhere. He died quickly, and to no one’s sorrow. No church bells tolled, no prayers were said for him, no alms given in his memory, no monuments built to his name. His eternal damnation was taken for granted by England, and his younger brother Henry reigned in his stead.

     Send your sharp arrows through enemy hearts and make all nations fall at your feet. During the fighting a soldier shot an arrow without even aiming, and it hit Ahab where two pieces of his armor joined. Dogs licked Ahab’s blood off the ground, just as the Lord had warned.
--- Psalm 45:5; 1 Kings 22:34a,38b.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - August 2

     “Who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” --- Ephesians 1:11.

     Our belief in God’s wisdom supposes and necessitates that he has a settled purpose and plan in the work of salvation. What would creation have been without his design? Is there a fish in the sea, or a fowl in the air, which was left to chance for its formation? Nay, in every bone, joint, and muscle, sinew, gland, and blood-vessel, you mark the presence of a God working everything according to the design of infinite wisdom. And shall God be present in creation, ruling over all, and not in grace? Shall the new creation have the fickle genius of free will to preside over it when divine counsel rules the old creation? Look at Providence! Who knoweth not that not a sparrow falleth to the ground without your Father? Even the hairs of your head are all numbered. God weighs the mountains of our grief in scales, and the hills of our tribulation in balances. And shall there be a God in providence and not in grace? Shall the shell be ordained by wisdom and the kernel be left to blind chance? No; he knows the end from the beginning. He sees in its appointed place, not merely the corner-stone which he has laid in fair colours, in the blood of his dear Son, but he beholds in their ordained position each of the chosen stones taken out of the quarry of nature, and polished by his grace; he sees the whole from corner to cornice, from base to roof, from foundation to pinnacle. He hath in his mind a clear knowledge of every stone which shall be laid in its prepared space, and how vast the edifice shall be, and when the top-stone shall be brought forth with shoutings of “Grace! Grace! unto it.” At the last it shall be clearly seen that in every chosen vessel of mercy, Jehovah did as he willed with his own; and that in every part of the work of grace he accomplished his purpose, and glorified his own name.


          Evening - August 2

     “So she gleaned in the field until even.” --- Ruth 2:17.

     Let me learn from Ruth, the gleaner. As she went out to gather the ears of corn, so must I go forth into the fields of prayer, meditation, the ordinances, and hearing the word to gather spiritual food. The gleaner gathers her portion ear by ear; her gains are little by little: so must I be content to search for single truths, if there be no greater plenty of them. Every ear helps to make a bundle, and every Gospel lesson assists in making us wise unto salvation. The gleaner keeps her eyes open: if she stumbled among the stubble in a dream, she would have no load to carry home rejoicingly at eventide. I must be watchful in religious exercises lest they become unprofitable to me; I fear I have lost much already—O that I may rightly estimate my opportunities, and glean with greater diligence. The gleaner stoops for all she finds, and so must I. High spirits criticize and object, but lowly minds glean and receive benefit. A humble heart is a great help towards profitably hearing the Gospel. The engrafted soul-saving word is not received except with meekness. A stiff back makes a bad gleaner; down, master pride, thou art a vile robber, not to be endured for a moment. What the gleaner gathers she holds: if she dropped one ear to find another, the result of her day’s work would be but scant; she is as careful to retain as to obtain, and so at last her gains are great. How often do I forget all that I hear; the second truth pushes the first out of my head, and so my reading and hearing end in much ado about nothing! Do I feel duly the importance of storing up the truth? A hungry belly makes the gleaner wise; if there be no corn in her hand, there will be no bread on her table; she labours under the sense of necessity, and hence her tread is nimble and her grasp is firm; I have even a greater necessity, Lord, help me to feel it, that it may urge me onward to glean in fields which yield so plenteous a reward to diligence.


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

Amazing Grace
     August 2

          NOTHING BETWEEN

     Words and music by Charles A. Tindley, 1851–1933

     If our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from Him anything we ask, because we obey His commands and do what pleases Him. (1 John 3:21, 22)

     Born to slave parents and separated from them when only five years of age, Charles Tindley was a most remarkable individual. He learned to read and write on his own at the age of 17, attended night school, completed seminary training through correspondence, and was ordained to the Methodist ministry. While attending Evening school, young Tindley supported himself as the janitor of the Calvary Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. In 1902, Charles Tindley was called to pastor this prestigious church where he had once been the janitor. The Calvary Methodist Church prospered greatly under his leadership. Eventually several larger sanctuaries had to be built to accommodate the crowds of all races that came to hear this humble preacher. In 1924, in spite of Tindley’s protests, the new church building was renamed the Tindley Temple Methodist Church.

     Charles Tindley expresses a concern in this hymn for many of the practices and attitudes that must be rejected if Christians are to be pleasing to their Lord. The hymn reminds us that we must watch out for those allurements and temptations that can easily disrupt our spiritual courses: “Delusive dreams, sinful-worldly pleasures, habits, pride, self or friends.” The Bible teaches that we are not to be conformed to this world but should know the transforming power of a spiritually renewed mind (Romans 12:1, 2).

     Nothing between my soul and the Savior, naught of this world’s delusive dream: I have renounced all sinful pleasure—Jesus is mine! There’s nothing between.
     Nothing between, like worldly pleasure! Habits of life, tho harmless they seem, must not my heart from Him ever sever—He is my all! There’s nothing between.
     Nothing between, like pride or station: Self or friends shall not intervene; tho it may cost me much tribulation, I am resolved! There’s nothing between.
     Nothing between, e’en many hard trials, tho the whole world against me convene; watching with prayer and much self denial—Triumph at last, with nothing between!
     Chorus: Nothing between my soul and the Savior, so that His blessed face may be seen. Nothing preventing the least of His favor: Keep the way clear! Let nothing between.


     For Today: Psalm 51:10; 2 Timothy 2:15; Hebrews 13:6; 1 John 3:18–24

     Reflect on this truth: “The price of spiritual power is a purity of heart.” Ask God to reveal anything that might hinder His flow of power in your life. ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

Book Of Common Prayer
     Wednesday, August 2, 2017 | After Pentecost

Proper 12, Wednesday
Year 1

Psalms (Morning)     Psalm 72
Psalms (Evening)     Psalm 119:73–96
Old Testament     2 Samuel 3:22–39
New Testament     Acts 16:16–24
Gospel     Mark 6:47–56

Index of Readings

Psalms (Morning)
Psalm 72

Of Solomon.

1 Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to a king’s son.
2 May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice.
3 May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness.
4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the needy,
and crush the oppressor.

5 May he live while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
6 May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth.
7 In his days may righteousness flourish
and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

8 May he have dominion from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
9 May his foes bow down before him,
and his enemies lick the dust.
10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles
render him tribute,
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
bring gifts.
11 May all kings fall down before him,
all nations give him service.

12 For he delivers the needy when they call,
the poor and those who have no helper.
13 He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life;
and precious is their blood in his sight.

15 Long may he live!
May gold of Sheba be given to him.
May prayer be made for him continually,
and blessings invoked for him all day long.
16 May there be abundance of grain in the land;
may it wave on the tops of the mountains;
may its fruit be like Lebanon;
and may people blossom in the cities
like the grass of the field.
17 May his name endure forever,
his fame continue as long as the sun.
May all nations be blessed in him;
may they pronounce him happy.

18 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.
19 Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may his glory fill the whole earth.
Amen and Amen.

20 The prayers of David son of Jesse are ended.

Psalms (Evening)
Psalm 119:73–96

73 Your hands have made and fashioned me;
give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.
74 Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice,
because I have hoped in your word.
75 I know, O LORD, that your judgments are right,
and that in faithfulness you have humbled me.
76 Let your steadfast love become my comfort
according to your promise to your servant.
77 Let your mercy come to me, that I may live;
for your law is my delight.
78 Let the arrogant be put to shame,
because they have subverted me with guile;
as for me, I will meditate on your precepts.
79 Let those who fear you turn to me,
so that they may know your decrees.
80 May my heart be blameless in your statutes,
so that I may not be put to shame.

81 My soul languishes for your salvation;
I hope in your word.
82 My eyes fail with watching for your promise;
I ask, “When will you comfort me?”
83 For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke,
yet I have not forgotten your statutes.
84 How long must your servant endure?
When will you judge those who persecute me?
85 The arrogant have dug pitfalls for me;
they flout your law.
86 All your commandments are enduring;

I am persecuted without cause; help me!
87 They have almost made an end of me on earth;
but I have not forsaken your precepts.
88 In your steadfast love spare my life,
so that I may keep the decrees of your mouth.

89 The LORD exists forever;
your word is firmly fixed in heaven.
90 Your faithfulness endures to all generations;
you have established the earth, and it stands fast.
91 By your appointment they stand today,
for all things are your servants.
92 If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my misery.
93 I will never forget your precepts,
for by them you have given me life.
94 I am yours; save me,
for I have sought your precepts.
95 The wicked lie in wait to destroy me,
but I consider your decrees.
96 I have seen a limit to all perfection,
but your commandment is exceedingly broad.

Old Testament
2 Samuel 3:22–39

22 Just then the servants of David arrived with Joab from a raid, bringing much spoil with them. But Abner was not with David at Hebron, for David had dismissed him, and he had gone away in peace. 23 When Joab and all the army that was with him came, it was told Joab, “Abner son of Ner came to the king, and he has dismissed him, and he has gone away in peace.” 24 Then Joab went to the king and said, “What have you done? Abner came to you; why did you dismiss him, so that he got away? 25 You know that Abner son of Ner came to deceive you, and to learn your comings and goings and to learn all that you are doing.”

26 When Joab came out from David’s presence, he sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the cistern of Sirah; but David did not know about it. 27 When Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside in the gateway to speak with him privately, and there he stabbed him in the stomach. So he died for shedding the blood of Asahel, Joab’s brother. 28 Afterward, when David heard of it, he said, “I and my kingdom are forever guiltless before the LORD for the blood of Abner son of Ner. 29 May the guilt fall on the head of Joab, and on all his father’s house; and may the house of Joab never be without one who has a discharge, or who is leprous, or who holds a spindle, or who falls by the sword, or who lacks food!” 30 So Joab and his brother Abishai murdered Abner because he had killed their brother Asahel in the battle at Gibeon.

31 Then David said to Joab and to all the people who were with him, “Tear your clothes, and put on sackcloth, and mourn over Abner.” And King David followed the bier. 32 They buried Abner at Hebron. The king lifted up his voice and wept at the grave of Abner, and all the people wept. 33 The king lamented for Abner, saying,

“Should Abner die as a fool dies?
34 Your hands were not bound,
your feet were not fettered;
as one falls before the wicked
you have fallen.”

And all the people wept over him again. 35 Then all the people came to persuade David to eat something while it was still day; but David swore, saying, “So may God do to me, and more, if I taste bread or anything else before the sun goes down!” 36 All the people took notice of it, and it pleased them; just as everything the king did pleased all the people. 37 So all the people and all Israel understood that day that the king had no part in the killing of Abner son of Ner. 38 And the king said to his servants, “Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel? 39 Today I am powerless, even though anointed king; these men, the sons of Zeruiah, are too violent for me. The LORD pay back the one who does wickedly in accordance with his wickedness!”

New Testament
Acts 16:16–24

16 One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. 17 While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” 18 She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.

19 But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities. 20 When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews 21 and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.” 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. 23 After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

Gospel
Mark 6:47–56

47 When evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the sea. He intended to pass them by. 49 But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” 51 Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. 54 When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, 55 and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.


The Book of Common Prayer: And Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church



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