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1 Kings 17-19
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Elijah Predicts a Drought

1 Kings 17:1     Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”

     Luke 4:25     But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land;

     Baal was the god of rain, thunder, and lightening, so for Elijah to say there would be no rain till he said so was a definite jab at Baal worship. Indeed, this whole contest is about who is God.

     2 The word of the Lord came to him, saying, 3 “Go from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. 4 You shall drink from the wadi, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” 5 So he went and did according to the word of the Lord; he went and lived by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the Morning, and bread and meat in the Evening; and he drank from the wadi. 7 But after a while the wadi dried up, because there was no rain in the land.

The Widow of Zarephath

     8 Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 9 “Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” 10 So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.” 11 As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” 12 But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” 13 Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. 14 For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.” 15 She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. 16 The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.

Elijah Revives the Widow’s Son

     17 After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill; his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. 18 She then said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!” 19 But he said to her, “Give me your son.” He took him from her bosom, carried him up into the upper chamber where he was lodging, and laid him on his own bed. 20 He cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I am staying, by killing her son?” 21 Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” 22 The Lord listened to the voice of Elijah; the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. 23 Elijah took the child, brought him down from the upper chamber into the house, and gave him to his mother; then Elijah said, “See, your son is alive.” 24 So the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”

Elijah’s Message to Ahab

1 Kings 18:1     After many days the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year of the drought, saying, “Go, present yourself to Ahab; I will send rain on the earth.” 2 So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab. The famine was severe in Samaria. 3 Ahab summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. (Now Obadiah revered the Lord greatly; 4 when Jezebel was killing off the prophets of the Lord, Obadiah took a hundred prophets, hid them fifty to a cave, and provided them with bread and water.) 5 Then Ahab said to Obadiah, “Go through the land to all the springs of water and to all the wadis; perhaps we may find grass to keep the horses and mules alive, and not lose some of the animals.” 6 So they divided the land between them to pass through it; Ahab went in one direction by himself, and Obadiah went in another direction by himself.

     7 As Obadiah was on the way, Elijah met him; Obadiah recognized him, fell on his face, and said, “Is it you, my lord Elijah?” 8 He answered him, “It is I. Go, tell your lord that Elijah is here.” 9 And he said, “How have I sinned, that you would hand your servant over to Ahab, to kill me? 10 As the Lord your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom to which my lord has not sent to seek you; and when they would say, ‘He is not here,’ he would require an oath of the kingdom or nation, that they had not found you. 11 But now you say, ‘Go, tell your lord that Elijah is here.’ 12 As soon as I have gone from you, the spirit of the Lord will carry you I know not where; so, when I come and tell Ahab and he cannot find you, he will kill me, although I your servant have revered the Lord from my youth. 13 Has it not been told my lord what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the Lord, how I hid a hundred of the Lord’s prophets fifty to a cave, and provided them with bread and water? 14 Yet now you say, ‘Go, tell your lord that Elijah is here’; he will surely kill me.” 15 Elijah said, “As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today.” 16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah.

     17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18 He answered, “I have not troubled Israel; but you have, and your father’s house, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals. 19 Now therefore have all Israel assemble for me at Mount Carmel, with the four hundred fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

     Asherah was the goddess of the Phoenicians and the Arameans and the female counterpart of Baal. Fertility was the goal. What God made beautiful became corrupted and mutated into open sex and orgies. When Elijah stopped the rain it was God saying neither Baal nor Asherah had any power whatsoever.

Elijah’s Triumph over the Priests of Baal

     20 So Ahab sent to all the Israelites, and assembled the prophets at Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah then came near to all the people, and said, “How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” The people did not answer him a word. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets number four hundred fifty. 23 Let two bulls be given to us; let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it; I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god and I will call on the name of the Lord; the god who answers by fire is indeed God.” All the people answered, “Well spoken!” 25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many; then call on the name of your god, but put no fire to it.” 26 So they took the bull that was given them, prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from Morning until noon, crying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no answer. They limped about the altar that they had made. 27 At noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud! Surely he is a god; either he is meditating, or he has wandered away, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 28 Then they cried aloud and, as was their custom, they cut themselves with swords and lances until the blood gushed out over them. 29 As midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice, no answer, and no response.

     30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come closer to me”; and all the people came closer to him. First he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down; 31 Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name”; 32 with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. Then he made a trench around the altar, large enough to contain two measures of seed. 33 Next he put the wood in order, cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood. He said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” 34 Then he said, “Do it a second time”; and they did it a second time. Again he said, “Do it a third time”; and they did it a third time, 35 so that the water ran all around the altar, and filled the trench also with water.

     36 At the time of the offering of the oblation, the prophet Elijah came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your bidding. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord indeed is God; the Lord indeed is God.” 40 Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; do not let one of them escape.” Then they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Wadi Kishon, and killed them there.

The Drought Ends

     41 Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of rushing rain.” 42 So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; there he bowed himself down upon the earth and put his face between his knees. 43 He said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” He went up and looked, and said, “There is nothing.” Then he said, “Go again seven times.” 44 At the seventh time he said, “Look, a little cloud no bigger than a person’s hand is rising out of the sea.” Then he said, “Go say to Ahab, ‘Harness your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’ ” 45 In a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind; there was a heavy rain. Ahab rode off and went to Jezreel. 46 But the hand of the Lord was on Elijah; he girded up his loins and ran in front of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.

Elijah Flees from Jezebel

1 Kings 19:1     Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” 3 Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there.

     4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. 7 The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” 8 He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. 9 At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.

     Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”

Elijah Meets God at Horeb

     11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. 16 Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. 17 Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

Elisha Becomes Elijah’s Disciple

     19 So he set out from there, and found Elisha son of Shaphat, who was plowing. There were twelve yoke of oxen ahead of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle over him. 20 He left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” Then Elijah said to him, “Go back again; for what have I done to you?” 21 He returned from following him, took the yoke of oxen, and slaughtered them; using the equipment from the oxen, he boiled their flesh, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out and followed Elijah, and became his servant.

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

What I'm Reading

The Verse the Culture Misquotes Most Regularly in an Effort to Quiet Christians

By J. Warner Wallace 9/9/2016

     As a Christian, I’m often at odds with the culture around me. As our society embraces a growing number of unbiblical behaviors and attitudes, I find myself becoming more and more vocal in my opposition. I’m not alone; many other conservative Christians are also taking a stand for what the Bible teaches, particularly when it comes to moral behavior. Maybe that’s why I seem to hear Matthew 7:1 tossed around so frequently by those who want Christians to quiet down:

     (Mt 7:1) “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. NRSV

     Whenever we, as Christians, speak out against something in the culture, one of two labels is immediately employed in an effort to silence us: we are either branded “intolerant” or “judgmental”. To make matters worse, the second label is often attached to the teaching of Jesus Himself. Are we Christians defying the words of our Master when we speak against the behaviors, attitudes or worldviews affirmed by others? Did Jesus command us to be silently non-judgmental?

     This selective use of scripture by the opposition is perhaps the finest example of what we at Stand to Reason are addressing when we caution people to “never read a Bible verse””in isolation. Matthew 7:1, when read in isolation from the larger context of the Sermon on the Mount, may seem to command a form of silent acceptance and tolerance advocated by the culture, but a closer examination of the verse reveals Jesus’ true intent. If Jesus was advocating some form of quiet tolerance, how do we explain the following statements?

     (Mt 7:6) “Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you. NRSV

     (Mt 7:13–14) 13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. 14 For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it. NRSV

     (Mt 7:21–23) 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’ NRSV

     Wow, Jesus seems vocally judgmental in these passages. Some people are dogs and swine, unworthy of our efforts. Some people are wrong about the path they choose. Some people are false prophets. Some people are true disciples and some are not. Jesus sure seems comfortable making judgmental statements about people in these passages. How could Jesus say such things when he began this part of the sermon by saying, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged”? Maybe we should revisit the first verses of Matthew 7:

     (Mt 7:1–5) 7 “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2 For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. NRSV

     It turns out that Jesus is not prohibiting vocal discernment in these passages, but is cautioning against a certain kind of unbecoming behavior: hypocritical judgmentalism. We are called to live differently so that we can effectively identify and address unbiblical behavior in our culture. I cannot be a practicing thief and effectively caution against thievery. I cannot be an active adulterer and effectively advocate monogamy. I’m going to have to “first” stop and assess my own behavior (take out my own “log”) before I can “then” caution others about their behavior (help them take the “speck” out of their eye). This is a “first / then” commandment. Both sides of the directive are important; Jesus is commanding two equally critical actions. First, we must change our behavior; become people of God who are above reproach. Second, we must actively engage others about their behavior. Some ideas are good and some are bad. Some prophets are true and some are false. Some people are right, some people are wrong. We are called to make statements about such things after we eliminate hypocrisy in these areas of our own lives. We, as Christians, are called to (1) live righteously, and (2) speak out about unrighteousness. We are less likely to do this, however, if we allow folks misquote Jesus in an effort to silence us.

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J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of:

Never Read a Bible Verse

By Greg Koukl 2/4/2013

     If there was one bit of wisdom, one rule of thumb, one single skill I could impart, one useful tip I could leave that would serve you well the rest of your life, what would it be? What is the single most important practical skill I've ever learned as a Christian?

     Here it is: Never read a Bible verse. That's right, never read a Bible verse. Instead, always read a paragraph at least.

     My Radio Trick | When I'm on the radio, I use this simple rule to help me answer the majority of Bible questions I'm asked, even when I'm totally unfamiliar with the verse. It's an amazingly effective technique you can use, too.

     I read the paragraph, not just the verse. I take stock of the relevant material above and below. Since the context frames the verse and gives it specific meaning, I let it tell me what's going on.

     This works because of a basic rule of all communication: Meaning always flows from the top down, from the larger units to the smaller units, not the other way around. The key to the meaning of any verse comes from the paragraph, not just from the individual words.

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     Greg Koukl: Founder and President, Stand to Reason

     Greg started out thinking he was too smart to become a Christian and ended up giving his life for the defense of the Christian faith. A central theme of Greg's speaking and writing is that Christianity—if it's properly understood and properly communicated—makes the most sense of the world as we find it.

     Greg has spoken on more than 70 college and university campuses both in the U.S. and abroad and has hosted his own call-in radio show for 27 years advocating “Christianity worth thinking about.” He’s debated atheist Michael Shermer on national radio and Deepak Chopra on national television on Lee Strobel's “Faith Under Fire.” He is an award-winning writer and best-selling author. Greg has been featured on Focus on the Family radio and has been interviewed for CBN and the BBC. He's been quoted in Christianity Today, the U.S. News & World Report, and the L.A. Times.

     Greg received his Masters in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at Talbot School of Theology, graduating with high honors, and his Masters in Christian Apologetics with honors from Simon Greenleaf University. He is an adjunct professor in Christian apologetics at Biola University.
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Am I Quenching the Holy Spirit?

By John Piper 12/5/2016

     Let’s get the specific text in front of us and a little bit of its context. Here is 1 Thessalonians 5:16–22. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.

     Now, let’s get one thing really clear at the outset; namely, that being able to quench the Spirit of God does not mean that we are sovereign and he is not. It does not mean that we have final or decisive control over the omnipotent Spirit of God. It means that God, for wise and holy and good reasons, often allows us to resist the Holy Spirit — allows us, permits us or, as the old word, suffers us to resist the Holy Spirit. It is plain that God can overrule our resistance and quenching and bring us to repentance whenever he pleases. And I get that from 2 Timothy 2:25where it says, “God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.” Repentance from resisting the Spirit of God is a gift of God. So, let’s keep out of our minds any thought here that our ability to quench the Spirit means we have decisive control over the Spirit in our lives. We don’t. He is sovereign and lets us, for his purposes, sometimes quench him.

     So, what does it mean? What are we to do when we quench the Spirit? Here are four quick answers.

     First, quenching the Spirit is to despise the supernatural work of the Spirit and treat it with contempt. Right there in the context: “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:19–21). Evidently, some in the church at Thessalonica despised the gift of prophecy. Now, why would they do that? Well, evidently the gift was being misused in some way. I have seen it done. I have been tempted to despise it myself. So often that’s the case. But Paul’s response to that is very realistic. He says: Yes, that happens. So, test everything. Hold fast to what is good. Throw away the chaff. Keep the good. So, don’t despise God’s gift. That would be the first way that we quench the Spirit: having an attitude of contempt towards God’s supernatural gifting.

     Second, quenching the Spirit means neglecting the gift we have. Here is where I get that: 1 Timothy 4:14 and 2 Timothy 1:6. Compare these two. “Do not neglect [Timothy] the gift you have, which was given you by prophesy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.” And then 2 Timothy 1:6, “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” So, in Paul’s mind, neglecting the gift was virtually the opposite of fanning it into flame or quenching it. He could have said: Timothy, don’t quench the Spirit. Stir up his gifts into flame. So, if you have a gift from God, you are quenching the Spirit if you don’t fan it into flame. That is number two.

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

     John Piper Books:

Ten Reasons to Revel in Being Chosen

By John Piper 10/27/2015

     Peter said to the “elect exiles” — that is, to Christians scattered throughout the Roman Empire — “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1 Peter 2:9).

     He meant it as an enormous encouragement for a tiny, beleaguered, persecuted minority in a vast sea of unbelief and growing hostility. The adversaries may seem powerful and numerous and dangerous and dominant. But look again. You are God’s chosen ones: “a people for his own possession.” O dear suffering Christians, Peter would say, do you feel what that means? Revel in being God’s chosen ones! There are so many reasons!

     1. Your faith is not the basis of God’s choosing you, but the result of it.

     This means that your faith is a wonder — more wonderful than any of the seven wonders of the world. Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). And there was a deeper choosing going on here than just the selection of the Twelve. We know this because Judas was part of the Twelve, and he was not “chosen.” Jesus said, “I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me (John 13:18).

     If you have come to Jesus, the wonder is that you already belonged to the Father, and the Father gave you to Jesus. You were not chosen because you came; you came because you were chosen. That’s what Jesus said: “All that the Father gives me will come to me. . . . Yours they were, and you gave them to me (John 6:3717:6).

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

     John Piper Books:

How do Our Hearts Grow in Holiness?

By Chris Webb 8/18/2017

     Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologiae, discusses the root and origin of sin by comparing two verses, one from the New Testament and the other from the Deuterocanonical books. He notes first that Paul writes to Timothy: “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim 6:10). But alongside this he sets a line from the apocryphal book of Sirach which says (in the Latin Vulgate), “pride is the beginning of all sin” (Sir 10:15). Whether or not we want to accept, with Aquinas, the authority of the deuterocanonical text, the point he makes from these verses fits well with the tenor of Scripture as a whole. The first, he says, describes the way in which we allow our hearts to turn to an inappropriate degree towards the beauty and richness of creation. But the second cuts to the deeper and more serious issue of the way we allow our eyes to be turned away from God himself in the first place. As Paul puts it so directly, “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom 1:25). Our hearts become increasingly holy as they are healed of these twin maladies; we begin though by focusing our attention on the latter, our prideful turning from God.

     The most odious corruption of love within our souls takes place when we allow love to become inwardly directed and self-absorbed. Christians insist on a simple truth which is strikingly counter-cultural in our contemporary society, obsessed as it is with self-realization and self-regard: we are not here to love ourselves.

     Now that needs some qualification, of course. It is not that we Christians are called to hate ourselves. The loathing which some people experience when they look in the mirror is neither natural nor healthy. But, contrary to the way many preachers and writers have come to interpret Christ’s teaching on the great commandments, the call to “love your neighbor as you love yourself ” (Mt 22:39) does not imply that our first task is to learn self-love. The twelfth century Cistercian writer Bernard of Clairvaux had a clearer picture. In his short but brilliant work “On Loving God,” he argued that love at its least perfected is inwardly focused, seeking only its own good. And this self-love is not true love at all, merely the power of love corrupted into pride and vanity. As grace begins to reorder our hearts, though, some of that love starts to turn outward, towards God (and our neighbor), drawing us beyond ourselves–even if initially only because of the selfish benefits we can derive from others. A yet more well-ordered heart is able to love God and others for their own sake. And finally, says Bernard, we then truly learn what it means to love ourselves: to be grateful for the gift of ourselves, the only thing we truly have to offer to God and those around us, to express love. Growth in holiness ends in a proper love of self by turning outward to others, not by turning inward on ourselves.

     The hallmark of the holiness of Jesus is this constant turning toward others seen in his constant acts of humility and service. Perhaps the most striking example occurs on the night of the last supper. The apostle John tells us that Jesus, fully aware of his divine origins and significance, was seeking a way to love his disciples “to the end” (Jn 13:1–an equally accurate translation of the Greek could be “to the utmost”). So he stripped off his outer garment and proceeded to perform the work of the lowest, most menial slave: washing the filthy, dirt-crusted feet of those around him. The disciples are shocked and appalled, so much so that Peter is embarrassed for Jesus and tries to refuse. But Jesus persists, teaching them what holiness towards others might mean—and calling them to love one another to exactly the same degree.

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     Chris is a Benedictine Anglican priest, author, speaker and teacher who is dedicated to experiencing a richer walk with God by growing in prayer and the spiritual life, and to helping others learn to do the same.

     He is currently Diocesan Spirituality Adviser to the Diocese of Leicester and Deputy Warden of Launde Abbey (in the heart of England).

     Chris is the author of the IVP book The Fire of the Word.

Sunspots and Blind Spots

By David Hulme Summer 2017

     In the 19th century, out-of-the-ordinary sunspot activity caused a breakdown in communications across Europe and the United States. Named for the amateur astronomer who recorded it, the Carrington Event brought extensive disruption to telegraph systems around the world. Sunspot activity is not rare in itself, but the magnitude of the 1859 solar flare and the fact that it made a direct hit on the earth was unusual.

     Because society at the time was much less dependent on electronic devices than we are, the impact of the severe solar storm was not catastrophic. But if such an event were to occur today and make a direct hit on the East Coast of the United States, it could shut down a major part of the electrical power grid and most computers. The cost is estimated in terms of trillions of dollars, and the duration of time to repair the damage at three months to three years. As solar-storm expert John Kappenman remarked at a 2008 National Academy of Sciences workshop on the subject, “an event that could incapacitate the network for a long time could be one of the largest natural disasters that we could face.”

     The 21st-century world is far more fragile than we care to think about. Most of us blind ourselves to this reality. But many scientists are now considering such risks and have formed themselves into academic communities to study ways to avoid existential threats of all kinds. The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) at Cambridge University is one such body. It was cofounded in 2012 by the United Kingdom’s Astronomer Royal, Martin Rees, in an effort to bring public attention to the problems facing human civilization. The hope is that the public might in turn put pressure on governments to take action. And therein lies the weakness of the approach. In a June 2017 interview with Vision, Rees admitted as much when he said, “It’s hard for politicians to focus on long-term global issues in the pressure of short-term concerns. Politicians are influenced by what’s in the press and what’s in their inbox.” In his 2003 book, Our Final Century (published in the United States as Our Final Hour), he estimated that because of various existential threats, humanity had a 50-50 chance of not making it to 2100. With such odds in view, I asked if he was optimistic. “I’m a technical optimist but a political pessimist,” he replied, revealing that while he feels his confidence in technological salvation is justified, his faith in politicians’ willingness to bring about long-term results through appropriate policy is practically nil.

     In the mind of Rees’s colleague Stephen Hawking, the only hope for survival seems to be other-worldly. The renowned cosmologist believes that we have less than a hundred years left on Earth and has proposed that nations unite to return man to the moon by 2020, journey to Mars by 2025, and establish a lunar base over the next 30 years. But is this sci-fi approach to human existential threats not merely another way of avoiding the essential problem—our human nature?

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Hulme holds a doctorate in International Relations from the University of Southern California with an emphasis on the Middle East. He has also studied theology, psychology and philosophy and is the author of Identity, Ideology, and the Future of Jerusalem (Palgrave 2006).

God as the best explanation of the most important aspects of life: 10 facts

By Travis Dickinson ?

     I believe in God. Given this, I’m sometimes asked “Got any evidence?”

     Uh, yes. Yes I do. In fact, I think there is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the evidence for God.

     Now I’m never quite sure what people have in mind by the notion of “evidence” when this concerns God. It often seems to be the case they want material evidence, like fingerprints or DNA evidence or eye witness sightings. Or they may ask for scientific evidence for God.

     It is sometimes the case that what would count as evidence for God is so very restricted. The God of Christian theism is not material. We shouldn’t expect to see something like divine radioactivity, or some material fact like that, without which we will not believe in God. This is just not being intellectually honest.

     When we ask whether there’s evidence for something we need to be careful with what sort of evidence would we expect to find. It would be like saying I will not believe in an electron until I see one with my own eyes. Well the problem is that no one has seen an electron with their own eyes and no one ever will. An electron is not the sort of thing than can be seen with human eyes. It is designated as an unobservable entity and only postulated because it makes sense of certain collections of data.

Click here to read all of the article

     Welcome to The Benefit of the Doubt where I talk about the art of dialogue, the value of doubts, and the virtue of Christian faith.

     I LOVE to dialogue about big ideas, especially with those with whom I disagree. But the tone of most discussions are, let’s call it, unproductive. I’m really interested in helping people with the art of dialoguing well.

     No one likes to doubt deeply cherished beliefs. However, I want to suggest that there is great value in our doubts. When handled properly, they lead to truth and knowledge, and even deeper faith.

     I’m convinced that Christianity is true, good and beautiful. I’m convinced that Jesus is peerless. Though faith is often disparaged, caricatured and deeply misunderstood, I’m convinced that Christian faith is the primary way to flourish as a human being.

     I am the author of Everyday Apologetics and co-author of Stand Firm: Apologetics and the Brilliance of the Gospel (B&H, forthcoming). He blogs at www.travisdickinson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter.

  • Apologetics & Doctrine of Scripture 1
  • Pt 2
  • Pt 3

#1 Scott Oliphint  Westminster Theological Seminary


#2 Scott Oliphint   Westminster Theological Seminary


#3 Scott Oliphint   Westminster Theological Seminary


  Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Women can vote! That was the monumental news this day, August 26th, 1920, as the nineteenth amendment became law. It reads: “The right of citizens of the U.S. to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” This culminated fifty years effort by many of the women leaders who fought to abolish slavery, one of which was Julia Ward Howe, author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic. She wrote in the third verse: “Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel, Since God is marching on.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

Hold fast to the Bible. To the influence of this Book we are indebted for all the progress made in true civilization and to this we must look as our guide in the future.
--- Ulysses S. Grant

God, who foresaw your tribulation,
has specially armed you to go through it,
not without pain
but without stain.
--- C.S. Lewis

Great Master, teach us with Your skillful hand;
Let not the music that is in us die!
Great Sculptor, hew and polish us; nor let
Hidden and lost, Your form within us lie!
--- Horatius Bonar

Dreams come true; without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them.
--- John Updike

... from here, there and everywhere

Islam And The Cross
     Dr. John Stott

     One of the saddest features of Islam is that it rejects the cross, declaring it inappropriate that a major prophet of God should come to such an ignominious end. The Koran sees no need for the sin-bearing death of a Saviour. At least five times it declares categorically that ‘no soul shall bear another’s burden’. Indeed, ‘if a laden soul cries out for help, not even a near relation shall share its burden’. Why is this? It is because ‘each man shall reap the fruits of his own deeds’, even though Allah is merciful and forgives those who repent and do good. Denying the need for the cross, the Koran goes on to deny the fact. The Jews ‘uttered a monstrous falsehood’ when they declared ‘we have put to death the Messiah Jesus the son of Mary, the apostle of Allah’, for ‘they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but they thought they did’.  (Quotations are from The Koran. The five rejections of the possibility of ‘substitution’ are on pages 114 (liii.38), 176 (xxv.18), 230 (xvii.15), 274 (xxxix.7) and 429 (vi.164).)  Although Muslim theologians have interpreted this statement in different ways, the commonly held belief is that God cast a spell over the enemies of Jesus in order to rescue him, and that either Judas Iscariot  (The spurious ‘Gospel of Barnabas’, written in Italian in the fourteenth or fifteenth century by a Christian convert to Islam, contains parts of the Koran as well as of the four canonical Gospels. It tells the fantastic tale that, when Judas came with the soldiers to arrest Jesus, he withdrew into a house. There angels rescued him through a window, while Judas ‘was so changed in speech and in face to be like Jesus’ that everybody was deceived, and Judas was crucified in Jesus’ place.)  or Simon of Cyrene was substituted for him at the last moment. In the nineteenth century the Ahmadiya sect of Islam borrowed from different liberal Christian writers the notion that Jesus only swooned on the cross, and revived in the tomb, adding that he subsequently travelled to India to teach, and died there; they claim to be the guardians of his tomb in Kashmir.
     But Christian messengers of the good news cannot be silent about the cross. Here is the testimony of the American missionary Samuel M. Zwemer (1867–1952), who laboured in Arabia, edited The Muslim World for forty years, and is sometimes called ‘The Apostle to Islam’:
     The missionary among Moslems (to whom the Cross of Christ is a stumbling- block and the atonement foolishness) is driven daily to deeper meditation on this mystery of redemption, and to a stronger conviction that here is the very heart of our message and our mission....
     If the Cross of Christ is anything to the mind, it is surely everything – the most profound reality and the sublimest mystery. One comes to realize that literally all the wealth and glory of the gospel centres here. The Cross is the pivot as well as the centre of New Testament thought. It is the exclusive mark of the Christian faith, the symbol of Christianity and its cynosure.
     The more unbelievers deny its crucial character, the more do believers find in it the key to the mysteries of sin and suffering. We rediscover the apostolic emphasis on the Cross when we read the gospel with Moslems. We find that, although the offence of the Cross remains, its magnetic power is irresistible.
ISBN-13: 978-1496107435

          The Cross of Christ

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     9. But now, when the vessels were gotten ready, Vespasian put upon ship-board as many of his forces as he thought sufficient to be too hard for those that were upon the lake, and set sail after them. Now these which were driven into the lake could neither fly to the land, where all was in their enemies' hand, and in war against them; nor could they fight upon the level by sea, for their ships were small and fitted only for piracy; they were too weak to fight with Vespasian's vessels, and the mariners that were in them were so few, that they were afraid to come near the Romans, who attacked them in great numbers. However, as they sailed round about the vessels, and sometimes as they came near them, they threw stones at the Romans when they were a good way off, or came closer and fought them; yet did they receive the greatest harm themselves in both cases. As for the stones they threw at the Romans, they only made a sound one after another, for they threw them against such as were in their armor, while the Roman darts could reach the Jews themselves; and when they ventured to come near the Romans, they became sufferers themselves before they could do any harm to the ether, and were drowned, they and their ships together. As for those that endeavored to come to an actual fight, the Romans ran many of them through with their long poles. Sometimes the Romans leaped into their ships, with swords in their hands, and slew them; but when some of them met the vessels, the Romans caught them by the middle, and destroyed at once their ships and themselves who were taken in them. And for such as were drowning in the sea, if they lifted their heads up above the water, they were either killed by darts, or caught by the vessels; but if, in the desperate case they were in, they attempted to swim to their enemies, the Romans cut off either their heads or their hands; and indeed they were destroyed after various manners every where, till the rest being put to flight, were forced to get upon the land, while the vessels encompassed them about [on the sea]: but as many of these were repulsed when they were getting ashore, they were killed by the darts upon the lake; and the Romans leaped out of their vessels, and destroyed a great many more upon the land: one might then see the lake all bloody, and full of dead bodies, for not one of them escaped. And a terrible stink, and a very sad sight there was on the following days over that country; for as for the shores, they were full of shipwrecks, and of dead bodies all swelled; and as the dead bodies were inflamed by the sun, and putrefied, they corrupted the air, insomuch that the misery was not only the object of commiseration to the Jews, but to those that hated them, and had been the authors of that misery. This was the upshot of the sea-fight. The number of the slain, including those that were killed in the city before, was six thousand and five hundred.

     10. After this fight was over, Vespasian sat upon his tribunal at Taricheae, in order to distinguish the foreigners from the old inhabitants; for those foreigners appear to have begun the war. So he deliberated with the other commanders, whether he ought to save those old inhabitants or not. And when those commanders alleged that the dismission of them would be to his own disadvantage, because, when they were once set at liberty, they would not be at rest, since they would be people destitute of proper habitations, and would be able to compel such as they fled to fight against us, Vespasian acknowledged that they did not deserve to be saved, and that if they had leave given them to fly away, they would make use of it against those that gave them that leave. But still he considered with himself after what manner they should be slain 8 for if he had them slain there, he suspected the people of the country would thereby become his enemies; for that to be sure they would never bear it, that so many that had been supplicants to him should be killed; and to offer violence to them, after he had given them assurances of their lives, he could not himself bear to do it. However, his friends were too hard for him, and pretended that nothing against Jews could be any impiety, and that he ought to prefer what was profitable before what was fit to be done, where both could not be made consistent. So he gave them an ambiguous liberty to do as they advised, and permitted the prisoners to go along no other road than that which led to Tiberias only. So they readily believed what they desired to be true, and went along securely, with their effects, the way which was allowed them, while the Romans seized upon all the road that led to Tiberias, that none of them might go out of it, and shut them up in the city. Then came Vespasian, and ordered them all to stand in the stadium, and commanded them to kill the old men, together with the others that were useless, which were in number a thousand and two hundred. Out of the young men he chose six thousand of the strongest, and sent them to Nero, to dig through the Isthmus, and sold the remainder for slaves, being thirty thousand and four hundred, besides such as he made a present of to Agrippa; for as to those that belonged to his kingdom, he gave him leave to do what he pleased with them; however, the king sold these also for slaves; but for the rest of the multitude, who were Trachonites, and Gaulanites, and of Hippos, and some of Gadara, the greatest part of them were seditious persons and fugitives, who were of such shameful characters, that they preferred war before peace. These prisoners were taken on the eighth day of the month Gorpieus [Elul].

     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 23:20-21
     by D.H. Stern

20     Don’t be one of those who guzzle wine
     or of those who eat meat to excess,
21     for both drunkard and glutton will become poor—
     drowsiness will clothe them with rags.

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

                Are you ever disturbed?

     Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you.
--- John 14:27.

     There are times when our peace is based upon ignorance, but when we awaken to the facts of life, inner peace is impossible unless it is received from Jesus. When Our Lord speaks peace, He makes peace, His words are ever “spirit and life.” Have I ever received what Jesus speaks? “My peace I give unto you”—it is a peace which comes from looking into His face and realizing His undisturbedness.

     Are you painfully disturbed just now, distracted by the waves and billows of God’s providential permission, and having, as it were, turned over the boulders of your belief, are you still finding no well of peace or joy or comfort; is all barren? Then look up and receive the undisturbedness of the Lord Jesus. Reflected peace is the proof that you are right with God because you are at liberty to turn your mind to Him. If you are not right with God, you can never turn your mind anywhere but on yourself. If you allow anything to hide the face of Jesus Christ from you, you are either disturbed or you have a false security.

     Are you looking unto Jesus now, in the immediate matter that is pressing, and receiving from Him peace? If so, He will be a gracious benediction of peace in and through you: But if you try to worry it out, you obliterate Him and deserve all you get. We get disturbed because we have not been considering Him. When one confers with Jesus Christ the perplexity goes, because He has no perplexity, and our only concern is to abide in Him. Lay it all out before Him and in the face of difficulty, bereavement and sorrow, hear Him say—
“Let not your heart be troubled.”

My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition

The Cry of Elisha after Elijah
     the Poetry of RS Thomas

                The Cry of Elisha after Elijah

The chariot of Israel came,
  And the bold, beautiful knights,
  To free from his close prison
  The friend who was my delight;
  Cold is my cry over the vast deep shaken,
  Bereft was I, for he was taken.

Through the straight places of Baca
  We went with an equal will,
  Not knowing who would emerge
  First from that gloomy vale;
  Cold is my cry; our bond was broken,
  Bereft was I, for he was taken.

Where, then, came they to rest,
  Those steeds and that car of fire?
  My understanding is darkened,
  It is no gain to enquire;
  Better to await the long night's ending,
  Till the light comes, far truths transcending.

I yield, since no wisdom lies
  In seeking to go his way;
  A man without knowledge am I
  Of the quality of his joy;
  Yet living souls, a prodigious number,
  Bright-faced as dawn, invest God's chamber.

The friends that we loved well,
  Though they vanished far from our sight,
  In a new country were found
  Beyond this vale of night;
  O blest are they, without pain or fretting
  In the sun's light that knows no setting.

Selected poems, 1946-1968

Searching For Meaning In Midrash

     Matthew Arnold once described culture as “a study of perfection.” Perhaps he was a spiritual descendent of Rabbi Levi, for both seem to possess little patience for those who err. “Does the anointed priest sin?” We can answer Rabbi Levi very simply: Of course the anointed priest sins! That’s the very point of the verse in the Torah! The Kohen did indeed transgress, and now he has to make expiation for his wrong by offering a sacrifice to God.

     It’s no different today with those in positions of power or public trust. Our elected leaders are human. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia of New York grasped this when he quipped, “When I make a mistake it’s a beaut!” Even the world’s greatest surgeon will, at one time or another, botch a surgery. The financial wizard who predicts the permutations of the stock market may be the best in the business, but he will not be right all of the time. And even the best batter in Major League Baseball will hit no more than 400; that is, he makes an out more than 60 percent of the time.

     What do we do when it’s the surgeon into whose hands we’re putting our lives, or the planner who will ultimately determine our family’s financial stability? We can find the most competent professional available. We can research his or her credentials, track record, and experience. And then, we can understand that it’s out of our hands. That, very simply, is reality. People will make mistakes.

     It seems wrong for Rabbi Levi to create this expectation of perfection. Rather than seeing our human faults and foibles as a negative, we should reframe them as a positive. Our mistakes can be good for us. We can learn from them. The sacrifice that the Kohen gave was an opportunity to grow from the error, just as our prayers and thoughts can be an opportunity for introspection and development on our part.

     The cow brought by the Kohen as a guilt offering, rather than denying his humanity, simply reaffirms it. And that’s “no bull.”

     ANOTHER D’RASH / The Rabbis of the Midrash were many things; they were not, however, fools. They understood clearly the disappointing nature of the world they lived in, and they knew only too well the frailties of humankind. How do we, then, explain their rhetorical question in our text, “Does the anointed priest sin?” It seems to imply the naïve answer, “Of course not!” Did the Rabbis really think that a Kohen was incapable of doing wrong? Today, we are painfully aware of religious leaders who are embroiled in all kinds of scandals: the preacher involved with a prostitute; the priest accused of being a pedophile; the rabbi arrested for laundering drug money through a yeshivah. What’s true in our own day is nothing new; even the Bible was aware of priests who sinned. In the opening chapters of the Book of Samuel, we read that the two sons of Eli the priest, Hophni and Phinehas, were “scoundrels.” They stole from the sacrifices that were brought for God, and they had sex with many of the women who came to the Tent of Meeting. The Rabbis certainly knew the story; how could they think that a priest doesn’t sin?

     The answer to this riddle may be twofold. First, the Rabbis were familiar with the imperfect nature of religious leaders; they knew that priests did sin. Second, they also understood that, more often than not, people will live up to others’ expectations of them. This latter principle has been proven by tests conducted in schools. Randomly split the fifth grade into two sections. Tell one group they are the “accelerated class” and treat them as such, and they will perform better than the other group, which is labeled and treated like the “dumb class.” What’s true of kids is also true of grownups—and even of our leaders. When we believe that all presidents are promiscuous, that all members of Congress sell their votes to the biggest contributor, and that all politicians are liars, we are sending a message to our elected officials: We don’t expect very much of you. True, the temptations in the world of politics are many, and some who go into the field are too easily seduced. But we play a role in the disintegration of our political culture by lowering the bar and expecting too little.

     The Rabbis respond to the weaknesses of our leaders by saying thus: We have great expectations of you! Don’t you dare disappoint us!

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Take Heart
     August 26

     The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. --- John 3:35.

     We are told, “He had to go through Samaria” (John 4:4).”
(The RS Thomas And Other Practical Works Of The Late Reverend And Learned Mr. Ralph Erskine V9) The purpose was to give from his grace to a poor, sinful harlot there. Was there a blessed necessity for his suffering at Jerusalem? Yes: “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24:26). Even so, there is a blessed necessity for his applying the beneficial power of his death and sufferings, by pouring out his Spirit and communicating his grace for that purpose.

     Consider, that though Christ is exalted to this honor and majesty of having everything placed in his hands, yet it is not possible that he would be therefore proud and disdainful, so as not to regard the case of poor sinners, for quite the contrary is the truth. Because he is thus honored, therefore he humbles himself. Read his mind on this with wonder and admiration: “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he… began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (John 13:3–5). What was the reason, then, that Christ stooped down to wash his disciples’ feet? Because he knew the Father had put everything in his hands. Was he therefore proud? No, he was therefore humble.

     There is a twofold humiliation of Christ. First, he humbled himself to come down into human nature and shed his blood for us. Secondly, being exalted, he humbles himself to come down into our hearts, our filthy hearts, and wash them in his blood.

     He is exalted for this very purpose: to pardon and purge guilty and polluted sinners. As high and honorable as he is, he thinks it his honor to give out grace. He knows that the lower he stoops the higher will he be honored in the hearts of his people. I appeal to all believing hearts—the lower that he condescended to you—didn’t your hearts exalt him the more and wonder at his glory? O sinner, then, do not think he is too high to look down toward you. The higher he is, the lower he stoops, and therefore the higher you believe he is, the more hope you may have of his pity and favor toward you, and the more you see is placed in his hands, the more do you expect to get out of his hands; faith has the more footing.
--- Ralph Erskine

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

On This Day
     The Ravings of a Wife  August 26

     Blessed is the man whose wife speaks with wisdom even when she’s out of her mind.

     Ebenezer Erskine was a minister, but not a good one. His Scottish congregation wearied of his preaching, but he seemed unable to do better. “I began my ministry without much zeal, callously and mechanically,” he later wrote, “being swallowed up in unbelief and in rebellion against God.” He had no enthusiasm for the Lord or his Word. No devotional life. No fresh insights from Scripture. His RS Thomas were long, formal, and memorized; he preached them word for word in a monotone, never looking up or glancing into the jaded faces of his audience.

     His wife, barely able to endure it, dreaded each approaching Sunday. For years she wept secretly over her husband’s unregenerate heart and unspiritual ministry. She prayed earnestly for God, yet she said little to Ebenezer until … until she contracted a raging fever. Ebenezer, 28, anxiously hovered over her as she twisted and tossed, body shrouded in sweat. In her delirium, she babbled her opinions of his ministry—it was lifeless and long-winded. And his heart? It was lost and languishing. Her words pierced him.

     “At last,” Ebenezer wrote in his diary, “the Lord was pleased to calm her spirit and give her a sweet serenity of mind. This, I think, was the first time ever I felt the Lord touching my heart in a sensible manner. Some few weeks after, she and I were sitting together in my study, and while we were conversing about the things of God, the Lord was pleased to rend the veil and to give me a glimmering view of salvation which made my soul acquiesce in Christ.”

     His “acquiescence” came on August 26, 1708. He wrote, “I offer myself up, soul and body, unto God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I flee for shelter to the blood of Jesus. I will live to him; I will die to him. I take heaven and earth to witness that all I am and all I have are his.”

     Ebenezer Erskine became a popular preacher in eighteenth-century Scotland and the founder of the Scottish Secession Church.

     The right word at the right time
     Is like precious gold set in silver.
     Listening to good advice
     Is worth much more than jewelry made of gold.
     --- Proverbs 25:11,12.

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - August 26

     “He hath commanded his covenant for ever.”
--- Psalms 111:9.

     The Lord’s people delight in the covenant itself. It is an unfailing source of consolation to them so often as the Holy Spirit leads them into its banqueting house and waves its banner of love. They delight to contemplate the antiquity of that covenant, remembering that before the day-star knew its place, or planets ran their round, the interests of the saints were made secure in Christ Jesus. It is peculiarly pleasing to them to remember the sureness of the covenant, while meditating upon “the sure mercies of David.” They delight to celebrate it as “signed, and sealed, and ratified, in all things ordered well.” It often makes their hearts dilate with joy to think of its immutability, as a covenant which neither time nor eternity, life nor death, shall ever be able to violate—a covenant as old as eternity and as everlasting as the Rock of ages. They rejoice also to feast upon the fulness of this covenant, for they see in it all things provided for them. God is their portion, Christ their companion, the Spirit their Comforter, earth their lodge, and heaven their home. They see in it an inheritance reserved and entailed to every soul possessing an interest in its ancient and eternal deed of gift. Their eyes sparkled when they saw it as a treasure-trove in the Bible; but oh! how their souls were gladdened when they saw in the last will and testament of their divine kinsman, that it was bequeathed to them! More especially it is the pleasure of God’s people to contemplate the graciousness of this covenant. They see that the law was made void because it was a covenant of works and depended upon merit, but this they perceive to be enduring because grace is the basis, grace the condition, grace the strain, grace the bulwark, grace the foundation, grace the topstone. The covenant is a treasury of wealth, a granary of food, a fountain of life, a store-house of salvation, a charter of peace, and a haven of joy.

          Evening - August 26

     “The people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed, and running to him saluted him.” --- Mark 9:15.

     How great the difference between Moses and Jesus! When the prophet of Horeb had been forty days upon the mountain, he underwent a kind of transfiguration, so that his countenance shone with exceeding brightness, and he put a veil over his face, for the people could not endure to look upon his glory. Not so our Saviour. He had been transfigured with a greater glory than that of Moses, and yet, it is not written that the people were blinded by the blaze of his countenance, but rather they were amazed, and running to him they saluted him. The glory of the law repels, but the greater glory of Jesus attracts. Though Jesus is holy and just, yet blended with his purity there is so much of truth and grace, that sinners run to him amazed at his goodness, fascinated by his love; they salute him, become his disciples, and take him to be their Lord and Master. Reader, it may be that just now you are blinded by the dazzling brightness of the law of God. You feel its claims on your conscience, but you cannot keep it in your life. Not that you find fault with the law, on the contrary, it commands your profoundest esteem, still you are in nowise drawn by it to God; you are rather hardened in heart, and are verging towards desperation. Ah, poor heart! turn thine eye from Moses, with all his repelling splendour, and look to Jesus, resplendent with milder glories. Behold his flowing wounds and thorn-crowned head! He is the Son of God, and therein he is greater than Moses, but he is the Lord of love, and therein more tender than the lawgiver. He bore the wrath of God, and in his death revealed more of God’s justice than Sinai on a blaze, but that justice is now vindicated, and henceforth it is the guardian of believers in Jesus. Look, sinner, to the bleeding Saviour, and as thou feelest the attraction of his love, fly to his arms, and thou shalt be saved.

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

Amazing Grace
     August 26


     Thomas O. Chisholm, 1866–1960

     Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—which is your spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:1, 2)

     For the Christian, a foremost priority must be to live for Christ and to seek first His kingdom (Matthew 6:33). That does not line up with all the talk we hear today about self-realization. The Christian, however, knows that we were created by God that we might glorify Him. Therefore, we should not live to please ourselves but rather to exalt and serve our Lord. “My dearest treasure the light of His smile”—the ultimate goal of our lives.

     “Living for Jesus” was written in 1917 by Thomas Chisholm at the request of the composer, Harold Lowden, who had used his tune two years earlier with another text. Lowden, however, was not satisfied with the union of his tune with the earlier text and wrote Mr. Chisholm, suggesting the title “Living for Jesus” for the new hymn setting. Chisholm felt very inadequate for the task, but within two weeks the words were completed.

     Thomas Chisholm had been an editor, a schoolteacher, and a Methodist minister before ill health forced him to begin a less strenuous life as an insurance salesman. His favorite endeavor had always been the writing of poetry, and he continued to do this all through his 94 years. “I have greatly desired,” he said, “that each hymn or poem might send some definite message to the hearts for whom it was written.” Though humble in spirit and frail in health, Chisholm found that writing encouraging words such as these for God’s people to sing was his “pathway of blessing.”

     Living for Jesus a life that is true, striving to please Him in all that I do, yielding allegiance, glad-hearted and free—this is the pathway of blessing for me.
     Living for Jesus who died in my place, bearing on Calv’ry my sin and disgrace—such love constrains me to answer His call, follow His leading and give Him my all.
     Living for Jesus thru earth’s little while, my dearest treasure the light of His smile, seeking the lost ones He died to redeem, bringing the weary to find rest in Him.
     Chorus: O Jesus, Lord and Savior, I give myself to Thee, for Thou in Thine atonement didst give Thyself for me. I own no other Master—my heart shall be Thy throne: My life I give, henceforth to live, O Christ, for Thee alone.

     For Today: Mark 12:33; Romans 6:13, 18; 2 Corinthians 4:10, 11

     Tomorrow is God’s secret, but today is your opportunity to live cooperatively with and for Him. Make it “God’s today.” Live this day to glorify His Son in every possible way. Sing as you go ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

Book Of Common Prayer
     Saturday, August 26, 2017 | After Pentecost

Proper 15, Saturday
Year 1

Psalms (Morning)     Psalm 137:1–6 (7–9) 144
Psalms (Evening)     Psalm 104
Old Testament     2 Samuel 23:1–17, 13–17
New Testament     Acts 25:13–27
Gospel     Mark 13:1–13

Index of Readings

Psalms (Morning)
Psalm 137:1–6 (7–9) 144

1 By the rivers of Babylon—
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.
2 On the willows there
we hung up our harps.
3 For there our captors
asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

4 How could we sing the LORD’s song
in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!
6 Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy.

7 Remember, O LORD, against the Edomites
the day of Jerusalem’s fall,
how they said, “Tear it down! Tear it down!
Down to its foundations!”
8 O daughter Babylon, you devastator!
Happy shall they be who pay you back
what you have done to us!
9 Happy shall they be who take your little ones
and dash them against the rock!

Psalm 144
Of David.

1 Blessed be the LORD, my rock,
who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle;
2 my rock and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield, in whom I take refuge,
who subdues the peoples under me.

3 O LORD, what are human beings that you regard them,
or mortals that you think of them?
4 They are like a breath;
their days are like a passing shadow.

5 Bow your heavens, O LORD, and come down;
touch the mountains so that they smoke.
6 Make the lightning flash and scatter them;
send out your arrows and rout them.
7 Stretch out your hand from on high;
set me free and rescue me from the mighty waters,
from the hand of aliens,
8 whose mouths speak lies,
and whose right hands are false.

9 I will sing a new song to you, O God;
upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you,
10 the one who gives victory to kings,
who rescues his servant David.
11 Rescue me from the cruel sword,
and deliver me from the hand of aliens,
whose mouths speak lies,
and whose right hands are false.

12 May our sons in their youth
be like plants full grown,
our daughters like corner pillars,
cut for the building of a palace.
13 May our barns be filled,
with produce of every kind;
may our sheep increase by thousands,
by tens of thousands in our fields,
14 and may our cattle be heavy with young.
May there be no breach in the walls, no exile,
and no cry of distress in our streets.

15 Happy are the people to whom such blessings fall;
happy are the people whose God is the LORD.

Psalms (Evening)
Psalm 104

Psalm 104

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul.
O LORD my God, you are very great.
You are clothed with honor and majesty,
2 wrapped in light as with a garment.
You stretch out the heavens like a tent,
3 you set the beams of your chambers on the waters,
you make the clouds your chariot,
you ride on the wings of the wind,
4 you make the winds your messengers,
fire and flame your ministers.

5 You set the earth on its foundations,
so that it shall never be shaken.
6 You cover it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
7 At your rebuke they flee;
at the sound of your thunder they take to flight.
8 They rose up to the mountains, ran down to the valleys
to the place that you appointed for them.
9 You set a boundary that they may not pass,
so that they might not again cover the earth.

10 You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
they flow between the hills,
11 giving drink to every wild animal;
the wild asses quench their thirst.
12 By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation;
they sing among the branches.
13 From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.

14 You cause the grass to grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to use,
to bring forth food from the earth,
15 and wine to gladden the human heart,
oil to make the face shine,
and bread to strengthen the human heart.
16 The trees of the LORD are watered abundantly,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
17 In them the birds build their nests;
the stork has its home in the fir trees.
18 The high mountains are for the wild goats;
the rocks are a refuge for the coneys.
19 You have made the moon to mark the seasons;
the sun knows its time for setting.
20 You make darkness, and it is night,
when all the animals of the forest come creeping out.
21 The young lions roar for their prey,
seeking their food from God.
22 When the sun rises, they withdraw
and lie down in their dens.
23 People go out to their work
and to their labor until the evening.

24 O LORD, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
25 Yonder is the sea, great and wide,
creeping things innumerable are there,
living things both small and great.
26 There go the ships,
and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.

27 These all look to you
to give them their food in due season;
28 when you give to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.
30 When you send forth your spirit, they are created;
and you renew the face of the ground.

31 May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD rejoice in his works—
32 who looks on the earth and it trembles,
who touches the mountains and they smoke.
33 I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
for I rejoice in the LORD.
35 Let sinners be consumed from the earth,
and let the wicked be no more.
Bless the LORD, O my soul.
Praise the LORD!

Old Testament
2 Samuel 23:1–17, 13–17

23 Now these are the last words of David:
The oracle of David, son of Jesse,
the oracle of the man whom God exalted,
the anointed of the God of Jacob,
the favorite of the Strong One of Israel:

2 The spirit of the LORD speaks through me,
his word is upon my tongue.
3 The God of Israel has spoken,
the Rock of Israel has said to me:
One who rules over people justly,
ruling in the fear of God,
4 is like the light of morning,
like the sun rising on a cloudless morning,
gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.

5 Is not my house like this with God?
For he has made with me an everlasting covenant,
ordered in all things and secure.
Will he not cause to prosper
all my help and my desire?
6 But the godless are all like thorns that are thrown away;
for they cannot be picked up with the hand;
7 to touch them one uses an iron bar
or the shaft of a spear.
And they are entirely consumed in fire on the spot.

8 These are the names of the warriors whom David had: Josheb-basshebeth a Tahchemonite; he was chief of the Three; he wielded his spear against eight hundred whom he killed at one time.

9 Next to him among the three warriors was Eleazar son of Dodo son of Ahohi. He was with David when they defied the Philistines who were gathered there for battle. The Israelites withdrew, 10 but he stood his ground. He struck down the Philistines until his arm grew weary, though his hand clung to the sword. The LORD brought about a great victory that day. Then the people came back to him—but only to strip the dead.

11 Next to him was Shammah son of Agee, the Hararite. The Philistines gathered together at Lehi, where there was a plot of ground full of lentils; and the army fled from the Philistines. 12 But he took his stand in the middle of the plot, defended it, and killed the Philistines; and the LORD brought about a great victory.

13 Towards the beginning of harvest three of the thirty chiefs went down to join David at the cave of Adullam, while a band of Philistines was encamped in the valley of Rephaim. 14 David was then in the stronghold; and the garrison of the Philistines was then at Bethlehem. 15 David said longingly, “O that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!” 16 Then the three warriors broke through the camp of the Philistines, drew water from the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate, and brought it to David. But he would not drink of it; he poured it out to the LORD, 17 for he said, “The LORD forbid that I should do this. Can I drink the blood of the men who went at the risk of their lives?” Therefore he would not drink it. The three warriors did these things.

13 Towards the beginning of harvest three of the thirty chiefs went down to join David at the cave of Adullam, while a band of Philistines was encamped in the valley of Rephaim. 14 David was then in the stronghold; and the garrison of the Philistines was then at Bethlehem. 15 David said longingly, “O that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!” 16 Then the three warriors broke through the camp of the Philistines, drew water from the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate, and brought it to David. But he would not drink of it; he poured it out to the LORD, 17 for he said, “The LORD forbid that I should do this. Can I drink the blood of the men who went at the risk of their lives?” Therefore he would not drink it. The three warriors did these things.

New Testament
Acts 25:13–27

13 After several days had passed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to welcome Festus. 14 Since they were staying there several days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, “There is a man here who was left in prison by Felix. 15 When I was in Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me about him and asked for a sentence against him. 16 I told them that it was not the custom of the Romans to hand over anyone before the accused had met the accusers face to face and had been given an opportunity to make a defense against the charge. 17 So when they met here, I lost no time, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought. 18 When the accusers stood up, they did not charge him with any of the crimes that I was expecting. 19 Instead they had certain points of disagreement with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who had died, but whom Paul asserted to be alive. 20 Since I was at a loss how to investigate these questions, I asked whether he wished to go to Jerusalem and be tried there on these charges. 21 But when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of his Imperial Majesty, I ordered him to be held until I could send him to the emperor.” 22 Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear the man myself.” “Tomorrow,” he said, “you will hear him.”

23 So on the next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city. Then Festus gave the order and Paul was brought in. 24 And Festus said, “King Agrippa and all here present with us, you see this man about whom the whole Jewish community petitioned me, both in Jerusalem and here, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. 25 But I found that he had done nothing deserving death; and when he appealed to his Imperial Majesty, I decided to send him. 26 But I have nothing definite to write to our sovereign about him. Therefore I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that, after we have examined him, I may have something to write— 27 for it seems to me unreasonable to send a prisoner without indicating the charges against him.”

Mark 13:1–13

13 As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” 2 Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”

3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” 5 Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

9 “As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. 10 And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 13 and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

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