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8/27/2018     Yesterday     Tomorrow
     Ecclesiastes 5 - 8


Ecclesiastes 5

Fear God

Ecclesiastes 5:1 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. 2  Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. 3 For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words.

4 When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. 5 It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. 6 Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? 7 For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.

The Vanity of Wealth and Honor

8 If you see in a province the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and righteousness, do not be amazed at the matter, for the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher ones over them. 9 But this is gain for a land in every way: a king committed to cultivated fields. 10 He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. 11 When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? 12 Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.

13 There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, 14 and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. 15 As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. 16 This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what gain is there to him who toils for the wind? 17 Moreover, all his days he eats in darkness in much vexation and sickness and anger.

18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. 19 Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.


Ecclesiastes 6

Ecclesiastes 6:1 There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: 2 a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous evil. 3 If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life’s good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. 4 For it comes in vanity and goes in darkness, and in darkness its name is covered. 5 Moreover, it has not seen the sun or known anything, yet it finds rest rather than he. 6 Even though he should live a thousand years twice over, yet enjoy no good—do not all go to the one place?

7 All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied. 8 For what advantage has the wise man over the fool? And what does the poor man have who knows how to conduct himself before the living? 9 Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite: this also is vanity and a striving after wind.

10 Whatever has come to be has already been named, and it is known what man is, and that he is not able to dispute with one stronger than he. 11 The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man? 12 For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?


Ecclesiastes 7

The Contrast of Wisdom and Folly

Ecclesiastes 7 A good name is better than precious ointment,
and the day of death than the day of birth.
2 It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.
3 Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
5 It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise
than to hear the song of fools.
6 For as the crackling of thorns under a pot,
so is the laughter of the fools;
this also is vanity.
7 Surely oppression drives the wise into madness,
and a bribe corrupts the heart.
8 Better is the end of a thing than its beginning,
and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
9 Be not quick in your spirit to become angry,
for anger lodges in the heart of fools.
10 Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
11 Wisdom is good with an inheritance,
an advantage to those who see the sun.
12 For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money,
and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.
13 Consider the work of God:
who can make straight what he has made crooked?

14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.

15 In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing. 16 Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? 17 Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time? 18 It is good that you should take hold of this, and from that withhold not your hand, for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them.

19 Wisdom gives strength to the wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city.

20 Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.

21 Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. 22 Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others. 23 All this I have tested by wisdom. I said, “I will be wise,” but it was far from me. 24 That which has been is far off, and deep, very deep; who can find it out? 25 I turned my heart to know and to search out and to seek wisdom and the scheme of things, and to know the wickedness of folly and the foolishness that is madness. 26 And I find something more bitter than death: the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and whose hands are fetters. He who pleases God escapes her, but the sinner is taken by her. 27 Behold, this is what I found, says the Preacher, while adding one thing to another to find the scheme of things— 28 which my soul has sought repeatedly, but I have not found. One man among a thousand I found, but a woman among all these I have not found. 29 See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.


Keep the King’s Command

Ecclesiastes 8

Ecclesiastes 8 1 Who is like the wise?
And who knows the interpretation of a thing?
A man’s wisdom makes his face shine,
and the hardness of his face is changed.

2 I say: Keep the king’s command, because of God’s oath to him. 3 Be not hasty to go from his presence. Do not take your stand in an evil cause, for he does whatever he pleases. 4 For the word of the king is supreme, and who may say to him, “What are you doing?” 5 Whoever keeps a command will know no evil thing, and the wise heart will know the proper time and the just way. 6 For there is a time and a way for everything, although man’s trouble lies heavy on him. 7 For he does not know what is to be, for who can tell him how it will be? 8 No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it. 9 All this I observed while applying my heart to all that is done under the sun, when man had power over man to his hurt.

Those Who Fear God Will Do Well

10 Then I saw the wicked buried. They used to go in and out of the holy place and were praised in the city where they had done such things. This also is vanity. 11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. 12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him. 13 But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God.

Man Cannot Know God’s Ways

14 There is a vanity that takes place on earth, that there are righteous people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity. 15 And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.

16 When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how neither day nor night do one’s eyes see sleep, 17 then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out.

The Reformation Study Bible


What I'm Reading

Most Cops Know That A Healthy Fear of Punishment Is… Healthy!

By J. Warner Wallace 1/4/2013

     Yesterday I was interviewed on the radio and the discussion wandered to the issue of violence in schools and the recent school shooting in Connecticut. I sometimes get asked about this topic due to my background as a homicide detective, and I’m happy to share my three pronged (and hopefully balanced) view related to the issue. I do believe that one leg of this controversial “stool” involves the secularization of our culture. It’s not the only factor that is in play (issues related to gun control and mental health are also important parts of the equation), but I think it’s impossible to deny that a culture that slowly rejects the transcendent grounding of objective moral truth (and, therefore, an eternal consequence for violating such truth) will eventually become more and more violent. Current surveys and investigations have only confirmed this truth.

     A recent study published by the Public Library of Science journal, “PLoS ONE” reported that criminal activity is lower in societies that are more focused on “supernatural punishment” rather than “supernatural benevolence”. In other words, the fear of hell is far more likely to motivate people to do the right thing than the promise of heaven. This is supported by a 2011 Harvard study that found that undergraduate students were far more likely to cheat if they saw God as loving and forgiving than if they saw God as punishing. A 2008 study also found that opportunistic selfishness is restrained by a belief in, and fear of, eternal punishment. Finally, a 2003 Harvard study found that the gross domestic product of developed countries was higher when people believed in hell than when they believed in heaven alone.

     Now, none of this serves as evidence that our beliefs in heaven or hell are actually true, and as an atheist for most of my life, I simply argued that hell was an evolutionary construct that emerged within the species because it assisted us in “getting along” and surviving. But if there is no God, and evolution alone accounts for the existence of beliefs related to heaven and hell, this same process now seems to be moving the species away from such beliefs. As societies become less and less religious, the results seem less than beneficial. Evolution, as an explanation, seems rather slippery; it appears to be leading us toward an understanding of reality that results in more crime, more dishonesty, more selfishness and less productivity. How precisely does this benefit the species?

     If an understanding of eternal punishment and reward is simply a social construction, don’t expect it to have any staying power. Unless the reality of eternal punishment is transcendently true, it can come and go like other societal fads and fashions. A healthy fear of eternal punishment has a long term benefit to our species only if it is grounded in transcendent truth. The fear of punishment must be something more than a temporary, useful delusion; it needs to be rooted in an eternal reality. Thankfully, it is.

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

Think Hard, Stay Humble: The Life of the Mind and the Peril of Pride

By Francis Chan 10/2/2010

     Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. (1 Corinthians 8:1–3)

     I don’t know if there is a more appropriate passage for us to turn to at this point in the book than 1 Corinthians 8:1–3. It is a passage directed toward those whose have their facts right but hearts wrong. Here Paul addresses the intelligent but unloving.

     It has been wonderful and challenging for me to study this passage. Meditating on 1 Corinthians 8:1–3 caused me to realize how many statements I make each day that are not motivated by love. It has caused me to pray that God would remind me to love each person I encounter and to seek to build up each individual with my words.

     Do I Genuinely Love? | Years ago, a friend of mine asked me how I prepared to preach. I told him how I pictured God in the room and that I would tell him that I wanted to please him alone. I then asked my friend how he would prepare. He told me how he would look at the crowd and pray, “God, you know how I love these people. Give me the right words to bring them closer to you.

     He then explained that there are other times that he would have to pray, “Father, I don’t love these people like I should. Give me a greater love for them.” It is sad that I had been preaching for years, I realized then, without thinking about really loving the people to whom I preached.


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     Francis Chan is an American preacher. He is the former teaching pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, California, a church he and his wife started in 1994. Francis Chan Books:

The Bible is God's Word: The Proof and Evidence

By Mike Robinson 5/24/2017

     [The New Atheists] are not open or willing to go where the evidence leads, unless that evidence sustains their own naturalistic assumptions. They have covertly reduced all philosophical thought and deduction to--ironically—faith! (Ravi Zacharias).

     I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man. All the good from The Savior of the world is communicated to us through this Book (Abraham Lincoln).

     Often skeptics argue that the Bible was written many years after the events it records, thus it was corrupted over time. Abrasive atheist Sam Harris notified the world that “the Gospels are ancient fiction.” But papyrus expert Peter Thiede has demonstrated that a copy of the Gospel of Luke, housed in a French museum, is dated approximately 50 AD. Thiede has also determined that the Magdalyn Manuscript of the Book of Matthew is dated circa 40-50 AD. And finally, Thiede has dated a copy of the Gospel written by Mark to be from about 50 AD.

     The age of the Gospels demonstrates that there was not enough time between the events and their transcription for the Bible to be tainted or altered in the manner the critics allege. Ramm acknowledged, “Divine inspiration of the Bible is the only adequate hypothesis to account for the Bible.”

     Your religious beliefs typically depend on the community in which you were raised or live. The spiritual experiences of people in ancient Greece, medieval Japan or 21st-century Saudi Arabia do not lead to belief in Christianity. It seems, therefore, that religious belief very likely tracks not truth but social conditioning (Gary Gutting).

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     CAA author Mike A. Robinson utilizes recent research in Christian apologetics, philosophy, and biblical truth as he provides books that make an impact on average people. These high-impact works train you to evangelize atheists, cult members, false religionists and agnostics. The deep intellectual truths that modern and ancient Christian scholars and philosophers have produced are formatted in simple and easy-to-follow steps. This fresh approach makes it real and assists you to be an effective witness in your personal evangelism to the followers of Richard Dawkins, Joseph Smith, the Watchtower, Buddha, Islam, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, other anti-theists and cultists.

Mike Robinson Books:

The Cross Is Everything!

By Malcolm Yarnell 6/14/2017

     The following was written in support of the great works being done by all at the convention, on the floor and on the platform. I am proud of our Resolutions Committee and of our messengers, real proud, and I stand fully behind the resolutions, including the upcoming Resolution on Alt-Right White Supremacy:

     While I skipped the Southern Baptist Convention in order to polish an overdue essay responding to my recently deceased friend, the Reformed theologian John Webster, my heart has been unable to escape the profound events occurring in Phoenix, Arizona. So many of my living friends and colleagues in ministry are there, and I have watched them with love and concern, exchanging messages with good people who are under both public and personal pressure to do well. With the incredible responsibilities placed on their shoulders, I want them to know they are doing well in spite of the heartache and disappointment all around. The churches of the Southern Baptist Convention are working together slowly but carefully toward the future that God has planned for them. And the men leading the way are in a pressure cooker, and it hurts.

     I have one word of advice to the leaders of the SBC and to every convention messenger and every spectator. It is an idea that could be taken contritely as a mere mantra were it not central to everything occurring this year: The Cross is at the center of everything the SBC is doing. But we may be somewhat oblivious to it. Some have glibly dismissed the resolution on the atonement that Owen Strachan and I offered as so much window dressing, but that is utterly wrongheaded. The Cross of Jesus Christ is at the center of everything that the SBC is doing this year. The Cross makes sense of the other significant resolutions, such as the ones on the Alt-Right and on Planned Parenthood. The Cross makes sense of the mission board reports and of Steve Gaines’s proposed task force. The Cross is everything!

     As Leon Morris and John Stott demonstrated years ago, the Cross of Jesus Christ provides the meaning of the biblical text. The Cross is both center and circumference; it is both pervasive and without parallel; it is both paradigmatic and problematic. Open any New Testament book and before long, the Cross will dominate the discussion. For Paul, a highly educated Biblicist with pristine religious credentials, the Cross which was earlier a scandal to him subsequently became so big that he could see nothing else. In Galatians 6:14f, he stated,

     But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has been crucified to me through the cross, and I to the world. For both circumcision and uncircumcision mean nothing; what matters instead is a new creation (Christian Standard Bible).

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     Malcolm B. Yarnell III was born in upstate New York, grew up in numerous North and Central American subcultures, and became a Southern Baptist minister, holding church pastorates in Texas, Louisiana, and North Carolina. After receiving degrees from Louisiana State University (BS-Finance), Southwestern Seminary (MDivBL), Duke University (ThM), and the University of Oxford (DPhil), he served as a faculty member at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and academic dean at Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri.

     Yarnell is a prolific author. His latest book, God the Trinity: Biblical Portraits, was published by B&H Academic in April 2016. His most widely reviewed volume, on historical and theological method, is The Formation of Christian Doctrine (2007). He is also the author of Royal Priesthood in the English Reformation, released by Oxford University Press in 2014, and The Anabaptists and Contemporary Baptists, a Festschrift honoring Paige Patterson, released in 2013. Yarnell has contributed over 100 essays to academic journals and books published in America, England, France, and Nigeria, as well as in more popular venues. He was also the longest-serving editor of the nearly century-old Southwestern Journal of Theology, and has edited four academic books. His next two monographs are provisionally entitled Popular Theology and The Image of the Trinity, the latter of which will serve as the third volume in his Systematic Theology.

     While traveling to lecture in universities worldwide (including in recent years, Canada, China, England, France, Germany, Kenya, Russia, Scotland, and the Ukraine), Yarnell is a fellow in research institutes and a member of editorial boards in Fort Worth, Nashville, New Orleans, Oxford, and Bonn. He has been involved for over a decade in a series of Evangelical-Catholic Theological Conversations in St. Paul, Minnesota, and formerly served as a leading member of the Baptist World Alliance-Anglican Communion Theological Conversations. He has served as a trustee for the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Wroclaw, Poland for the last five years.

     Malcolm currently resides with his family of seven in Fort Worth, Texas, where he is Research Professor of Systematic Theology at Southwestern Seminary. His weekly passion is to lead the Sunday morning Men's Bible Study at Birchman Baptist Church. He preaches the gospel regularly in churches and conferences, and has recently led church conferences in the Cayman Islands, England, France, and Germany.

Malcolm Yarnell Books:

Does God Want Me to Suffer?

By John Piper 7/12/2017

     What makes a person a theologian is not a college education, and not a seminary education, and sure not a doctorate. What makes a person a theologian is seeing things in the Bible and getting on their knees and thinking until they see harmony and unity coming together at the root of their being. They just won’t let go. They won’t let any scripture go. They’re pondering and praying and say,

     Keep me faithful to the whole counsel of God. Don’t let me run off in one direction and ride that hobby horse and don’t let me run off in the other direction and ride that hobby horse. Let me get it all together, Lord, as much as a human brain can get it together. Help me to be faithful, to hold in tension what has to be kept tension. I want to be true to the word of God.

     My conclusion is that the will of God in the Bible has two meanings. It’s not rocket science. On the one hand, it sometimes means God’s absolute sovereign control over all things, which can never be broken and never frustrated. And sometimes it refers to what you ought to do because he commands you to do it: don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery. You can break that will. You can disobey it. So we need to ask from text to text which of these two is being spoken of.

     Before I do that in Romans 12:2, let me pause here and try to help you feel why what I just said is precious beyond words to know and believe. I don’t think that it’s possible to handle deep hurt and great loss in your life without these two categories. Knowing God as sovereign and in control corresponds to a need that we have, and knowing God as a God who commands and commends and entreats his will — which can be broken — corresponds to a profound need that we have. And to know him in both of these ways can get us through situations where if we try to choose the one or the other will leave us very vulnerable.

     Let me try to give you an example: Suppose that you were abused as a child. I mean, really badly abused — sexually abused, physically abused, and it has wrought havoc in your life. It begins to come out and you deal with it. Somebody asks you, “Do you think that was the will of God?,” which is a very common question, and a good one. “Do you think that was the will of God?” My earnest prayer is that after this sermon, you will be able to answer that question biblically in a way that doesn’t contradict the bible — as strange, as mysterious, as painful, as perplexing as it may sound. It would go like this:

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     John Piper Books:

A Scientist Discovers God

By Lee Strobel 7/10/2017

     Allan Rex Sandage, the greatest observational cosmologist in the world — who deciphered the secrets of the stars, plumbed the mysteries of quasars, revealed the age of globular clusters, pinpointed the distances of remote galaxies, and quantified the universe’s expansion through his work at the Mount Wilson and Palomar observatories — prepared to step onto the conference platform.

     Few scientists were as widely respected as this one-time protégé of legendary astronomer Edwin Hubble. Sandage had been showered with prestigious honors from the American Astronomical Society, the Swiss Physical Society, the Royal Astronomical Society, and the Swedish Academy of Sciences, receiving astronomy’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize. The New York Times dubbed him the “grand old man of cosmology.”

     As he approached the stage at this conference on science and religion, there was little doubt where he would sit. The discussion would be about the origin of the universe, and the panel would be divided among those scientists who believed in God and those who didn’t, with each faction sitting on its own side of the stage. Many of the attenders probably knew the ethnically Jewish Sandage had been a virtual atheist even as a child. Others undoubtedly believed that a scientist of his stature must surely be skeptical about God. As Newsweek put it, “The more deeply scientists see into the secrets of the universe, you’d expect, the more God would fade away from their hearts and minds.”

     So Sandage’s seat among the doubters seemed a given.

     Then the unexpected happened. Sandage set the room abuzz by turning and taking a chair among the theists. Even more dazzling, in the context of a talk about the big bang and its philosophical implications, he disclosed publicly that he had become a Christian at age fifty. The big bang, he told the rapt audience, was a supernatural event that cannot be explained within the realm of physics as we know it.

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     Atheist-turned-Christian Lee Strobel is the former award-winning legal editor of The Chicago Tribune and best-selling author of more than twenty books. His classic, The Case for Christ, is a perennial favorite which details his conversion to Christianity. His recent release, The Case for Grace, just won the 2016 Nonfiction Book of the Year from the EPCA. For the last twenty-five years, his life’s work has been to share the evidence that supports the truth and claims of Christianity and to equip believers to share their faith with the people they know and love.

     Lee earned his Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri and his Master of Studies in Law at Yale Law School. He was a journalist for fourteen years at The Chicago Tribune and other newspapers, winning Illinois' highest honor for public service journalism from United Press International. He also led a team that won UPI's top award for investigative reporting in Illinois.

     Lee has been a featured guest on national networks including ABC, Fox, Discovery, PBS, and CNN. He was the host of Faith Under Fire, a provocative program that brought together some of the brightest Christians and skeptics to debate issues central to the Christian faith. He also appeared in the feature film, God's Not Dead 2, as an expert witness for the defense. In 2017 Pure Flix Entertainment will release a major motion picture depicting Lee's journey from atheism to faith. You can learn more about the film, watch the trailer, and subscribe for updates at thecaseforchristmovie.com.

     As part of his speaking ministry, Lee travels across the country (and sometimes the world) sharing his testimony, encouraging believers, and challenging skeptics. He regularly speaks at conferences, commencements, fundraisers, and other major events.

     Lee is currently a teaching pastor at Woodlands Church in Texas where he speaks multiple times each year. He recently joined the faculty at Houston Baptist University as a Professor of Christian Thought.

     Lee and his wife, Leslie, have been married for over 40 years and live in Texas. Their daughter, Alison, is the author of six inspirational women's fiction novels and co-author (with her husband, Daniel) of two books for children. After teaching for six years, she now homeschools her daughters. Their son, Kyle, having earned a PhD in Theology from the University of Aberdeen and two Master's degrees, is an accomplished author, Jonathan Edwards scholar, and Professor of Spiritual Theology at Talbot School of Theology at BIOLA University in Southern California where he lives with his wife and two children.

Lee Strobel Books:

The Great Prize in Christian Dating

By Marshall Segal 7/12/2017

     I got lots of things wrong in dating, but as I think back over my mistakes and failures — dating too young, jumping from relationship to relationship, not being honest with myself or with others, failing to set or keep boundaries, not listening to friends and family, not prizing and pursuing purity — one error rises above the others, and in many ways explains the others:

     My dating relationships were mainly a pursuit of intimacy with a girlfriend, not clarity about whether to marry her.

     In my best moments, I was pursuing clarity through intimacy, but in a lot of other moments, if I’m honest, I just wanted intimacy at whatever cost. “The pursuit of marriage” was a warm and justifying pullover to wear over my conscience when things started to go too far physically and emotionally. But even clarity through intimacy misses the point and gets it backwards. I should have been pursuing clarity in dating, and then intimacy in marriage. That simple equation would have saved me and the girls I dated all kinds of grief, heartache, and regret.

     Your Last First Kiss | Most of us date because we want intimacy. We want to feel close to someone. We want to be known deeply and loved deeply. We want sex. We want to share life with someone of the opposite sex who will be involved and invested in what we’re doing and what we care about. With the right heart, and in the right measure, and at the right time, these are all good desires. God made many of us to want these things, and therefore wants us to want these things — with the right heart, in the right measure, and at the right time.

     Think about your last first kiss in a relationship (if you’ve already kissed someone). Why did you do it? You knew you were risking something, that this wasn’t the safest way to give yourself to someone. What was driving you most in those brief moments before you let your lips touch?

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Marshall Segal is a writer and managing editor at desiringGod.org. He’s the author of Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness and Dating. He graduated from Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife Faye have a son and live in Minneapolis.

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 93

The LORD Reigns
93

The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty;
the LORD is robed; he has put on strength as his belt.
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
2 Your throne is established from of old;
you are from everlasting.

3 The floods have lifted up, O LORD,
the floods have lifted up their voice;
the floods lift up their roaring.
4 Mightier than the thunders of many waters,
mightier than the waves of the sea,
the LORD on high is mighty!

5 Your decrees are very trustworthy;
holiness befits your house,
O LORD, forevermore.

ESV Study Bible

  • Apologetics Principles
  • NT Biblical Theology
  • Pt 2

#1 Scott Oliphint  Westminster Theological Seminary

 

#2 Greg Beale   Westminster Theological Seminary

 

#3 Greg Beale   Westminster Theological Seminary

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     August 27, 1776, British General Howe had trapped 8,000 American troops on Brooklyn Heights, intending to crush them the next Morning. Desperate, Washington spent all night ferrying his army across the East River. Morning came yet half his troops were still in danger. Surprisingly a fog arose, allowing the entire army to evacuated! Never again could the British trap Washington. Major Ben Tallmadge wrote: “As the dawn… approached, those of us who remained in the trenches became very anxious for our own safety… At this time a very dense fog began to rise… I recollect this peculiar providential occurrence perfectly well.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


What doubt can you have of the Creator when you behold His creation?...
Who has decked the heavenly firmament with its stars?
Who has clothed the earth in its beauty?
How could it be without the creator?
--- Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

In the law of God,
there is no statute of limitations.
--- Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

God sometimes shuts the door and shuts us in,
That He may speak, perchance through grief or pain;
And softly, heart to heart, above the din
May teach some precious truth to us again.
--- Unknown

Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message.
--- Malcolm Muggeridge

... from here, there and everywhere
History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     BOOK IV.

     Containing The Interval Of About One Year. From The Siege Of Gamala To The Coming Of Titus To Besiege Jerusalem.

     CHAPTER 1.

     The Siege And Taking Of Gamala.

     1. Now all those Galileans who, after the taking of Jotapata, had revolted from the Romans, did, upon the conquest of Taricheae, deliver themselves up to them again. And the Romans received all the fortresses and the cities, excepting Gischala and those that had seized upon Mount Tabor; Gamala also, which is a city ever against Taricheae, but on the other side of the lake, conspired with them. This city lay upon the borders of Agrippa's kingdom, as also did Sogana and Seleucia. And these were both parts of Gaulanitis; for Sogana was a part of that called the Upper Gaulanitis, as was Gamala of the Lower; while Seleucia was situated at the lake Semechouitis, which lake is thirty furlongs in breadth, and sixty in length; its marshes reach as far as the place Daphne, which in other respects is a delicious place, and hath such fountains as supply water to what is called Little Jordan, under the temple of the golden calf, 1 where it is sent into Great Jordan. Now Agrippa had united Sogana and Seleucia by leagues to himself, at the very beginning of the revolt from the Romans; yet did not Gamala accede to them, but relied upon the difficulty of the place, which was greater than that of Jotapata, for it was situated upon a rough ridge of a high mountain, with a kind of neck in the middle: where it begins to ascend, it lengthens itself, and declines as much downward before as behind, insomuch that it is like a camel in figure, from whence it is so named, although the people of the country do not pronounce it accurately. Both on the side and the face there are abrupt parts divided from the rest, and ending in vast deep valleys; yet are the parts behind, where they are joined to the mountain, somewhat easier of ascent than the other; but then the people belonging to the place have cut an oblique ditch there, and made that hard to be ascended also. On its acclivity, which is straight, houses are built, and those very thick and close to one another. The city also hangs so strangely, that it looks as if it would fall down upon itself, so sharp is it at the top. It is exposed to the south, and its southern mount, which reaches to an immense height, was in the nature of a citadel to the city; and above that was a precipice, not walled about, but extending itself to an immense depth. There was also a spring of water within the wall, at the utmost limits of the city.

     2. As this city was naturally hard to be taken, so had Josephus, by building a wall about it, made it still stronger, as also by ditches and mines under ground. The people that were in it were made more bold by the nature of the place than the people of Jotapata had been, but it had much fewer fighting men in it; and they had such a confidence in the situation of the place, that they thought the enemy could not be too many for them; for the city had been filled with those that had fled to it for safety, on account of its strength; on which account they had been able to resist those whom Agrippa sent to besiege it for seven months together.

     3. But Vespasian removed from Emmaus, where he had last pitched his camp before the city Tiberias, [now Emmaus, if it be interpreted, may be rendered "a warm bath," for therein is a spring of warm water, useful for healing,] and came to Gamala; yet was its situation such that he was not able to encompass it all round with soldiers to watch it; but where the places were practicable, he set men to watch it, and seized upon the mountain which was over it. And as the legions, according to their usual custom, were fortifying their camp upon that mountain, he began to cast up banks at the bottom, at the part towards the east, where the highest tower of the whole city was, and where the fifteenth legion pitched their camp; while the fifth legion did duty over against the midst of the city, and whilst the tenth legion filled up the ditches and the valleys. Now at this time it was that as king Agrippa was come nigh the walls, and was endeavoring to speak to those that were on the walls about a surrender, he was hit with a stone on his right elbow by one of the slingers; he was then immediately surrounded with his own men. But the Romans were excited to set about the siege, by their indignation on the king's account, and by their fear on their own account, as concluding that those men would omit no kinds of barbarity against foreigners and enemies, who where so enraged against one of their own nation, and one that advised them to nothing but what was for their own advantage.

     4. Now when the banks were finished, which was done on the sudden, both by the multitude of hands, and by their being accustomed to such work, they brought the machines; but Chares and Joseph, who were the most potent men in the city, set their armed men in order, though already in a fright, because they did not suppose that the city could hold out long, since they had not a sufficient quantity either of water, or of other necessaries. However, these their leaders encouraged them, and brought them out upon the wall, and for a while indeed they drove away those that were bringing the machines; but when those machines threw darts and stones at them, they retired into the city; then did the Romans bring battering rams to three several places, and made the wall shake [and fall]. They then poured in over the parts of the wall that were thrown down, with a mighty sound of trumpets and noise of armor, and with a shout of the soldiers, and brake in by force upon those that were in the city; but these men fell upon the Romans for some time, at their first entrance, and prevented their going any further, and with great courage beat them back; and the Romans were so overpowered by the greater multitude of the people, who beat them on every side, that they were obliged to run into the upper parts of the city. Whereupon the people turned about, and fell upon their enemies, who had attacked them, and thrust them down to the lower parts, and as they were distressed by the narrowness and difficulty of the place, slew them; and as these Romans could neither beat those back that were above them, nor escape the force of their own men that were forcing their way forward, they were compelled to fly into their enemies' houses, which were low; but these houses being thus full, of soldiers, whose weight they could not bear, fell down suddenly; and when one house fell, it shook down a great many of those that were under it, as did those do to such as were under them. By this means a vast number of the Romans perished; for they were so terribly distressed, that although they saw the houses subsiding, they were compelled to leap upon the tops of them; so that a great many were ground to powder by these ruins, and a great many of those that got from under them lost some of their limbs, but still a greater number were suffocated by the dust that arose from those ruins. The people of Gamala supposed this to be an assistance afforded them by God, and without regarding what damage they suffered themselves, they pressed forward, and thrust the enemy upon the tops of their houses; and when they stumbled in the sharp and narrow streets, and were perpetually falling down, they threw their stones or darts at them, and slew them. Now the very ruins afforded them stones enow; and for iron weapons, the dead men of the enemies' side afforded them what they wanted; for drawing the swords of those that were dead, they made use of them to despatch such as were only half dead; nay, there were a great number who, upon their falling down from the tops of the houses, stabbed themselves, and died after that manner; nor indeed was it easy for those that were beaten back to fly away; for they were so unacquainted with the ways, and the dust was so thick, that they wandered about without knowing one another, and fell down dead among the crowd.

     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 23:22-23
     by D.H. Stern

22     Listen to your father, who gave you life;
     and don’t despise your mother when she gets old.

23     Buy the truth, don’t sell it,
     also wisdom, discipline and discernment.


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


                Theology alive

     Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you. --- John 12:35.

     Beware of not acting upon what you see in your moments on the mount with God. If you do not obey the light, it will turn into darkness. “If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” The second you waive the question of sanctification or any other thing upon which God gave you light, you begin to get dry rot in your spiritual life. Continually bring the truth out into actuality; work it out in every domain, or the very light you have will prove a curse.

     The most difficult person to deal with is the one who has the smug satisfaction of an experience to which he can refer back, but who is not working it out in practical life. If you say you are sanctified, show it. The experience must be so genuine that it is shown in the life. Beware of any belief that makes you self-indulgent; it came from the pit, no matter how beautiful it sounds.

     Theology must work itself out in the most practical relationships. “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, …” said Our Lord, i.e., you must be more moral than the most moral being you know. You may know all about the doctrine of sanctification, but are you running it out into the practical issues of your life? Every bit of our life, physical, moral and spiritual, is to be judged by the standard of the Atonement.

My Utmost for His Highest
Soil (Song At The Year's Turning)
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


                Soil (Song At The Year's Turning)

A field with tall hedges and a young
  Moon in the branches and one star
  Declining westward set the scene
  Where he works slowly astride the rows
  Of red mangolds and green swedes
  Plying mechanically his cold blade.

This is his world, the hedge defines
  The mind's limits; only the sky
  Is boundless, and never looks up;
  His gaze is deep in the dark soil,
  As are his feet. The soil is all;
  His hands fondle it, and his bones
  Are formed out of it with the swedes.
  And if sometimes the knife errs,
  Burying itself in is shocked flesh,
  Then out of the wound the blood seeps home
  To the warm soil from which it came.

Selected poems, 1946-1968
Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     Leviticus 10:8–10


     BIBLE TEXT / Leviticus 10:8–10 / And the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying: Drink no wine or other intoxicant, you or your sons, when you enter the Tent of Meeting, that you may not die. This is a law for all time throughout the ages, for you must distinguish between the sacred and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean.…

     MIDRASH TEXT / Tanḥuma Shemini 5 / “[Do not look at the wine, that it is so red] for he sets his eye on the cup, בַּכּוֹס/ba-kos” [
Proverbs 23:31, authors’ translation]. On the pocket, בַּכִּיס/ba-kis, is the ketiv. The drunk sets his eye on the cup while the storekeeper sets his eye on the pocket. For he sets his eye on the cup: He sees his friend drinking, and he says to him, “Pour for me and I will drink,” and he soils himself with excrement and urine.

     “It goes down smoothly” [ibid.]. In the end he will sell all his household articles and all his personal articles until he has no clothing or any household articles, or anything else, and the house will be completely empty. “It goes down smoothly.” In the end, he permits transgressions and makes them as available as an open plain. He talks with a woman in the market, and speaks filth and says bad things in drunkenness and is not ashamed because his reasoning has been taken from him and he doesn’t know what he is saying or what he is doing.

     CONTEXT / Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu, had entered the Tent of Meeting to present an offering of incense. God was displeased with their offering, apparently because it was done in an inappropriate way, and they were consumed by fire. The Torah is not clear exactly what they did wrong or why God chose to kill them. But a few verses later, we read the command given to Aaron and his remaining two sons that they are not to drink wine or liquor when they enter the Tent of Meeting. The Rabbis deduce that these two sections—the death of Nadab and Abihu and the command not to drink intoxicants in the sanctuary—are connected: it was because they were drunk that Aaron’s sons were killed.

     Our Midrash goes on to recount the evils of drunkenness—not merely for those engaged in the service of God, but for everyone. A classical biblical passage on this subject is quoted (
Proverbs 23:29–35), and each of its verses is expounded upon. “[Do not look at the wine, that it is so red] for he sets his eye on the cup, בַּכִּוֹם/ba-kos.” Our maxim is based upon a wordplay on two similar sounding Hebrew words: כּוֹם/kos, which means “cup,” and כּוֹם/kis, which means “pocket.” It is the biblical text itself (not merely the Rabbis) that suggests this pun. “On the pocket, בַּכִּים/ba-kis,” is the ketiv. There are numerous places in the Bible where, following tradition, a word is written one way but read another way. The written version is called כְּתִיב/ketiv (from the Hebrew word for “write”), while the traditional reading is referred to as קְרִי/keri (from the Hebrew root “read”). In certain cases, some suggest, a scribal error crept into the text long ago. Since we can’t be entirely certain why or when it happened, we are obligated to maintain the sanctity of the received version. Tradition has also preserved for us the appropriate reading of the word so that we can understand its proper meaning. Another, more traditional view of the ketiv and keri words is that, in this manner, the text is able to suggest (or explicitly say) two things simultaneously, instead of merely one. In our case, the ketiv or written version is כִּים/kis (pocket), while the keri, the to-be-read version, is כּוֹם/kos (cup). The Rabbis use both words to create a bit of folk wisdom that teaches us a lesson about the person who drinks and the person who sells the drinks.

     There is one additional wordplay in our Midrash. The verse in
Proverbs (23:31) says יִתְהַלֵּךְ בְּמֵישָׁרִים/yit-ha-lekh b’mei-sharim, which means “It, the wine, goes down smoothly.” But the Rabbis connect the word מֵישָׁרִים/mei-sharim, “smoothly,” to the word מֵישׁוֹר/mei-shor, a “plain” or open stretch of barren land, devoid of living things. This pun enables the Rabbis to highlight the effects of drunkenness: It will cause a person to lose everything of value and end up empty and barren. In the end he will sell all his household articles and all his personal articles until he has no clothing or any household articles, or anything else, and the house will be completely empty.

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Take Heart
     August 27

     God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.
---
Acts 17:27.

     Saint Paul is preaching on Mars Hill to the Athenians.
(
Phillips Brooks, “The Nearness of God,” downloaded from the Web site The Unofficial Episcopal Preaching Resource Page, at www.edola.org/clergy/episcopalpreaching.html, accessed Aug. 21, 2001.) We hear a great deal about the tact of that discourse. The power of his tact was really love. He felt for those people, so he said to them what they needed. Never were people on the brink of so many of the highest things—and missed them—as these Athenians. They felt all the mystery of life. They built their altar to the unknown god. They were always on the brink of faith, without believing; always touched by spirituality, yet with their feet set on the material and carnal.

     Two views [could] be taken by one who looked on their darkness. Easy enough it is to be contemptuous; to condemn as frivolous this life that walked on the brink of earnestness and yet was never earnest. But it is possible to be impressed with reverence and pity that left no room for contempt, reverence for the people who came so near to so much and pity for the people who missed it so sadly. The second thought is the thought of the best and wisest and divinest—the thought of Saint Paul and of Jesus Christ.

     What makes the difference between these two views? People who look on others’ puzzled lives with reverence and pity see God there behind the lives they are looking at. People who look at others’ restless lives with contempt see no God there, but [only] vain and aimless dissatisfaction. If there is no God, whose life and presence, dimly felt, is making people toss and complain, then their tossing and complaining is a contemptible thing. If there is a God to whom they belong, whom they feel through the thinnest of veils, whom they feel even when they do not know that it is he whom they feel—then their restlessness, their hope, their dreams and doubts become solemn and significant.

     And this is just what Saint Paul tells the Athenians. He says, “You are restless and discontented. Your restlessness, your impatience, your discontent, however petty the forms it takes, is solemn and not petty to me, because of what it means. It means that God is not far from every one of you.”

     Oh, what a revelation that was! What a preaching that was that day on Mars Hill!
—Phillips Brooks

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
On This Day
     The Prayer Chain  August 27

     In 1722 Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, troubled by the suffering of Christian exiles from Bohemia and Moravia, allowed them to establish a community on his estate in Germany. The center became known as Herrnhut, meaning “Under the Lord’s Watch.” It grew quickly, and so did its appreciation for the power of prayer.

     On August 27, 1727 24 men and 24 women covenanted to spend an hour each day in scheduled prayer, praying in sequence around the clock. Soon others joined the prayer chain. Days passed, then months. Unceasing prayer rose to God 24 hours a day as someone—at least one—was engaged in intercessory prayer each hour of every day. The intercessors met weekly for encouragement and to read letters and messages from their brothers in different places. A decade passed, the prayer chain continuing nonstop. Then another decade. It was a prayer meeting that lasted over 100 years.

     Undoubtedly this prayer chain helped birth Protestant missions. Zinzendorf, 27, suggested the possibility of attempting to reach others for Christ in the West Indies, Greenland, Turkey, and Lapland. Twenty-six Moravians stepped forward. The first missionaries, Leonard Dober and David Nitschmann, were commissioned during an unforgettable service on August 18, 1732, during which 100 hymns were sung. During the first two years, 22 missionaries perished and two more were imprisoned, but others took their places. In all 70 Moravian missionaries flowed from the 600 inhabitants of Herrnhut, a feat unparalleled in missionary history.

     By the time William Carey became the “Father of Modern Missions” over 300 Moravian missionaries had already gone to the ends of the earth. And that’s not all. The Moravian fervor sparked the conversions of John and Charles Wesley and indirectly ignited the Great Awakening that swept through Europe and America.

     The prayer meeting lasted 100 years. The results will last for eternity.

     Jesus told his disciples a story about how they should keep on praying and never give up. Won’t God protect his chosen ones who pray to him day and night?

… He will surely hurry and help them. --- Luke 18:1,7,8a.

On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - August 27

     “How long will it be ere they believe me?”
--- Numbers 14:11.

     Strive with all diligence to keep out that monster unbelief. It so dishonours Christ, that he will withdraw his visible presence if we insult him by indulging it. It is true it is a weed, the seeds of which we an never entirely extract from the soil, but we must aim at its root with zeal and perseverance. Among hateful things it is the most to be abhorred. Its injurious nature is so venomous that he that exerciseth it and he upon whom it is exercised are both hurt thereby. In thy case, O believer! it is most wicked, for the mercies of thy Lord in the past, increase thy guilt in doubting him now. When thou dost distrust the Lord Jesus, he may well cry out, “Behold I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves.” This is crowning his head with thorns of the sharpest kind. It is very cruel for a well-beloved wife to mistrust a kind and faithful husband. The sin is needless, foolish, and unwarranted. Jesus has never given the slightest ground for suspicion, and it is hard to be doubted by those to whom our conduct is uniformly affectionate and true. Jesus is the Son of the Highest, and has unbounded wealth; it is shameful to doubt Omnipotence and distrust all-sufficiency. The cattle on a thousand hills will suffice for our most hungry feeding, and the granaries of heaven are not likely to be emptied by our eating. If Christ were only a cistern, we might soon exhaust his fulness, but who can drain a fountain? Myriads of spirits have drawn their supplies from him, and not one of them has murmured at the scantiness of his resources. Away, then, with this lying traitor unbelief, for his only errand is to cut the bonds of communion and make us mourn an absent Saviour. Bunyan tells us that unbelief has “as many lives as a cat:” if so, let us kill one life now, and continue the work till the whole nine are gone. Down with thee, thou traitor, my heart abhors thee.


          Evening - August 27

     “Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.” --- Psalm 31:5.

     These words have been frequently used by holy men in their hour of departure. We may profitably consider them this Evening. The object of the faithful man’s solicitude in life and death is not his body or his estate, but his spirit; this is his choice treasure—if this be safe, all is well. What is this mortal state compared with the soul? The believer commits his soul to the hand of his God; it came from him, it is his own, he has aforetime sustained it, he is able to keep it, and it is most fit that he should receive it. All things are safe in Jehovah’s hands; what we entrust to the Lord will be secure, both now and in that day of days towards which we are hastening. It is peaceful living, and glorious dying, to repose in the care of heaven. At all times we should commit our all to Jesus’ faithful hand; then, though life may hang on a thread, and adversities may multiply as the sands of the sea, our soul shall dwell at ease, and delight itself in quiet resting places.

     “Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.” Redemption is a solid basis for confidence. David had not known Calvary as we have done, but temporal redemption cheered him; and shall not eternal redemption yet more sweetly console us? Past deliverances are strong pleas for present assistance. What the Lord has done he will do again, for he changes not. He is faithful to his promises, and gracious to his saints; he will not turn away from his people.

     “Though thou slay me I will trust,
     Praise thee even from the dust,
     Prove, and tell it as I prove,
     Thine unutterable love.

     Thou mayst chasten and correct,
     But thou never canst neglect;
     Since the ransom price is paid,
     On thy love my hope is stay’d.”

Morning and Evening
Amazing Grace
     August 27

          LORD, I WANT TO BE A CHRISTIAN

     Spiritual

     He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desire. 2 Peter 1:4)

     A CHRISTIAN IS …
     A mind through which Christ thinks;
     A heart through which Christ loves;
     A voice through which Christ speaks;
     A hand through which Christ helps.
--- Unknown

     “Sir, I want to be a Christian.”

     The text for this spiritual song is thought to have been an outgrowth of this remark made by a Negro slave to a minister, William Davis, sometime during the mid 18th century.

     How would you have replied to this request? Many people today use the term Christian simply to mean someone other than a pagan, Buddhist, or Hindu. Or they equate it with a person who is a church member or perhaps someone who has a strong humanitarian concern for others.

     The word Christian was first used with the people of Antioch because they believed the account of the Gospel by personally accepting God’s free gift of salvation and making Christ the Savior and Lord of their lives (Acts 11:26). They literally became CHRIST-ians—little Christs. After he has taken the initial step of salvation, a Christian should develop a growing desire to model the virtues of godly living. The Bible teaches that a Christian should make every effort to add to his faith goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love (2 Peter 1:5–7). Christians, then, are to be effective representatives for God in a corrupt world and a living demonstration of the transforming power of the Gospel.

     Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart.
     Lord, I want to be more loving in my heart.
     Lord, I want to be more holy in my heart.
     Lord, I want to be like Jesus in my heart.


     For Today: Acts 4:12; 16:30, 31; Romans 10:10; 1 Corinthians 15:49; Colossians 3:9, 10; 2 Peter 1:5–10

     Would you be able to explain the term Christian if someone should ask? Are you consciously trying to add Christ-like virtues to your faith? Pray that you will be a worthy representative and demonstration of the Gospel. Carry this spiritual with you to help ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
The Existence and Attributes of God
     Stephen Charnock

          DISCOURSE III - ON GOD’S BEING A SPIRIT

     JOHN 4:24. — God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. THE words are part of the dialogue between our Saviour and the Samaritan woman. Christ, intending to return from Judea to Galilee, passed through the country of Samaria, a place inhabited not by Jews, but a mixed company o£ several nations, and some remainders of the posterity of Israel, who escaped the captivity, and were returned from Assyria; and being weary with his journey, arrived about the sixth hour or noon (according to the Jews’ reckoning the time of the day), at a well that Jacob had digged, which was of great account among the inhabitants for the antiquity of it, as well as the usefulness of it, in supplying their necessities: he being thirsty, and having none to furnish him wherewith to draw water, at last comes a woman from the city, whom he desires to give him some water to drink. The woman, perceiving him by his language or habit to be a Jew, wonders at the question, since the hatred the Jews bore the Samaritans was so great, that they would not vouchsafe to have any commerce with them, not only in religious, but civil affairs, and common offices belonging to mankind. Hence our Saviour takes occasion to publish to her the doctrine of the gospel; and excuseth her rude answer by her ignorance of him; and tells her, that if she had asked him a greater matter, even that which concerned her eternal salvation, he would readily have granted it, notwithstanding the rooted hatred between the Jews and Samaritans; and bestowed a water of a greater virtue, the “water of life.” The woman is no less astonished at his reply than she was at his first demand. It was strange to hear a man speak of giving living water to one of whom he had begged the water of that spring, and had no vessel to draw any to quench his own thirst. She therefore demands whence he could have this water that he speaks of, since she conceived him not greater than Jacob, who had digged that well and drank of it. Our Saviour, desirous to make a progress in that work he had begun, extols the water he spake of, above this of the well, from its particular virtue fully to refresh those that drank of it, and be as a cooling and comforting fountain within them, of more efficacy than that without. The woman, conceiving a good opinion of our Saviour, desires to partake of this water, to save her pains in coming daily to the well, not apprehending the spirituality of Christ’s discourse to her: Christ finding her to take some pleasure in his discourse, partly to bring her to a sense of her sin, before he did communicate the excellenty of his grace, bids her return back to the city and bring her husband with her to him. She freely acknowledges that she had no husband; whether having some check of conscience at present for the unclean life she led, or loth to lose so much time in the gaining this water so much desired by her: our Saviour takes an occasion from this to lay open her sin before her, and to make her sensible of her own wicked life and the prophetic excellency of himself; and tells her she had had five husbands, to whom she had been false, and by whom she was divorced, and the person she now dwelt with was not her lawful husband, and in living with him she violated the rights of marriage, and increased guilt upon her conscience. The woman being affected with this discourse, and knowing him to be a stranger that could not be certified of those things but in an extraordinary way, begins to have a high esteem of him as a prophet. And upon this opinion she esteems him able to decide a question, which had been canvassed between them and the Jews, about the place of worship. Their fathers worshiping in that mountain, and the Jews affirming Jerusalem to be a pace of worship, she pleads the antiquity of the worship in this place, Abraham having built an altar there (Gen. 12:7), and Jacob, apon his return from Syria. And, surely, had the pace been capable of an exception, such persons as they, and so well acquainted with the will of God, would not have pitched upon that place to celebrate their worship.

     Antiquity hath, too, too often bewitched the minds of men, and drawn them from the revealed will of God. Men are more willing to imitate the outward actions of their famous ancestors, than conform themselves to the revealed will of their Creator. The Samaritans would imitate the patriarchs in the place of worship, but not in the faith of the worshippers. Christ answers her, that this question would quickly be resolved by a new state of the church, which was near at hand; and neither Jerusalem, which had now the precedency, nor that mountain, should be of any more value in that concern, than any other place in the world: but yet, to make her sensible of her am and that of her countrymen, tells her, that their worship in that mountain was not according to the will of God, he having long after the altars built in this place, fixed Jerusalem as the place of sacrifices; besides, they had not the knowledge of that God which ought to be worshipped by them, but the Jews had the “true object of worship,” and the “true manner of worship, according to the declaration God had made of himself to them.” But all that service shall vanish, the veil of the temple shall be rent in twain, and that carnal worship give place to one more spiritual; shadows shall fly before substance, and truth advance itself above figures; and the worship of God shall be with the strength of the Spirit: such a worship, and such worshippers doth the Father seek; for “God is a Spirit: and those that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” The design of our Saviour is to declare, that God is not taken with external worship invented by men, no, nor commanded by himself; and that upon this reason, because he is a spiritual essence, infinitely above gross and corporeal matter, and is not taken with that pomp which is a pleasure to our earthly imaginations.

     Πνε􀀀μα 􀀀 θε.ό ςSome translate it just as the words lie: “Spirit is God.” But it is not unusual, both in the Old and New Testament languages, to put the predicate before the subject, as Psalm 5:9, “Their throat is an open sepulchre;” in the Hebrew, “A sepulchre open their throat;” so Psalm 111:3, “His work is honorable and glorious;” Heb. “Honor and glory is his work;” and there wants not one example in the same evangelist (John 1:1), “And the Word was God;” Greek, “And God was the Word:” in all, the predicate, or what is ascribed, is put before the subject to which it is ascribed. One tells us, and he, a head of a party that hath made a disturbance in the church of God, that this place is not aptly brought to prove God to be a Spirit; and the reason of Christ runs not thus, — God is of a spiritual essence, and therefore must be worshipped with a spiritual worship; for the essence of God is not the foundation of his worship, but his will; for then we were not to worship him with a corporeal worship, because he is not a body; but with an invisible and eternal worship, because he is invisible and eternal. But the nature of God is the foundation of worship; the will of God is the rule of worship; the matter and manner is to be performed according to the will of God. But is the nature of the object of worship to be excluded? No; as the object is, so ought our devotion to be, spiritual as he is spiritual. God, in his commands for worship, respected the discovery of his own nature; in the law, he respected the discovery of his mercy and justice, and therefore commanded a worship by sacrifices; a spiritual worship without those institutions would not have declared. those attributes which was God’s end to display to the world in Christ; and though the nature of God is to be respected in worship, yet the obligations of the creature are to be considered. God is a Spirit, therefore must have a spiritual worship; the creature hath a body as well as a soul, and both from God; and therefore ought to worship God with the one as well as the other, since one as well as the other is freely bestowed upon him. The spirituality of God was the foundation of the change from the Judaical carnal worship to a more spiritual and evangelical.

     God is a Spirit; that is, he hath nothing corporeal, no mixture of matter, not a visible substance, a bodily form. He is a Spirit, not a bare spiritual substance, but an understanding, willing Spirit, holy, wise, good, and just. Before, Christ spake of the Father, the first person in the Trinity; now he speaks of God essentially: the word Father is personal, the word God essential; so that our Saviour would render a reason, not from any one person in the blessed Trinity, but from the Divine nature, why we should worship in spirit, and therefore makes use of the word God, the being a Spirit being common to the other persons with the Father. This is the reason of the proposition (Ver. 23.), “Of a spiritual worship. ” Every nature delights in that which is like it, and distastes that which is most different from it. If God were corporeal, he might be pleased with the victims of beasts, and the beautiful magnificence of temples, and the noise of music; but being a Spirit, he cannot be gratified with carnal things; he demands something better and greater than all those,—that soul which he made, that soul which he hath endowed, a spirit of a frame suitable to his nature. He indeed appointed sacrifices, and a temple, as shadows of those things which were to be most acceptable to him in the Messiah, but they were imposed only “till the time of reformation.”

     Must worship him; not they may, or it would be more agreeable to God to have such a manner of worship; but they must. It is not exclusive of bodily worship; for this were to exclude all public worship in societies, which cannot be performed without reverential postures of the body. The gestures of the body are helps to worship, and declarations of spiritual acts. We can scarcely worship God with our spirits without some tincture upon the outward man; but he excludes all acts inerely corporeal, all resting upon an external service and devotion, which was the crime of the Pharisees, and the general persuasion of the Jews as well as heathens, who used the outward ceremonies, not as signs of better things, but as if they did of themselves please God, and render the worshippers accepted with him, without any suitable frame of the inward man. It is as if he had said, Now you must separate yourselves from all carnal modes to which the service of God is now tied, and render a worship chiefly consisting in the affectionate motions of the heart, and accommodated more exactly to the condition of the object, who is a Spirit.

     In spirit and truth. The evangelical service now required has the advantage of the former; that was a shadow and figure, this the body and truth. Spirit, say some, is here opposed to the legal ceremonies; truth, to hypocritical services; or, rather truth is opposed to shadows, and an opinion of worth in the outward action; it is principally opposed to external rites, because our Saviour saith (Ver. 23.): “The hour comes, and now is,” &c. Had it been opposed to hypocrisy, Christ had said no new thing; for God always required truth in the inward parts, and all true worshippers had served him with a sincere conscience and single heart. The old patriarchs did worship God in spirit and truth, as taken for sincerity; such a worship was always, and is perpetually due to God, because he always was, and eternally will be a Spirit. And it is said, “The Father seeks such to worahip him,” not, shall seek; he always sought it; it always was performed to him by one or other in the world: and the prophets had always rebuked them for resting upon their outward solemnities (Isa. 53:7, and Micah 6:8): but a worship without legal rites was proper to an evangelical state and the times of the gospel, God having then exhibited Christ, and brought into the world the substance of those shadows, and the end of those institutions; there was no more need to continue them when the true reason of them was ceased. All laws do naturally expire when the true reason upon which they were first framed is changed. Or by spirit may be meant, such a worship as is kindled in the heart by the breath of the Holy Ghost. Since we are dead in sin, a spiritual light and flame in the heart, suitable to the nature of the object of our worship, cannot be raised in us without the operation of a supernatural grace; and though the fathers could not worship God without the Spirit, yet in the gospel- times, there being a fuller effusion of the Spirit, the evangelical state is called, “the administration of the Spirit,” and “the newness of the Spirit,” in opposition to the legal economy, entitled the “oldness of the letter.” The evangelical state is more suited to the nature of God than any other; such a worship God must have, whereby he is acknowledged to be the true sanctifier and quickener of the soul. The nearer God doth approach to us, and the more full his manifestations are, the more spiritual is the worship we return to God. The gospel pares off the rugged parts of the law, and heaven shall remove what is material in the gospel, and change the ordinances of worship into that of a spiritual praise.

     In the words there is: 1. A proposition, — “God is a Spirit;” the foundation of all religion. 2. An inference,—“They that worship him,” &c. As God, a worship belongs to him; as a Spirit, a spiritual worship is due to him: in the inference we have, 1. The manner of worship, “in spirit and truth;” 2. The necessity of such a worship, “must” The proposition declares the nature of God; the inference, the duty of man. The observations lie plain. Obs. 1. God is a pure spiritual being: “he is a Spirit.” 2. The worship due from the creature to God must be agreeable to the nature of God, and purely spiritual. 3. The evangelical state is suited to the nature of God.

     I. For the first: “God is a pure spiritual being.” It is the observation of one, that the plain assertion of God’s being a Spirit is found but once in the whole Bible, and that is in this place; which may well be wondered at, because God is so often described with hands, feet, eyes, and ears, in the form and figure of a man. The spiritual nature of God is deducible from many places; but not anywhere, as I remember, asserted totidem verbis, but in this text: some allege that place (2 Cor. 3:17), “The Lord is that Spirit,” for the proof of it; but that seems to have a different sense: in the text, the nature of God is described; in that place, the operations of God in the gospel.

     “It is not the ministry of Moses, or that old covenant, which communicates to you that Spirit it speaks of; but it is the Lord Jesus, and the doctrine of the gospel delivered by him, whereby this Spirit and liberty is dispensed to you; he opposes here the liberty of the gospel to the servitude of the law; it is from Christ that a divine virtue difuseth itself by the gospel; it is by him, not by the law, that we partake of that Spirit. The spirituality of God is as evident as his being. If we grant that God is, we must necessarily grant that, he cannot be corporeal, because a body is of an imperfect nature. It will appear incredible to any that acknowledge God the first Being and Creator of all things, that he should be a massy, heavy body, and have eyes and ears, feet and hands, as we have. — For the explication of it,

     1. Spirit is taken various ways in Scripture. It signifies sometimes an aerial substance, as Psalm 11:6; a horrible tempest (Heb. a spirit of tempest); sometimes the breath, which is a thin substance (Gen. 6:17): “All flesh, wherein is the breath of life” (Heb. spirit of life). A thin substance, though it be material and corporeal, is called spirit; and in the bodies of living creatures, that which is the principle of their actions is called spirit, the animal and vital spirits. And the finer part extracted from plants and minerals we call spirit, those volatile parts separated from that gross matter wherein they were immersed, because they come nearest to the nature of an incorporeal substance; and from this notion of the word, it is translated to signify those substances that are purely immaterial, as angels and the souls of men. Angels are called spirit (Psalm 104:4) “Who makes his angels spint;” and not only good angels are so called, but evil angels (Mark 1:27); souls of men are called spirit (Eccles. 12.); and the soul of Christ is called so (John 19:30; whence God is called “the God of the spirit of all flesh” (Num. 22:16). And spirit is opposed to flesh (Isa. 31:3): “The Egyptians are flesh, and not spirit.” And our Saviour gives us the notion of a spirit to be something above the nature of a body (Luke 24:39), “not having flesh and bones,” extended parts, loads of gross matter. It is also taken for those things which are active and efficacious; because activity is of the nature of a spirit: Caleb had another spirit (Num. 14:24), an active affection. The vehement motions of sin are called spirit (Hos. 4:12): “the spirit of whoredoms,” in that sense that Prov. 29:11, “a fool utters all his mind,” all his spirit; he knows not how to restrain the vehement motions of his mind. So that the notion of a spirit is, that it is a fine, immaterial substance, an active being, that act itself and other things. A mere body cannot act itself; as the body of man cannot move without the soul, no more than a ship can move itself without wind and waves. So God is called a Spirit, as being not a body, not having the greatness, figure, thickness, or length of a body, wholly separate from anything of flesh and matter. We find a principle within us nobler than that of our bodies; and, therefore, we conceive the nature of God, according to that which is more worthy in us, and not according to that which is the vilest part of our natures. God is a most spiritual Spirit, more spiritual than all angels, all souls. As he exceeds all in the nature of being, so he exceeds all in the nature of spirit: he hath nothing gross, heavy, material, in his essence.

The Existence and Attributes of God

The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)


     Sect. CXXXI. — After this, it enumerates a multitude of similitudes: by which, it effects nothing but the drawing aside the witless reader to irrelevant things, according to its custom, and at the same time leaves the subject point entirely out of the question. Thus, — “God indeed preserves the ship, but the mariner conducts it into harbour: wherefore, the mariner does not do nothing.” — This similitude makes a difference of work: that is, it attributes that of preserving to God, and that of conducting to the mariner. And thus, if it prove any thing, it proves this: — that the whole work of preserving is of God, and the whole work of conducting of the mariner. And yet, it is a beautiful and apt similitude.

     Thus, again — “the husbandman gathers in the increase, but it was God that gave it.” — Here again, it attributes different operations to God and to man: unless it mean to make the husbandman the creator also, who gave the increase. But even supposing the same works be attributed to God and to man — what do these similitudes prove? Nothing more, than that the creature co-operates with the operating God! But are we now disputing about co-operation, and not rather concerning the power and operation of “Free-will,” as of itself! Whither therefore has the renowned rhetorician betaken himself? He set out with the professed design to dispute concerning a palm; whereas all his discourse has been about a gourd! ‘A noble vase was designed by the potter; why then is a pitcher produced at last?’

     I also know very well, that Paul co-operates with God in teaching the Corinthians, while he preaches without, and God teaches within; and that, where their works are different. And that, in like manner, he co-operates with God while he speaks by the Spirit of God; and that, where the work is the same. For what I assert and contend for is this: — that God, where He operates without the grace of His Spirit, works all in all, even in the ungodly; while He alone moves, acts on, and carries along by the motion of His omnipotence, all those things which He alone has created, which motion those things can neither avoid nor change, but of necessity follow and obey, each one according to the measure of power given of God: — thus all things, even the ungodly, co-operate with God! On the other hand, when He acts by the Spirit of His grace on those whom He has justified, that is, in His own kingdom, He moves and carries them along in the same manner; and they, as they are the new creatures, follow and co-operate with Him; or rather, as Paul saith, are led by Him. (Rom. viii. 14, 30.)

     But the present is not the place for discussing these points. We are not now considering, what we can do in co-operation with God, but what we can do of ourselves: that is, whether, created as we are out of nothing, we can do or attempt any thing of ourselves, under the general motion of God’s omnipotence, whereby to prepare ourselves unto the new Creation of the Spirit. — This is the point to which Erasmus ought to have answered, and not to have turned aside to a something else!

     What I have to say upon this point is this: — As man, before he is created man, does nothing and endeavours nothing towards his being made a creature; and as, after he is made and created, he does nothing and endeavours nothing towards his preservation, or towards his continuing in his creature-existence, but each takes place alone by the will of the omnipotent power and goodness of God, creating us and preserving us, without ourselves; but as God, nevertheless, does not work in us without us, seeing we are for that purpose created and preserved, that He might work in us and that we might co-operate with Him, whether it be out of His kingdom under His general omnipotence, or in His kingdom under the peculiar power of His Spirit; — so, man, before he is regenerated into the new creation of the kingdom of the Spirit, does nothing and endeavours nothing towards his new creation into that kingdom, and after he is re-created does nothing and endeavours nothing towards his perseverance in that kingdom; but the Spirit alone effects both in us, regenerating us and preserving us when regenerated, without ourselves; as James saith, “Of His own will begat He us by the word of His power, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures,” — (Jas. i. 18) (where he speaks of the renewed creation:) nevertheless, He does not work in us without us, seeing that He has for this purpose created and preserved us, that He might operate in us, and that we might co-operate with Him: thus, by us He preaches, shews mercy to the poor, and comforts the afflicted. — But what is hereby attributed to “Free-will?” Nay, what is there left it but nothing at all? And in truth it is nothing at all!


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