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Judges 18     Acts 22     Jeremiah 32     Psalm 1-2

Judges 18

Danites Take the Levite and the Idol

Judges 18 1 In those days there was no king in Israel. And in those days the tribe of the people of Dan was seeking for itself an inheritance to dwell in, for until then no inheritance among the tribes of Israel had fallen to them. 2 So the people of Dan sent five able men from the whole number of their tribe, from Zorah and from Eshtaol, to spy out the land and to explore it. And they said to them, “Go and explore the land.” And they came to the hill country of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, and lodged there. 3 When they were by the house of Micah, they recognized the voice of the young Levite. And they turned aside and said to him, “Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? What is your business here?” 4 And he said to them, “This is how Micah dealt with me: he has hired me, and I have become his priest.” 5 And they said to him, “Inquire of God, please, that we may know whether the journey on which we are setting out will succeed.” 6 And the priest said to them, “Go in peace. The journey on which you go is under the eye of the Lord.”

7 Then the five men departed and came to Laish and saw the people who were there, how they lived in security, after the manner of the Sidonians, quiet and unsuspecting, lacking nothing that is in the earth and possessing wealth, and how they were far from the Sidonians and had no dealings with anyone. 8 And when they came to their brothers at Zorah and Eshtaol, their brothers said to them, “What do you report?” 9 They said, “Arise, and let us go up against them, for we have seen the land, and behold, it is very good. And will you do nothing? Do not be slow to go, to enter in and possess the land. 10 As soon as you go, you will come to an unsuspecting people. The land is spacious, for God has given it into your hands, a place where there is no lack of anything that is in the earth.”

11 So 600 men of the tribe of Dan, armed with weapons of war, set out from Zorah and Eshtaol, 12 and went up and encamped at Kiriath-jearim in Judah. On this account that place is called Mahaneh-dan[b] to this day; behold, it is west of Kiriath-jearim. 13 And they passed on from there to the hill country of Ephraim, and came to the house of Micah.

14 Then the five men who had gone to scout out the country of Laish said to their brothers, “Do you know that in these houses there are an ephod, household gods, a carved image, and a metal image? Now therefore consider what you will do.” 15 And they turned aside there and came to the house of the young Levite, at the home of Micah, and asked him about his welfare. 16 Now the 600 men of the Danites, armed with their weapons of war, stood by the entrance of the gate. 17 And the five men who had gone to scout out the land went up and entered and took the carved image, the ephod, the household gods, and the metal image, while the priest stood by the entrance of the gate with the 600 men armed with weapons of war. 18 And when these went into Micah's house and took the carved image, the ephod, the household gods, and the metal image, the priest said to them, “What are you doing?” 19 And they said to him, “Keep quiet; put your hand on your mouth and come with us and be to us a father and a priest. Is it better for you to be priest to the house of one man, or to be priest to a tribe and clan in Israel?” 20 And the priest's heart was glad. He took the ephod and the household gods and the carved image and went along with the people.

21 So they turned and departed, putting the little ones and the livestock and the goods in front of them. 22 When they had gone a distance from the home of Micah, the men who were in the houses near Micah's house were called out, and they overtook the people of Dan. 23 And they shouted to the people of Dan, who turned around and said to Micah, “What is the matter with you, that you come with such a company?” 24 And he said, “You take my gods that I made and the priest, and go away, and what have I left? How then do you ask me, ‘What is the matter with you?’” 25 And the people of Dan said to him, “Do not let your voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows fall upon you, and you lose your life with the lives of your household.” 26 Then the people of Dan went their way. And when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back to his home.

27 But the people of Dan took what Micah had made, and the priest who belonged to him, and they came to Laish, to a people quiet and unsuspecting, and struck them with the edge of the sword and burned the city with fire. 28 And there was no deliverer because it was far from Sidon, and they had no dealings with anyone. It was in the valley that belongs to Beth-rehob. Then they rebuilt the city and lived in it. 29 And they named the city Dan, after the name of Dan their ancestor, who was born to Israel; but the name of the city was Laish at the first. 30 And the people of Dan set up the carved image for themselves, and Jonathan the son of Gershom, son of Moses,[c] and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land. 31 So they set up Micah's carved image that he made, as long as the house of God was at Shiloh.

Acts 22

Acts 22 1 “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”

2 And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet. And he said:

3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. 4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, 5 as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.

6 “As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ 8 And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ 9 Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

Paul and the Roman Tribune

22 Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.” 23 And as they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, 24 the tribune ordered him to be brought into the barracks, saying that he should be examined by flogging, to find out why they were shouting against him like this. 25 But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?” 26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.” 27 So the tribune came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” And he said, “Yes.” 28 The tribune answered, “I bought this citizenship for a large sum.” Paul said, “But I am a citizen by birth.” 29 So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately, and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him.

Paul Before the Council

30 But on the next day, desiring to know the real reason why he was being accused by the Jews, he unbound him and commanded the chief priests and all the council to meet, and he brought Paul down and set him before them.

Jeremiah 32

Jeremiah Buys a Field During the Siege

Jeremiah 32 1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. 2 At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah. 3 For Zedekiah king of Judah had imprisoned him, saying, “Why do you prophesy and say, ‘Thus says the Lord: Behold, I am giving this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall capture it; 4 Zedekiah king of Judah shall not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him face to face and see him eye to eye. 5 And he shall take Zedekiah to Babylon, and there he shall remain until I visit him, declares the Lord. Though you fight against the Chaldeans, you shall not succeed’?”

6 Jeremiah said, “The word of the Lord came to me: 7 Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum your uncle will come to you and say, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.’ 8 Then Hanamel my cousin came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the Lord, and said to me, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.’ Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord.

9 “And I bought the field at Anathoth from Hanamel my cousin, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. 10 I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. 11 Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions and the open copy. 12 And I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch the son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of Hanamel my cousin, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard. 13 I charged Baruch in their presence, saying, 14 ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware vessel, that they may last for a long time. 15 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.’

Jeremiah Prays for Understanding

16 “After I had given the deed of purchase to Baruch the son of Neriah, I prayed to the Lord, saying: 17 ‘Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. 18 You show steadfast love to thousands, but you repay the guilt of fathers to their children after them, O great and mighty God, whose name is the Lord of hosts, 19 great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the children of man, rewarding each one according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds. 20 You have shown signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, and to this day in Israel and among all mankind, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day. 21 You brought your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and wonders, with a strong hand and outstretched arm, and with great terror. 22 And you gave them this land, which you swore to their fathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey. 23 And they entered and took possession of it. But they did not obey your voice or walk in your law. They did nothing of all you commanded them to do. Therefore you have made all this disaster come upon them. 24 Behold, the siege mounds have come up to the city to take it, and because of sword and famine and pestilence the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans who are fighting against it. What you spoke has come to pass, and behold, you see it. 25 Yet you, O Lord God, have said to me, “Buy the field for money and get witnesses”—though the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans.’”

26 The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 27 “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me? 28 Therefore, thus says the Lord: Behold, I am giving this city into the hands of the Chaldeans and into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he shall capture it. 29 The Chaldeans who are fighting against this city shall come and set this city on fire and burn it, with the houses on whose roofs offerings have been made to Baal and drink offerings have been poured out to other gods, to provoke me to anger. 30 For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have done nothing but evil in my sight from their youth. The children of Israel have done nothing but provoke me to anger by the work of their hands, declares the Lord. 31 This city has aroused my anger and wrath, from the day it was built to this day, so that I will remove it from my sight 32 because of all the evil of the children of Israel and the children of Judah that they did to provoke me to anger—their kings and their officials, their priests and their prophets, the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 33 They have turned to me their back and not their face. And though I have taught them persistently, they have not listened to receive instruction. 34 They set up their abominations in the house that is called by my name, to defile it. 35 They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

They Shall Be My People; I Will Be Their God

36 “Now therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning this city of which you say, ‘It is given into the hand of the king of Babylon by sword, by famine, and by pestilence’: 37 Behold, I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation. I will bring them back to this place, and I will make them dwell in safety. 38 And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 39 I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40 I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. 41 I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.

42 “For thus says the Lord: Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good that I promise them. 43 Fields shall be bought in this land of which you are saying, ‘It is a desolation, without man or beast; it is given into the hand of the Chaldeans.’ 44 Fields shall be bought for money, and deeds shall be signed and sealed and witnessed, in the land of Benjamin, in the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, in the cities of the hill country, in the cities of the Shephelah, and in the cities of the Negeb; for I will restore their fortunes, declares the Lord.”

Psalm 1

Book One | The Way of the Righteous and the Wicked

Psalm 1 1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Psalm 2

The Reign of the Lord's Anointed

Psalm 2 1 Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”

7 I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break[d] them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.”

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

The Reformation Study Bible

What I'm Reading

Old Answers to the New Atheism: An Interview with Peter Hitchens

By Peter Hitchens 6/1/2011

     Many Christians are aware of the hostile atheism of Christopher Hitchens. However, few Christians are aware that his brother, Peter, was also for many years antagonistic toward Christianity and a self-avowed atheist like his brother. Unlike Christopher, however, Peter is a prodigal son who has returned home. The story of the way God used simple beauties, such as architecture and painting, to draw Peter to faith is truly moving. Many Christians have wondered what is going on inside the heads of atheists to make them so angry. In this interview, Peter Hitchens gives us a glimpse into his life and thought as a Christian who was converted from atheism.

     Tabletalk: Some of our readers will not have read your book,  The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith , by the time this goes to print. Specifically, what are atheism’s three failed arguments?

     Peter Hitchens: Atheism has dozens of failed arguments. The ones I felt qualified to deal with were these: that religion, and specifically Christianity, is a major cause of conflict; that an effective moral code can exist without a belief in the eternal; and my brother’s claim that the Soviet regime was religious in character.

     TT: In The Rage Against God, you describe yourself as being a part of “robust English Protestantism.” What does that mean?

     PH: Oh, it’s a contrast to what in my schooldays would have been called the soppy sort of Christianity, a vaguely effeminate, stained-glass piety of incense and ritual, as opposed to a strong-voiced, earthy, unsuperstitious faith.

     TT: What was accurate about your headmaster’s suggestion that the deaths of those you loved would change your atheistic stance? How does the death of a loved one challenge atheism at its core?

     PH: Death is the great reminder that this life is limited, and that it may not be the end. For most of our lives, we behave as if this is not so. It is only when death touches those close to us that we are forced into this understanding, especially in a modern world where death is kept at a distance, ignored, undiscussed, and shuffled off into corners.

     TT: What is the major failure of Christian education in the modern West?

     PH: Its lack of poetry. The abandonment of the great poetic text of the King James Bible (and of the Book of Common Prayer, for those to whom it once applied) has rendered Christianity banal and chilly to three generations. Much of what Christ said is communicable in poetry, which contains meanings prose is unable to express. The same could be said for the abandonment of much of the church’s classical musical tradition.

     TT: Contra Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, how is the raising up of children in Christianity decidedly not child abuse?

     PH: Why presume guilt? The accusation is grotesque and baseless. Let them be challenged to show why it is, if it is. And to withdraw if they cannot.

     TT: Is there any advice you can give to believers in America on how to be faithful to Christ as our country becomes more blatantly and unapologetically secular?

     PH: Not really. Don’t expect to be popular, perhaps — and even learn to enjoy being unpopular. Christians in parts of the world where Islam or secularism are triumphant will have a rough time in this world, and so will be more interested in the importance of the next world than they might otherwise be. I believe Egypt’s Coptic Christians actually give thanks for this, as it strengthens their faith. I like being safe and comfortable far too much to welcome the idea, but I have to admit that it seems to me that the Copts have a point. They live more closely with Christ than we do because they must swim against the stream.

     TT: In what ways can we show our love for friends and family who are atheists and who may have succumbed to the intolerance prevalent among many atheists today?

     PH: Not, I think, by pressing our case on them, nor by returning intolerance for intolerance. People choose atheism. It is a deliberate and conscious act, involving far greater certainty than I can muster on this subject. They do this for a reason. If you can find out what that reason is, then you argue rationally with them about it . This may benefit any uncommitted people in your audience, but will probably make no impact on them. The chances are that they have rejected Christianity because they have correctly understood what it involves and do not wish to follow it. And they believe, as a logical result of this view, that Christianity, as a force, should be driven out of modern life.

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     Peter Hitchens, brother of prominent atheist Christopher Hitchens, is a British journalist, author, and broadcaster. Peter Hitchens, brother of prominent atheist Christopher Hitchens (1949–2011), is a British journalist, author, and broadcaster. He has authored five books, including his most recent The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith, in which he walks the reader through the struggles that led him to atheism and, ultimately, what caused him to see the system of atheism as unsustainable and embrace Christianity.

The Rest of the Story

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 6/1/2011

     Obedience is a rather narrow road. Disobedience, on the other hand, has a great, sweeping plain of options. Because we are like the Pharisees, we find it easy to convert the law of God into sundry sins of omission. We’re much better at not doing what we’re not supposed to do than we are at doing what we’re supposed to do. Thus, we reduce the Sabbath to all the things we’re not allowed to do. We work at fine-tuning the definition of “work” so we can make sure we don’t do it on the Sabbath. In so doing, as is our wont, we miss the point. Were we to divide the Ten Commandments not according to duties toward God and duties toward man, as many do, but instead on the basis of prohibitions and commands, the Sabbath commandment would end up with the commands. It is less about what we are forbidden to do and more about what we are commanded to do.

     First, believe it or not, the Sabbath commandment commands us to work. “Six days shalt thou labor” isn’t an interesting prelude designed merely to set the context for the command to come. It is a command in itself. We’re supposed to be busy with the work set before us. We are to be passionately pursuing the kingdom of God. We are to recognize that we live in the not-yet of the kingdom. Not all enemies have yet been made a footstool. We have not yet fully exercised dominion over the creation. The reign of Jesus is not yet universally recognized. The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “How does Christ execute the office of a king?” Its answer: “Christ executes the office of a king in subduing us to Himself, in ruling and defending us and in restraining and conquering all His and our enemies.” As we rule with and under Him, this is the work we are called to — seeking His kingdom, making manifest His reign.

     Second, as the Sabbath commandment moves to the day of observance, it does not command that we refrain from work — it’s far more profound: we are to rest. We think we are keeping the commandment if we refuse gallantly to do any of the work that is piling up and causing us to lose sleep at night. Instead, we are sinning. Rest isn’t just ceasing from working; it is also ceasing from worrying. It’s not easy. Indeed, in a manner of speaking, rest, especially ceasing from worry, is hard work. It takes discipline and fortitude to let go of all that has us worried.

     We have not succeeded if our worries are more pious, either. That is, we aren’t failing to keep the Sabbath when we worry about the big meeting at work on Monday, but successfully keeping it when we are worried about our persistent failure to mortify that particular sin that so troubles us. Worry is worry, and it has no place in our Sabbath celebration. The Lord’s Day is a feast day and should be treated as such.

     We rejoice and we get over our worries when we come to understand that the Lord’s Day is that time when we leave the “not yet” of the kingdom, and enter into the “already.” Is it not the case that the defining quality of eternity is the blessing of drawing near to the living God? When we feast at His Table, is He not declaring His blessing upon us? Is He not blessing and keeping, lifting up His countenance, making His face shine, being gracious unto us? Is He not lifting up His countenance on us? Is He not giving us peace?

     When we worry about the more mundane things, we are failing to heed the call of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount to set aside those worries, to not be like the Gentiles. We are called instead to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. When we worry about more spiritual matters, especially our own sins, we are missing the very heart of all Lord’s Day preaching — we, the repentant, are forgiven in Christ. We have, by His sovereign grace, succeeded in our quest — we have received His righteousness.

     Sabbath, then, is shalom, and shalom is Sabbath. We have rest because we have peace. We have peace because we have rest. We have both because Jesus is not just Lord of the Sabbath and the Prince of Peace but is also our Sabbath, our Peace.

     There is a right way to keep the Sabbath in our context. There is a right answer to this question that divides us. In the end, however, whatever position we take with respect to the Sabbath, whether we believe this law to have been abrogated in the new covenant, or whether we believe it to have been altered in the new covenant, or whether we maintain the passionate commitment of our Puritan fathers, the key question is ultimately the gospel question: Are we resting in the finished work of Christ? The most faithful Sabbath keeper will in the end be the most joyful Sabbath keeper. Sabbath, in the end, isn’t something to be observed but something to be celebrated. And we celebrate not merely a day off from work. We celebrate the victory of our King. We are of good cheer, for He has overcome the world. And we reign with Him.

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     R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.

R.C. Sproul Jr. Books

The Perils and Promise of Social Media

By Collin Hansen 6/1/2011

     Church leaders today find themselves caught between two equally valid but competing realities. Social media have become valuable, even necessary, tools for teaching and exercising leadership. Yet Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs cannot substitute for the local church, which is a living testimony to Jesus Christ. Striking the right balance requires wisdom and discernment to prioritize the local church while learning the strengths and weaknesses of social media.

     Awkwardly co-existing, the real and virtual worlds undoubtedly shape one another. Look no further than the recent resurgence of Calvinism among younger evangelicals. Whereas Calvinists outside the confessional denominations once found fellowship by attending occasional conferences and swapping sermon cassettes, they now have unfettered access to a supportive and boisterous community online, enjoying a large virtual network of like-minded thinkers.

     Yet this network has evident limitations. Prominent bloggers may wield tremendous influence online with gifts for writing and promotion. But unless they develop a robust ecclesiology and solicit help from church leadership, they may employ these gifts outside the God-given accountability structure in the body of Christ. Already isolated by virtue of spending hours each day in front of computers, bloggers lose any hedge against common web temptations. They may become incurably skeptical toward the church or incessantly critical of other writers. Influencers disconnected from the seasoned wisdom of friends and mentors risk damaging the church. Though it may seem counterintuitive, social media foster and encourage lone rangers.

     If individualism runs rampant in American society, it runs roughshod over the internet. Facebook is a helpful communication tool, but it also plays into our penchant for carefully crafting profiles for public consumption. We can make of ourselves whatever we want in the virtual world. The self-made man is a staple of American culture. Writing about the middle class in antebellum America in his famous book  Democracy in America (Volumes 1 and 2, Unabridged) [Translated by Henry Reeve with an Introduction by John Bigelow] , Alexis de Tocqueville said, “They are used to considering themselves in isolation and quite willingly imagine their destiny as entirely in their own hands.” He might not have been surprised to learn about the path to influence and affluence in the internet age.

     Social media are the natural spawn of democracy and meritocracy. Ancestry, tradition, and location matter little, if at all. You can accomplish whatever your work ethic and talents allow. On the one hand, this can be a real boon to the Christian cause. Christian missions can flourish in this atmosphere. The free marketplace of ideas online allows opportunities for Christians to proclaim the gospel message in innovative ways for the benefit of those who have no personal contact with believers. Campus ministers can hardly imagine a time before Facebook, when they couldn’t so easily contact new students.

     Yet on the other hand, social media may detract from basic discipleship. Unfettered American freedom that shuns community and tradition eventually devolves into “self-centeredness, loneliness, superficiality, and harried consumerism,” Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon wrote in  Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony (Expanded 25th Anniversary Edition)  even before internet access became widely available. This culture doesn’t exactly reinforce Jesus’ command to pick up our crosses, deny ourselves, and follow Him (Matt. 16:24).

(Mt 16:24) 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

     We walk on a foundation of individualism and suck in the air of postmodernism, thick with the heavy dew of multiculturalism. Absent today are the ties that bind. Never before has a generation so desperately needed the local church, the communion of saints, to help them follow Jesus. God has been faithful to preserve this place of authentic community in our culture. The Word says we have a duty, responsibility, and obligation to our neighbors, especially those in the household of faith (Luke 10:29–37; 1 Tim. 5:8). We may yearn for the freedom to express ourselves with the aid of social media, but we’re not truly free unless we’re responsible to a community. That’s what the apostle Paul taught in Galatians 5:13. Freed from sin by Christ through His death and resurrection, we’re free to love one another. The church affords us the opportunity to love and serve in a way social media never will.

(Lk 10:29–37) 29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”   ESV

(1 Ti 5:8) 8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.   ESV

(Ga 5:13) 13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.   ESV

     I respect church leaders who abstain from social media. Yet I see no reason we should neglect the remarkable possibilities for teaching and leadership offered by instant, unrestricted communication to willing audiences. Still, I expect over the long term that tweets, status updates, and blog posts will pale in influence compared to our everyday, tangible pursuit of holiness and love with the support of our local church.

     “The favor of the people may be won by some brilliant action,” de Tocqueville wrote, “but the love and respect of your neighbors must be gained by a long series of small services, hidden deeds of goodness, a persistent habit of kindness, and an established reputation of selflessness.”

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Per Amazon | Collin Hansen serves as editorial director for The Gospel Coalition. He earned an MDiv at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and an undergraduate degree in journalism and history from Northwestern University. He previously worked as an associate editor for Christianity Today magazine, co-edited 'Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism,' and co-edits the Cultural Renewal series with Tim Keller. He is an elder at Redeemer Community Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and he serves on the advisory board of Beeson Divinity School.

Defining the Debate

By R.C. Sproul 6/1/2011

     The question of Sabbath observation, historically, has provoked many debates and controversies involving separate issues. The first great debate about the Sabbath is whether, as an Old Testament ordinance particularly emphasized in the Mosaic covenant, it is still obligatory in the context of new covenant Christianity. Augustine, for example, believed that nine of the Ten Commandments (the so-called “moral law” of the Old Testament) were still intact and imposed obligations upon the Christian church. His lone exception with the commandment with respect to the Sabbath day. Since Paul spoke about keeping Sabbaths or not keeping Sabbaths as a matter adiaphorous (indifferent), Augustine was persuaded that the Old Testament Sabbath law had been abrogated. Others have argued that because the Sabbath was instituted originally not in the Mosaic economy but in creation, it maintains its status of moral law as long as the creation is intact.

     The second major controversy is the question about the day of the week on which the Sabbath is to be observed. Some insist that since the Sabbath was instituted on the seventh day of creation, when God rested from His labors, and since the Old Testament Israelites celebrated the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week, which would be Saturday, we should follow that pattern. Others have insisted that the New Testament changed the Sabbath to the first day of the week because of the significance of the resurrection of Jesus on that day. They also point to the New Testament practice of Christians coming together on Sunday as the Lord’s Day for worship. The argument focuses on whether the Sabbath is a cyclical command that requires worship and rest on every seventh day or whether it is specified to a particular day of the week. John Calvin argued that it would be legitimate to have the Sabbath day on any day if all of the churches would agree, because the principle in view was the regular assembling of the saints for corporate worship and for the observation of rest.

     Within the Reformed tradition, the most significant controversy that has appeared through the ages is the question of how the Sabbath is to be observed. There are two major positions within the Reformed tradition on this question. To make matters simple, we will refer to them as the Continental view of the Sabbath and the Puritan view of the Sabbath. Both views acknowledge that the Sabbath is still in effect. Both views agree that the Sabbath is a time for corporate worship. Both agree that the Sabbath is a day of rest when believers are to abstain from unnecessary commerce. But two areas are in dispute between the two schools and the most important of these is the question of recreation. Is recreation a legitimate form of rest-taking, or is recreation something that mars a sacred observation of the Sabbath day?

     The Puritan view argues against the acceptability of recreation on the Sabbath day. The text most often cited to support this view is Isaiah 58:13–14 and following: “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

     The crux of the matter in this passage is the prophetic critique of people doing their own pleasure on the Sabbath day. The assumption that many make with respect to this text is that doing one’s own pleasure must refer to recreation. If this is the case, the prophet Isaiah was adding new dimensions to the Old Testament law with respect to Sabbath-keeping. Whereas the rest of the Old Testament law is virtually silent with respect to recreation, this text in Isaiah is cited to indicate a further revelation from God about Sabbath observance — a prohibition of recreation.

     There is another way to understand Isaiah 58, however, following the thinking of those who hold the Continental view of the Sabbath. The distinction in Isaiah 58 is between doing what is pleasing to God and doing what is pleasing to ourselves in opposition to what is pleasing to God. Presumably, what is in view in the prophetic critique is God’s judgment against the Israelites for violating the Mosaic law with respect to the Sabbath day, particularly regarding involvement in commerce. There were Israelites who wanted to be able to buy and sell seven days a week, not simply six days a week. Therefore, they violated the Sabbath commandment by seeking their own pleasure, which was to do business on the Sabbath rather than to do that which was pleasing to God. According to this view, the text has nothing to say directly or indirectly about recreation on the Sabbath day.

     There is an old story, which may be apocryphal, that when John Knox came to Geneva to visit John Calvin at his home on the Sabbath, he was shocked to find Calvin engaged in lawn bowling. If the story is true, it may indicate that the theologian most devoted to Sabbath-keeping in history, Calvin, did not see recreation as a violation of the Lord’s Day, but as a part of the rest-taking or recreation that is to be part of this day. Recreation would never have been acceptable to Calvin if it had interrupted or supplanted the time devoted to worship on the Sabbath.

     One other point of debate remains between the two sides on this issue. It has to do with works of mercy performed on the Sabbath. The example of Jesus is cited, that on the Sabbath He engaged not only in worship and rest but also in works of mercy. Such works brought Him into conflict with the Pharisees over the question of Sabbath-keeping. Some have drawn the conclusion that since Jesus performed works of mercy on the Sabbath, the Christian is obligated to do the same. However, the fact that Jesus did works of mercy on the Sabbath, though it clearly reveals that it is lawful to do so on the Sabbath, does not obligate us to do such works on the Sabbath. That is to say, Jesus’ example teaches us that we may do works of mercy on the Sabbath but not that we must do such works on the Sabbath.

     All of these issues continue to be examined and debated as the church seeks to understand how God is best honored on this day.

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

R.C. Sproul Books:

The Bonds of Brotherhood

By R.C. Sproul 7/1/2011

     Fraternity … what does this word mean? It can refer to several distinct types of associations or relationships, and the church can learn valuable lessons by exploring these in more depth. The term fraternity may prompt us to recall the motto of the French Revolution: “Liberty, Fraternity, Equality.” Fraternity, along with equality and liberty, ranked right at the top of the concerns of that revolution. The term may cause us to think of college campus groups such as those depicted in the radical fraternity film Animal House. Beyond the college level, there is a wide variety of organizations of men in this world that are “fraternal orders,” such as the Elks, police groups, and various service clubs.

     The idea of fraternity is also manifested in the field of competitive sports, particularly with respect to team sports. The saying “There is no ‘I’ in team” is a cliché because it is so true. For teams to function efficiently and effectively, there must be fraternity and teamwork. Again and again we witness superstar players in the realm of professional sports being traded by their clubs because they create such a destructive atmosphere in the locker room.

     No team can function well strictly on the strength of a single individual. In basketball, for example, players who are ballhogs destroy the spirit of teamwork. If the ball is passed to a ballhog, he is very unlikely to pass it to a teammate, but more likely to take an ill-advised shot. In football, a play run by the offense involves blocking, running, passing, tackling, and other dimensions of the sport. The whole affair is an orchestration of the various elements. Even baseball operates on the basis of a team working in harmony. Babe Ruth never won a game by himself.

     Ironically, when we look at the arena of athletics, we see that the idea of fraternity exists not only in team sports but also in the context of individual sports. Perhaps the supreme example of an individual sport is boxing. It is mano a mano, one man against another. There is no tag team in the boxing ring. The boxer stands toe-to-toe against his opponent with his support systems in his corner. In the ring — the battlefield — he must fight alone. the drama of a tense bout between two equally-matched opponents, each doing his best to knock the other one out or to do enough bodily harm to win the fight on points? And yet, when the final bell rings, we often see these two gladiators come to the center of the ring and hug with an obvious sense of affection. Why do they do this? It is because a fighter is trained in his individual sport not only to compete with his opponent but to respect him. When he is engaged in a match that tests him to the ultimate degree, he comes away exhausted, battered, maybe even beaten, but nevertheless still possessing enormous respect for his opponent. There is a kind of fellowship, a kind of fraternity, that only individual gladiators such as these men understand.

     The same thing may be seen in golf, even though most matches test individual ability. From time to time, golfers join together as teammates, and there is the sense among them that they are part of a fraternity that is higher than each one in his individual accomplishments.

     But there is no fraternity as important or as significant as the church and the communion of saints. Obviously, the church is not an organization exclusive to men, so perhaps we can speak of the church as both a fraternity and a sorority. But in any case, the idea of team participation is clearly present. There is no such thing as a one-person church.

     Certainly we are not saved or justified by the faith of our families, friends, or associates. In one sense, redemption is an intensely individual matter. But once we are justified, once we are in a state of salvation, we are immediately put into a group. We are immediately put into the church.

     The church exists as a corporate body. There is a corporate solidarity that defines the identity of the New Testament church. There is no room for rugged individualism. No one has been given all the gifts of the Holy Spirit; no one has an opportunity to “hog” the ministry.

     What is needed in the church is a kind of familial relationship that is a brotherhood and a sisterhood. It can be learned in part outside of the church in other endeavors, such as the world of sports or even the battlefield. But the deepest knitting together of human beings for a common cause, a common faith, and a common Lord exists in the church of Jesus Christ.

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

R.C. Sproul Books:

Judges 18; Acts 22; Jeremiah 32; Psalms 1-2

By Don Carson 1/1/2018

     Perhaps an innocent reader might have hoped that yesterday’s reading (Judg. 17) reflected a minor aberration among the people of God. Today’s (Judg. 18) makes that hope less sanguine: one entire tribe of Israel is off the rails, and doubtless others as well.

     The historical setting is still early enough that not all the tribes have captured all the land that is to be theirs. That is certainly true of Dan (Judg. 18:1). So the Danites send out five soldiers to spy out the terrain, and eventually stumble across the house of Micah. There they find the young Levite, and either recognize him from some previous encounter, or else recognize him for what he is, perhaps by over-hearing his praying or study (which was often done out loud). They inquire of him whether their trip will be successful. Perhaps the “ephod” Micah has made (Judg. 17:5) includes something like the Urim and Thummim for discerning, ostensibly, the will of the Lord. In any case, he reassures them and they go on their way.

     The soldiers spy out the town of Laish, which was not part of the land that had been assigned to them. But it looks like a soft and attractive target, and they report accordingly. When six hundred armed Danites return, they interrupt their military raid to walk off with all of Micah’s household gods, not to mention the young Levite priest and the ephod, for clearly they think of this as a way of bringing “luck”or at least direction to their enterprise, The Levite himself is delighted: to him, this feels like a promotion (Judg. 18:20). But can “bought” clergy ever exercise a prophetic witness?

     When he and his men catch up with this warrior band, Micah frankly sounds pathetic: “You took the gods I made, and my priest, and went away. What else do I have? How can you ask, ‘What’s the matter with you?’” (Judg.18:24). He detects no irony in his own utterance, the sheer futility of attaching so much to gods you have made.

     The Danites threaten to annihilate Micah and his household, and that settles the matter. Might, not justice or integrity, rules the land. The Danites capture Laish, attacking “a peaceful and unsuspecting people” (Judg. 18:27), and rename the place Dan. There they set up their idols, and the young Levite, now identified as a direct descendant of Moses (Judg.18:30), functions as their tribal priest, and passes on this legacy to his sons, even while the tabernacle still remains in its rightful place in Shiloh (Judg. 18:30-31).

     The levels of covenantal faithlessness in the religious realm are multiplied by increased violence, tribal selfishness, personal aspirations of power, ingratitude, crude threats, and massive superstition. It is not uncommon for these sins to grow together.

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

Don Carson Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 82

Rescue the Weak and Needy
82 A Psalm Of Asaph.

1 God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
2 “How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
4 Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

6 I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
7 nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”

8 Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!

ESV Study Bible

Who Are the 144,000 in Revelation?

By Kevin DeYoung 1/17/2012

(Re 7:3–4) 4 And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:   ESV

     Many sincere Bible-believing Christians would understand the 144,000 like this: The church is raptured prior to the great tribulation. During the time when the church is gone, a remnant of 144,000 ethnic Jews is converted (12,000 from each tribe). These Jewish converts, in turn, evangelize the Gentiles who make up the great multitude in white robes in v. 9. That’s one understanding of Revelation 7. A lot of godly people hold that understanding. Let me explain why I understand the 144,000 differently.

     The 144,000 are not an ethnic Jewish remnant, and certainly not an Anointed Class of saints who became Jehovah’s Witnesses before 1935. The 144,000 represent the entire community of the redeemed. Let me give you several reasons for making this claim.

     First, in chapter 13 we read that Satan seals all of his followers, so it makes sense that God would seal all of his people, not just the Jewish ones.

     Second, the image of sealing comes from Ezekiel 9 where the seal on the forehead marks out two groups of people: idolaters and non-idolaters. It would seem that the sealing of the 144,000 makes a similar distinction based on who worships God not who among the Jewish remnant worships God.

     Third, the 144,000 are called the servants of our God (Rev. 7:3). There is no reason to make the 144,000 any more restricted than that. If you are a servant of the living God, you are one of the 144,000 mentioned here. In Revelation, the phrase “servants of God” always refers to all of God’s redeemed people, not just an ethnic Jewish remnant (see 1:1; 2:20; 19:2; 19:5; 22:3).

     Fourth, the 144,000 mentioned later in chapter 14 are those who have been “redeemed from the earth” and those who were “purchased from among men.” This is generic everybody kind of language. The 144,000 is a symbolic number of redeemed drawn from all peoples, not simply the Jews. Besides, if the number is not symbolic then what do we do with Revelation 14:4 which describes the 144,000 as those “who have not defiled themselves with women”? Are we to think that the 144,000 refers to a chosen group of celibate Jewish men? It makes more sense to realize that 144,000 is a symbolic number that is described as celibate men to highlight the group’s moral purity and set-apartness for spiritual battle.

     Fifth, the last reason for thinking that the 144,000 is the entire community of the redeemed is because of the highly stylized list of tribes in verses 5-8. The number itself is stylized. It’s not to be taken literally. It’s 12 x 12 x 1000—12 being the number of completion for God’s people (representing the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles of the Lamb) and 1000 being a generic number suggesting a great multitude. So 144,000 is a way of saying all of God’s people under the old and new covenant.

     And then look at the list of the tribes. There are over a dozen different arrangements of the twelve tribes in the Bible. This one is unique among all of those. Judah is listed first because Jesus was from there as a lion of the tribe of Judah. All twelve of Jacob’s sons are listed—including Levi who usually wasn’t because he didn’t inherit any land-except for one. Manasseh, Joseph’s son (Jacob’s grandson), is listed in place of Dan. So why not Dan? Dan was left out in order to point to the purity of the redeemed church. From early in Israel’s history, Dan was the center of idolatry for the kingdom (Judges 18:30-31). During the days of the divided kingdom, Dan was one of two centers for idolatry (1 Kings 12:28-30). And there is recorded in some non-Biblical Jewish writings that the Jews thought the anti-Christ would come out of Dan based on Genesis 49:17. The bottom line is that the number and the list and the order of the tribes are all stylized to depict the totality of God’s pure and perfectly redeemed servants from all time over all the earth. That’s what Revelation means by the 144,000.

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     Kevin DeYoung (MDiv, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) is senior pastor of Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina, board chairman The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester.

Kevin DeYoung Books:

  • Niebuhrian Critique
  • Occupy Wall Street
  • Future Church

#1 Gary Dorrien  Pittsburgh Theological Seminary


#2 Gary Dorrien   Pittsburgh Theological Seminary


#3 Phyllis Tickle   Pittsburgh Theological Seminary


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     12/1/2015    Desiring Contentment

     God has put eternity in our hearts. He has inscribed heaven on our souls. He created us to long for a perfect world and to desire what is supremely ideal. We want to be fully and finally free from the suffering and misery of this world, and ultimately from our sin—not only the conviction and sadness our sin brings us, but also the hurt and pain it brings to those closest to us. As redeemed but fallen creatures in this fallen world, we desperately want to be done with sin and its consequences. We want to be less proud, less impatient, less sad, less worried, less burdened, and we want to be more holy, more repentant, more prayerful, more at peace, and more content. We are, as Martin Luther taught, simul justus et peccator, “at the same time just and sinful.” In Christ, God has declared us righteous, though we still strive each day to mortify our sin in the flesh. But there is a day coming when we will no longer struggle, when our faith shall be sight, when we shall see Christ Jesus face-to-face, when we will no longer desire, no longer need, no longer lack contentment.

     But now we look through a glass darkly as we eagerly await the glorious dwelling places Christ is preparing for us in the new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13). Although we will always long for heaven, God calls us to be content in whatever situation we find ourselves by His sovereign providence (Phil.4:11). He calls us to keep our lives free from the love of money and to be content with what we have. God not only tells us to be content but also graciously gives us the reason to be content by reminding us of His promise: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). This is the foundation for true and lasting contentment. It is precisely because the Lord is our Shepherd that we shall not want. But if He is not your Shepherd, expect no contentment. True contentment is not circumstantial, it is relational. It is not based on what happens to us; rather, it is based on who has taken hold of us—the One who dwells within us. If our contentment is based merely on what we have, we will always desire more, but when it is based on who we are in Christ, we will first and foremost desire to know Him more. For if we are to find contentment in all things, we must seek contentment in the only One who can fulfill all our desires—Jesus Christ.

     United to Christ, we grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ and thus grow more and more desirous of what Christ wants and less and less desirous of what Christ hates. When we grow in grace, the Holy Spirit doesn’t put an end to our desires. On the contrary, He renews our minds and transforms our desires to conform to God’s desires for us. In essence, contentment is wanting what God wants for us, and what He wants for us is Him. This is why the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever (WSC 1). We most glorify God when we most enjoy what He has created us to desire—Himself.

     click here for article source

     Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     “To sink the foe or save the maimed, Our mission and our pride, We’ll carry on ’til Kingdom Come, Ideals for which we’ve died.” Thus went the anthem of the US Coast Guard, which was established this day, August 4, 1790, when Congress authorized ten boats to be built for the Revenue Marine. Four years later they were charged with stopping slave-traders from bringing new slaves from Africa. They freed almost 500 slaves. At a US Coast Guard commencement, President Reagan stated: “It’s our prayer to serve America in peace. It’s our commitment to defend her in war.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

In all unbelief there are these two things:
a good opinion of one's self,
and a bad opinion of God.
--- Horatius Bonar

     There are people to-day who are going through an onslaught of destruction that paralyses all our platitudes and preaching; the only thing that will bring relief is the consolations of Christ. It is a good thing to feel our own powerlessness in the face of destruction, it makes us know how much we depend upon God.
--- Oswald Chambers
Baffled to Fight Better: Job and the Problem of Suffering

If the race fell in Adam, much more shall it be restored in Christ. If death reigned by one, much more shall grace reign by one.
--- Charles Hodge

... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     8. Now John was detained afterward within the walls of Gischala, by the fear he was in of Josephus; but within a few days Tiberias revolted again, the people within it inviting king Agrippa [to return to the exercise of his authority there]. And when he did not come at the time appointed, and when a few Roman horsemen appeared that day, they expelled Josephus out of the city. Now this revolt of theirs was presently known at Taricheae; and as Josephus had sent out all the soldiers that were with him to gather corn, he knew not how either to march out alone against the revolters, or to stay where he was, because he was afraid the king's soldiers might prevent him if he tarried, and might get into the city; for he did not intend to do any thing on the next day, because it was the sabbath day, and would hinder his proceeding. So he contrived to circumvent the revolters by a stratagem; and in the first place he ordered the gates of Taricheae to be shut, that nobody might go out and inform [those of Tiberias], for whom it was intended, what stratagem he was about; he then got together all the ships that were upon the lake, which were found to be two hundred and thirty, and in each of them he put no more than four mariners. So he sailed to Tiberias with haste, and kept at such a distance from the city, that it was not easy for the people to see the vessels, and ordered that the empty vessels should float up and down there, while himself, who had but seven of his guards with him, and those unarmed also, went so near as to be seen; but when his adversaries, who were still reproaching him, saw him from the walls, they were so astonished that they supposed all the ships were full of armed men, and threw down their arms, and by signals of intercession they besought him to spare the city.

     9. Upon this Josephus threatened them terribly, and reproached them, that when they were the first that took up arms against the Romans, they should spend their force beforehand in civil dissensions, and do what their enemies desired above all things; and that besides they should endeavor so hastily to seize upon him, who took care of their safety, and had not been ashamed to shut the gates of their city against him that built their walls; that, however, he would admit of any intercessors from them that might make some excuse for them, and with whom he would make such agreements as might be for the city's security. Hereupon ten of the most potent men of Tiberias came down to him presently; and when he had taken them into one of his vessels, he ordered them to be carried a great way off from the city. He then commanded that fifty others of their senate, such as were men of the greatest eminence, should come to him, that they also might give him some security on their behalf. After which, under one new pretense or another, he called forth others, one after another, to make the leagues between them. He then gave order to the masters of those vessels which he had thus filled to sail away immediately for Taricheae, and to confine those men in the prison there; till at length he took all their senate, consisting of six hundred persons, and about two thousand of the populace, and carried them away to Taricheae.

     10. And when the rest of the people cried out, that it was one Clitus that was the chief author of this revolt, they desired him to spend his anger upon him [only]; but Josephus, whose intention it was to slay nobody, commanded one Levius, belonging to his guards, to go out of the vessel, in order to cut off both Clitus's hands; yet was Levius afraid to go out by himself alone to such a large body of enemies, and refused to go. Now Clitus saw that Josephus was in a great passion in the ship, and ready to leap out of it, in order to execute the punishment himself; he begged therefore from the shore, that he would leave him one of his hands; which Josephus agreed to, upon condition that he would himself cutoff the other hand; accordingly he drew his sword, and with his right hand cut off his left, so great was the fear he was in of Josephus himself. And thus he took the people of Tiberias prisoners, and recovered the city again with empty ships and seven of his guard. Moreover, a few days afterward he retook Gischala, which had revolted with the people of Sepphoris, and gave his soldiers leave to plunder it; yet did he get all the plunder together, and restored it to the inhabitants; and the like he did to the inhabitants of Sepphoris and Tiberias. For when he had subdued those cities, he had a mind, by letting them be plundered, to give them some good instruction, while at the same time he regained their good-will by restoring them their money again.

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

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

Proverbs 22:11
     by D.H. Stern

11     He who loves the pure-hearted
and is gracious in speech
will have the king as his friend.

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


     It was a sultry summer's day a hundred and fifty years ago, and John Wesley was on the rocky road to Dublin. 'The wind being in my face, tempering the heat of the sun, I had a pleasant ride to Dublin. In the evening I began expounding the deepest part of the Holy Scripture, namely, the First Epistle of John, by which, above all other, even above all other inspired writings, I advise every young preacher to form his style. Here are sublimity and simplicity together, the strongest sense and the plainest language! How can any one that would speak as the oracles of God use harder words than are to be found here?' With which illuminating extract from the great man's journal we may dismiss him, the road to Dublin, and the text from which he preached in the Irish capital, all together. I have no further business with any of them. The thing that concerns me is the suggestive declaration, made by the most experienced preacher of all time, that sublimity and simplicity always go hand in hand. Here, in this deepest part of Holy Scripture, says the master, are sublimity and simplicity together. 'By this, above all other writings, I advise every preacher to form his style. How can any one that would speak as the oracles of God use harder words than are to be found here?' Such words from such a source are like apples of gold in pictures of silver, and I am thankful that I chanced to come upon the great man that hot July night in Dublin, and gather this distilled essence of wisdom as it fell from his eloquent lips.

     I have often wondered why we teach children to pray that their simplicity may be pitied.

Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,
    Look upon a little child!
  Pity my simplicity!
    Suffer me to come to Thee!

     Why 'pity my simplicity'? It is the one thing about a little child that is really sublime, sublimity and simplicity being, as we learned at Dublin, everlastingly inseparable. Pity my simplicity! Why, it is the sweet simplicity of a little child that we all admire and love and covet! Pity my simplicity! Why, it is the unspoiled and sublime simplicity of this little child of mine that takes my heart by storm and carries everything before it. And, depend upon it, the heart of the divine Father is affected not very differently. This soft, sweet little white-robed thing that kneels on my knee, with its arms around my neck, lisping its

Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,
    Look upon a little child!
  Pity my simplicity!
    Suffer me to come to Thee!

     shames me by its very sublimity. It outstrips me, transcends me, and leaves me far behind. It soars whilst I grovel; it flies whilst I creep. That is what Jesus meant when He took a little child and set him in the midst of the disciples and said, 'Whosoever shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven!' The simplest, He meant, is always the sublimest. And it was because the great Methodist had so perfectly caught the spirit of his great Master that he declared so confidently that night at Dublin, 'Simplicity and sublimity lie here together!'

     It is always and everywhere the same. In literature sublimity is represented by the poet. What could be more sublime than the inspired imagination of Milton? And yet, and yet! The very greatest of all our literary critics, in his essay on Milton, feels it incumbent upon him to point out that imagination is essentially the domain of childhood. 'Of all people,' he says, 'children are the most imaginative. They abandon themselves without reserve to every illusion. Every image which is strongly presented to their mental eye produces on them the effect of reality. No man, whatever his sensibility may be, is ever affected by Hamlet or Lear as a little girl is affected by the story of poor Red Ridinghood. She knows that it is all false, that wolves cannot speak, that there are no wolves in England. Yet, in spite of the knowledge, she believes; she weeps; she trembles; she dares not go into a dark room lest she should feel the teeth of the monster at her throat.' And from these premisses, Macaulay proceeds to his inevitable conclusion. 'He who, in an enlightened and literary society, aspires to be a great poet must,' he says, 'first become a little child. He must take to pieces the whole web of his mind. He must unlearn much of that knowledge which has perhaps constituted hitherto his chief title to superiority. His very talents will be a hindrance to him. His difficulties will be proportioned to his proficiency in the pursuits which are fashionable among his contemporaries; and that proficiency will in general be proportioned to the vigour and activity of his mind.' Could there be any finer comment on the words of the Master?

     'Simplicity and sublimity always go together!' said John Wesley that hot July night at Dublin.

     'Whosoever shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven!' said the Master on that memorable day in Galilee.

     'He who aspires to be a great poet must first become a little child!' says Lord Macaulay in his incomparable essay on Milton.

     I have carefully put the Master in His old place. He is in the midst, with the very greatest of our modern apostles on the one side of Him, and the very greatest of our modern historians on the other. But they are all three of them saying the same thing, each in his own way. It is a pity that we teach our children that the sublimest thing about them—their simplicity—is a thing of which they need to be ashamed. And the way in which their tiny tongues stumble over the great word seems to show that, following a true instinct, they do not take kindly to that clause in their bedtime prayer.

     I am told that, away beyond the Never-Never ranges, there is a church from which the children are excluded before the sermon begins. I wish my informant had not told me of its existence. I am not often troubled with nightmare, my supper being quite a frugal affair. But just occasionally I find myself a victim of the terror by night. And when I am mercifully awakened, and asked why I am gasping so horribly and perspiring so freely, I have to confess that I was dreaming that I had somehow become the minister of that childless congregation. As is usual after nightmare, I look round with a sense of inexpressible thankfulness on discovering that it was only a horrid dream. An appointment to such a charge would be to me a most fearsome and terrifying prospect. I could not trust myself. In a way, I envy the man who can hold his own under such circumstances. His transcendent powers enable him to preserve his sturdy humanness of character, his charming simplicity of diction, his graphic picturesqueness of phrase, and his exquisite winsomeness of behaviour without the extraneous assistance which the children render to some of us. But I could not do it. I should go all to pieces. And so, when I dream that I have entered a pulpit from which I can survey no roguish young faces and mischievous wide-open eyes, I fancy I am ruined and undone. I watch with consternation as the little people file out during the hymn before the sermon, and I know that the sermon is doomed. The children in the congregation are my salvation.

     I fancy that the custom to which I have referred was in vogue in the church to which the Rev. Bruno Leathwaite Chilvers ministered. Everybody knows Mr. Chilvers; at least everybody who loves George Gissing knows that very excellent gentleman. Mr. Chilvers loved to adorn his dainty discourses with certain words of strangely grandiloquent sound. '"Nullifidian," "morbific," "renascent"—these were among his favourites. Once or twice he spoke of "psychogenesis" with an emphatic enunciation which seemed to invite respectful wonder. In using Latin words which have become fixed in the English language, he generally corrected the common errors of quantity and pronounced words as nobody else did. He often alluded to French and German authors in order that he might recite French and German quotations.' And so on. Poor Mr. Chilvers! I am sure that the little children filed out during the hymn before the sermon. No man with a scrap of imagination could look into the dimpled face of a little girl I know and hurl 'nullifidian' at her. No man could look down into a certain pair of sparkling eyes that are wonderfully familiar to me and talk about things as 'morbific' or 'renascent.' If only the little tots had kept their seats for the sermon, it would have saved poor Mr. Chilvers from committing such atrocities. As it is, they went and he collapsed. Can anybody imagine John Wesley talking to his summer-evening crowd at Dublin about 'nullifidian,' or quoting German? I will say nothing of the Galilean preacher. The common people heard Him gladly. He was so simple and therefore so sublime. As Sir Edwin Arnold says:

The simplest sights He met—
  The Sower flinging seed on loam and rock;
  The darnel in the wheat; the mustard-tree
That hath its seeds so little, and its boughs
  Widespreading; and the wandering sheep; and nets
  Shot in the wimpled waters—drawing forth
  Great fish and small—these, and a hundred such,
  Seen by us daily, never seen aright,
  Were pictures for Him from the page of life,
  Teaching by parable.

     Therein lay the sublimity of it all.

     A little child, especially a little child of a distinctly restless and mischievous propensity, is really a great help to a minister, and it is a shame to deprive the good man of such assistance. It is only by such help that some of us can hope to approximate to real sublimity. Lord Beaconsfield used to say that, in making after-dinner speeches, he kept his eye on the waiters. If they were unmoved, he knew that he was in the realms of mediocrity. But when they grew excited and waved their napkins, he knew that he was getting home. Lord Cockburn, who was for some time Lord Chief Justice of Great Britain, when asked for the secret of his extraordinary success at the bar, replied sagely, 'When I was addressing a jury, I invariably picked out the stupidest-looking fellow of the lot, and addressed myself specially to him—for this good reason: I knew that if I convinced him I should be sure to carry all the rest!' Dr. Thomas Guthrie, in addressing gatherings of ministers, used to tell this story of Lord Cockburn with immense relish, and earnestly commended its philosophy to their consideration. I was reading the other day that Dr. Boyd Carpenter, formerly Bishop of Ripon and now Canon of Westminster, on being asked if he felt nervous when preaching before Queen Victoria, replied, 'I never address the Queen at all. I know there will be present the Queen, the Princes, the household, and the servants down to the scullery-maid, and I preach to the scullery-maid.' Little children do not attend political dinners such as Lord Beaconsfield adorned; nor Courts of Justice such as Lord Cockburn addressed; nor Royal chapels like that in which Dr. Boyd Carpenter officiated. And, in the absence of the children, the only chance of reaching sublimity that offered itself to these unhappy orators lay in making good use of the waiter, the stupid juryman, and the scullery-maid. If the Rev. Bruno Leathwaite Chilvers really cannot induce the children to abandon the bad habit in which they have been trained, I urge him, as a friend and a brother, to adopt the same ingenious expedient. But if he can get on the right side of a little child, persuade him to sit the sermon out, and vow that he will look straight into that bright little face, and say no word that will not interest that tiny listener, I promise him that before long people will say that his sermons are simply sublime. Robert Louis Stevenson knew what he was doing when he discussed every sentence of Treasure Island with his schoolboy step-son before giving it its final form. It was by that wise artifice that one of the greatest stories in our language came to be written.

     The fact, of course, is that in the soul's sublimest moments it hungers for simplicity. One of Du Maurier's great Punch cartoons represented a honeymoon conversation between a husband and wife who had both covered themselves with glory at Cambridge. And the conversation ran along these highly intellectual lines:

     'What would Lovey do if Dovey died?'

     'Oh, Lovey would die too!'

     There is a world of philosophy behind the nonsense. We do not make love in the language of the psychologist; we make love in the language of the little child. When life approaches to sublimity, it always expresses itself with simplicity. In the depth of mortal anguish, or at the climax of human joy, we do not use a grandiloquent and incomprehensible phraseology. We talk in monosyllables. As we grow old, and draw near to the gates of the grave, we become more and more simple. In his declining years, John Newton wrote, 'When I was young I was sure of many things. There are only two things of which I am sure now; one is that I am a miserable sinner, and the other that Christ is an all-sufficient Saviour.' What is this but the soul garbing itself in the most perfect simplicities as the only fitting raiment in which it can greet the everlasting sublimities?

     'Here are sublimity and simplicity together!' exclaimed John Wesley on that hot July night at Dublin. 'How can any one that would speak as the oracles of God use harder words than are to be found here? By this I advise every young preacher to form his style!'

     'He who aspires to be a great poet—as sublime as Milton—must first become a little child!' declares the greatest of all littérateurs.

     'Whosoever shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven!' says the Master Himself, taking a little child and setting him in the midst of them.

     'Pity my simplicity!' pleads this little thing with its soft arms round my neck.

     'Give me that simplicity!' say I.

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

                The brave comradeship of God

     Then He took unto Him the twelve. --- Luke 18:31.

     The bravery of God in trusting us! You say—‘But He has been unwise to choose me, because there is nothing in me; I am not of any value.’ That is why He chose you. As long as you think there is something in you, God cannot choose you because you have ends of your own to serve; but if you have let Him bring you to the end of your self-sufficiency, then He can choose you to go with Him to Jerusalem, and that will mean the fulfilment of purposes which He does not discuss with you.

     We are apt to say that because a man has natural ability, therefore he will make a good Christian. It is not a question of our equipment but of our poverty; not of what we bring with us, but of what God puts into us; not a question of natural virtues, of strength of character, knowledge, and experience—all that is of no avail in this matter. The only thing that avails is that we are taken up into the big compelling of God and made His comrades (cf.
1 Cor. 1:26–30 ). The comradeship of God is made up out of men who know their poverty. He can do nothing with the man who thinks that he is of use to God. As Christians we are not out for our own cause at all, we are out for the cause of God, which can never be our cause. We do not know what God is after, but we have to maintain our relationship with Him whatever happens. We must never allow anything to injure our relationship with God; if it does get injured, we must take time and get it put right. The main thing about Christianity is not the work we do, but the relationship we maintain and the atmosphere produced by that relationship. That is all God asks us to look after, and it is the one thing that is being continually assailed.

My Utmost for His Highest

No Answer
     the Poetry of RS Thomas

                No Answer

But the chemicals in
  My mind were not
  Ready, so I let
  Him go on, dissolving
  The word on my
  Tongue. Friend, I had said,
  Life is too short for
  Religion; it takes time
  To prepare a sacrifice
  For the God. Give yourself
  To science that reveals
  All, asking no pay
  For it. Knowledge is power;
  The old oracle
  Has not changed. The nucleus
  In the atom awaits
  Our bidding. Come forth,
  We cry, and the dust spreads
  Its carpet. Over the creeds
  And masterpieces our wheels go.


Searching For Meaning In Midrash

     Our translation of the maxim “By the measure that a person measures, so is he measured” is not a literal one. Instead, we attempt to capture the meaning of the aphorism. The Hebrew itself uses a plural verb, מוֹדְדִין/mod’din, in the latter phrase. Thus, we could translate the saying as: “By the measure that a person measures, by it they measure him.”

     Without this short grammar lesson, we might assume that “he is measured” by God, the measuring being done through a divine hand. However, the Hebrew shows a subtle difference: the plural “they measure him.” Who are they? If God (the singular) is not meting out justice, then who are they (the plural) who are measuring a person?

     Perhaps “they” are the same “they” whom we often refer to: “They’re wearing shorter hemlines this year.” “They are all trying this new diet.” “Do you know what they are talking about?” “They” is the public, the world, society. In the end, they are us. We are the ones wearing shorter hemlines, trying this new diet, talking about a certain topic.

     Perhaps it is society in general that judges itself. We (plural) have to act in such a way that there is justice in the world. We (plural) have to make the measure for measure possible. “By the measure that a person measures, they measure him.” The way we view others is how they view us. It’s not God but you and I who judge one another.


     The rabbi met with family members a few hours following their mother’s death. After talking about her death, and then her life, they shifted the conversation to the funeral and what would happen at the cemetery. The grown son wanted to discuss the burial.

     “Rabbi, I’ve been to funerals where the family does all of the shoveling, some where they do a little shoveling, and others where they don’t do any shoveling at all. What is the correct way?”

     The rabbi explained that traditionally the family and friends were the ones who actually buried the dead and filled in the grave. “First of all, in ancient times there weren’t professional grave diggers. Secondly, it was a mitzvah: l’vayat ha-met, accompanying the dead to their final resting place, and k’vurat ha-met, burying the dead. Third, and perhaps most importantly, it was considered a great act of ḥesed, of kindness. It was the very last thing we could do for someone we loved.”

     The daughter of the deceased seemed a little uncomfortable. “I’m bothered by the image of throwing dirt on my mother … it just doesn’t seem right.”

     “I know what you mean,” the rabbi replied. “But let’s be honest: Coming to grips with your mother’s death and saying goodbye is a terribly hard thing. Nothing we do is going to make the funeral or the burial easy. Judaism tries to make it meaningful through two acts: showing proper respect for the dead, and helping us take the first steps toward healing. Judaism holds it is much better to have the people who knew and loved the deceased to bury her, rather than having it handled by a bunch of strangers who view it merely as a job. With the grave diggers, it probably is ‘throwing dirt onto the box.’ With the family, however, it’s more like ‘placing earth in the grave’ so that we can put the loved one to rest. Some people even see it as the equivalent, at life’s end, to what we do for a child at life’s beginning—tucking them into their crib. I grant you that it’s not easy. It’s hard work physically, and it’s hard work emotionally. But there is a sense of feeling good that you did this final kindness for your mother.”

     “Is there a prescribed ‘measure’ of how much shoveling we are supposed to do, Rabbi?”

     “Well, ideally, we fill in the whole grave. Minimally, we at least cover the casket.”

     “And when did this tradition start?”

     “It goes back to the Bible, all the way back to Isaac, who buried Abraham, to Jacob who buried Isaac. Even Joseph, viceroy of Egypt, returned to Israel with Jacob’s body and personally buried his father.”

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Take Heart
     August 4

     Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.
--- Habakkuk 2:3.

     Sudden or slow, dramatic or invisible, “it will certainly come.” Classic Sermons on Hope (Kregel Classic Sermons Series)

     And, says the prophet, it “will not delay.” That is the fear that often haunts us. That “too late” is a grievous reality, a grim and fearful fact of life.

     Often that is what we feel about ourselves. Once we might have really closed with Christ and taken what he offers us. But now the character is fixed, our habits are settled, the channels are cut that the rivers must run in to the end. It is too late. And there is dreadful truth in that.

     “Are you still sleeping?” said the Master sadly, the glorious office he had offered his friends left unaccepted; sleep on, it does not matter now. The chance is lost, the opportunity is past, sleep on!

     Every failure, in a way, is irremediable. Always our record must be by that amount less than it might and should and could have been. And we look wistfully across at Christ and then sadly enough at what we are. That is what I might have been, and this is what I am; that is what I was offered, and this is what I chose! Fool that I was, but now—it is too late.

     But the whole point of the Gospel is that, in one glorious way, it is not yet too late for anyone. If you have not seen that in Christ, have you seen Christ at all? Always he faced the poorest, the most soiled and tangled life with the sure confidence that even yet it could be righted; yes, and he would do it now. And how often and how strangely he was justified in cases that looked just impossible! Aye, and why should he not be so in you and me? It is to us, remember, to plain ordinary folk like you and me that he gives his bewildering promises; it is on us he makes his staggering claims; it is for us he prays those astounding prayers of his with their tremendous hopes! To that, then, he feels even yet we can attain.

     No, it is not too late, even for you and me, to throw ourselves on Jesus Christ, really to take, really to use that strange power that he offers and so really grow into his blessed likeness, not too late for God’s dream of us to come really true.

     Up! up! and back into the thick of things with steady hearts and quiet eyes. And, even though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.

--- Arthur John Gossip

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

On This Day
     Three Loves, and a Fourth  August 4

     Our passions can often be channeled for God’s glory. Wilfred Grenfell developed three loves, the first being sports. He swam in cold rivers and sailed the Irish Sea. At 18 he found another passion when a doctor showed him a human brain chemically preserved. Grenfell decided at once to become a physician.

     While in medical school, he developed his third love. Passing a large tent one Evening, he ducked in, thinking it a circus. It was a revival meeting, and an aged man was droning on in prayer. Grenfell started to leave when another man leaped up and announced a hymn “while our brother continues his prayer.” The man, D. L. Moody, proceeded to preach so effectively that Grenfell was converted on the spot. He had found his third love—the Lord.

     Those passions—sports, medicine, and God—led Grenfell to volunteer with an organization called Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen. The mission sponsored a mercy ship that ministered to thousands living on boats and along the North Atlantic coastline. The work spread to Newfoundland, and on August 4, 1892, Grenfell sailed into the waters of Labrador to begin a lifetime of ministry.

     Grenfell soon saw that two hospitals were needed there, an onshore clinic for coastal residents and a floating hospital for fishing fleets. He raised money, established the hospitals, and the work soon included numerous hospitals and dispensaries throughout the cold, bitter land. He started schools and orphanages for the young. He organized cooperative stores for Labradorians to barter their furs and fish for supplies. He spent his life sailing along northern shores and traveling by dogsled across frozen landscapes, caring for the sick, teaching the young, preaching the Gospel. His whole life was a glorious indulgence in his three loves.

     He found a fourth love as well. One day aboard a ship he met a beautiful woman, a total stranger, fell violently in love with her, and proposed without even asking her name. She accepted. The two ministered side by side for the rest of their lives.

Trust the LORD and live right!
The land will be yours, and you will be safe.
Do what the LORD wants, And he will give you your heart’s desire.
Psalm 37:3,4.

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - August 4

     “The people that do know their God shall be strong.” --- Daniel 11:32.

     Every believer understands that to know God is the highest and best form of knowledge; and this spiritual knowledge is a source of strength to the Christian. It strengthens his faith. Believers are constantly spoken of in the Scriptures as being persons who are enlightened and taught of the Lord; they are said to “have an unction from the Holy One,” and it is the Spirit’s peculiar office to lead them into all truth, and all this for the increase and the fostering of their faith. Knowledge strengthens love, as well as faith. Knowledge opens the door, and then through that door we see our Saviour. Or, to use another similitude, knowledge paints the portrait of Jesus, and when we see that portrait then we love him, we cannot love a Christ whom we do not know, at least, in some degree. If we know but little of the excellences of Jesus, what he has done for us, and what he is doing now, we cannot love him much; but the more we know him, the more we shall love him. Knowledge also strengthens hope. How can we hope for a thing if we do not know of its existence? Hope may be the telescope, but till we receive instruction, our ignorance stands in the front of the glass, and we can see nothing whatever; knowledge removes the interposing object, and when we look through the bright optic glass we discern the glory to be revealed, and anticipate it with joyous confidence. Knowledge supplies us reasons for patience. How shall we have patience unless we know something of the sympathy of Christ, and understand the good which is to come out of the correction which our heavenly Father sends us? Nor is there one single grace of the Christian which, under God, will not be fostered and brought to perfection by holy knowledge. How important, then, is it that we should grow not only in grace, but in the “knowledge” of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

          Evening - August 4

     “I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands.” --- Haggai 2:17.

     How destructive is the hail to the standing crops, beating out the precious grain upon the ground! How grateful ought we to be when the corn is spared so terrible a ruin! Let us offer unto the Lord thanksgiving. Even more to be dreaded are those mysterious destroyers—smut, bunt, rust, and mildew. These turn the ear into a mass of soot, or render it putrid, or dry up the grain, and all in a manner so beyond all human control that the farmer is compelled to cry, “This is the finger of God.” Innumerable minute fungi cause the mischief, and were it not for the goodness of God, the rider on the black horse would soon scatter famine over the land. Infinite mercy spares the food of men, but in view of the active agents which are ready to destroy the harvest, right wisely are we taught to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” The curse is abroad; we have constant need of the blessing. When blight and mildew come they are chastisements from heaven, and men must learn to hear the rod, and him that hath appointed it.

     Spiritually, mildew is no uncommon evil. When our work is most promising this blight appears. We hoped for many conversions, and lo! a general apathy, an abounding worldliness, or a cruel hardness of heart! There may be no open sin in those for whom we are labouring, but there is a deficiency of sincerity and decision sadly disappointing our desires. We learn from this our dependence upon the Lord, and the need of prayer that no blight may fall upon our work. Spiritual pride or sloth will soon bring upon us the dreadful evil, and only the Lord of the harvest can remove it. Mildew may even attack our own hearts, and shrivel our prayers and religious exercises. May it please the great Husbandman to avert so serious a calamity. Shine, blessed Sun of Righteousness, and drive the blights away.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     August 4


     Mary Ann Lathbury, 1841–1913

     I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35)

     As Christians, our supreme occupation must always be with Christ Himself—not merely our church, denomination or religious system. Reading the Bible and spending time in prayer are vital to our spiritual well-being. But even these activities are a means to an end, the end purpose being that they bring us into a closer relationship with God Himself. Notice the words of this hymn:

     Beyond the sacred page I seek Thee, Lord …
     And in Thy book revealed I see the Lord.

     Although it is often used as a communion service hymn, this hymn’s real teaching is that God’s Word—“the Bread of Life” should nourish our spiritual lives and bring us into an ever closer relationship with our Lord.

•     The hymn’s author, Mary Lathbury, was a longtime associate with the Chautauqua Assembly, a Methodist camp meeting located on beautiful Lake Chautauqua in New York. In 1877 at the request of the camp director, Miss Lathbury wrote these words to be used as a theme song for the Bible study sessions. The music was composed by the gifted music director of Chautauqua, William F. Sherwin. The hymn has since been widely used at the camp grounds, as it has been by Christians everywhere for times of quiet reflection upon the things of God.

     Break Thou the bread of life, Dear Lord, to me, as Thou didst break the loaves beside the sea: Beyond the sacred page I seek Thee, Lord; my spirit pants for Thee, O living Word.
     Bless thou the truth, dear Lord, to me—to me, as Thou didst bless the bread by Galilee: Then shall all bondage cease, all fetters fall, and I shall find my peace, my All in all.
     Thou art the bread of life, O Lord, to me; Thy holy Word the truth that saveth me: Give me to eat and live with Thee above; teach me to love Thy truth, for Thou art love.
     O send Thy Spirit, Lord, now unto me, that He may touch my eyes and make me see: Show me the truth concealed within Thy Word, and in Thy book revealed I see the Lord.

     For Today: Psalm 63:1; 119:45; Jeremiah 15:16; Matthew 14:13-21

     Determine that your life will reflect complete peace and contentment as you allow Christ to nourish and fill you with Himself. Use this hymn to help in this spiritual quest.

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

The Existence and Attributes of God
     Stephen Charnock


     2. It is unaccountable how it should endure so long a time; that this policy should be so fortunate as to gain ground in the consciences of men, and exercise an empire over them, and meet with such an universal success. If the notion of a God were a stateengine, and introduced by some political grandees, for the ease of government, and preserving people with more facility in order, how comes it to pass the first broachers of it were never upon record? There is scarce a false opinion vented in the world, but may, as a stream, be traced to the first head and fountain. The inventors of particular forms of worship are known; and the reasons why they prescribed them known; but what grandee was the author of this? Who can pitch a time and person that sprung up this notion? If any be so insolent as to impose a cheat, he can hardly be supposed to be so successful as to deceive the whole world for many ages: impostures pass not free through the whole world without examination and discovery: falsities have not been universally and constantly owned without control and question. If a cheat imposeth upon some towns and countries, he will be found out by the more piercing inquiries of other places; and it is not easy to name any imposture that hath walked so long in its disguise in the world, without being unmasked and whipped out by some nation or other. If this had been a mere trick, there would have been as much craft in some to discern it as there was in others to contrive it. No man can be imagined so wise in a kingdom, but others may be found as wise as himself: and it is not conceivable, that so many clear-sighted men in all ages should be ignorant of it, and not endeavour to free the world from so great a falsity. It cannot be found that a trick of state should always beguile men of the most piercing insights, as well as the most credulous: that a few crafty men should befool all the wise men in the world, and the world lie in a belief of it and never like to be freed from it. What is the reason the succeeding politicians never knew this stratagem; since /their maxims are usually handed to their successors.

     This persuasion of the existence of God, owes not itself to any imposture or subtility of men: if it had not been agreeable to common nature and reason, it could not so long have borne sway. The imposed yoke would have been cast off by multitudes; men would not have charged themselves with that which was attended with consequences displeasing to the flesh, and hindered them from a full swing of their rebellious passions; such a shackle would have mouldered of itself, or been broke by the extravagances human nature is inclined unto. The wickedness of men, without question, hath prompted them to endeavour to unmask it, if it were a cosenage, but could never yet be so successful as to free the world from a persuasion, or their own consciences from the tincture of the existence of a Deity. It must be therefore of an ancienter date than the craft of statesmen, and descend into the world with the first appearance of human nature. Time, which hath rectified many errors, improves this notion, makes it shock down its roots deeper and spread its branches larger. It must be a natural truth that shines clear by the detection of those errors that have befooled the world, and the wit of man is never able to name any human author that first insinuated it into the beliefs of men.

     Thirdly, Nor was it fear first introduced it. Fear is the consequent of wickedness. As man was not created with any inherent sin, so he was not created with any terrifying fears; the one had been against the holiness of the Creator, the other against his goodness: fear did not make this opinion, but the opinion of the being of a Deity was the cause of this fear, after his sense of angering the Deity by his wickedness.

     The object of fear is before the act of fear; there could not be an act of fear exercised about the Deity, till it was believed to be existent, and not only so, but offended: for God as existent only, is not the object of fear or love; it is not the existence of a thing that excites any of those affections, but the relation a thing bears to us in particular. God is good, and so the object of love, as well as just, and thereby the object of fear. He was as much called Love, and Mens, or Mind, in regard of his goodness and understanding, by the heathens, as much as by any other name. Neither of those names were proper to insinuate fear; neither was fear the first principle that made the heathens worship a God; they offered sacrifices out of gratitude to some, as well as to other, out of fear; the fear of evils in the world, and the hopes of relief and assistance from their gods, and not a terrifying fear of God, was the principal spring of their worship. When calamities from the hands of men, or judgments by the influences of Heaven were upon them, they implored that which they thought a deity; it was not their fear of him, but a hope in his goodness, and persuasion of remedy from him, for the averting those evils that rendered them adorers of a God: if they had not had pre-existing notions of his being and goodness, they would never have made addresses to him, or so frequently sought to that they only apprehended as a terrifying object. When you hear men calling upon God in a time of affrighting thunder, you cannot imagine that the fear of thunder did first introduce the notion of a God, but implies, that it was before apprehended by them, or stamped upon them, though their fear doth at present actuate that belief, and engage them in a present exercise of piety; and whereas the Scripture saith, “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom,” or of all religion; it is not understood of a distracted and terrifying fear, but a reverential fear of him, because of his holiness; or a worship of him, a submission to him, and sincere seeking of him.

     Well, then, is it not a folly for an atheist to deny that which is the reason and common sentiment of the whole world; to strip himself of humanity, run counter to his own conscience, prefer a private before an universal judgment, give the lie to his own nature and reason, assert things impossible to be proved, nay, impossible to be acted, forge irrationalities for the support of his fancy against the common persuasion of the world, and against himself, and so much of God as is manifest in him and every man?

     Reason II. It is a folly to deny that which all creatures or all things in the world manifest Let us view this in Scripture, since we acknowledge it, and after consider the arguments from natural reason.

     The apostle resolves it (Rom. 1:19, 20), “The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” They know, or might know, by the things that were made, the eternity and power of God; their sense might take a circuit about every object, and their minds collect the being and something of the perfections of the Deity. The first discourse of the mind upon the sight of a delicate piece of workmanship, is the conclusion of the being of an artificer, and the admiration of his skill and industry. The apostle doth not say, the invisible things of God are believed, or they have an opinion of them, but they are seen, and clearly seen. They are like crystal glasses, which give a clear representation of the existence of a Deity, like that mirror, reported to be in a temple in Arcadia, which represented to the spectator, not his own face, but the image of that deity which he worshipped. The whole world is like a looking-glass, which, whole and entire, represents the image of God, and every broken piece of it, every little shred of a creature doth the like; not only the great ones, elephants and the leviathan, but ants, flies, worms, whose bodies rather than names we know: the greater cattle and the creeping things (Gen. 1:24); not naming there any intermediate creature, to direct us to view him in the smaller letters, as well as the greater characters of the world. His name is “glorious,” and his attributes are excellent “in all the earth” in every creature, as the glory of the sun is in every beam and smaller flash; he is seen in every insect, in every spire of grass. The voice of the Creator is in the most contemptible creature. The apostle adds, that they are so clearly seen, that men are inexcusable if they have not some knowledge of God by them; if they might not certainly know them, they might have some excuse: so that his existence is not only probably, but demonstratively proved from the things of the world.

     Especially the heavens declare him, which God “stretches out like a curtain,” or, as some render the word, a “skin,” whereby is signified, that heaven is as an open book, which was anciently made of the skins of beasts, that by the knowledge of them we may be taught the knowledge of God. Where Scripture was not revealed, the world served for a witness of a God; whatever arguments the Scripture uses to prove it, are drawn from nature (though, indeed, it doth not so much prove as suppose the existence of a God); but what arguments it uses are from the creatures, and particularly the heavens, which are the public preachers of this doctrine. The breath of God sounds to all the world through those organ-pipes. His being is visible in their existence, his wisdom in their frame, his power in their motion, his goodness in their usefulness. They have a voice, and their voice is as intelligible as any common language. And those are so plain heralds of a Deity, that the heathen mistook them for deities, and gave them a particular adoration, which was due to that God they declared. The first idolatry seems to be of those heavenly bodies, which began probably in the time of Nimrod. In Job’s time it is certain they admired the glory of the sun, and the brightness of the moon, not without kissing their hands, a sign of adoration. It is evident a man may as well doubt whether there be a sun, when he sees his beams gilding the earth, as doubt whether there be a God, when he sees his works spread in the world.

     The things in the world declare the existence of a God. 1. In their production. 2. Harmony. 3. Preservation. 4. Answering their several ends.

     First, In their production. The declaration of the existence of God was the chief end for which they were created, that the notion of a supreme and independent Eternal Being might easier incur into the active understanding of man from the objects of sense, dispersed in every corner of the world, that he might pay a homage and devotion to the Lord of all (Isa. 40:12, 13, 18, 19, &c.), “Have you not understood from the foundation of the earth, it is he that sits upon the circle of the heaven,” &c. How could this great heap be brought into being, unless a God had framed it? Every plant, every atom, as well as every star, at the first meeting, whispers this in our ears, “I have a Creator; I am witness to a Deity.”

     Who ever saw statues or pictures but presently thinks of a statuary and limner? Who beholds garments, ships, or houses, but understands there was a weaver, a carpenter, an architect? Who can cast his eyes about the world, but must think of that power that formed it, and that the goodness which appears in the formation of it hath a perfect residence in some being? “Those things that are good must flow from something perfectly good: that which is chief in any kind is the cause of all of that kind. Fire, which is most hot, is the cause of all things which are hot. There is some being, therefore, which is the cause of all that perfection which is in the creature; and this is God.” (Aquin. 1 qu. 2. Artic. 3.) All things that are demonstrate something from whence they are. All things have a contracted perfection, and what they have is communicated to them. Perfections are parcelled out among several creatures. Anything that is imperfect cannot exist of itself. We are led, therefore, by them to consider a fountain which bubbles up in all perfection; a hand which distributes those several degrees of being and perfection to what we see. We see that which is imperfect; our minds conclude something perfect to exist before it. Our eye sees the streams, but our understanding riseth to the head; as the eye sees the shadow, but the understanding informs us whether it be the shadow of a man or of a beast.

     God hath given us sense to behold the objects in the world, and understanding to reason his existence from them. The understanding cannot conceive a thing to have made itself; that is against all reason. As they are made, they speak out a Maker, and cannot be a trick of chance, since they are made with such an immense wisdom, that is too big for the grasp of all human understanding. Those that doubt whether the existence of God be an implanted principle, yet agree that the effects in the world lead to a supreme and universal cause; and that if we have not the knowledge of it rooted in our natures, yet we have it by discourse; since, by all masters of reason, a processus in infinitum must be accounted impossible in subordinate causes. This will appear in several things.

     I. The world and every creature had a beginning. The Scripture ascertains this to us. David, who was not the first man, gives the praise to God of his being “curiously wrought,” &c. (Ps. 139:14, 15.) God gave being to men, and plants, and beasts, before they gave being to one another. He gives being to them now as the Fountain of all being, though the several modes of being are from the several natures of second causes.

     It is true, indeed, we are ascertained that they were made by the true God; that they were made by his word; that they were made of nothing; and not only this lower world wherein we live, but, according to the Jewish division, the world of men, the world of stars, and the world of spirits and souls. We do not waver in it, or doubt of it, as the heathen did in their disputes; we know they are the workmanship of the true God, of that God we adore, not of false gods; “by his word,” without any instrument or engine, as in earthly structures; “of thngs which do not appear,” without any pre-existent matter, as all artificial works of men are framed. Yet the proof of the beginning of the world is affirmed with good reason; and if it had a beginning, it had also some higher cause than itself: every effect hath a cause.

     The world was not eternal, or from eternity. The matter of the world cannot be eternal. Matter cannot subsist without form, nor put on any form without the action of some cause. This cause must be in being before it acted; that which is not cannot act. The cause of the world must necessarily exist before any matter was endued with any form; that, therefore, cannot be eternal before which another did subsist; if it were from eternity, it would not be subject to mutation. If the whole was from eternity, why not also the parts; what makes the changes so visible, then, if eternity would exempt it from mutability?

     1. Time cannot be infinite, and, therefore, the world not eternal. All motion hath its beginning; if it were otherwise, we must say the number of heavenly revolutions of days and nights, which are past to this instant, is actually infinite, which cannot be in nature. If it were so, it must needs be granted that a part is equal to the whole; because infinite being equal to infinite, the number of days past, in all ages to the beginning of one year being infinite (as they would be, supposing the world had no beginning) would by consequence be equal to the number of days which shall pass to the end of the next; whereas that number of days past is indeed but a part; and so a part would be equal to the whole.

     2. Generations of men, animals, and plants, could not be from eternity. If any man say the world was from eternity, then there must be propagations of living creatures in the same manner as are at this day; for without this the world could not consist. What we see now done must have been prepetually done, if it be done by a necessity of nature; but we see nothing now that doth arise but by a mutual propagation from another. If the world were eternal, therefore, it must be so in all eternity. Take any particular species. Suppose a man, if men were from eternity; then there were perpetual generations—some were born into the world, and some died. Now the natural condition of generation is, that a man doth not generate a man, nor a sheep a lamb, as soon as ever itself is brought into the world; but get strength and vigor by degrees, and must arrive to a certain stated age before they can produce the like; for whilst any thing is little and below the due age, it cannot increase its kind. Men, therefore, and other creatures, did propagate their kind by the same law, not as soon as ever they were born, but in the interval of some time; and children grew up by degrees in the mother’s womb till they were fit to be brought forth. If this be so, then there could not be an eternal succession of propagating; for there is no eternal continuation of time. Time is always to be conceived as having one part before another; but that perpetuity of nativities is always after some time, wherein it could note for the weakness of age. If no man, then, can conceive a propagation from eternity, there must be then a beginning of generation in time, and, consequently, the creatures were made in time.

     “If the world were eternal, it must have been in the same posture as it is now, in a state of generation and corruption; and so corruption must have been as eternal as generation, and then things that do generate and corrupt must have eternally been and eternally not have been: there must be some first way to set generation on work.” We must lose ourselves in our conceptions; we cannot conceive a father before a child, as well as we cannot conceive a child before a father: and reason is quite bewildered, and cannot return into a right way of conception, till it conceive one first of every kind: one first man, one first animal, one first plant, from whence others do proceed. The argument is unanswerable, and the wisest atheist (if any atheist can be called wise) cannot unloose the knot. We must come to something that is first in every kind, and this first must have a cause, not of the same kind, but infinite and independent; otherwise men run into inconceivable labyrinths and contradictions.

     Man, the noblest creature upon earth, hath a beginning. No man in the world but was some years ago no man. If every man we see had a beginning, then the first man had also a beginning, then the world had a beginning: for the earth, which was made for the use of man, had wanted that end for which it was made. We must pitch upon some one man that was unborn; that first man must either be eternal; that cannot be, for he that hath no beginning hath no end; or must spring out of the earth as plants and trees do; that cannot be; why should not the earth produce men to this day, as it doth plants and trees? He was therefore made; and whatsoever is made hath some cause that made it, which is God. If the world were uncreated, it were then immutable, but every creature upon the earth is in a continual flux, always changing: if things be mutable, they were created; if created, they were made by some author: whatsoever hath a beginning must have a maker; if the world hath a beginning, there was then a time when it was not; it must have some cause to produce it. That which makes is before that which is made, and this is God.

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

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

     Sect. CVII. — BUT let us, I pray you, suppose that God ought to be such an one, who should have respect unto merit in those who are to be damned. Must we not, in like manner; also require and grant, that He ought to have respect unto merit in those who are to be saved? For if we are to follow Reason, it is equally unjust, that the undeserving should be crowned, as that the undeserving should be damned. We will conclude, therefore, that God ought to justify from merit preceding, or we will declare Him to be unjust, as being one who delights in evil and wicked men, and who invites and crowns their impiety by rewards. — And then, woe unto you, sensibly miserable sinners, under that God! For who among you can be saved!

     Behold, therefore, the iniquity of the human heart! When God saves the undeserving without merit, nay, justifies the impious with all their demerit, it does not accuse Him of iniquity, it does not expostulate with Him why He does it, although it is, in its own judgment, most iniquitous; but because it is to its own profit, and plausible, it considers it just and good. But when He damns the undeserving, this, because it is not to its own profit, is iniquitous; this is intolerable; here it expostulates, here it murmurs, here it blasphemes!

     You see, therefore, that the Diatribe, together with its friends, do not, in this cause, judge according to equity, but according to the feeling sense of their own profit. For, if they regarded equity, they would expostulate with God when He crowned the undeserving, as they expostulate with Him when He damns the undeserving. And also, they would equally praise and proclaim God when He damns the undeserving, as they do when He saves the undeserving; for the iniquity in either instance is the same, if our own opinion be regarded: — unless they mean to say, that the iniquity is not equal, whether you laud Cain for his fratricide and make him a king, or cast the innocent Abel into prison and murder him!

     Since, therefore, Reason praises God when He saves the undeserving, but accuses Him when He damns the undeserving; it stands convicted of not praising God as God, but as a certain one who serves its own profit; that is, it seeks, in God, itself and the things of itself, but seeks not God and the things of God. But if it be pleased with a God who crowns the undeserving, it ought not to be displeased with a God who damns the undeserving. For if He be just in the one instance, how shall He not be just in the other? seeing that, in the one instance, He pours forth grace and mercy upon the undeserving, and in the other, pours forth wrath and severity upon the undeserving? — He is, however, in both instances, monstrous and iniquitous in the sight of men; yet just and true in Himself. But, how it is just, that He should crown the undeserving, is incomprehensible now, but we shall see when we come there, where it will be no longer believed, but seen in revelation face to face. So also, how it is just, that He should damn the undeserving, is incomprehensible now, yet, we believe it, until the Son of Man shall be revealed!

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