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8/6/2018     Yesterday     Tomorrow
Judges 20     Acts 24     Jeremiah 34     Psalm 5-6


Judges 20

Israel's War with the Tribe of Benjamin

Judges 20 1 Then all the people of Israel came out, from Dan to Beersheba, including the land of Gilead, and the congregation assembled as one man to the Lord at Mizpah. 2 And the chiefs of all the people, of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, 400,000 men on foot that drew the sword. 3 (Now the people of Benjamin heard that the people of Israel had gone up to Mizpah.) And the people of Israel said, “Tell us, how did this evil happen?” 4 And the Levite, the husband of the woman who was murdered, answered and said, “I came to Gibeah that belongs to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to spend the night. 5 And the leaders of Gibeah rose against me and surrounded the house against me by night. They meant to kill me, and they violated my concubine, and she is dead. 6 So I took hold of my concubine and cut her in pieces and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel, for they have committed abomination and outrage in Israel. 7 Behold, you people of Israel, all of you, give your advice and counsel here.”

8 And all the people arose as one man, saying, “None of us will go to his tent, and none of us will return to his house. 9 But now this is what we will do to Gibeah: we will go up against it by lot, 10 and we will take ten men of a hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, and a hundred of a thousand, and a thousand of ten thousand, to bring provisions for the people, that when they come they may repay Gibeah of Benjamin for all the outrage that they have committed in Israel.” 11 So all the men of Israel gathered against the city, united as one man.

12 And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What evil is this that has taken place among you? 13 Now therefore give up the men, the worthless fellows in Gibeah, that we may put them to death and purge evil from Israel.” But the Benjaminites would not listen to the voice of their brothers, the people of Israel. 14 Then the people of Benjamin came together out of the cities to Gibeah to go out to battle against the people of Israel. 15 And the people of Benjamin mustered out of their cities on that day 26,000 men who drew the sword, besides the inhabitants of Gibeah, who mustered 700 chosen men. 16 Among all these were 700 chosen men who were left-handed; every one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss. 17 And the men of Israel, apart from Benjamin, mustered 400,000 men who drew the sword; all these were men of war.

18 The people of Israel arose and went up to Bethel and inquired of God, “Who shall go up first for us to fight against the people of Benjamin?” And the Lord said, “Judah shall go up first.”

19 Then the people of Israel rose in the morning and encamped against Gibeah. 20 And the men of Israel went out to fight against Benjamin, and the men of Israel drew up the battle line against them at Gibeah. 21 The people of Benjamin came out of Gibeah and destroyed on that day 22,000 men of the Israelites. 22 But the people, the men of Israel, took courage, and again formed the battle line in the same place where they had formed it on the first day. 23 And the people of Israel went up and wept before the Lord until the evening. And they inquired of the Lord, “Shall we again draw near to fight against our brothers, the people of Benjamin?” And the Lord said, “Go up against them.”

24 So the people of Israel came near against the people of Benjamin the second day. 25 And Benjamin went against them out of Gibeah the second day, and destroyed 18,000 men of the people of Israel. All these were men who drew the sword. 26 Then all the people of Israel, the whole army, went up and came to Bethel and wept. They sat there before the Lord and fasted that day until evening, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. 27 And the people of Israel inquired of the Lord (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, 28 and Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, ministered before it in those days), saying, “Shall we go out once more to battle against our brothers, the people of Benjamin, or shall we cease?” And the Lord said, “Go up, for tomorrow I will give them into your hand.”

29 So Israel set men in ambush around Gibeah. 30 And the people of Israel went up against the people of Benjamin on the third day and set themselves in array against Gibeah, as at other times. 31 And the people of Benjamin went out against the people and were drawn away from the city. And as at other times they began to strike and kill some of the people in the highways, one of which goes up to Bethel and the other to Gibeah, and in the open country, about thirty men of Israel. 32 And the people of Benjamin said, “They are routed before us, as at the first.” But the people of Israel said, “Let us flee and draw them away from the city to the highways.” 33 And all the men of Israel rose up out of their place and set themselves in array at Baal-tamar, and the men of Israel who were in ambush rushed out of their place from Maareh-geba. 34 And there came against Gibeah 10,000 chosen men out of all Israel, and the battle was hard, but the Benjaminites did not know that disaster was close upon them. 35 And the Lord defeated Benjamin before Israel, and the people of Israel destroyed 25,100 men of Benjamin that day. All these were men who drew the sword. 36 So the people of Benjamin saw that they were defeated.

The men of Israel gave ground to Benjamin, because they trusted the men in ambush whom they had set against Gibeah. 37 Then the men in ambush hurried and rushed against Gibeah; the men in ambush moved out and struck all the city with the edge of the sword. 38 Now the appointed signal between the men of Israel and the men in the main ambush was that when they made a great cloud of smoke rise up out of the city 39 the men of Israel should turn in battle. Now Benjamin had begun to strike and kill about thirty men of Israel. They said, “Surely they are defeated before us, as in the first battle.” 40 But when the signal began to rise out of the city in a column of smoke, the Benjaminites looked behind them, and behold, the whole of the city went up in smoke to heaven. 41 Then the men of Israel turned, and the men of Benjamin were dismayed, for they saw that disaster was close upon them. 42 Therefore they turned their backs before the men of Israel in the direction of the wilderness, but the battle overtook them. And those who came out of the cities were destroying them in their midst. 43 Surrounding the Benjaminites, they pursued them and trod them down from Nohah as far as opposite Gibeah on the east. 44 Eighteen thousand men of Benjamin fell, all of them men of valor. 45 And they turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon. Five thousand men of them were cut down in the highways. And they were pursued hard to Gidom, and 2,000 men of them were struck down. 46 So all who fell that day of Benjamin were 25,000 men who drew the sword, all of them men of valor. 47 But 600 men turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon and remained at the rock of Rimmon four months. 48 And the men of Israel turned back against the people of Benjamin and struck them with the edge of the sword, the city, men and beasts and all that they found. And all the towns that they found they set on fire.


Acts 24

Paul Before Felix at Caesarea

Acts 24 1 And after five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and a spokesman, one Tertullus. They laid before the governor their case against Paul. 2 And when he had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying:

“Since through you we enjoy much peace, and since by your foresight, most excellent Felix, reforms are being made for this nation, 3 in every way and everywhere we accept this with all gratitude. 4 But, to detain you no further, I beg you in your kindness to hear us briefly. 5 For we have found this man a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. 6 He even tried to profane the temple, but we seized him. 8 By examining him yourself you will be able to find out from him about everything of which we accuse him.”

9 The Jews also joined in the charge, affirming that all these things were so.

10 And when the governor had nodded to him to speak, Paul replied:

“Knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation, I cheerfully make my defense. 11 You can verify that it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem, 12 and they did not find me disputing with anyone or stirring up a crowd, either in the temple or in the synagogues or in the city. 13 Neither can they prove to you what they now bring up against me. 14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, 15 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. 16 So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man. 17 Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings. 18 While I was doing this, they found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult. But some Jews from Asia— 19 they ought to be here before you and to make an accusation, should they have anything against me. 20 Or else let these men themselves say what wrongdoing they found when I stood before the council, 21 other than this one thing that I cried out while standing among them: ‘It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day.’”

Paul Kept in Custody

22 But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.” 23 Then he gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody but have some liberty, and that none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs.

24 After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.” 26 At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him. 27 When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.


Jeremiah 34

Zedekiah to Die in Babylon

Jeremiah 34 1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army and all the kingdoms of the earth under his dominion and all the peoples were fighting against Jerusalem and all of its cities: 2 “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Go and speak to Zedekiah king of Judah and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: Behold, I am giving this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire. 3 You shall not escape from his hand but shall surely be captured and delivered into his hand. You shall see the king of Babylon eye to eye and speak with him face to face. And you shall go to Babylon.’ 4 Yet hear the word of the Lord, O Zedekiah king of Judah! Thus says the Lord concerning you: ‘You shall not die by the sword. 5 You shall die in peace. And as spices were burned for your fathers, the former kings who were before you, so people shall burn spices for you and lament for you, saying, “Alas, lord!”’ For I have spoken the word, declares the Lord.”

6 Then Jeremiah the prophet spoke all these words to Zedekiah king of Judah, in Jerusalem, 7 when the army of the king of Babylon was fighting against Jerusalem and against all the cities of Judah that were left, Lachish and Azekah, for these were the only fortified cities of Judah that remained.

8 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people in Jerusalem to make a proclamation of liberty to them, 9 that everyone should set free his Hebrew slaves, male and female, so that no one should enslave a Jew, his brother. 10 And they obeyed, all the officials and all the people who had entered into the covenant that everyone would set free his slave, male or female, so that they would not be enslaved again. They obeyed and set them free. 11 But afterward they turned around and took back the male and female slaves they had set free, and brought them into subjection as slaves. 12 The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 13 “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I myself made a covenant with your fathers when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, saying, 14 ‘At the end of seven years each of you must set free the fellow Hebrew who has been sold to you and has served you six years; you must set him free from your service.’ But your fathers did not listen to me or incline their ears to me. 15 You recently repented and did what was right in my eyes by proclaiming liberty, each to his neighbor, and you made a covenant before me in the house that is called by my name, 16 but then you turned around and profaned my name when each of you took back his male and female slaves, whom you had set free according to their desire, and you brought them into subjection to be your slaves.

17 “Therefore, thus says the Lord: You have not obeyed me by proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother and to his neighbor; behold, I proclaim to you liberty to the sword, to pestilence, and to famine, declares the Lord. I will make you a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth. 18 And the men who transgressed my covenant and did not keep the terms of the covenant that they made before me, I will make them like the calf that they cut in two and passed between its parts— 19 the officials of Judah, the officials of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, the priests, and all the people of the land who passed between the parts of the calf. 20 And I will give them into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of those who seek their lives. Their dead bodies shall be food for the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth. 21 And Zedekiah king of Judah and his officials I will give into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of those who seek their lives, into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon which has withdrawn from you. 22 Behold, I will command, declares the Lord, and will bring them back to this city. And they will fight against it and take it and burn it with fire. I will make the cities of Judah a desolation without inhabitant.”


Psalm 5

Lead Me in Your Righteousness

To the choirmaster: for the flutes. A Psalm of David.

  See Psalm 5 article below   Psalm 5 1 Give ear to my words, O Lord;
consider my groaning.
2 Give attention to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to you do I pray.
3 O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.

4 For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil may not dwell with you.
5 The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers.
6 You destroy those who speak lies;
the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

7 But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
will enter your house.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
in the fear of you.
8 Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness
because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me.

9 For there is no truth in their mouth;
their inmost self is destruction;
their throat is an open grave;
they flatter with their tongue.
10 Make them bear their guilt, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;
because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out,
for they have rebelled against you.

11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may exult in you.
12 For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
you cover him with favor as with a shield.


Psalm 6

O Lord, Deliver My Life

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments; according to The Sheminith. A Psalm of David.

  See Psalm 6 article below   Psalm 6 1 O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath.
2 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.
3 My soul also is greatly troubled.
But you, O Lord—how long?

4 Turn, O Lord, deliver my life;
save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
5 For in death there is no remembrance of you;
in Sheol who will give you praise?

6 I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
7 My eye wastes away because of grief;
it grows weak because of all my foes.

8 Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
9 The Lord has heard my plea;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled;
they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.

The Reformation Study Bible


What I'm Reading

Psalm 5 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

TITLE. "To the Chief Musician upon Nehiloth, a Psalm of David." The Hebrew word Nehiloth is taken from another word, signifying "to perforate;" "to bore through," whence it comes to mean a pipe or a flute; so that this song was probably intended to be sung with an accompaniment of wind instruments, such as the horn, the trumpet, flute, or cornet. However, it is proper to remark that we are not sure of the interpretation of these ancient titles, for the Septuagint translates it, "For him who shall obtain inheritance," and Aben Ezra thinks it denotes some old and well known melody to which this Psalm was to be played. The best scholars confess that great darkness hangs over the precise interpretation of the title; nor is this much to be regretted, for it furnishes an internal evidence of the great antiquity of the Book. Throughout the first, second, third, and forth Psalms, you will have noticed that the subject is a contrast between the position, the character, and the prospects of the righteous and of the wicked. In this Psalm you will note the same. The Psalmist carries out a contrast between himself made righteous by God's grace, and the wicked who opposed him. To the devout mind there is here presented a precious view of the Lord Jesus, of whom it is said that in the days of his flesh, he offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears.

DIVISION. The Psalm should be divided into two parts, from the first to the seventh verse, and then from the eighth to the twelfth. In the first part of the Psalm David most vehemently beseeches the Lord to hearken to his prayer, and in the second part he retraces the same ground.



EXPOSITION

     Verse 1. There are two sorts of prayers—those expressed in words, and the unuttered longings which abide as silent meditations. Words are not the essence but the garments of prayer. Moses at the Red Sea cried to God, though he said nothing. Yet the use of language may prevent distraction of mind, may assist the powers of the soul, and may excite devotion. David, we observe, uses both modes of prayer, and craves for the one a hearing, and for the other a consideration. What an expressive word! "Consider my meditation." If I have asked that which is right, give it to me; if I have omitted to ask that which I most needed, fill up the vacancy in my prayer. "Consider my meditation." Let thy holy soul consider it as presented through my all-glorious Mediator: then regard thou it in thy wisdom, weigh it in the scales, judge thou of my sincerity, and of the true state of my necessities, and answer me in due time for thy mercy's sake! There may be prevailing intercession where there are no words; and alas! there may be words where there is no true supplication. Let us cultivate the spirit of prayer which is even better than the habit of prayer. There may be seeming prayer where there is little devotion. We should begin to pray before we kneel down, and we should not cease when we rise up.

     Verse 2. "The voice of my cry." In another Psalm we find the expression, "The voice of my weeping." Weeping has a voice—a melting, plaintive tone, an ear-piercing shrillness, which reaches the very heart of God; and crying hath a voice—a soul-moving eloquence; coming from our heart it reaches God's heart. Ah! my brothers and sisters, sometimes we cannot put our prayers into words: they are nothing but a cry: but the Lord can comprehend the meaning, for he hears a voice in our cry. To a loving father his children's cries are music, and they have a magic influence which his heart cannot resist. "My King, and my God." Observe carefully these little pronouns, "my King, and my God." They are the pith and marrow of the plea. Here is a grand argument why God should answer prayer—because he is our King and our God. We are not aliens to him: he is the King of our country. Kings are expected to hear the appeals of their own people. We are not strangers to him; we are his worshippers, and he is our God: ours by covenant, by promise, by oath, by blood.

     "For unto thee will I pray." Here David expresses his declaration that he will seek to God, and to God alone. God is to be the only object of worship: the only resource of our soul in times of need. Leave broken cisterns to the godless, and let the godly drink from the Divine fountain alone. "Unto thee will I pray." He makes a resolution, that as long as he lived he would pray. He would never cease to supplicate, even though the answer should not come.

     Verse 3. Observe, this is not so much a prayer as a resolution, "'My voice shalt thou hear;' I will not be dumb, I will not be silent, I will not withhold my speech, I will cry to thee for the fire that dwells within compels me to pray." We can sooner die than live without prayer. None of God's children are possessed with a dumb devil.

     "In the morning." This is the fittest time for intercourse with God. An hour in the morning is worth two in the evening. While the dew is on the grass, let grace drop upon the soul. Let us give to God the mornings of our days and the morning of our lives. Prayer should be the key of the day and the lock of the night. Devotion should be both the morning star and the evening star.

     If we merely read our English version, and want an explanation of these two sentences, we find it in the figure of an archer, "I will direct my prayer unto thee," I will put my prayer upon the bow, I will direct it towards heaven, and then when I have shot up my arrow, I will look up to see where it has gone. But the Hebrew has a still fuller meaning than this—"I will direct my prayer." It is the word that is used for the laying in order of the wood and the pieces of the victim upon the altar, and it is used also for the putting of the shewbread upon the table. It means just this: "I will arrange my prayer before thee;" I will lay it out upon the altar in the morning, just as the priest lays out the morning sacrifice. I will arrange my prayer; or, as old Master Trapp has it, "I will marshall up my prayers," I will put them in order, call up all my powers, and bid them stand in their proper places, that I may pray with all my might, and pray acceptably.

     "And will look up," or, as the Hebrew might better be translated, "'I will look out,' I will look out for the answer; after I have prayed, I will expect that the blessing shall come." It is a word that is used in another place where we read of those who watched for the morning. So will I watch for thine answer, O my Lord! I will spread out my prayer like the victim on the altar, and I will look up, and expect to receive the answer by fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice.

     Two questions are suggested by the last part of this verse. Do we not miss very much of the sweetness and efficacy of prayer by a want of careful meditation before it, and of hopeful expectation after it? We too often rush into the presence of God without forethought or humility. We are like men who present themselves before a king without a petition, and what wonder is it that we often miss the end of prayer? We should be careful to keep the stream of meditation always running; for this is the water to drive the mill of prayer. It is idle to pull up the flood-gates of a dry brook, and then hope to see the wheel revolve. Prayer without fervency is like hunting with a dead dog, and prayer without preparation is hawking with a blind falcon. Prayer is the work of the Holy Spirit, but he works by means. God made man, but he used the dust of the earth as a material: the Holy Ghost is the author of prayer, but he employs the thoughts of a fervent soul as the gold with which to fashion the vessel. Let not our prayers and praises be the flashes of a hot and hasty brain, but the steady burning of a well-kindled fire.

     But, furthermore, do we not forget to watch the result of our supplications? We are like the ostrich, which lays her eggs and looks not for her young. We sow the seed, and are too idle to seek a harvest. How can we expect the Lord to open the windows of his grace, and pour us out a blessing, if we will not open the windows of expectation and look up for the promised favour? Let holy preparation link hands with patient expectation, and we shall have far larger answers to our prayers.

     Verse 4. And now the Psalmist having thus expressed his resolution to pray, you hear him putting up his prayer. He is pleading against his cruel and wicked enemies. He uses a most mighty argument. He begs of God to put them away from him, because they were displeasing to God himself. "For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee." "When I pray against my tempters," says David, "I pray against the very things which thou thyself abhorrest." Thou hatest evil: Lord, I beseech thee, deliver me from it!

     Let us learn here the solemn truth of the hatred which a righteous God must bear toward sin. He has no pleasure in wickedness, however wittily, grandly, and proudly it may array itself. Its glitter has no charm for him. Men may bow before successful villainy, and forget the wickedness of the battle in the gaudiness of the triumph, but the Lord of Holiness is not such-an-one as we are. "Neither shall evil dwell with thee." He will not afford it the meanest shelter. Neither on earth nor in heaven shall evil share the mansion of God. Oh, how foolish are we if we attempt to entertain two guests so hostile to one another as Christ Jesus and the devil! Rest assured, Christ will not live in the parlour of our hearts if we entertain the devil in the cellar of our thoughts.

     Verse 5. "The foolish shall not stand in thy sight." Sinners are fools written large. A little sin is a great folly, and the greatest of all folly is great sin. Such sinful fools as these must be banished from the court of heaven. Earthly kings were wont to have fools in their trains, but the only wise God will have no fools in his palace above. "Thou hatest all workers of iniquity." It is not a little dislike, but a thorough hatred which God bears to workers of iniquity. To be hated of God is an awful thing. O let us be very faithful in warning the wicked around us, for it will be a terrible thing for them to fall into the hands of an angry God!

     Verse 6. Observe, that evil speakers must be punished as well as evil workers, for "thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing." All liars shall have their portion in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone. A man may lie without danger of the law of man, but he will not escape the law of God. Liars have short wings, their flight shall soon be over, and they shall fall into the fiery floods of destruction. "The Lord will abhor the bloody and deceitful man." Bloody men shall be made drunk with their own blood, and they who began by deceiving others shall end with being deceived themselves. Our old proverb saith, "Bloody and deceitful men dig their own graves." The voice of the people is in this instance the voice of God. How forcible is the word abhor! Does it not show us how powerful and deep-seated is the hatred of the Lord against the workers of iniquity?

     Verse 7. With this verse the first part of the Psalm ends. The Psalmist has bent his knee in prayer; he has described before God, as an argument for his deliverance, the character and the fate of the wicked; and now he contrasts this with the condition of the righteous. "But as for me, I will come into thy house." I will not stand at a distance, I will come into thy sanctuary, just as a child comes into his father's house. But I will not come there by my own merits; no, I have a multitude of sins, and therefore I will come in the multitude of thy mercy. I will approach thee with confidence because of thy immeasurable grace. God's judgments are all numbered, but his mercies are innumerable; he gives his wrath by weight, but without weight his mercy. "And in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple,"—towards the temple of thy holiness. The temple was not built on earth at that time; it was but a tabernacle; but David was wont to turn his eyes spiritually to that temple of God's holiness where between the wings of the Cherubim Jehovah dwells in light ineffable. Daniel opened his window toward Jerusalem, but we open our hearts toward heaven.

     Verse 8. Now we come to the second part, in which the Psalmist repeats his arguments, and goes over the same ground again.

     "Lead me, O Lord," as a little child is led by its father, as a blind man is guided by his friend. It is safe and pleasant walking when God leads the way. "In thy righteousness," not in my righteousness, for that is imperfect, but in thine, for thou art righteousness itself. "Make thy way," not my way, "straight before my face." Brethren, when we have learned to give up our own way, and long to walk in God's way, it is a happy sign of grace; and it is no small mercy to see the way of God with clear vision straight before our face. Errors about duty may lead us into a sea of sins, before we know where we are.

     Verse 9. This description of depraved man has been copied by the Apostle Paul, and, together with some other quotations, he has placed it in the second chapter of Romans, as being an accurate description of the whole human race, not of David's enemies only, but of all men by nature. Note that remarkable figure, "Their throat is an open sepulchre," a sepulchre full of loathsomeness, of miasma, of pestilence and death. But, worse than that, it is an open sepulchre, with all its evil gases issuing forth, to spread death and destruction all around. So, with the throat of the wicked, it would be a great mercy if it could always be closed. If we could seal in continual silence the mouth of the wicked it would be like a sepulchre shut up, and would not produce much mischief. But, "their throat is an open sepulchre," consequently all the wickedness of their heart exhales, and comes forth. How dangerous is an open sepulchre; men in their journeys might easily stumble therein, and find themselves among the dead. Ah! take heed of the wicked man, for there is nothing that he will not say to ruin you; he will long to destroy your character, and bury you in the hideous sepulchre of his own wicked throat. One sweet thought here, however. At the resurrection there will be a resurrection not only of bodies, but characters. This should be a great comfort to a man who has been abused and slandered. "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun." The world may think you vile, and bury your character; but if you have been upright, in the day when the graves shall give up their dead, this open sepulchre of the sinner's throat shall be compelled to give up your heavenly character, and you shall come forth and be honoured in the sight of men. "They flatter with their tongue." Or, as we might read it, "They have an oily tongue, a smooth tongue." A smooth tongue is a great evil; many have been bewitched by it. There be many human ant-eaters that with their long tongues covered with oily words entice and entrap the unwary and make their gain thereby. When the wolf licks the lamb, he is preparing to wet his teeth in its blood.

     Verse 10. "Against thee:" not against me. If they were my enemies I would forgive them, but I cannot forgive thine. We are to forgive our enemies, but God's enemies it is not in our power to forgive. These expressions have often been noticed by men of over refinement as being harsh, and grating on the ear. "Oh!" say they, "they are vindictive and revengeful." Let us remember that they might be translated as prophecies, not as wishes; but we do not care to avail ourselves of this method of escape. We have never heard of a reader of the Bible who, after perusing these passages, was made revengeful by reading them, and it is but fair to test the nature of a writing by its effects. When we hear a judge condemning a murderer, however severe his sentence, we do not feel that we should be justified in condemning others for any private injury done to us. The Psalmist here speaks as a judge, ex officio; he speaks as God's mouth, and in condemning the wicked he gives us no excuse whatever for uttering anything in the way of malediction upon those who have caused us personal offence. The most shameful way of cursing another is by pretending to bless him. We were all somewhat amused by noticing the toothless malice of that wretched old priest of Rome, when he foolishly cursed the Emperor of France with his blessing. He was blessing him in form and cursing him in reality. Now, in direct contrast we put this healthy commination of David, which is intended to be a blessing by warning the sinner of the impending curse. O impenitent man, be it known unto thee that all thy godly friends will give their solemn assent to the awful sentence of the Lord, which he shall pronounce upon thee in the day of doom! Our verdict shall applaud the condemning curse which the Judge of all the earth shall thunder against the godless.

     In the following verse we once more find the contrast which has marked the preceeding Psalms.

     Verse 11. Joy is the privilege of the believer. When sinners are destroyed our rejoicing shall be full. They laugh first and weep ever after; we weep now, but shall rejoice eternally. When they howl we shall shout, and as they must groan for ever, so shall we ever shout for joy. This holy bliss of ours has a firm foundation, for, O Lord, we are joyful in thee. The eternal God is the well-spring of our bliss. We love God, and therefore we delight in him. Our heart is at ease in our God. We fare sumptuously every day because we feed on him. We have music in the house, music in the heart, and music in heaven, for the Lord Jehovah is our strength and our song; he also is become our salvation.

     Verse 12. Jehovah has ordained his people the heirs of blessedness, and nothing shall rob them of their inheritance. With all the fulness of his power he will bless them, and all his attributes shall unite to satiate them with divine contentment. Nor is this merely for the present, but the blessing reaches into the long and unknown future. "Thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous." This is a promise of infinite length, of unbounded breadth, and of unutterable preciousness. As for the defence which the believer needs in this land of battles, it is here promised to him in the fullest measure. There were vast shields used by the ancients as extensive as a man's whole person, which would surround him entirely. So says David, "With favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield." According to Ainsworth there is here also the idea of being crowned, so that we wear a royal helmet, which is at once our glory and defence. O Lord, ever give to us this gracious coronation!

The Treasury of David (3 Volumes Set)

     Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) served for 30 years at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. He was the great Victorian preacher and was one of the most influential people of the second half of the 19th Century. At the heart of his desire to preach was a fierce love of people, a desire that meant he did not neglect his pastoral ministry. It is estimated that during his lifetime he spoke to 10 million people, and he became known as the "Prince of Preachers." His works fill over 60 volumes; and more than a century after his death, his sermons and devotional texts continue to challenge and touch Christians and non-Christians alike with their biblical grounding, eloquent text, and simple encouragement. Among his published books are  Lectures To My StudentsThe Treasury of David (3 Volumes Set),  a devotional commentary on the Psalms;  All of Grace: Revised & updated , the first Christian pocket-paperback published in the United States; numerous volumes of topical sermon collections; and the best-selling  Morning And Evening (Daily Readings).

Psalm 6 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

TITLE. This Psalm is commonly known as the first of the PENITENTIAL PSALMS, (The other six are 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143) and certainly its language well becomes the lip of a penitent, for it expresses at once the sorrow, (verses 3, 6, 7), the humiliation (verses 2 and 4), and the hatred of sin (verse 8), which are the unfailing marks of the contrite spirit when it turns to God. O Holy Spirit, beget in us the true repentance which needeth not to be repented of. The title of this Psalm is "To the chief Musician on Neginoth upon Sheminith (1 Chronicle 15:21), A Psalm of David," that is, to the chief musician with stringed instruments, upon the eighth, probably the octave. Some think it refers to the bass or tenor key, which would certainly be well adapted to this mournful ode. But we are not able to understand these old musical terms, and even the term "Selah," still remains untranslated. This, however, should be no difficulty in our way. We probably lose but very little by our ignorance, and it may serve to confirm our faith. It is a proof of the high antiquity of these Psalms that they contain words, the meaning of which is lost even to the best scholars of the Hebrew language. Surely these are but incidental (accidental I might almost say, if I did not believe them to be designed by God), proofs of their being, what they profess to be, the ancient writings of King David of olden times.

DIVISION. You will observe that the Psalm is readily divided into two parts. First, there is the Psalmist's plea in his great distress, reaching from the first to the end of the seventh verse. Then you have, from the eighth to the end, quite a different theme. The Psalmist has changed his note. He leaves the minor key, and betakes himself to sublimer strains. He tunes his note to the high key of confidence, and declares that God hath heard his prayer, and hath delivered him out of all his troubles.


EXPOSITION

     Verse 1. Having read through the first division, in order to see it as a whole, we will now look at it verse by verse. "O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger." The Psalmist is very conscious that he deserves to be rebuked, and he feels, moreover, that the rebuke in some form or other must come upon him, if not for condemnation, yet for conviction and sanctification. "Corn is cleaned with wind, and the soul with chastenings." It were folly to pray against the golden hand which enriches us by its blows. He does not ask that the rebuke may be totally withheld, for he might thus lose a blessing in disguise; but, "Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger." If thou remindest me of my sin, it is good; but, oh, remind me not of it as one incensed against me, lest thy servant's heart should sink in despair. Thus saith Jeremiah, "O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing." I know that I must be chastened, and though I shrink from the rod yet do I feel that it will be for my benefit; but, oh, my God, "chasten me not in thy hot displeasure," lest the rod become a sword, and lest in smiting, thou shouldest also kill. So may we pray that the chastisements of our gracious God, if they may not be entirely removed, may at least be sweetened by the consciousness that they are "not in anger, but in his dear covenant love."

     Verse 2. "Have mercy upon me, O Lord; for I am weak." Though I deserve destruction, yet let thy mercy pity my frailty. This is the right way to plead with God if we would prevail. Urge not your goodness or your greatness, but plead your sin and your littleness. Cry, "I am weak," therefore, O Lord, give me strength and crush me not. Send not forth the fury of thy tempest against so weak a vessel. Temper the wind to the shorn lamb. Be tender and pitiful to a poor withering flower, and break it not from its stem. Surely this is the plea that a sick man would urge to move the pity of his fellow if he were striving with him, "Deal gently with me, 'for I am weak.'" A sense of sin had so spoiled the Psalmist's pride, so taken away his vaunted strength, that he found himself weak to obey the law, weak through the sorrow that was in him, too weak, perhaps, to lay hold on the promise. "I am weak." The original may be read, "I am one who droops," or withered like a blighted plant. Ah! beloved, we know what this means, for we, too, have seen our glory stained, and our beauty like a faded flower.

     Verse 3. "O Lord, heal me; for my bones are vexed." Here he prays for healing, not merely the mitigation of the ills he endured, but their entire removal, and the curing of the wounds which had arisen therefrom. His bones were "shaken," as the Hebrew has it. His terror had become so great that his very bones shook; not only did his flesh quiver, but the bones, the solid pillars of the house of manhood, were made to tremble. "My bones are shaken." Ah, when the soul has a sense of sin, it is enough to make the bones shake; it is enough to make a man's hair stand up on end to see the flames of hell beneath him, an angry God above him, and danger and doubt surrounding him. Well might he say, "My bones are shaken." Lest, however, we should imagine that it was merely bodily sickness— although bodily sickness might be the outward sign—the Psalmist goes on to say, "My soul is also sore vexed." Soul-trouble is the very soul of trouble. It matters not that the bones shake if the soul be firm, but when the soul itself is also sore vexed this is agony indeed. "But thou, O Lord, how long?" This sentence ends abruptly, for words failed, and grief drowned the little comfort which dawned upon him. The Psalmist had still, however, some hope; but that hope was only in his God. He therefore cries, "O Lord, how long?" The coming of Christ into the soul in his priestly robes of grace is the grand hope of the penitent soul; and, indeed, in some form or other, Christ's appearance is, and ever has been, the hope of the saints.

     Calvin's favourite exclamation was, "Domine usquequo"—"O Lord, how long?" Nor could his sharpest pains, during a life of anguish, force from him any other word. Surely this is the cry of the saints under the altar, "O Lord, how long?" And this should be the cry of the saints waiting for the millennial glories, "Why are his chariots so long in coming; Lord, how long?" Those of us who have passed through conviction of sin knew what it was to count our minutes hours, and our hours years, while mercy delayed its coming. We watched for the dawn of grace, as they that watch for the morning. Earnestly did our anxious spirits ask, "O Lord, how long?"

     Verse 4. "Return, O Lord; deliver my soul." As God's absence was the main cause of his misery, so his return would be enough to deliver him from his trouble. "Oh save me for thy mercies' sake." He knows where to look, and what arm to lay hold upon. He does not lay hold on God's left hand of justice, but on his right hand of mercy. He knew his iniquity too well to think of merit, or appeal to anything but the grace of God.

     "For thy mercies' sake." What a plea that is! How prevalent it is with God! If we turn to justice, what plea can we urge? but if we turn to mercy we may still cry, notwithstanding the greatness of our guilt, "Save me for thy mercies' sake."

     Observe how frequently David here pleads the name of Jehovah, which is always intended where the word LORD is given in capitals. Five times in four verses we here meet with it. Is not this a proof that the glorious name is full of consolation to the tempted saint? Eternity, Infinity, Immutability, Self-existence, are all in the name Jehovah, and all are full of comfort.

     Verse 5. And now David was in great fear of death—death temporal, and perhaps death eternal. Read the passage as you will, the following verse is full of power. "For in death there is no remembrance of thee; in the grave who shall give thee thanks?" Churchyards are silent places; the vaults of the sepulchre echo not with songs. Damp earth covers dumb mouths. "O Lord!" saith he, "if thou wilt spare me I will praise thee. If I die, then must my mortal praise at least be suspended; and if I perish in hell, then thou wilt never have any thanksgiving from me. Songs of gratitude cannot rise from the flaming pit of hell. True, thou wilt doubtless be glorified, even in my eternal condemnation, but then O Lord, I cannot glorify thee voluntarily; and among the sons of men, there will be one heart the less to bless thee." Ah! poor trembling sinners, may the Lord help you to use this forcible argument! It is for God's glory that a sinner should be saved. When we seek pardon, we are not asking God to do that which will stain his banner, or put a blot on his escutcheon. He delighteth in mercy. It is his peculiar, darling attribute. Mercy honours God. Do not we ourselves say, "Mercy blesseth him that gives, and him that takes?" And surely, in some diviner sense, this is true of God, who, when he gives mercy, glorifies himself.

     Verse 6. The Psalmist gives a fearful description of his long agony: "I am weary with my groaning." He has groaned till his throat was hoarse; he had cried for mercy till prayer became a labour. God's people may groan, but they may not grumble. Yea, they must groan, being burdened, or they will never shout in the day of deliverance. The next sentence, we think, is not accurately translated. It should be, "I shall make my bed to swim every night" (when nature needs rest, and when I am most alone with my God). That is to say, my grief is fearful even now, but if God do not soon save me, it will not stay of itself, but will increase, until my tears will be so many, that my bed itself shall swim. A description rather of what he feared would be, than of what had actually taken place. May not our forebodings of future woe become arguments which faith may urge when seeking present mercy?

     Verse 7. "I water my couch with my tears. Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all my enemies." As an old man's eye grows dim with years, so, says David, my eye is grown red and feeble through weeping. Conviction sometimes has such an effect upon the body, that even the outward organs are made to suffer. May not this explain some of the convulsions and hysterical attacks which have been experienced under convictions in the revivals in Ireland? Is it surprising that some souls be smitten to the earth, and begin to cry aloud; when we find that David himself made his bed to swim, and grew old while he was under the heavy hand of God? Ah! brethren, it is no light matter to feel one's self a sinner, condemned at the bar of God. The language of this Psalm is not strained and forced, but perfectly natural to one in so sad a plight.

     Verse 8. Hitherto, all has been mournful and disconsolate, but now—

"Your harps, ye trembling saints,
Down from the willows take."

Ye must have your times of weeping, but let them be short. Get ye up, get ye up, from your dunghills! Cast aside your sackcloth and ashes! Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

     David has found peace, and rising from his knees he begins to sweep his house of the wicked. "Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity." The best remedy for us against an evil man is a long space between us both. "Get ye gone; I can have no fellowship with you." Repentance is a practical thing. It is not enough to bemoan the desecration of the temple of the heart, we must scourge out the buyers and sellers, and overturn the tables of the money changers. A pardoned sinner will hate the sins which cost the Saviour his blood. Grace and sin are quarrelsome neighbours, and one or the other must go to the wall.

     "For the Lord hath hear the voice of my weeping." What a fine Hebraism, and what grand poetry it is in English! "He hath heard the voice of my weeping." Is there a voice in weeping? Does weeping speak? In what language doth it utter its meaning? Why, in that universal tongue which is known and understood in all the earth, and even in heaven above. When a man weeps, whether he be a Jew or Gentile, Barbarian, Scythian, bond or free, it has the same meaning in it. Weeping is the eloquence of sorrow. It is an unstammering orator, needing no interpreter, but understood of all. Is it not sweet to believe that our tears are understood even when words fail? Let us learn to think of tears as liquid prayers, and of weeping as a constant dropping of importunate intercession which will wear its way right surely into the very heart of mercy, despite the stony difficulties which obstruct the way. My God, I will "weep" when I cannot plead, for thou hearest the voice of my weeping.

     Verse 9. "The Lord hath heard my supplication." The Holy Spirit had wrought into the Psalmist's mind the confidence that his prayer was heard. This is frequently the privilege of the saints. Praying the prayer of faith, they are often infallibly assured that they have prevailed with God. We read of Luther that, having on one occasion wrestled hard with God in prayer, he came leaping out of his closet crying, "Vicimus, vicimus;" that is, We have conquered, we have prevailed with God." Assured confidence is no idle dream, for when the Holy Ghost bestows it upon us, we know its reality, and could not doubt it, even though all men should deride our boldness. "The Lord will receive my prayer." Here is past experience used for future encouragement. He hath, he will. Note this, O believer, and imitate its reasoning.

     Verse 10. "Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed." This is rather a prophecy than an imprecation, it may be read in the future, "All my enemies shall be ashamed and sore vexed." They shall return and be ashamed instantaneously,—in a moment;—their doom shall come upon them suddenly. Death's day is doom's day, and both are sure and may be sudden. The Romans were wont to say, "The feet of the avenging Deity are shod with wool." With noiseless footsteps vengeance nears its victim, and sudden and overwhelming shall be its destroying stroke. If this were an imprecation, we must remember that the language of the old dispensation is not that of the new. We pray for our enemies, not against them. God have mercy on them, and bring them into the right way.

     Thus the Psalm, like those which preceed it, shews the different estates of the godly and the wicked. O Lord, let us be numbered with thy people, both now and forever!

The Treasury of David (3 Volumes Set)

     Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) served for 30 years at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. He was the great Victorian preacher and was one of the most influential people of the second half of the 19th Century. At the heart of his desire to preach was a fierce love of people, a desire that meant he did not neglect his pastoral ministry. It is estimated that during his lifetime he spoke to 10 million people, and he became known as the "Prince of Preachers." His works fill over 60 volumes; and more than a century after his death, his sermons and devotional texts continue to challenge and touch Christians and non-Christians alike with their biblical grounding, eloquent text, and simple encouragement. Among his published books are  Lectures To My StudentsThe Treasury of David (3 Volumes Set),  a devotional commentary on the Psalms;  All of Grace: Revised & updated , the first Christian pocket-paperback published in the United States; numerous volumes of topical sermon collections; and the best-selling  Morning And Evening (Daily Readings).

Don’t Waste Your Cancer: An Interview with Matt Chandler

By Matt Chandler 7/1/2011

     Tabletalk: By way of offering a brief introduction of yourself and your family, when was God’s call to serve His people confirmed for you?

     Matt Chandler: I think my story is a bit strange in that my awareness of God’s call on my life to serve His people was a bit lost in me serving His people. I’ll try and explain that. I was very frustrated with my church experiences heading into college. I loved sharing the gospel and loved the God of the Bible, but it appeared to me (probably my immaturity) that my church and I were seeing different things in the Scriptures. I saw atonement and the fear of the Lord, and at church they were teaching us not to drink beer and not to have sex. To be truthful, I wasn’t drinking beer or having sex, and could see that drunkenness was sinful and that God had a plan for sex in marriage. Yet it appeared to me that those were secondary issues that should be addressed after the atoning work of Christ was communicated and understood. I started teaching at an ecumenical gathering while I was in college and assumed I would finish school, become a good lawyer, and teach Sunday school at the local Baptist church wherever I settled (I was hoping for the West Coast). The Bible study blew up numerically, and we were running around one thousand to fifteen hundred students every week. A young woman from that study asked me when I received the “call of ministry.” I was honestly confused by her question. I thought she was asking if the Baptists had literally called me on the phone and let me teach the Bible study. She clarified her question, and it sent all my dreams and plans into another direction altogether. It was at this time that I came to understand that I wouldn’t be spending my life doing law and teaching Sunday school but rather teaching and leading God’s people into maturity by the Spirit’s power and by the proclamation of the Word.

     TT: What counsel would you give to a believer on the day he or she is diagnosed with cancer? How about six months after the diagnosis?

     MC: One of God’s big mercies in all of this has been allowing me to pastor a young church. I have done multiple funerals every year I have been here, and only one has been for a person over the age of fifty. I learned very early that people need to have a good grasp of God’s goodness and God’s sovereignty. On the day that a person is diagnosed, I try to encourage them in God’s knowledge — that this hasn’t surprised Him or caught Him off guard. I want to remind them that this isn’t punitive, but rather that God is on the move and He can be trusted. Six months after the diagnosis is harder to answer because cancer can go one of two ways. If the man or woman is still in a real fight, I want to draw his or her attention to Hebrews 11 or the story of Abraham being promised a son or even David being anointed king and then running from Saul for all those years before sitting on the throne. I think it’s important to remind people after the initial shock of diagnosis wears off and the wear and tear of treatment settles in that victory for those who are children of God is guaranteed, although difficulty, pain, and waiting might all be very present.

     TT: In what ways has your cancer sanctified you?

     MC: It’s made me look long and hard at my motives and has drawn me deeply into God in prayer. I am an excellent studier and researcher, and before all this began, I would say a decent man of prayer; but I learned after they told me I only had two to three years left that I knew much more about God than I actually knew Him. The bulk of my sanctification through this ordeal has been the birth of a deep desire for intimacy with our great God and King.

     TT: How do you counsel christians to face death and disease (both those who are personally facing such crises and those who are currently enjoying robust health)?

     MC: I simply have tried to point out that we shouldn’t be surprised by death and disease because the Bible is filled with it. As I stated above, an understanding of God’s goodness and His sovereign power are necessary to cope with life in a fallen world. I want to teach people that life is extremely fragile and that there isn’t a person in our sanctuary or listening to a podcast who can’t have his or her whole world change with a phone call or, as in my case, getting up one morning and getting a cup of coffee. Those are heavy truths, and I know they don’t make for feel-good sermons, but it’s better to know these truths than to pretend it’s not reality.

     TT: You’ve written that if you had not heard John Piper’s answer to the question “For whom did Christ die?” at the 1997 Passion conference, you would not have had ground to stand on years later when you heard the words “brain cancer.” How did your understanding of the atonement help you deal with such a devastating diagnosis?

     MC: Actually, I think my wife, Lauren, said that in a blog she wrote after my prognosis was given to us. That sermon was significant for both of us because up until that point, I’m not sure we grasped the size and holiness of God. That sermon changed the trajectory of both our lives in that it shifted how we saw God and understood Him.

     TT: You’ve also written that there were moments last year when you felt you were “punched in the soul” but that you were reminded nevertheless that the disease with which you’re dealing “isn’t punitive but somehow redemptive.” Could you unpack that a little?

     MC: I have been very blessed by God in my life. My cancer has honestly been one of the more difficult things to deal with. Lauren and I have tried to trust the Lord in everything, and when we’ve stepped out in faith He has been beyond gracious to us. People come to hear; they give generously to the church, and almost every “idea” we’ve had God has blessed and grown. I can honestly say that ministry and life were pretty easy for us up until Thanksgiving 2009. After I had the seizure and they found the tumor, I thought it would be like everything else had been — easy and would end well. When I first met my neurosurgeon on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, I was ignorantly and maybe even arrogantly thinking that nothing would come of it and that we would just need to watch this thing and see.

     I was caught completely off guard when Dr. Barnett told me that it didn’t look good and that we needed to do surgery immediately. That was one of the first times in my life, if not the first time, that things went “worst-case scenario” on me. The Holy Spirit was quick to remind me of great passages on God’s sovereignty and goodness in difficulty. I thought of Romans 8, Hebrews 11, and several others. I wasn’t being punished with brain cancer because I didn’t tell that guy at the gym about Jesus or because I hadn’t read Piper’s latest book, but rather God was at work. He was doing something, and I could be sure that He loved me and in the end I would have increased joy and He would be glorified. Here we are over a year later and that’s exactly what’s happened.

     TT: How has dealing with your disease affected your view of God’s sovereignty (or, how has your view of God’s sovereignty affected how you view your disease)?

     MC: I believe the Scriptures teach that God is aware of every act at every level of the universe. From a star exploding to the rate at which our planet spins to a cell dividing, He knows. I don’t believe in the end that God gave me cancer, but He certainly could have stopped it and didn’t. So I have to believe like Joseph, John the Baptist, and Paul had to believe when they were in prison — that God is working, and what the enemy means for evil, He will turn to good. There have been multiple occasions when God has used this tremendously. The Associated Press let me preach the gospel in an article that ran worldwide. The story has caught the imagination of the media here in Dallas, and we’ve been able to talk about the atoning work of Christ on TV as well as in newspaper articles. That has led to a ton of men and women surrendering their lives to Christ after wanting to talk with me through their own sufferings. If my life gets “cut short” but we get to see new births in the kingdom, then I don’t feel slighted or robbed in the least.

     TT: In the late summer/early fall of 2010, you went to Sudan. How did that trip impact your life?

     MC: I was deeply moved by my trip to Sudan. I’ve traveled quite a bit internationally but have never seen anything like it. It isn’t even a Third World country. That’s what they want to be. We are connected with some extremely godly men there, and the opportunities for the advancement of a Christ-centered, biblically-strong faith growing in southern Sudan are very real. On a side note, if I had not been diagnosed with cancer, I would not have been able to make the trip. The original diagnosis had us clear my external speaking schedule and opened that time frame for us to go.

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     Matt Chandler serves as lead pastor of the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas. He has become a leader in the evangelical world through his ministry at the Village Church, his involvement in the Acts 29 Church Planting Network, his teaching at multiple conferences, and most recently through his faithful witness to Jesus Christ while battling a malignant brain tumor.

He Loves Me, He Really Loves Me

By Tim Challies 8/1/2011

     I have had the privilege of attending a series of Ligonier Ministries National Conferences, and along the way I have noticed a little phenomenon or tradition that takes place at the beginning of these events. For many of the people who attend, these conferences mark an annual opportunity to connect with friends. Many people have attended the conference year after year, and along the way they have met new friends or have reconnected with old friends. The conference offers a once-per-year opportunity to spend a little time together and to catch up on the year that has gone by.

     I remember a time when people carried printed photos in their wallets or small photo albums in their purses. Today, though, people carry photos on their cell phones or on their iPods. So often, when I see people meet after the passing of yet another year, I see them embracing and then immediately digging out their phones or their iPods to show off the pictures of their children or grandchildren. And it is interesting to hear them talk, to hear them share proudly about the children they’ve already begun to miss even after only one or two days apart. As you listen to these parents tell about their children, you notice that they dwell on the things that make them proud. “Brian is nine. He loves basketball and leads his team in scoring. He’s getting so tall. His head comes up to my chest now, and he eats like there’s no tomorrow. And here’s Rebecca. She is fourteen. You can see she looks just like her mom. She loves cameras and says she wants to be a photographer… .”

     You know, of course, that the last year has not been free of conflict. You know that Mom and Dad are probably working hard to maintain boundaries around Rebecca, who is already acting out as a rebellious teenager, and that they are working hard to make Brian respect authority. It may well be that on the night before he left, Dad had to invoke some discipline, and he left the house only after making Rebecca promise that she would obey the person who is watching her while her parents are away. But when Dad gets together with his friends, these things are not at the front of his mind. He loves his children, he is proud of his children, and he wants to tell others about them.

     I thought about this a short time ago when I was considering how God feels about us, how He feels about me, and how He feels about all of His children. I often go through life thinking that God is generally displeased with me. I see my sin, I see my failings, and I see my heart. At the same time, I see from Scripture God’s majesty, His holiness, and His perfection. When I put these together, I believe that God must be looking at me with at least some level of disgust.

     He must regard me as I regard myself so much of the time — as a person who may try to do what’s right but as a person who so often fails when it comes to holiness. Though I do love Him, and truly I do, I still have some love for sin. There is still some of the traitor in me. I pledge allegiance to Him but too often prove allegiance to myself. What could there be for Him to love here?

     I’ve had this all wrong. As I study God’s Word day by day in the quiet of my home and week by week in my local church, and as I learn about who God is, I see that He is a proud Father who is lavish with His love. Maybe it was my studies in the parable of the prodigal son. Maybe it was my reading through the prophets, seeing how God hates sin but remains committed to His people. Maybe it was reading Hebrews 11, the Hall of Heroes, and seeing all of those great saints commended instead of condemned. Somehow along the way, I began to see that God hates my sin and commands me to mortify it, but that He loves me. God despises the evil that lurks within me but is extravagant in His grace. He actually, really, truly loves me. He doesn’t love me for who He wishes I could be but for who I am in Christ.

     Maybe in that way God isn’t so different from the proud parents I see at conferences. Maybe in that way they are a reflection of their Creator. He loves us. He loves me. More than that, He’s proud of me. He isn’t petty, filling His mind with all those things I’ve done wrong, but rather He is gracious, seeing all those evidences of His grace in my life. Somehow I had lost sight of the fact that God truly does regard me as a child, His child, a child He not only loves but one He genuinely likes. And there’s a difference between the two, isn’t there?

Click here to go to source

     Tim Challies is founding blogger of Challies.com and a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter @Challies. He began his web site in 2002 and has been writing there daily since 2003. It is his place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things he discovers in his online travels.

Tim Challies Books:

Godly Boasting

By John Piper 8/1/2011

     God loves it when man boasts in God, and God hates it when man boasts in man. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (2 Cor. 10:17). “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14). “The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled, and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day. For the LORD of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up” (Isa. 2:11–12).

     There are two reasons (at least) why God hates for man to boast in man:

     1) Boasting in man deflects man’s attention from the fountain of his joy and ruins his life. It tricks man into replacing magnificence with a mirror. Man was not made to admire man. He was made to admire God. The joy of admiration is prostituted and ruined when man tries to find galaxy-size glory in the glow of his own reflection. God does not like the damage done by boasting in man.

     2) The other reason God hates for man to boast in man is this: It conveys the conviction that man is more admirable than God. Now that is, of course, untrue. But we would miss the point if we said, “God hates lying and therefore God hates boasting in man because it conveys a lie.” No.

     That’s not quite right. What God hates is the dishonoring of God. Lying happens to be one way that he is dishonored as the God of truth. So the real problem with man’s boasting in man is that it belittles God.

     Boasting in God, on the other hand, does the double opposite: it honors God and gives man the joy for which he was made: admiring the infinitely admirable.

     Mercifully, therefore, God has doubly excluded boasting by the way He saves sinners.

     First, boasting is excluded by faith. As Paul explains in his epistle to the Romans: “Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith” (3:27). Why does faith exclude boasting? The reason is not merely because faith is a gift of God, which it is. All the fruits of the Spirit are gifts. Yet they do not all exclude boasting in the same way. Faith is unique among all the acts of the soul. It is the weakest, most helpless, and most empty-handed act of the soul. It is all-dependence on Another. In a sense, it is an acted non-act.

     Let me explain. I mean it is an inclination of the soul to seek help with no expectation that any inclination of the soul is good enough to obtain help, not even the inclination of faith. It is unique among all the acts of the soul. Since it is empty- handed, it is not like a virtue. It looks to the virtue of another. It looks to the strength of another. It looks to the wisdom of another. It is entirely other-directed and other-dependent. Therefore, it can’t boast in itself, for it can’t even look at itself. It is the kind of thing that in a sense has no “self.” As soon as the unique act of the soul exists, it is attached to another from whom it gets all its reality.

     Second, boasting is excluded by election: “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Cor. 1:27–29).

     God’s election is designed to remove boasting. The point is that God does not choose people with a view to any feature in us that would allow us to boast. In fact, Romans 9:11 makes it clear that God’s election is designed to make God’s saving purpose rest finally on God alone, not any act of the human soul: “Though [Jacob and Esau] were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad — in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls [God chose Jacob not Esau]”. The contrast with works here is not faith but “him who calls.” The choice of God rests finally on God alone. He decides who will believe and who will be saved undeservingly.

     Therefore, let us look away from ourselves and all human help. Let all boasting in man and man’s accomplishments cease, and let us boast in the Lord.

Click here to go to source

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

     John Piper Books:

Judges 20; Acts 24; Jeremiah 34; Psalms 5-6

By Don Carson 8/6/2018

     One might have expected that only the guilty would be hunted down and executed (Judg. 20). But the Levite is stirring up the nation (without, of course, disclosing his own disgraceful behavior). So far as our records go, Gibeah does not offer to hand over the offenders. If they had, that would have been the end of the matter. Nor do the tribal leaders of Benjamin offer to intervene and ensure that justice is done. Instead, they close ranks and offer to take on all comers, doubtless expecting that the rest of the nation will be unwilling to pay too high a price to capture a few rapists at a time when the entire nation has slid into violence.

     For their part, the rest of the tribes foam at the mouth but act stupidly. Instead of embarking on a massed assault, initially they decide to send the troops of only one tribe at a time. When we are told that the Israelites inquired of God which tribe should go first, probably this means that they went through the Urim and Thummim procedure with a priest of the sanctuary. The Israelites lose twenty-two thousand men the first day (Judg. 20:21), and eighteen thousand the next (Judg. 20:25).

     Finally the Lord does truly promise that he will give Gibeah and the Benjamites into the hands of the rest of the Israelites (Judg. 20:28). The third day, the Israelites set up an ambush, and at last they are victorious. Vast numbers of Benjamites die.

     That is the sort of thing that happens when the rule of law dissolves, when people start acting out of tribal loyalty and not principle, when vengeance overtakes justice, when superstitious vendettas displace courts, when brothers no longer share a common heritage of worship and values, when government is by fear and not by the consent, it can ignite a Bosnia, it can start a world war. It is the stuff of dictators and warlords, the lubricant of gangs and violence.

     The sad reality is that every culture is capable of this. The ancient Israelites sink into this quagmire not because they are worse than all others, but because they are typical of all others. A society that no longer hangs together, whether on the ground of religion, shared worldview, or at least agreed and respected procedurals, is heading for violence and anarchy, which, sooner or later, becomes the best possible breeding ground for the ordered response of tyrants — power authorized by sword and gun.

     That is how secular historians see it. We see all this, too, and discern behind the blood and evil the just hand of God, who intones, “So far will you go, and no further.”

Click here to go to source

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 83

O God, Do Not Keep Silence
83 A Song. A Psalm Of Asaph.

9 Do to them as you did to Midian,
as to Sisera and Jabin at the river Kishon,
10 who were destroyed at En-dor,
who became dung for the ground.
11 Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb,
all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna,
12 who said, “Let us take possession for ourselves
of the pastures of God.”

13 O my God, make them like whirling dust,
like chaff before the wind.
14 As fire consumes the forest,
as the flame sets the mountains ablaze,
15 so may you pursue them with your tempest
and terrify them with your hurricane!
16 Fill their faces with shame,
that they may seek your name, O LORD.
17 Let them be put to shame and dismayed forever;
let them perish in disgrace,
18 that they may know that you alone,
whose name is the LORD,
are the Most High over all the earth.

ESV Study Bible

A Revival of Calvinism: An Interview with Iain Murray

By Iain Murray 8/1/2011

     Tabletalk: What are the top three puritan works that every Christian should read and why?

     Iain Murray: Westminster Shorter Catechism with Proof Texts (ESV): An aid for study of the Holy Bible; Heaven on Earth (Puritan Paperbacks) (on assurance); The Works of John Owen Vol. 7: The Nature and Causes of Apostasy from the Gospel by John Owen (Works of John Owen, vol. 7); and many other “top” ones. Beginners should start with Brooks, Thomas Watson, or John Flavel.

     TT: What book (new or old) have you found the most helpful in your past year of reading?

     IM: For particular reasons, the majority of my reading in 2010 was in the works of John MacArthur and Archibald Brown (I hope to see published this year The Forgotten Brown, Spurgeon’s Successor).

     TT: It has been over ten years since the publication of Evangelicalism Divided. To your mind, what is the greatest strength of evangelicalism today? The greatest weakness?

     IM: Strength: a growing worldwide unity in doctrinal Christianity. Weakness: self-dependence, man-centeredness, and corresponding poverty in prayer and fellowship with God.

     TT: When Banner of Truth Publishing opened it s doors, there were not a lot of Reformed publishers, and many old Reformed books were long out of print. Tell us a little bit about those early days.

     IM: For a long time in Britain, books from the older Christian heritage were in no demand on the secondhand market, and publishers commonly regarded them as virtually unsalable. With a few important exceptions (for example,  Institutes of the Christian Religion  and  Holiness ), new reprints in the Reformed tradition only circulated in the UK from the few U.S. publishers promoting such books around 1950. Behind the change that began in Britain was the praying of an older generation and the preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones. His ministry at Westminster Chapel aroused hunger for different Christian literature and got a new generation reading. The Banner of Truth Trust, started at Westminster Chapel in 1957, was one of the new agencies which appeared at that period.

     TT: A number of journalists and others have observed a resurgence in Reformed theology in recent years. What role do you think Banner of Truth may have played in such a resurgence?

     IM: I am too close to it to judge. Certainly, its publications proved to other publishers that there was a readership for books that came from an ethos considerably different from that of contemporary evangelicalism. I believe the Banner books have also played a part in renewing the recognition that church history is thrilling, and that the most valuable commentaries on Scripture are not the technical and academic ones.

     A priority in the Banner’s publishing vision was to help raise another generation of preachers.

     The part that Calvinistic literature has played in helping churches from Brazil to Korea has also been noteworthy.

     TT: For our readers who may not be familiar with your work on revival and revivalism (and your book of the same title), could you give us a brief overview of these terms and how revival relates to the work and responsibility of the church?

     IM: My book Revival and Revivalism: traces evangelical preaching in America in the formative years from the 1750s to 1857. On the basis of such promises as that of Christ to be with us “always,” preachers believed that there would always be an ongoing work of grace in the churches. At some periods, however, the ingathering was large and sudden, and the name revival came into use, being understood as an exceptional work of the Spirit of God.

     But in the nineteenth century, a school of thought developed that believed revivals could be permanent if only the churches were faithful and used the right methods. The argument was that just as one individual is converted by accepting Christ, why cannot numbers be induced to accept Him at the same time? According to this thinking, “revivals” occur in proportion to human effort. The mistake was to ignore that regeneration (a change of nature) is the true cause of conversion, and it is not within the ability of speaker or hearer to determine when anyone passes from death to life (Eph. 2:8). The church is to preach Christ, but He determines the increase (Acts 13:48; 1 Cor. 3:6). It was when this truth was ignored that methods to achieve “conversions” multiplied and “revivalism” was born. The controversy that followed was not between those for or against evangelism; it was about what evangelism really means, as John MacArthur has shown so clearly in his books  The Gospel According to Jesus: What Is Authentic Faith?  and  The Gospel According to the Apostles: The Role of Works in the Life of Faith . Men of outstanding stature opposed the new teaching when it entered in the nineteenth century, and their biographies are among the best in Christian literature.

     TT: You have written well-received biographies of Jonathan Edw ards, Charles Spurgeon, Arthur Pink, and Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Why do you believe that reading biographies of great Christians is important?

     IM: The reason church history is not always thrilling is that people do not read it around the flesh-and-blood figures of men and women whom God used to shape its course. Biographies raise the questions: Why were individuals so used? What made Mary Slessor or William Carey? What are the abiding spiritual lessons? Biographies show that doctrinal belief is not a secondary or theoretical thing; rather, it has vital consequence in the way Christians live. Weak doctrine produces weak lives. Those who “turn the world upside down” are always those “mighty in the Scriptures.”

     Scripture says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise” (Prov. 13:20). God has given us enduring friendships with the wise of other generations through their books. “Next to the Holy Scriptures,” said A.W. Tozer, “the greatest aid to the life of faith may be Christian biographies.”

     TT: Who are some of the people you have learned from the most in your ministry?

     IM: I owe a great debt to many people. In my university years, there was no one who impressed me more as a Christian than Sarah Cochrane, a Salvation Army woman, who washed the floors in our college and had to live with a drunken husband. Among my greatest helpers were older men who led me to good books: F.J. Hobbs (a tailor) and S.M. Houghton (a schoolmaster). Later on, my generation had the privilege of knowing John Murray (who spent much of his life at Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia) and Martyn Lloyd-Jones. They were humble, godly leaders.

     We never know how our lives will touch others. For example, how few of the names of mothers are known to the world, but how different Christian history would have been had their hidden ministry not been exercised. And what Christian man can say how much he owes to his wife? For all Christians, the words are true: “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9).

     Iain H. Murray is cofounder of Banner of Truth Trust in Edinburgh, Scotland, and an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church of Australia. He is a prominent author and biographer, having written more than forty books.

Click here to go to source

     Rev. Iain H. Murray is a co-founder of Banner of Truth Trust in Edinburgh, Scotland, and is minister emeritus of the Australian Presbyterian Church.


  • L5 Jesus-Law
  • L6 Greater Righteousness 1
  • L7 Righteousness 2

#1   Bill Mounce

 

#2    Bill Mounce

 

#3    Bill Mounce

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     2/1/2016    True Reformation

     Awakening is at the very heart of the Christian faith, and it is the reason we are Christians. Awakening is the powerful work of our sovereign and gracious God. When He awakens us, He doesn’t simply awaken us from sleep, but from death. Awakening is the glorious work of regeneration, revival, and reformation. When God awakens us, He regenerates our hearts, gives us the gift of new birth, and makes us alive. He says to us, “Live!” (Ezek. 16:6). The Holy Spirit invades, conquers, and persuades us. He rips out our stubborn, self-trusting hearts of stone and replaces our dead hearts with new, living hearts—hearts that are made willing and able to believe; hearts that are soft and pliable in the hands of our Father, united and lovingly enslaved to Christ, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

     When God awakens, He always brings revival, whether it is the revival of a single soul, the revival of a family, the revival of a community, or the revival of a nation. When God brings revival, He always brings deep and convicting repentance that leads to a life of faith, repentance, and obedience. When God awakens, He always brings true and lasting reformation—reformation of hearts, lives, homes, and churches. However, we cannot schedule awakening, and we should not attempt to devise a superficial, formulaic scheme to bring about awakening. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “A revival never needs to be advertised; it always advertises itself.” Awakening happens only when God ordains it. He brings about awakening according to His sovereign plan. He brings about awakening where He wants, when He wants, and to whom He wants, all according to His good pleasure.

     Nevertheless, just as God ordains awakening, He ordains the means of awakening. God not only sovereignly ordains the ends of all things, He ordains the means of all ends as well. And the means that God has ordained to bring about awakening are the ordinary means He has already ordained for our regular weekly worship and daily growth in grace. The Word, prayer, and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the ordinary means of grace God has given us. These are the means through which the Holy Spirit works to bring true conversion, true revival, and true reformation. God’s awakening power is not activated by our schemes and tactics, but by His Spirit and His ordinary means of awakening. And we must trust Him to do precisely what He pleases to do according to His sovereign wisdom, resting in the promise that the light of His countenance shines upon us as we live before His face, coram Deo.

     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

     Camelot and King Arthur’s Court, Knights of the Round Table and the quest for the Holy Grail… our imaginations soar with history and legend immortalized by poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, who was born this day, August 6, 1809. The son of a clergyman, he not only brought to life Guinevere and Sir Lancelot, but wrote The Charge of the Light Brigade, recording the courage of the British Cavalry as they rode to their deaths fighting the Russians. Honored by Queen Victoria as Poet-Laureat, Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote: “Cast all your cares on God; that anchor holds.”

American Minute
Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


Where the self-interest sleeps
and the real interest awakens
--- Oswald Chambers

He that does good for good's sake
seeks neither paradise nor reward,
but he is sure of both in the end.
--- William Penn

Fill me with gladness from above,
Hold me by strength divine;
Lord, let the glow of your great love
Through my whole being shine.
--- Unknown

Revelation is God's gracious self-disclosure in which he lovingly forfeits his own personal privacy so that his sinful creatures might know him.
--- Carl F.H. Henry

I am always very glad that my slanderers should tell a trifling lie about me rather than the whole terrible truth.
--- Mother Teresa
... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     BOOK III.

     Containing The Interval Of About One Year. From Vespasian's Coming To Subdue The Jews To The Taking Of Gamala.

     CHAPTER 1.

     Vespasian Is Sent Into Syria By Nero In Order To Make War With The Jews.

     1. When Nero was informed of the Romans' ill success in Judea, a concealed consternation and terror, as is usual in such cases, fell upon him; although he openly looked very big, and was very angry, and said that what had happened was rather owing to the negligence of the commander, than to any valor of the enemy: and as he thought it fit for him, who bare the burden of the whole empire, to despise such misfortunes, he now pretended so to do, and to have a soul superior to all such sad accidents whatsoever. Yet did the disturbance that was in his soul plainly appear by the solicitude he was in [how to recover his affairs again].

     2. And as he was deliberating to whom he should commit the care of the East, now it was in so great a commotion, and who might be best able to punish the Jews for their rebellion, and might prevent the same distemper from seizing upon the neighboring nations also,—he found no one but Vespasian equal to the task, and able to undergo the great burden of so mighty a war, seeing he was growing an old man already in the camp, and from his youth had been exercised in warlike exploits: he was also a man that had long ago pacified the west, and made it subject to the Romans, when it had been put into disorder by the Germans; he had also recovered to them Britain by his arms, which had been little known before 1 whereby he procured to his father Claudius to have a triumph bestowed on him without any sweat or labor of his own.

     3. So Nero esteemed these circumstances as favorable omens, and saw that Vespasian's age gave him sure experience, and great skill, and that he had his sons as hostages for his fidelity to himself, and that the flourishing age they were in would make them fit instruments under their father's prudence. Perhaps also there was some interposition of Providence, which was paving the way for Vespasian's being himself emperor afterwards. Upon the whole, he sent this man to take upon him the command of the armies that were in Syria; but this not without great encomiums and flattering compellations, such as necessity required, and such as might mollify him into complaisance. So Vespasian sent his son Titus from Achaia, where he had been with Nero, to Alexandria, to bring back with him from thence the fifth and the tenth legions, while he himself, when he had passed over the Hellespont, came by land into Syria, where he gathered together the Roman forces, with a considerable number of auxiliaries from the kings in that neighborhood.

          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 22:13
     by D.H. Stern

13     A lazy man says, “There’s a lion outside!
I’ll be killed if I go out in the street!”


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

     VI | A FRUITLESS DEPUTATION

     It was in New Zealand, and I was attending my first Conference. I had only a month or two earlier entered the Christian ministry. I dreaded the Assembly of my grave and reverend seniors. With becoming modesty, I stole quietly into the hall and occupied a back seat. From this welcome seclusion, however, I was rudely summoned to receive the right hand of fellowship from the President. Then I once more plunged into the outer darkness of oblivion and obscurity. Here I remained until once again I was electrified at the sound of my own name. It seemed that the sorrows of dissension had overtaken a tiny church in a remote bush district. One of the oldest and most revered members, the father of a very large family and the leader of the little brotherhood, had intimated his intention of withdrawing from fellowship and of joining another denomination. This formidable secession had thrown the little congregation into helpless confusion, and an appeal was made to the courts of the denomination. The letter was read; and the secretary stated briefly and succinctly the facts of the situation. And then, to my amazement, he closed by moving that Mr. William Forbury and myself be appointed a deputation to visit the district, to advise the church, and to report to Conference. Mr. Forbury, he explained, was a father in Israel. His grey hairs commanded reverence; whilst his ripe experience and sound judgement would be invaluable to the small and troubled community. So far, so good. His reasoning seemed irresistible. But he went on to say that he had included my name because I was an absolute stranger. I knew nothing of the internal disputes that had rent the church. My very freshness would give me a position of impartiality that older men could not claim. Moreover, he argued, the visit to a bush congregation, and the insight into its peculiar difficulties, would be a useful experience for me. I felt that I could not decently decline; but I confidently expected that the proposal would be challenged and probably rejected. To my astonishment, however, it was seconded and carried. And nothing remained but to arrange with Mr. Forbury the date of our delegation.

     The day came, and we set out. It took the train just four hours to convey us to the lonely station from which we emerged upon a wilderness of green bush and a maze of muddy tracks. Mr. Forbury had visited the district frequently, and knew it well. We called upon several settlers in the course of the afternoon, taking dinner with one, and afternoon tea with another. And then we proceeded to the home of the seceder. The place seemed alive with young people. The house swarmed with children.

     'How are you, John?' inquired my companion.

     'Ah, William, glad to see you; how are you?'

     They made an interesting study, these two old men. Their forms were bent with long years of hard and honourable toil. Their faces were rugged and weatherbeaten, wrinkled with age, and furrowed with care. They had come out together from the Homeland years and years ago. They had borne each other's burdens, and shared each other's confidences, through all the days of their pilgrimage. Their thoughts of each other were mingled with all the memories of their courtships, their weddings, and their earlier struggles. A thousand tender and sacred associations were interwoven, in the mind of each, with the name of the other. When fortune had smiled, they had delighted in each other's prosperity. In times of shadow, each had hastened to the other's side. They had walked together, talked together, laughed together, wept together, and—very, very often—prayed together. They had been as David and Jonathan, and the soul of the one was knit to the soul of the other. Hundreds of times, before the one had come to settle in this new district, they had walked to the house of God in company. And now a matter of doctrine had intervened. And, with such men, a matter of doctrine is a matter of conscience. And a matter of conscience is the most stubborn of all obstacles to overcome. I looked into their stern, expressive faces, and I saw that they were no triflers. A fad had no charm for either of them. They looked into each other's faces, and each read the truth. The breach was irreparable.

     We sat in the great farm kitchen until tea-time. I felt it was no business of mine to broach the affairs that had brought us. Several times I thought that Mr. Forbury was about to touch the matter. But each time it was adroitly avoided, and the conversation swerved off in another direction. Once or twice I felt half inclined to precipitate a discussion. Indeed, I was in the act of doing so when our hostess brought in the tea. A snowy cloth, home-made scones, delicious oat-cake, abundance of cream—how tempting it all was! And how unattractive ecclesiastical controversy in comparison! We sat there in the twilight for what seemed like an age, talking of everything under the sun. Of everything, that is to say, save one thing only. And there brooded heavily over our spirits the consciousness that we were avoiding the one and only subject on which we were all really and deeply thinking.

     After tea came family worship. I was invited to conduct it, and did so. After reading a psalm from the old farm Bible, we all kneeled together, the flickering flames of the great log-fire flinging strange shadows on the whitened wall and rafters as we rose and bowed ourselves. I caught myself attempting, even in prayer, to make obscure but fitting reference to the special circumstances that had brought us together. But the reticence of my companion was contagious. It was like a bridle on my tongue. The sadness of it all haunted me, and paralysed my speech; and I swerved off again at every threatened allusion. We sat on for awhile, they on either side of the roomy fireplace, and I between them, whilst the good woman and her daughters washed up the tea-things. The clatter of the dishes, and the babel of many voices, made it impossible for us to speak freely on the subject nearest our hearts. At length we rose to go. I noticed, on the part of my two aged companions, a peculiar reluctance to separate. Each longed, yet dreaded, to speak. There was evidently so much to be said, and yet speech seemed so hopeless.

     At last our friend said that he would walk a few steps with us. We said good-bye to the great household and set off into the night.

     I shall never forget that walk! It was a clear, frosty evening. The moonlight was radiant. Every twig was tipped with silver. The smallest object could be seen distinctly. I watched the rabbits as they popped timidly in and out of the great gorse hedgerows. A hare went scurrying across the field. I felt all at once that I was an intruder. What right had I to be in the company of these two aged brethren in the very crisis of their lifelong friendship? No Conference on earth could vest me with authority to invade this holy ground! I made an excuse, and hurried on, walking some distance in front of them. But the night was so still that, even at that distance, had a word been uttered I must have heard it. I could hear the clatter of hoofs on the hard road two miles ahead. I could hear the dogs barking at a farmhouse twice as far away. I could hear a rabbit squealing in a trap on the fringe of the bush far behind us. But no word did I hear. For none was uttered. Side by side they walked on and on in perfect silence. I once paused and allowed them to approach. They were crying like children. Stern old Puritans! They were built of the stuff that martyrs are made of. Either would have died a hundred deaths rather than have been false to conscience, or to truth, or to the other. Either would have died a hundred deaths to save the other from one. Neither could be coaxed or cowed into betraying one jot or tittle of his heart's best treasure. And each knew, whilst he trembled for himself, that all this was true of the other as well. Side by side they walked for miles in that pale and silvery moonlight. Not one word was spoken. Grief had paralysed their vocal powers; and their eyes were streaming with another eloquence. They wrung each other's hands at length, and parted without even saying good-night!

     At the next Conference it was the junior member of the deputation who presented the report. He simply stated that the delegation had visited the district without having been able to reconcile the differences that had arisen in the little congregation. The Assembly formally adopted the report, and the deputation was thanked for its services. It seemed a very futile business. And yet one member of that deputation has always felt that life was strangely enriched by the happenings of that memorable night. It puts iron into the blood to spend an hour with men to whom the claim of conscience is supreme, and who love truth with so deathless an affection that the purest and noblest of other loves cannot dethrone it.

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

The cross in prayer

     At that day ye shall ask in My name. --- John 16:26.

     We are too much given to thinking of the Cross as something we have to get through; we get through it only in order to get into it. The Cross stands for one thing only for us—a complete and entire and absolute identification with the Lord Jesus Christ, and there is nothing in which this identification is realized more than in prayer.

     “Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him.” Then why ask? The idea of prayer is not in order to get answers from God; prayer is perfect and complete oneness with God. If we pray because we want answers, we will get huffed with God. The answers come every time, but not always in the way we expect, and our spiritual huff shows a refusal to identify ourselves with Our Lord in prayer. We are not here to prove God answers prayer; we are here to be living monuments of God’s grace.

     “I say not that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father Himself loveth you.” Have you reached such an intimacy with God that the Lord Jesus Christ’s life of prayer is the only explanation of your life of prayer? Has Our Lord’s vicarious life become your vital life? “At that day” you will be so identified with Jesus that there will be no distinction.

     When prayer seems to be unanswered, beware of trying to fix the blame on someone else. That is always a snare of Satan. You will find there is a reason which is a deep instruction to you, not to anyone else.


My Utmost for His Highest
The Epitaph
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


                The Epitaph

You ask me what it was like?
  I lived, thought, felt the temptation
  Of spirit to take matter
  As my invention, but bruised my mind
  On the facts: the old stubbornness
  Of rock, the rough bark of a tree,
  The body of her I would make my own
  And could not,
          And yet they ceased;
  With the closing of my eyes they became
  As nothing. Each day I had to begin
  Their assembly, as though it were I
  Who contrived them. The air was contentment
  Of spirit, a glass to renew
  One's illusions, Christen me, christen me,
  The stone cried. Instead I bequeathed
  It these words, foreseeing the forming
  Of the rainbow of your brushed eyes
  After the storm in my flesh.


H'm

Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     D’RASH


     On November 19, 1863, thousands gathered on the site of the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. A portion of the field was being dedicated as a cemetery for those who had died in what was the turning point of the Civil War.

     As we learn in Garry Wills’s masterful book Lincoln at Gettysburg, the program for the day included musical selections, a prayer, and a benediction. The president of the United States was asked to make a few “dedicatory remarks.” Edward Everett was to deliver the major speech of the day, the Gettysburg Address. Everett had a distinguished career: minister, professor, congressman, senator, ambassador, secretary of state, vice presidential candidate, president of Harvard University. He had the reputation as the greatest orator of his day. Everett was asked in September to prepare a speech for a date one month later. He replied that he would need almost two months to prepare.

     Everett began his oration with these words: “Standing beneath this serene sky, overlooking these broad fields now reposing from the labors of the waning year, the mighty Alleghenies dimly towering before us, the graves of our brethren beneath our feet, it is with hesitation that I raise my poor voice to break the eloquent silence of God and Nature.” Everett’s speech took two hours. One interesting footnote: Everett had a bladder problem, and required a tent near the site of the speech so that he could relieve himself just before and after his long talk.

     The president’s remarks were very brief—only 272 words. There are no photographs of him delivering the speech because, as the story goes, he was finished before the photographers had a chance to set up their cameras. Lincoln, of course, began with words that became immortal, taking their place as the greatest speech in American history: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

     A postscript: Everett later wrote to Lincoln, “I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes.” To which Lincoln responded, “… you could not have been excused to make a short address, nor I a long one. I am pleased to know that in your judgment, the little I did say was not entirely a failure.…”

     ANOTHER D’RASH

     Yom Kippur lasts an entire day, and the traditional Jew spends a good part of those twenty-four hours in the synagogue. Many a worshiper has asked (probably at the point when hunger and fatigue simultaneously set in), “Why do I have to sit here so long? Why can’t we do all this in a couple of hours?”

     Becoming a better person—a goal of Yom Kippur—isn’t something that happens overnight. It can’t even happen after a twenty-four hour period of introspection. Still, there is a great deal to be said for focusing on the theme of self-improvement one entire day each year. It can force us to dig deeper inside ourselves, to think more creatively, to be more self-reflective and evaluative.

     Similarly, there is something positive to be said for sticking to a value, a vision, or a project over the long term. It grows on us. We learn a little more about it, and ourselves, over time. And we don’t necessarily end with what we started with.

     The Hebrew word לְהַאֲרִיךְ/l’ha’arikh, “to prolong,” does not necessarily mean “to be long-winded.” In our case, it means something more like “to be long-willed.” In a day and age when quick fixes and instantaneous therapies are popular, we have to remember the long term. It may not be easier, but it is often more successful and more rewarding overall.


Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Take Heart
     August 6

     My lover is mine and I am his. --- Song of Songs 2:16.

     This marriage union with Christ is the most noble and excellent union. The Essential Works of John Flavel

     There is a closer union in this holy marriage than there can be in any other. In other marriages, two make one flesh, but Christ and the believer make one spirit. “He who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit” (
1 Cor. 6:17). The joy that flows from the mystic union is inexpressible and glorious (1 Peter 1:8).

     This union with Christ never ceases. Other marriages are soon at an end. Death cuts asunder the marriage knot, but this conjugal union is eternal. You who are once Christ’s spouse will never again be a widow. “I will betroth you to me forever” (
Hos. 2:19).

     In this life there is only the contract. The glorious completing and solemnizing of the marriage is reserved for heaven. There is the wedding supper of the Lamb
(
Rev. 19:9). “And so we will be with the Lord forever”
(
1 Thess. 4:17). So death merely begins our marriage with Christ.

     Have we chosen Christ to set our love on, and is this choice founded on knowledge? Have we consented to the match? It is not enough that Christ is willing to have us, but are we willing to have him? God does not so force salvation on us that we shall have Christ whether we want to or not. We must consent to have him. Many approve of Christ but do not give their consent. And this consent must be pure and genuine. We consent to have him for his own worth and excellence.

     Have we taken Christ? Faith is the bond of the union. Christ is joined to us by his Spirit, and we are joined to him by faith. Faith ties the marriage knot.

     Have we given ourselves to Christ? Thus the spouse in the text says, “I am his,” as if she had said, “All I have is for the use and service of Christ.” Have we made a surrender? Have we given up our names and wills to Christ? When the Devil solicits by a temptation, do we say, “We are not our own, we are Christ’s; our tongues are his, we must not defile them with oaths; our bodies are his temple, we must not pollute them with sin”? If it is so, it is a sign that the Holy Spirit has produced this blessed union between Christ and us.
--- Thomas Watson


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

On This Day
     Death in the Catacombs  August 6

     The leaders of the early church included two men named Sixtus. The first served as bishop of Rome from about 117 to 127. Sixtus II occupied the same office in 257–258.

     The latter rose to the position during the unfortunate reign of Emperor Valerian when the empire was ravaged by plagues, droughts, earthquakes, tornadoes, and tidal waves. Valerian was initially tolerant toward Christians, but as natural disasters rocked his realm, he superstitiously began to blame the church. Edicts were issued against bishops and priests, and decrees forbade the gathering of Christians for worship. Churches were closed to the living Christians and cemeteries were closed to the dead ones.

     The followers of Christ, however, were not daunted, and within a year Valerian realized his edicts were failing. In July, 258 he ordered bishops, priests, and deacons executed. He confiscated church property and denied civil privileges to believers. Members of the royal court who espoused Christianity were made slaves on imperial estates. One prominent church leader was tied to a bull and driven up and down the streets until his brains were dashed out.

     Sixtus II had become bishop of Rome just as Valerian was issuing his orders. He created a small chapel in the catacombs, and there he met secretly with his faithful flock. One day as he taught the people, imperial soldiers burst in and seized him. He was rushed before a judge, condemned, and taken back to the catacombs where, on August 6, 258, he was put to death in his episcopal chair. Several of his deacons also perished.

     Three weeks later in North Africa, Bishop Cyprian of Carthage was brought before another imperial judge. When challenged, he declared, “I am a Christian bishop. I know no gods but the only true God.”

     “Have you made up your mind to that?” asked the Roman.

     “A good mind,” replied Cyprian, “cannot alter.” He was soon escorted to a natural amphitheater where his head was severed. In many parts of the empire, the persecution of 258–259 was the bloodiest the church had yet endured.

     Be brave when you face your enemies. Your courage will show them that they are going to be destroyed, and it will show you that you will be saved.

--- Philippians 1:28

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - August 6

     “Watchman, what of the night?” --- Isaiah 21:11.

     What enemies are abroad? Errors are a numerous horde, and new ones appear every hour: against what heresy am I to be on my guard? Sins creep from their lurking places when the darkness reigns; I must myself mount the watch-tower, and watch unto prayer. Our heavenly Protector foresees all the attacks which are about to be made upon us, and when as yet the evil designed us is but in the desire of Satan, he prays for us that our faith fail not, when we are sifted as wheat. Continue O gracious Watchman, to forewarn us of our foes, and for Zion’s sake hold not thy peace.

     “Watchman, what of the night?” What weather is coming for the Church? Are the clouds lowering, or is it all clear and fair overhead? We must care for the Church of God with anxious love; and now that Popery and infidelity are both threatening, let us observe the signs of the times and prepare for conflict.

     “Watchman, what of the night?” What stars are visible? What precious promises suit our present case? You sound the alarm, give us the consolation also. Christ, the polestar, is ever fixed in his place, and all the stars are secure in the right hand of their Lord.

     But watchman, when comes the Morning? The Bridegroom tarries. Are there no signs of his coming forth as the Sun of Righteousness? Has not the Morning star arisen as the pledge of day? When will the day dawn, and the shadows flee away? O Jesus, if thou come not in person to thy waiting Church this day, yet come in Spirit to my sighing heart, and make it sing for joy.

     “Now all the earth is bright and glad
     With the fresh morn;
     But all my heart is cold, and dark and sad:
     Sun of the soul, let me behold thy dawn!
     Come, Jesus, Lord,
     O quickly come, according to thy word.”


          Evening - August 6

     “Let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.” --- Psalm 72:19.

     This is a large petition. To intercede for a whole city needs a stretch of faith, and there are times when a prayer for one man is enough to stagger us. But how far-reaching was the psalmist’s dying intercession! How comprehensive! How sublime! “Let the whole earth be filled with his glory.” It doth not exempt a single country however crushed by the foot of superstition; it doth not exclude a single nation however barbarous. For the cannibal as well as for the civilized, for all climes and races this prayer is uttered: the whole circle of the earth it encompasses, and omits no son of Adam. We must be up and doing for our Master, or we cannot honestly offer such a prayer. The petition is not asked with a sincere heart unless we endeavour, as God shall help us, to extend the kingdom of our Master. Are there not some who neglect both to plead and to labour? Reader, is it your prayer? Turn your eyes to Calvary. Behold the Lord of Life nailed to a cross, with the thorn-crown about his brow, with bleeding head, and hands, and feet. What! can you look upon this miracle of miracles, the death of the Son of God, without feeling within your bosom a marvellous adoration that language never can express? And when you feel the blood applied to your conscience, and know that he has blotted out your sins, you are not a man unless you start from your knees and cry, “Let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.” Can you bow before the Crucified in loving homage, and not wish to see your Monarch master of the world? Out on you if you can pretend to love your Prince, and desire not to see him the universal ruler. Your piety is worthless unless it leads you to wish that the same mercy which has been extended to you may bless the whole world. Lord, it is harvest-time, put in thy sickle and reap.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     August 6

          I WOULD BE LIKE JESUS

     James Rowe, 1865–1933

     For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)

     I may not understand, Lord, but one day I shall see
     Thy loving hand was taking pains to fashion me like Thee.

--- Unknown

     There is much about the word predestined that is difficult to understand. One very obvious lesson that can be learned, however, is that God planned ahead of time for His children to be like His Son. The Scriptures teach that Christ has left us an example, and that we should seek to imitate Him and follow in His steps (Galatians 5:1; 1 Peter 2:21). Like our Lord, we have been called to have the spirit of a servant, spending and being spent, meeting the needs of others. But we cannot develop a Christ-like life merely on the basis of religious activity or even an accumulation of biblical knowledge, as important as knowledge and sound doctrine are to Christian living. Rather, spiritual maturity—Christ-like living—is the result of an implicit obedience to God’s will for our lives, even as our Lord was always obedient to the will of His Father. This awareness of God’s purposes is made possible as the Holy Spirit reveals the truth to us through the Scriptures.

     Nothing demonstrates the truthfulness of our verbal witness for Christ more than a life in which the very character of Jesus is clearly evident. This hymn has been used to help Christian people in this spiritual desire and development since it was first written by an American Gospel musician, James Rowe, and published in the Make Christ King Hymnal in 1912.

     Earthly pleasures vainly call me—I would be like Jesus; nothing worldly shall enthrall me—I would be like Jesus:
     He has broken ev’ry fetter—I would be like Jesus; that my soul may serve Him better—I would be like Jesus:
     All the way from earth to glory—I would be like Jesus; telling o’er and o’er the story—I would be like Jesus:
     That in heaven He may meet me, I would be like Jesus; that His words “Well done” may greet me, I would be like Jesus:
     Refrain: Be like Jesus—this my song—in the home and in the throng, be like Jesus all day long! I would be like Jesus.


     For Today: 2 Corinthians 3:8; Galatians 4:19; Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:1-11; 1 Peter 2:21

     “Great oaks from little acorns grow—and character from deeds you sow.” Earnestly seek to bring Christ-like attitudes and actions into every area of life. Sing as you go ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

The Existence and Attributes of God
     Stephen Charnock

          DISCOURSE I - ON THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

     III. No creature could make the world. No creature can create another. If it creates of nothing, it is then omnipotent and so not a creature. If it makes something of matter unfit for that which is produced out of it, then the inquiry will be, Who was the cause of the matter? and so we must arrive to some uncreated being, the cause of all. Whatsoever gives being to any other must be the highest being, and must possess all the perfections of that which it gives being to. What visible creature is there which possesses the perfections of the whole world? If therefore an invisible creature made the world, the same inquiries will return whence that creature had its being? for he could not make himself. If any creature did create the world, he must do it by the strength and virtue of another, which first gave him being, and this is God. For whatsoever hath its existence and virtue of acting from another, is not God. If it hath its virtue from another, it is then a second cause, and so supposeth a first cause. It must have some cause of itself, or be eternally existent. If eternally existent, it is not a second cause, but God; if not eternally existent, we must come to something at length which was the cause of it, or else be bewildered without being able to give an account of anything. We must come at last to an infinite, eternal, independent Being, that was the first cause of this structure and fabric wherein we and all creatures dwell. The Scripture proclaims this aloud,

     “I am the Lord and there is none else: I form the light, and I create darkness.” Man, the noblest creature, cannot of himself make a man, the chiefest part of the world. If our parents only, without a superior power, made our bodies or souls, they would know the frame of them; as he that makes a lock knows the wards of it; he that makes any curious piece of arras, knows how he sets the various colors together, and how many threads went to each division in the web; he that makes a watch, having the idea of the whole work in his mind, knows the motions of it, and the reason of those motions. But both parents and children are equally ignorant of the nature of their souls and bodies, and of the reason of their motions. God only, that had the supreme hand in forming us, in whose “book all our members are written, which in continuance were fashioned,” knows what we all are ignorant of. If man hath in an ordinary course of generation his being chiefly from a higher cause than his parents, the world then certainly had its being from some infinitely wise intelligent Being, which is God. If it were, as some fancy, made by an assembly of atoms, there must be some infinite intelligent cause that made them, some cause that separated them, some cause that mingled them together for the piling up so comely a structure as the world. It is the most absurd thing to think they should meet together by hazard, and rank themselves in that order we see, without a higher and a wise agent. So that no creature could make the world. For supposing any creature was formed before this visible world, and might have a hand in disposing things, yet he must have a cause of himself, and must act by the virtue and strength of another, and this is God.

     IV. From hence it follows, that there is a first cause of things, which we call God. There must be something supreme in the order of nature, something which is greater than all, which hath nothing beyond it or above it, otherwise we must run in infinitum. We see not a river, but we conclude a fountain; a watch, but we conclude an artificer. As all number begins from unity, so all the multitude of things in the world begins from some unity, oneness as the principle of it. It is natural to arise from a view of those things, to the conception of a nature more perfect than any. As from heat mixed with cold, and light mixed with darkness, men conceive and arise in their understandings to an intense heat and a pure light; and from a corporeal or bodily substance joined with an incorporeal, (as man is an earthly body and a spiritual soul, we ascend to a conception of a substance pure incorporeal and spiritual: so from a multitude of things in the word, reason leads us to one choice being above all. And since in all natures in the world, we still find a superior nature; the nature of one beast, above the nature of another; the nature of man above the nature of beasts; and some invisible nature, the worker of strange effects in the air and earth, which cannot be ascribed to any visible cause, we must suppose some nature above all those, of unconceivable perfection.

     Every skeptic, one that doubts whether there be anything real or no in the world, that counts everything an appearance, must necessarily own a first cause. They cannot reasonably doubt, but that there is some first cause which makes the things appear so to them. They cannot be the cause of their own appearance. For as nothing can have a being from itself, so nothing can appear by itself and its own force. Nothing can be and not be at the same time. But that which is not and yet seems to be; if it be the cause why it seems to be what it is not, it may be said to be and not to be. But certainly such persons must think themselves to exist. If they do not, they cannot think; and if they do exist, they must have some cause of that existence. So that which way soever we turn ourselves, we must in reason own a first cause of the world. Well then might the Psalmist term an atheist a fool, that disowns a God against his own reason. Without owning a God as the first cause of the world, no man can give any tolerable or satisfactory account of the world to his own reason. And this first cause,

     1. Must necessarily exist. It is necessary that He by whom all things are, should be before all things, and nothing before him. And if nothing be before him, he comes not from any other; and then he always was, and without beginning. He is from himself; not that he once was not, but because he hath not his existence from another, and therefore of necessity he did exist from all eternity. Nothing can make itself, or bring itself into being; therefore there must be some being which hath no cause, that depends upon no other, never was produced by any other, but was what he is from eternity, and cannot be otherwise; and is not what he is by will, but nature, necessarily existing, and always existing without any capacity or possibility ever not to be.

     2. Must be infinitely perfect. Since man knows he is an imperfect being, he must suppose the perfections he wants are seated in some other being which hath limited him, and upon which he depends. Whatsoever we conceive of excellency or perfection, must be in God. For we can conceive no perfection but what God hath given us a power to conceive. And he that gave us a power to conceive a transcendent perfection above whatever we saw or heard of, hath much more in himself; else he could not give us such a conception.

     Secondly, As the production of the world, so the harmony of all the parts of it declare the being and wisdom of a God. Without the acknowledging God, the atheist can give no account of those things. The multitude, elegancy, variety, and beauty of all things are steps whereby to ascend to one fountain and original of them. Is it not a folly to deny the being of a wise agent, who sparkles in the beauty and motions of the heavens, rides upon the wings of the wind, and is writ upon the flowers and fruits of plants? As the cause is known by the effects, so the wisdom of the cause is known by the elegancy of the work, the proportion of the parts to one another. Who can imagine the world could be rashly made, and without consultation, which, in every part of it, is so artificially framed? No work of art springs up of its own accord. The world is framed by an excellent art, and, therefore, made by some skilful artist. As we hear not a melodious instrument, but we conclude there is a musician that touches it, as well as some skilful hand that framed and disposed it for those lessons; and no man that hears the pleasant sound of a lute but will fix his thoughts, not upon the instrument itself, but upon the skill of the artist that made it, and the art of the musician that strikes it, though he should not see the first, when he saw the lute, nor see the other, when he hears the harmony: so a rational creature confines not his thoughts to his sense when he sees the sun in its glory, and the moon walking in its brightness; but riseth up in a contemplation and admiration of that Infinite Spirit that composed, and filled them with such sweetness. This appears,

     1. In the linking contrary qualities together. All things are compounded of the elements. Those are endued with contrary qualities, dryness and moisture, heat and cold. These would always be contending with and infesting one another’s rights, till the contest ended in the destruction of one or both. Where fire is predominant, it would suck up the water; where water is prevalent, it would quench the fire. The heat would wholly expel the cold, or the cold overpower the heat, yet we see them chained and linked one within another in every body upon the earth, and rendering mutual offices for the benefit of that body wherein they are seated, and all conspiring together in their particular quarrels for the public interest of the body. How could those contraries, that of themselves observe no order, that are always preying upon one another, jointly accord together of themselves, for one common end, if they were not linked in a common band, and reduced to that order by some incomprehensible wisdom and power, which keeps a hand upon them, orders their motions and directs their events, and makes them friendly pass into one another’s natures? Confusion had been the result of the discord and diversity of their natures; no composition could have been of those conflicting qualities for the frame of any body, nor any harmony arose from so many jarring strings, if they had not been reduced into concord by one that is supreme Lord over them, and knows how to dispose their varieties and enmities for the public good. If a man should see a large city or country, consisting of great multitudes of men, of different tempers, full of frauds, and factions, and animosities in their natures against one another, yet living together in good order and peace, without oppressing and invading one another, and joining together for the public good, he would presently conclude there were some excellent governor, who tempered them by his wisdom, and reserved the public peace, though he had never yet beheld him with his eye. It is as necessary to conclude a God, who moderates the contrarieties in the world, as to conclude a wise prince who overrules the contrary dispositions in a state, making every one to keep his own bounds and confines. Things that are contrary to one another subsist in an admirable order.

     2. In the subserviency of one thing to another. All the members of living creatures are curiously fitted for the service of one another, destined to a particular end, and endued with a virtue to attain that end, and so distinctly placed, that one is no hindrance to the other in its operations. Is not this more admirable than to be the work of chance, which is incapable to settle such an order, and fix particular and general ends, causing an exact correspondency of all the parts with one another, and every part to conspire together for one common end? One thing is fitted for another. The eye is fitted for the sun, and the sun fitted for the eye. Several sorts of food are fitted for several creatures, and those creatures fitted with organs for the partaking that food.

     (1.) Subserviency of heavenly bodies. The sun, the heart of the world, is not for itself, but for the good of the world, as the heart of man is for the good of the body. How conveniently is the sun placed, at a distance from the earth, and the upper heavens, to enlighten the stars above, and enliven the earth below! If it were either higher or lower, one part would want its influences. It is not in the higher parts of the heavens; the earth, then, which lives and fructifies by its influence would have been exposed to a perpetual winter and chillness, unable to have produced anything for the sustenance of man or beast. If seated lower, the earth had been parched up, the world made uninhabitable, and long since had been consumed to ashes by the strength of its heat. Consider the motion, as well as the situation of the sun. Had it stood still, one part of the world had been cherished by its beams, and the other left in a desolate widowhood, in a disconsolate darkness. Besides, the earth would have had no shelter from its perpendicular beams striking perpetually, and without any remission, upon it. The same incommodities would have followed upon its fixedness as upon its too great nearness. By a constant day, the beauty of the stars had been obscured, the knowledge of their motions been prevented, and a considerable part of the glorious wisdom of the Creator, in those choice “works of his finders,” had been veiled from our eyes. It moves in a fixed line, visits all parts of the earth, scatters in the day its refreshing blessings in every creek of the earth, and removes the mask from the other beauties of heaven in the night, which sparkle out to the glory of the Creator. It spreads its light, warms the earth, cherisheth the seeds, excites the spirit in the earth, and brings fruit to maturity. View also the air, the vast, extent between heaven and earth, which serves for a water-course, a cistern for water, to bedew the face of the sun-burnt earth, to satisfy the desolate ground, and to cause the ‘bud of the tender herb to spring forth.’ Could chance appoint the clouds of the air to interpose as fans between the scorching heat of the sun, and the faint bodies of the creatures? Can that be the ‘father of the rain, or beget the drops of dew?’ Could anything so blind settle those ordinances of heaven for the preservation of creatures on the earth? Can this either bring or stay the bottles of heaven, when the ‘dust grows into hardness, and the clouds cleave fast together?’

     (2.) Subserviency of the lower world, the earth, and sea, which was created to be inhabited, (Isa. 45:18.) The sea affords water to the rivers, the rivers, like so many veins, are spread through the whole body of the earth, to refresh and enable it to bring forth fruit for the sustenance of man and beast, (Ps. 104:10, 11.) “He sends the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills; they give drink to every beast of the field; the wild asses quench their thirst. He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and the herb for the service of man, that he may bring forth food out of the earth.” (ver. 14.) The trees are provided for shades against the extremity of heat, a refuge for the panting beasts, an “habitation for birds,” wherein to make their nests (ver. 17), and a basket for their provision. How are the valleys and mountains of the earth disposed for the pleasure and profit of man! Every year are the fields covered with harvests for the nourishing the creatures; no part is baren, but beneficial to man. The mountains that are not clothed with grass for his food, are set with stones to make him an habitation; they have their peculiar services of metals and minerals, for the conveniency and comfort, and benefit of man. Things which are not fit for his food, are medicines for his cure, under some painful sickness. Where the earth brings not forth corn, it brings forth roots for the service of other creatures. Wood abounds more in those countries where the cold is stronger than in others. Can this be the result of chance, or not rather of an Infinite Wisdom? Consider the usefulness of the sea, for the supply of rivers to refresh the earth: “Which go up by the mountains and down by the valleys into the place God hath founded for them” (Ps. 104:8): a store-house for fish, for the nourishment of other creatures, a shop of medicines for cure, and pearls for ornament: the band that ties remote nations together, by giving opportunity of passage to, and commerce with, one another. How should that natural inclination of the sea to cover the earth, submit to this subserviency to the creatures?

     Who hath pounded in this fluid mass of water in certain limits, and confined it to its own channel, for the accommodation of such creatures, who, by its common law, can only be upon the earth? Naturally the earth was covered with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. “Who set a bound that they might not pass over,” that they return not again to cover the earth? Was it blind chance or an Infinite Power, that “shut up the sea with doors, and made thick darkness a swaddling band for it, and said, Hitherto shall thou come and no farther, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?” All things are so ordered, that they are not propter se, but propter aliud. What advantage accrues to the sun by its unwearied rolling about the world? Doth it increase the perfection of its nature by all its circuits? No; but it serves the inferior world, it impregnates things by its heat. Not the most abject thing but hath its end and use. There is a straight connection: the earth could not bring forth fruit without the heavens; the heavens could not water the earth without vapors from it.

     (3.) All this subserviency of creatures centres in man. Other creatures are served by those things, as well as ourselves, and they are provided for their nourishment and refreshment, as well as ours; yet, both they, and all creatures meet in man, as lines in their centres. Things that have no life or sense, are made for those that have both life and sense; and those that have life and sense, are made for those that are endued with reason. When the Psalmist admiringly considers the heavens, moon and stars, he intimates man to be the end for which they were created (Ps. 8:3, 4): “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” He expresseth more particularly the dominion that man hath “over the beasts of the field, the fowl of the air, and whatsoever passes through the paths of the sea” (ver. 6–8); and concludes from thence, the “excellency of God’s name in all the earth.” All things in the world, one way or other, centre in an usefulness for man; some to feed him, some to clothe him, some to delight him, others to instruct him, some to exercise his wit, and others his strength. Since man did not make them, he did not also order them for his own use. If they conspire to serve him who never made them, they direct man to acknowledge another, who is the joint Creator both of the lord and the servants under his dominion; and, therefore, as the inferior natures are ordered by an invisible hand for the good of man, so the nature of man is, by the same hand, ordered to acknowledge the existence and the glory of the Creator of him. This visible order man knows he did not constitute; he did not settle those creatures in subserviency to himself; they were placed in that order before he had any acquaintance with them, or existence of himself; which is a question God puts to Job, to consider of (Job 38:4): “Where wast thou when I laid the foundation of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.” All is ordered for man’s use; the heavens answer to the earth, as a roof to a floor, both composing a delightful habitation for man; vapors ascend from the earth, and the heaven concocts them, and returns them back in welcome showers for the supplying of the earth. The light of the sun descends to beautify the earth, and employs its heat to midwife its fruits, and this for the good of the community, whereof man is the head; and though all creatures have distinct natures, and must act for particular ends, according to the law of their creation, yet there is a joint combination for the good of the whole, as the common end; just as all the rivers in the world, from what part soever they come, whether north or south, fall into the sea, for the supply of that mass of waters, which loudly proclaims some infinitely wise nature, who made those things in so exact an harmony. “As in a clock, the hammer which strikes the bell leads us to the next wheel, that to another, the little wheel to a greater, whence it derives its motion, this at last to the spring, which acquaints us that there was some artist that framed them in this subordination to one another for this orderly motion.”

     (4.) This order or subserviency is regular and uniform; everything is determined to its particular nature. The sun and moon day and night, months and years, determine the seasons, never are defective in coming back to their station and place; they wander not from their roads, shock not against one another, nor hinder one another in the functions assigned them. From a small grain or seed, a tree springs, with body, root, bark, leaves, fruit of the same shape, figure, smell, taste; that there should be as many parts in one, as in all of the same kind, and no more; and that in the womb of a sensitive creature should be formed one of the same kind, with all the due members, and no more; and the creature that produceth it knows not how it is formed, or how it is perfected. If we say this is nature, this nature is an intelligent being; if not, how can it direct all causes to such uniform ends? if it be intelligent, this nature must be the same we call God, “who ordered every herb to yield seed, and every fruit tree to yield fruit after its kind, and also every beast, and every creeping thing after its kind.” (Gen. 1:11, 12, 24.) And everything is determined to its particular season; the sap riseth from the root at its appointed time, enlivening and clothing the branches with a new garment at such a time of the sun’s returning, not wholly hindered by any accidental coldness of the weather, it being often colder at its return, than it was at the sun’s departure. All things have their seasons of flourishing, budding, blossoming, bringing forth fruit; they ripen in their seasons, cast their leaves at the same time, throw off their old clothes, and in the spring appear with new garments, but still in the same fashion. The winds and the rain have their seasons, and seem to be administered by laws for the profit of man. No satisfactory cause of those things can be ascribed to the earth, the sea, or the air, or stars. “Can any understand the spreading of his clouds, or the noise of his tabernacle?” (Job 38:29.) The natural reason of those things cannot be demonstrated, without recourse to an infinite and intelligent being; nothing can be rendered capable of the direction of those things but a God.

     This regularity in plants and animals is in all nations. The heavens have the same motion in all parts of the world; all men have the same law of nature in their mind; all creatures are stamped with the same law of creation. In all parts the same creatures serve for the same use; and though there be different creatures in India and Europe, yet they have the same subordination, the same subserviency to one another, and ultimately to man; which shows that there is a God, and but one God, who tunes all those different strings to the same notes in all places. Is it nature merely conducts these natural causes in due measure to their proper effects, without interfering with one another? Can mere nature be the cause of those musical proportions of time? You may as well conceive a lute to sound its own strings without the hand of an artist; a city well governed without a governor; an army keep its stations without a general, as imagine so exact an order without an orderer. Would any man, when he hears a clock strike, by fit intervals, the hour of the day, imagine this regularity in it without the direction of one that had understanding to manage it?

     He would not only regard the motion of the clock, but commend the diligence of the clockkeeper.

     (5.) This order and subserviency is constant. Children change the customs and manners of their fathers; magistrates change the laws they have received from their ancestors, and enact new ones in their room: but in the world all things consist as they were created at the beginning; the law of nature in the creatures hath met with no change. Who can behold the sun rising in the morning, the moon shining in the night, increasing and decreasing in its due spaces, the stars in their regular motions night after night, for all ages, and yet deny a President over them? And this motion of the heavenly bodies, being contrary to the nature of other creatures, who move in order to rest, must be from some higher cause. But those, ever since the settling in their places, have been perpetually rounding the world. What nature, but one powerful and intelligent, could give that perpetual motion to the sun, which being bigger than the earth a hundred sixty-six times, runs many thousand miles with a mighty swiftness in the space of an hour, with an unwearied diligence per forming its daily task, and, as a strong man, rejoicing to run its race, for above five thousand years together, without intermission, but in the time of Joshua? It is not nature’s sun, but God’s sun, which he ‘makes to rise upon the just and unjust.’ So a plant receives its nourishment from the earth, sends forth the juice to every branch, forms a bud which spreads it into a blossom and flower; the leaves of this drop off, and leave a fruit of the same color and taste, every year, which, being ripened by the sun, leaves seeds behind it for the propagation of its like, which contains in the nature of it the same kind of buds, blossoms, fruit, which were before; and being nourished in the womb of the earth, and quickened by the power of the sun, discovers itself at length, in all the progresses and motions which its predecessor did. Thus in all ages, in all places, every year it performs the same task, spins out fruit of the same color, taste, virtue, to refresh the several creatures for which they are provided. This settled state of things comes from that God who laid the “foundations of the earth,” that it should “not be removed” forever; and set “ordinances for them” to act by a stated law; according to which they move as if they understood themselves to have made a covenant with their Creator.


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

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


     Sect. CIX. — BUT as to myself, as I said before, I never aimed at any kind of invented interpretation. Nor did I ever speak thus: ‘Stretch forth thine hand; that is, grace shall stretch it forth.’ All these things, are the Diatribe’s own inventions Concerning me, to the furtherance of its own cause. What I said was this: — that there is no contradiction in the words of the Scripture, nor any need of an invented interpretation to clear up a difficulty. But that the assertors of “Free-will” willfully stumbled upon plain ground, and dream of contradictions where there are none.

     For example: There is no contradiction in these Scriptures, “If a man purify himself,” and, “God worketh all in all.” Nor is it necessary to say, in order to explain this difficulty, God does something and man does something. Because, the former Scripture is conditional, which neither affirms or denies any work or power in man, but simply shews what work or power there ought to be in man. There is nothing figurative here; nothing that requires an invented interpretation; the words are plain, the sense is plain; that is, if you do not add conclusions and corruptions, after the manner of the Diatribe: for then, the sense would not be plain: not, however, by its own fault, but by the fault of the corruptor.

     But the latter Scripture, “God worketh all in all,” (1 Cor. xii. 6), is an indicative passage; declaring, that all works and all power are of God. How then do these two passages, the one of which says nothing of the power of man, and the other of which attributes all to God, contradict each other, and not rather sweetly harmonize. But the Diatribe is so drowned, suffocated in, and corrupted with, that sense of the carnal interpretation, ‘that impossibilities are commanded in vain,’ that it has no power over itself; but as soon as it hears an imperative or conditional word, it immediately tacks to it its indicative conclusions: — a certain thing is commanded: therefore, we are able to do it, and do do it, or the command is ridiculous.

     On this side it bursts forth and boasts of its complete victory: as though it held it as a settled point, that these conclusions, as soon as hatched in thought, were established as firmly as the Divine Authority. And hence, it pronounces with all confidence, that in some places of the Scripture all is attributed to man: and that, therefore, there is a contradiction that requires interpretation. But it does not see, that all this is the figment of its own brain, no where confirmed by one iota of Scripture. And not only so, but that it is of such a nature, that if it were admitted, it would confute no one more directly than itself: because, if it proved any thing, it would prove that “Free-will” can do all things: whereas, it undertook to prove the directly contrary.


The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library


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