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Ruth 1     Acts 26     Jeremiah 36 & 45     Psalm 9


Ruth 1

Naomi Widowed

Ruth 1 1 In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. 2 The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. 3 But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, 5 and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.

Ruth's Loyalty to Naomi

6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited his people and given them food. 7 So she set out from the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. 8 But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother's house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10 And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? 12 Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, 13 would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.” 14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.

15 And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” 18 And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.

Naomi and Ruth Return

19 So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” 20 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”

22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.


Acts 26

Paul's Defense Before Agrippa

Acts 26 1 So Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense:

2 “I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, 3 especially because you are familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews. Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.

4 “My manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews. 5 They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee. 6 And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, 7 to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! 8 Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?

9 “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.

Paul Tells of His Conversion

12 “In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language,[a] ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

19 “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. 21 For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. 22 To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: 23 that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”

24 And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” 25 But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. 26 For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” 28 And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” 29 And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.”

30 Then the king rose, and the governor and Bernice and those who were sitting with them. 31 And when they had withdrawn, they said to one another, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.” 32 And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”


Jeremiah 36

Jehoiakim Burns Jeremiah's Scroll

Jeremiah 36 1 In the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Take a scroll and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and Judah and all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah until today. 3 It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the disaster that I intend to do to them, so that every one may turn from his evil way, and that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.”

4 Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah, and Baruch wrote on a scroll at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the Lord that he had spoken to him. 5 And Jeremiah ordered Baruch, saying, “I am banned from going to the house of the Lord, 6 so you are to go, and on a day of fasting in the hearing of all the people in the Lord's house you shall read the words of the Lord from the scroll that you have written at my dictation. You shall read them also in the hearing of all the men of Judah who come out of their cities. 7 It may be that their plea for mercy will come before the Lord, and that every one will turn from his evil way, for great is the anger and wrath that the Lord has pronounced against this people.” 8 And Baruch the son of Neriah did all that Jeremiah the prophet ordered him about reading from the scroll the words of the Lord in the Lord's house.

9 In the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, in the ninth month, all the people in Jerusalem and all the people who came from the cities of Judah to Jerusalem proclaimed a fast before the Lord. 10 Then, in the hearing of all the people, Baruch read the words of Jeremiah from the scroll, in the house of the Lord, in the chamber of Gemariah the son of Shaphan the secretary, which was in the upper court, at the entry of the New Gate of the Lord's house.

11 When Micaiah the son of Gemariah, son of Shaphan, heard all the words of the Lord from the scroll, 12 he went down to the king's house, into the secretary's chamber, and all the officials were sitting there: Elishama the secretary, Delaiah the son of Shemaiah, Elnathan the son of Achbor, Gemariah the son of Shaphan, Zedekiah the son of Hananiah, and all the officials. 13 And Micaiah told them all the words that he had heard, when Baruch read the scroll in the hearing of the people. 14 Then all the officials sent Jehudi the son of Nethaniah, son of Shelemiah, son of Cushi, to say to Baruch, “Take in your hand the scroll that you read in the hearing of the people, and come.” So Baruch the son of Neriah took the scroll in his hand and came to them. 15 And they said to him, “Sit down and read it.” So Baruch read it to them. 16 When they heard all the words, they turned one to another in fear. And they said to Baruch, “We must report all these words to the king.” 17 Then they asked Baruch, “Tell us, please, how did you write all these words? Was it at his dictation?” 18 Baruch answered them, “He dictated all these words to me, while I wrote them with ink on the scroll.” 19 Then the officials said to Baruch, “Go and hide, you and Jeremiah, and let no one know where you are.”

20 So they went into the court to the king, having put the scroll in the chamber of Elishama the secretary, and they reported all the words to the king. 21 Then the king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and he took it from the chamber of Elishama the secretary. And Jehudi read it to the king and all the officials who stood beside the king. 22 It was the ninth month, and the king was sitting in the winter house, and there was a fire burning in the fire pot before him. 23 As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a knife and throw them into the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the fire pot. 24 Yet neither the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words was afraid, nor did they tear their garments. 25 Even when Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them. 26 And the king commanded Jerahmeel the king's son and Seraiah the son of Azriel and Shelemiah the son of Abdeel to seize Baruch the secretary and Jeremiah the prophet, but the Lord hid them.

27 Now after the king had burned the scroll with the words that Baruch wrote at Jeremiah's dictation, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 28 “Take another scroll and write on it all the former words that were in the first scroll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah has burned. 29 And concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah you shall say, ‘Thus says the Lord, You have burned this scroll, saying, “Why have you written in it that the king of Babylon will certainly come and destroy this land, and will cut off from it man and beast?” 30 Therefore thus says the Lord concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: He shall have none to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat by day and the frost by night. 31 And I will punish him and his offspring and his servants for their iniquity. I will bring upon them and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem and upon the people of Judah all the disaster that I have pronounced against them, but they would not hear.’”

32 Then Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah, who wrote on it at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. And many similar words were added to them.


Jeremiah 45

Message to Baruch

Jeremiah 45 1 The word that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah, when he wrote these words in a book at the dictation of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah: 2 “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch: 3 You said, ‘Woe is me! For the Lord has added sorrow to my pain. I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest.’ 4 Thus shall you say to him, Thus says the Lord: Behold, what I have built I am breaking down, and what I have planted I am plucking up—that is, the whole land. 5 And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh, declares the Lord. But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go.”


Psalm 9

I Will Recount Your Wonderful Deeds

To the choirmaster: according to Muth-labben. A Psalm of David.

  See Psalm 9 article below   Psalm 9 1 I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
2 I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

3 When my enemies turn back,
they stumble and perish before your presence.
4 For you have maintained my just cause;
you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment.

5 You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish;
you have blotted out their name forever and ever.
6 The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins;
their cities you rooted out;
the very memory of them has perished.

7 But the Lord sits enthroned forever;
he has established his throne for justice,
8 and he judges the world with righteousness;
he judges the peoples with uprightness.

9 The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.

11 Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion!
Tell among the peoples his deeds!
12 For he who avenges blood is mindful of them;
he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.

13 Be gracious to me, O Lord!
See my affliction from those who hate me,
O you who lift me up from the gates of death,
14 that I may recount all your praises,
that in the gates of the daughter of Zion
I may rejoice in your salvation.

15 The nations have sunk in the pit that they made;
in the net that they hid, their own foot has been caught.
16 The Lord has made himself known; he has executed judgment;
the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. Higgaion. Selah

17 The wicked shall return to Sheol,
all the nations that forget God.

18 For the needy shall not always be forgotten,
and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.

19 Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail;
let the nations be judged before you!
20 Put them in fear, O Lord!
Let the nations know that they are but men! Selah

The Reformation Study Bible


What I'm Reading

Living in Light of the Gospel: An Interview with Paul David Tripp

By Paul David Tripp 9/01/2011

     Tabletalk: Tell us a little about Paul Tripp Ministries and your call to a ministry of counseling.

     Paul David Tripp: Let me say first that the name of the ministry is not what it is because I think that it is all about me. It is so named because of the Internet; type my name and you get my website. The ministry was begun because God had given me a platform that I knew I must be a good steward of. What propels me in ministry is the reality that, as believers, we tend to understand salvation future, but we tend to be confused when it comes to the present benefits of the work of Christ in the here and now. I call this the “nowism” of the gospel. Christ didn’t just die for our past and our future. No, he also died for our here and now.

     What has Christ given me for my difficult marriage, my rebellious teenager, my struggle with fear, or that private area of sin? These are the questions that shape and propel my ministry. My goal is to come alongside the local church and do anything I can to help them disciple their people into living in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. To do this, I will continue to write, speak, and produce consumable gospel resources so that people will not just assent to the truths of the gospel but live out those truths in the hallways, kitchens, family rooms, and boardrooms of everyday life. It’s not enough to believe in life after death; we better start believing in life before death, a quality of existence that would not be possible apart from the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

     TT: Is there anything Christians can learn from secular approaches to counseling, or should Christians avoid them altogether?

     PDT: The answer to this question is found in the brilliantly practical words of Colossians 2:8: “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits (principles) of the world, and not according to Christ” (parentheses mine). Notice that Paul is not arguing that everything that the world says is trash. God allows philosophers, psychologists, and scientists to have insights. There are things that we can learn from their experience and research. But we must learn from them while being aware that there is a fatal flaw in their worldview: it omits Christ.

     Because of this flaw, we cannot let our counseling be controlled or shaped by a system that ignores or denies the most important person in the universe — Christ — and the most important work in the universe — His life, death, and resurrection. So while we are thankful for the insights of the culture’s thinkers, we receive those insights knowing the system out of which they come is fatally flawed, and we understand that a biblical approach to change is not just another school of psychology among many other schools. No, biblical counseling is radically different. Unlike all other schools of psychology, which put their hope in some kind of human system of redemption, we believe that lasting personal change necessitates a Redeemer. So we humbly listen to and learn from the voices around us, but we will not be taken captive by any system of hope that omits the Lord of hope, Jesus Christ.

     TT: Most Christians express a desire to change, to become more Christlike, but often stumble and fall short, some even give up in despair. How is the change we desire to be achieved?

     PDT: The bright hope of the cross of Jesus Christ is that lasting personal change is really possible. The person and work of Christ mean fresh starts and new beginnings can and do happen. What does the process of change look like? We must first affirm that all lasting change of heart that leads to a change in a person’s words and behavior is an act of grace. How does that grace operate in the heart of a person? Here’s how I think about the process. First, you can’t grieve what you don’t see. You have to be willing to look into the accurate mirror of the Word of God. You can’t confess what you haven’t grieved. You have to submit to the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit and own personal responsibility for your words and behavior. You can’t repent of what you haven’t confessed. You have to obey God’s call to new ways of living and ask, “Specifically where is God calling me to live in a brand new way?” Finally, you can’t change (actually applying these new commitments to daily living) what you haven’t repented of. That’s the process of transforming grace: see-grieve-confess-repent-change.

     TT: What do you believe to be the most serious issues plaguing the modern Christian family?

     PDT: One of the greatest challenges to the Christian family is rampant, culturally-institutionalized, media-promoted, hero-driven materialism. Maybe more than ever before, our culture has embraced the delusion that life can be found in the physical, material creation. The created world has no ability whatsoever to satisfy the cravings of our hearts. The creation is meant to be a finger that points me to the one place where real life and rest of heart can be found — God. Because this materialism plays to the deepest idolatries of our hearts (Rom. 1:25), it leaves us fat, addicted, and in debt. As a culture, we spend too much, we eat too much, we try to experience too much, and we are way too busy, all in the vain hope that we will find life where it cannot be found. It is hard to be a family living in Western culture and not breathe in the toxic gases of its materialism.

     TT: What are the biggest challenges facing Christian adolescents today, and how should the church be involved?

     PDT: You could argue that the struggles of teenagers today are exactly what they’ve always been. Teens don’t tend to hunger for wisdom and correction. They tend to be legalistic (arguing about where the boundaries are); they tend to be unwise in their choices of companions; they tend to be susceptible to sexual temptation; they don’t tend to live with the future in view; and they tend to be blind to the true condition of their hearts. We are alerted to these struggles in Proverbs in a historical setting when a father would say to his son at the end of the day: “Have you bedded down the camel?” But they map right onto a generation when a father says to his son at the end of the day: “Did you gas up the SUV?” These struggles of heart are transgenerational and transcultural.

     For us, these struggles are reinforced by three things in our culture. First, our teens live in a culture where biblical faith and values have a very small place in the cultural discussion. Second, they are told again and again every day that life really can be found in material things. And finally, they live in a culture where intensely intrusive and constantly available media puts the philosophy of the culture in their face. All around me, I see teens in Christian families assenting to biblical belief but buying the idols of the surrounding culture.

     TT: What are some of the dangers we face any time we speak? how should the gospel inform and shape the way we use our words?

     PDT: Second Corinthians 5:15 says that Jesus died so that “those who live would no longer live for themselves.” You see, the DNA of sin is selfishness. This means that sin in its fundamental form is anti-social. Because sin causes each of us to be self-absorbed and self-obsessed, our words aren’t the instruments of love for God and people that they were designed to be. So, the call of the gospel of Jesus Christ is for His followers to quit using words in the selfish pursuit of the goals and purposes of their own little kingdoms of one and begin to speak for the King. There is no better communication of this than the model given in the prayer of our Lord. Imagine the good that would come if we would daily pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done right here, right now, in my words as it is in heaven.”

     TT: All of us at times have friends who talk to us when they are experiencing serious problems. What is the single best piece of advice that you can give us when we face this situation?

     PDT: I tell people who are helping people all the time to remember that they are not the fourth member of the Trinity. It is important for each of us to understand that we have no calling or ability to change another person. If it is not my job or within my capability to create human change, then my calling is to be a tool in the hands of the One who holds that power.

     This means I don’t try to create change by the force of my personality, the logic of my arguments, or the volume of my voice. It also means that I don’t ask the law to do what only grace can accomplish: I don’t try to create change by threat, manipulation or guilt. No, I put my confidence in the transforming grace of the Redeemer and endeavor to be an instrument of seeing, a tool of conviction, and an agent of repentance.

     I again and again tell the helpers out there to rest in the transforming power of the grace of God, working through the Word of God and ignited by the Spirit of God.

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     Paul David Tripp is president of Paul Tripp Ministries, which has as its mission statement, “Connecting the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life.” In addition to being a gifted communicator and sought-after conference speaker, Dr. Tripp is professor of pastoral life and care at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, Texas; the executive director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care in Fort Worth, Texas; and has taught at respected institutions worldwide.

Sheep, Wolves, Snakes, and Doves

By John Piper 9/1/2011

     When Jesus sends us to bear witness to Him in the world, He does not send us out as dominant and strong but as weak and seemingly defenseless in ourselves. The only reason I say “seemingly” defenseless is that it is possible that, since “all authority” belongs to Jesus (Matt. 28:18), He might intervene and shut the mouths of the wolves, like he did the mouths of the lions that surrounded Daniel.

     But that does not appear to be His intention. He goes on to say that the “wolves” will deliver the “sheep” to courts, flog them, drag them before governors, have parents and children put to death, hate them, persecute them from town to town, malign them, and kill them (Matt. 10:17–31). So it is clear that when Jesus says He is sending us as sheep in the midst of wolves, He means that we will be treated the way wolves treat sheep.

     But even though sheep are proverbially stupid — which, on the face of it, is what it looks like when they walk toward wolves and not away from them — Jesus counters that notion by saying “be wise as serpents.” So vulnerability, not stupidity, is the point of calling us sheep. Be like snakes, not sheep, when it comes to being smart. I take that to mean that snakes are quick to get out of the way. They go under a rock.

     So, yes, go among wolves and be vulnerable as you preach the gospel, but when they lunge at you, step aside. When they open their mouths, don’t jump in. And not only that, be as innocent as doves. That is, don’t give them any legitimate reason to accuse you of injustice or immorality. Keep your reputation as clean as you can.

     So both the snake-intelligence and the dove-innocence are designed to keep the sheep out of trouble. Jesus does not mean for us to get ourselves into as much difficulty as possible. He means: risk your lives as vulnerable, non-combative, sheeplike, courageous witnesses, but try to find ways to give your witness in a way that does not bring down unnecessary persecution.

     This brings us to the dilemma that has faced many faithful witnesses: When do you flee from danger? And when do you embrace it and witness through it? In 1684, John Bunyan published a book called Seasonable Counsel, or, Advice to Sufferers. In it, he addressed this question: When does a sufferer fly (from danger) and when does he stand (and suffer the danger)? Bunyan knew how to answer for himself. He had four children, one of them blind, and he chose to remain in prison for twelve years rather than promise not to preach the gospel. How does he answer the question for others? May we try to escape?

     Thou mayest do in this as it is in thy heart. If it is in thy heart to fly, fly; if it be in thy heart to stand, stand. Anything but a denial of the truth. He that flies, has warrant to do so; he that stands, has warrant to do so. Yea, the same man may both fly and stand, as the call and working of God with his heart may be. Moses fled, Ex. 2:15; Moses stood, Heb. 11:27. David fled, 1 Sam. 19:12; David stood, 1 Sam. 24:8. Jeremiah fled, Jer. 37:11– 12; Jeremiah stood, Jer. 38:17. Christ withdrew himself, Luke 19:10; Christ stood, John 18:1–8. Paul fled, 2 Cor. 11:33; Paul stood, Act 20:22–23. …

     There are few rules in this case. The man himself is best able to judge concerning his present strength, and what weight this or that argument has upon his heart to stand or fly…. Do not fly out of a slavish fear, but rather because flying is an ordinance of God, opening a door for the escape of some, which door is opened by God’s providence, and the escape countenanced by God’s Word, Matt. 10:23. …

     If, therefore, when thou hast fled, thou art taken, be not offended at God or man: not at God, for thou art his servant, thy life and thy all are his; not at man, for he is but God’s rod, and is ordained, in this, to do thee good. Hast thou escaped? Laugh. Art thou taken? Laugh. I mean, be pleased which [how] soever things shall go, for that the scales are still in God’s hand. (p. 726).

     Let us be slow to judge the missionary who chooses death rather than escape. And let us be slow to judge the missionary who chooses life. Rather, let us give ourselves daily to the disciplines of Word saturation and obedience that transform us by the renewing of our minds, that we may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect in the moment of absolute urgency (Rom. 12:2).

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

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Happy Pastors

By C.J. Mahaney 9/1/2011

     As the star of the television series Dirty Jobs, Mike Rowe suits up and labors in some of the most dirty and dangerous work environments possible. To date, he hasn’t tried pastoring. But pastoring qualifies as a dirty job, which is reflected in the most common biblical metaphor for the job: shepherd. Being a shepherd is difficult, demanding, and — if done well — exhausting. Pastors with any experience in the field will know exactly what I mean.

     Take sermon preparation. The work is hard, repetitive, and impossible to avoid, outgrow, or expedite. You spend hours of hard work over the text, and at some point you review your sermon manuscript and are embarrassed by what you see. Maybe you find yourself tired, confused, and a bit fearful. And you’ll do it all again next week.

     Then comes the sermon. Ten minutes into the message a terrible feeling seems to confirm that it’s not going well. After worship, you talk with people but nobody even mentions your sermon. Even your wife, who wants to encourage you, says, “Well, it wasn’t one of your best.”

     Or take counseling. You meet with the same people about the same sins over and over again. You invest many hours in counseling a man who eventually leaves his wife for another woman. Meanwhile, you have church members who are suffering. You visit the hospital so often the nurses know your name. Eventually tragedy hits. A husband and father dies of cancer, and you must comfort his family and teach the church a biblical perspective on suffering.

     Those are just a few areas. We could easily extend the list. And given these repetitive, difficult tasks, it is no surprise that pastors easily become weary, discouraged, and joyless.

     This may not seem like a big deal at first. After all, most jobs can be done well without joy. It’s unnecessary for my mechanic or my dentist to be happy. I just want a mechanic who can fix my car. I am looking for flawless dentistry. I shop for skill. But in pastoral ministry, skill is not enough.

     You see, the manner of our ministry matters to God. Skill, diligence, and faithfulness are crucial — and commendable — but they are not enough. God requires us to execute our task with joyful hearts, which explains why Peter instructs pastors to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you” (1 Peter 5:2, emphasis added). God-glorifying pastoral ministry must be done willingly, springing from a ready heart that is eager to serve. In other words, pastors are to serve joyfully. God wants happy pastors.

     So I must ask: Are you a happy pastor? Let me encourage you not to rely on self-evaluation here. I’d suggest asking your wife: “Am I a happy pastor?” And don’t stop there — ask your kids. Ask your fellow pastors or assistant. Ask your congregation. Are you a happy pastor?

     Or are you a weary and discouraged pastor? If so, how can you reclaim a joyful heart? Here are three brief suggestions. First, remember that God has forgiven all your sins through the person and work of Jesus Christ. There is no reason for joy that exceeds this one. But it is frighteningly easy to lose sight of Calvary. And when this happens, we become aware only of our sin and the sins of our church members. So we must maintain a clear view of the gospel. Make this a priority in your daily spiritual disciplines. Like Paul, resolve to know nothing except Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). Nothing will renew our joy more quickly than our amazement that God has saved us through the person and work of the Savior (Rom. 5:11). If you forget about this, forget about being a happy pastor.

     Second, stay alert for evidences of God’s activity in those you serve. Scripture gives us two helpful ways to identify the Holy Spirit’s work in our churches: study the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:4–11, 27–31; Gal. 5:22–23; Eph. 4:11–16; 1 Peter 4:10–11). Read these lists carefully. Then, look up, and look carefully at your church. You will see God at work everywhere you look. Take note of these discoveries, thank God for His work, and point it out to your church. The question isn’t whether God is working; it’s whether you perceive it — and if you don’t, you aren’t going to be a happy pastor.

     Third, be amazed that they come back for another sermon. “If some men were sentenced to hear their own sermons,” Charles Spurgeon wrote, “it would be a righteous judgment upon them, and they would soon cry out with Cain, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear.’” But our people come back Sunday after Sunday. Ponder that, and you’ll increasingly be a joyful pastor.

     Pastoring is not an easy job. It certainly is not a clean job — it is shepherding, after all. If you’re a pastor, you’ll be tempted to complain and to serve joylessly. We must be alert to these temptations. We must fight for joy because our skill, diligence, and faithfulness alone will not cut it. God wants happy pastors.

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     C.J. Mahaney is senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville in Louisville, Ky.

Ten Years Later

By R.C. Sproul 9/01/2011

     A full decade has passed since America suffered the tragedy of 9/11. Ten years ago, I repeatedly heard the question raised: “Where was God in all of this? Where was God on 9/11 when the planes crashed into the twin towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania?” My answer then was the same as it is now: God was in the precise place on 9/11 that He was on the day before and the day after. He was on His throne then and continues to be on His throne now because He is the Lord God omnipotent who reigns. He reigns day in and day out in consistent manifestation of His immutable sovereignty. God is immutable, unchanging, even though people and cultures continually change.

     When we look at the casualties on 9/11, we see that they were light compared with the casualties suffered in bloody battles during previous times of war. They were light compared to the casualties of Antietam and Gettysburg. They were light compared to the casualties of Hiroshima and the Battle of the Bulge. The victims were few compared to those who were slaughtered in the Holocaust and in the purges under Joseph Stalin in Russia.

     But the emotional scars have been enormous in our culture. The most vivid symbol of the changes caused by that cultural crisis may be the lines at airports as people undergo security scanning, an intrusion into their privacy and schedules, before they can board planes for travel. We also see it in the security that surrounds other modes of transportation and public events.

     In the days, weeks, and months immediately following 9/11, appealing to God to intervene for the welfare of our country became very common. Suddenly, calls for the separation of church and state, particularly the separation of the state from God, were set aside as we looked to the Creator to help bail us out from the consequences of the terrorist attack on our homeland. Bumper stickers with the request “God bless America” seemed to be ubiquitous.

     When two evangelical leaders, Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell, suggested that 9/11 may have been a divine judgment upon our sinful culture, they were hissed, booed, and shouted down to the point that they issued public recantations. The American psyche has no place for a God who judges people or nations. God can bless us, but God forbid He ever judges us.

     We are like Habakkuk, who, in his consternation over the fact that God used a foreign power to chasten His own people, stationed himself in a watchtower, demanding an answer from God as to how He could allow such wickedness to prevail. Unlike Habakkuk’s reaction when God answered that question in His Holy Word, our lips do not quiver, our legs do not shake, our bellies do not tremble, nor does rottenness enter our bones (Hab. 3:16). Rather than repent in dust and ashes before a holy God, we continue to shake our fists in His face, demanding a more benevolent providence from His hand.

     But God does not say to us as Americans: “My country right or wrong.” God requires nations as well as individuals to repent of their attempts to be autonomous, sovereign rulers, trying to displace Him. Any nation that seeks to supplant God’s sovereignty with its own is doomed. It is doomed to failure, it is doomed to destruction, and it is doomed to insignificance.

     Many things have changed in the last ten years, but some have not. Saddam Hussein is gone, but terrorism is still here. Osama bin Laden is dead, but there still is no peace in the Middle East. Islam has grown exponentially in the West, but it has demonstrated again and again that it is, in fact, not a religion of peace. Its symbol today is the symbol it has had from its beginning — the scimitar or sword. This symbol stands in vivid contrast to the cross, the symbol of the Christian faith. Islam has a theology that glorifies conquest; Christianity has a theology of the cross. In Islam, it is still a virtue to slay an infidel, and this virtue is sought by suicide bombers around the world. But in God’s sight, it is still a virtue to love our enemies and to pray for those who deceitfully use us.

     My fear is that we haven’t learned very much from 9/11. On 9/11, ten years ago, more babies were destroyed in the wombs of their mothers than people were killed in the terrorist attack in New York. That destruction continues to this day. The greatest attacks on the sanctity of life come not from al-Qaeda but from those who destroy their young. God will not continue to tolerate any nation that practices that culture of death and barbarism.

     What is most tragic is that when we were given a wake-up call ten years ago on 9/11, we pushed the snooze button and went back to sleep.

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

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A Purpose in the Pain: An Interview with Joni Eareckson Tada

By Joni Eareckson Tada 10/01/2011

     Tabletalk: For our readers who are unfamiliar with your story, would you share how you became quadriplegic?

     Joni Eareckson Tada: For years, I was one of those who insisted, “Handicaps happen to other people, not me.” But all that changed on a hot July afternoon in 1967 when my sister Kathy and I went to a beach on the Chesapeake Bay for a swim. The water was murky, and I didn’t bother to check the depth when I hoisted myself onto a raft anchored offshore. I dove in and instantly felt my head hit something hard — my neck snapped and I felt a strange electric shock. Underwater and dazed, I felt myself floating and unable to surface for air. Thankfully, Kathy noticed my plight and quickly came to the rescue. When she pulled me out of the water, I saw my arm slung over her shoulder, and yet, I couldn’t feel it. I knew then that something awful had happened. Later, at the hospital, I learned I had severed my spinal cord and would be left a quadriplegic for the rest of my life. I was devastated.

     TT: When you first discovered that you would never use your arms and legs again, what went through your mind and how did you cope with this reality?

     JT: Lying in the hospital, I recalled that just months earlier I had asked God to draw me closer to His side. Now, stuck in bed, I wondered if my paralysis was His idea of an answer to that prayer. If this was the way He treated new Christians, how could He ever be trusted with another prayer again? Obviously, God’s ways were far different than mine, and, for a long time, that idea both frightened and depressed me. But where else could I turn? To whom could I go? I remember praying, “God, if I can’t die, then show me how to live.” Many days afterward, I would sit in front of a Bible, holding a mouth-stick between my teeth and flipping the pages, praying that God would help me put together the puzzle pieces of my suffering.

     TT: Which passages of Scripture have given you encouragement during your struggles with disability and cancer?

     JT: Psalm 79:8 says, “May your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need” (NIV). Basically, I wake up almost every morning in desperate need of Jesus — from those early days when I first got out of the hospital, to over four decades in a wheelchair, it’s still the same. The morning dawns and I realize: “Lord, I don’t have the strength to go on. I have no resources. I can’t ‘do’ another day of quadriplegia, but I can do all things through You who strengthen me. So please give me Your smile for the day; I need You urgently.” This, I have found, is the secret to my joy and contentment. Every morning, my disability — and, most recently, my battle with cancer — forces me to come to the Lord Jesus in empty-handed spiritual poverty. But that’s a good place to be because Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3, NIV).

     Another anchor is Deuteronomy 31:6, where God tells me, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified [of quadriplegia, chronic pain, or cancer], for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (NIV). I’m convinced a believer can endure any amount of suffering as long as he’s convinced that God is with him in it. And we have the Man of Sorrows, the most God-forsaken man who ever lived, so that, in turn, He might say to us, “I will never leave you; I will never forsake you.” God wrote the book on suffering and He called it Jesus. This means God understands. He knows. He’s with me. My diving accident really was an answer to that prayer to be drawn closer to Him.

     TT: How important is it for a person with a disability to have the support of his or her family and church during such times?

     JT: God never intended that we should suffer alone, that we should suffer for nothing. This is why spiritual community is so important to a person who has undergone a catastrophic injury or illness — his family and the church keep him connected to reality, help ascribe positive meaning to his pain, bring him out of social isolation, and point him to the One who holds all the answers in His hand. Without family and the church, a person with a disability is adrift in a sea of hopelessness. We must not let that happen.

     TT: How would you encourage someone who has recently been diagnosed with a permanent illness or disability?

     JT: First, it’s okay to cry; it’s important to grieve. Romans 12:15 shows us that God doesn’t expect us to stifle our tears, so we shouldn’t expect it of each other. It’s a hard thing to first swallow a bad medical report or the birth of your child with a disabling condition, and it takes time to digest the reality. But sooner or later, we have to put aside the Kleenex and start thinking, start searching out God’s heart in the matter — because it’s not enough to merely cope or adjust; God wants us to embrace His purpose for the pain as good and acceptable (Rom. 12:2b).

     TT: What is the best way to help nondisabled people view disabled people as more than just the sum of their disabilities?

     JT: Inside every person using a wheelchair, a white cane, or a walker is a person who is just like you, someone with hopes and dreams, likes and dislikes, opinions and views, and memories of childhood and vacations. Try to look past the stroke ravaged body or the blind eyes or the wheelchair to see that this individual is an image-bearer of God — a person with human dignity and life potential. And look for ways to help that person discover his innate worth and purpose for living — realizing that he can help you discover the same.

     TT: Your most recent book is A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty. Can you tell us why you wrote this book?

     JT: For more than ten years I have dealt with chronic pain (very unusual for a quadriplegic like me). Piled on top of my quadriplegia, at times it seemed too much to bear. So I went back and reexamined my original views on divine healing to see what more I could learn. What I discovered was that God still reserves the right to heal or not to heal as He sees fit.

     And rather than try to frantically escape the pain, I relearned the timeless lesson of allowing my suffering to push me deeper into the arms of Jesus. I like to think of my pain as a sheepdog that keeps snapping at my heels to drive me down the road to Calvary, where, otherwise, I would not be naturally inclined to go.

     TT: How does Joni and Friends International Disability Center impact the world today?

     JT: I’m honored to lead a gifted team of like-hearted believers who are passionate about making Jesus real among people around the globe who are suffering from all sorts of disabilities and diseases. Through our Wheels for the World outreach, gifted physical therapists travel with us to hand-fit needy disabled people in developing nations to wheelchairs. Plus, we give them Bibles and do disability ministry training in local churches. Joni and Friends also holds scores of Family Retreats each summer across the United States and around the world, serving more than thirty-five hundred disabled children, adults, family members, and volunteers.

     I pray that God will give me many more years of strength and stamina so that I can continue to do the work He’s called me to. It’s why “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” That’s my paraphrase of Acts 20:24 and, for me, it’s what makes me get up in the morning with a smile.

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     Joni Eareckson Tada is founder and chief executive officer of Joni and Friends, which reaches families affected by disability with the gospel of Christ. She is author of When God Weeps.

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Ruth 1; Acts 26; Jeremiah 36; Psalm 9

By Don Carson 8/8/2018

     There is scarcely a more attractive figure in all of Scripture than Ruth.

     She is a Moabitess (Ruth 1:4). She lives in troubled times, and faces her own terrible grief. She and another Moabitess, Orpah, marry two recent immigrants called Mahlon and Kilion. These two men and their parents had arrived in Moabite territory to escape famine back home in Bethlehem. Some years pass, and the men’s father — Elimelech — dies. Then both Mahlon and Kilion die. That leaves the three women: the Moabitesses’ mother-in-law Naomi, and the two Moabitesses themselves, Orpah and Ruth.

     When Naomi hears that the famine back home is over, which was the original reason for their migration to Moab, she decides to go home. Families often worked in extended clan relationships. She would be looked after, and the pain of her loneliness would be mitigated. Wisely, she encourages her two daughters-in-law to stay in their own land, with their own people, language, and culture. Who knows? In time they might even find new mates. Certainly they cannot reasonably expect Naomi to produce them!

     So Orpah accepts the counsel, stays home in Moab, and nothing more is heard of her again. But Ruth clings to Naomi: “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried” (Ruth 1:16-17). She even puts herself under the threat of a curse. “May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me” (Ruth 1:17).

     Ruth does not mean this to sound heroic. She is simply speaking out of her heart. Had she come to a genuine and consistent faith in the Lord God during her ten-year marriage? What kind of solid and subtle links had been forged between Ruth and the Israelite members of this extended family, and in particular between Ruth and Naomi?

     Our culture makes all kinds of snide remarks about mothers-in-law. But many a mother-in-law is remarkably unselfish, and establishes relationships with her daughters-in-law that are as godly and as deep as the best of those between mothers and daughters. So, apparently, here. Ruth is prepared to abandon her own people, culture, land, and even religion, provided she can stay with Naomi and help her.

     She could not have known that in making that choice she would soon find herself married again. She could not have known that that marriage would make her an ancestor not only of the imposing Davidic dynasty, but of the supreme King who centuries later would spring from it.

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

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Psalm 9 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

     TITLE. To the Chief Musician upon Muth-labben, a Psalm of David. The meaning of this title is very doubtful. It may refer to the tune to which the Psalm was to be sung, so Wilcocks and others think; or it may refer to a musical instrument now unknown, but common in those days; or it may have a reference to Ben, who is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 15:18, as one of the Levitical singers. If either of these conjectures should be correct, the title of Muth-Labben has no teaching for us, except it is meant to show us how careful David was that in the worship of God, all things should be done according to due order. From a considerable company of learned witnesses we gather that the title will bear a meaning far more instructive, without being fancifully forced:   ( like today )   it signifies a Psalm concerning the death of the Son. The Chaldee has, "concerning the death of the Champion who went out between the camps," referring to Goliath of Gath, or some other Philistine, on account of whose death many suppose this Psalm to have been written in after years by David. Believing that out of a thousand guesses this is at least as consistent with the sense of the Psalm as any other, we prefer it; and the more especially so because it enables us to refer it mystically to the victory of the Son of God over the champion of evil, even to enemy of souls (verse 6). We have here before us most evidently a triumphal hymn; may it strengthen the faith of the militant believer and stimulate the courage of the timid saint, as he sees here THE CONQUEROR, on whose vesture and thigh is the name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

     ORDER. Bonar remarks, "The position of the Psalms in their relation to each other is often remarkable. It is questioned whether the present arrangement of them was the order to which they were given forth to Israel, or whether some later compiler, perhaps Ezra, was inspired to attend to this matter, as well as to other points connected with the canon. Without attempting to decide this point, it is enough to remark that we have proof that the order of the Psalms is as ancient as the completing of the canon, and if so, it seems obvious that the Holy Spirit wished this book to come down to us in its present order. We make these remarks, in order to invite attention to the fact, that as the eighth caught up the last line of the seventh, this ninth Psalm opens with an apparent reference to the eighth:

"I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart;
I will shew forth all thy marvellous works.
I will be glad and rejoice in thee. (Compare Song 1:4; Revelation 19:7)
I will sing to THY NAME, O thou Most High." Verses 1, 2.

     As if "The Name," so highly praised in the former Psalm, were still ringing in the ear of the sweet singer of Israel. And in verse 10, he returns to it, celebrating their confidence who "know" that "name" as if its fragrance still breathed in the atmosphere around.

     DIVISION. The strain so continually changes, that it is difficult to give an outline of it methodically arranged: we give the best we can make. From verses 1 to 6 is a song of jubilant thanksgiving; from 7 to 12, there is a continued declaration of faith as to the future. Prayer closes the first great division of the Psalm in verses 13 and 14. The second portion of this triumphal ode, although much shorter, is parallel in all its parts to the first portion, and is a sort of rehearsal of it. Observe the song for past judgments, verses 15, 16; the declaration of trust in future justice, 17, 18; and the closing prayer, 19, 20. Let us celebrate the conquests of the Redeemer as we read this Psalm, and it cannot but be a delightful task if the Holy Ghost be with us.


EXPOSITION

     Verse 1. With a holy resolution the songster begins his hymn; I will praise thee, O Lord. It sometimes needs all our determination to face the foe, and bless the Lord in the teeth of his enemies; vowing that whoever else may be silent we will bless his name; here, however, the overthrow of the foe is viewed as complete, and the song flows with sacred fulness of delight. It is our duty to praise the Lord; let us perform it as a privilege. Observe that David's praise is all given to the Lord. Praise is to be offered to God alone; we may be grateful to the intermediate agent, but our thanks must have long wings and mount aloft to heaven. With my whole heart. Half heart is no heart. I will show forth. There is true praise to the thankful telling forth to others of our heavenly Father's dealings with us; this is one of the themes upon which the godly should speak often to one another, and it will not be casting pearls before swine if we make even the ungodly hear of the loving-kindness of the Lord to us. All thy marvellous works. Gratitude for one mercy refreshes the memory as to thousands of others. One silver link in the chain draws up a long series of tender remembrances. Here is eternal work for us, for there can be no end to the showing forth of all his deeds of love. If we consider our own sinfulness and nothingness, we must feel that every work of preservation, forgiveness, conversion, deliverance, sanctification, etc., which the Lord has wrought for us, or in us is a marvellous work. Even in heaven, divine loving-kindness will doubtless be as much a theme of surprise as of rapture.

     Verse 2. Gladness and joy are the appropriate spirit in which to praise the goodness of the Lord. Birds extol the Creator in notes of overflowing joy, the cattle low forth his praise with tumult of happiness, and the fish leap up in his worship with excess of delight. Moloch may be worshipped with shrieks of pain, and Juggernaut may be honoured by dying groans and inhuman yells, but he whose name is Love is best pleased with the holy mirth, and sanctified gladness of his people. Daily rejoicing is an ornament to the Christian character, and a suitable robe for God's choristers to wear. God loveth a cheerful giver, whether it be the gold of his purse or the gold of his mouth which he presents upon his altar. I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High. Songs are the fitting expression of inward thankfulness, and it were well if we indulge ourselves and honoured our Lord with more of them. Mr. B. P. Power has well said, "The sailors give a cheery cry as they weigh anchor, the ploughman whistles in the morning as he drives his team; the milkmaid sings her rustic song as she sets about her early task; when soldiers are leaving friends behind them, they do not march out to the tune of the 'Dead March in Saul,' but to the quick notes of some lively air. A praising spirit would do for us all that their songs and music do for them; and if only we could determine to praise the Lord, we should surmount many a difficulty which our low spirits never would have been equal to, and we should do double the work which can be done if the heart be languid in its beating, if we be crushed and trodden down in soul. As the evil spirit in Saul yielded in olden time to the influence of the harp of the son of Jesse, so would the spirit of melancholy often take flight from us, if only we would take up the song of praise.

     Verse 3. God's presence is evermore sufficient to work the defeat of our most furious foes, and their ruin is so complete when the Lord takes them in hand, that even flight cannot save them, they fall to rise no more when he pursues them. We must be careful, like David, to give all the glory to him whose presence gives the victory. If we have here the exultings of our conquering Captain, let us make the triumphs of the Redeemer the triumphs of the redeemed, and rejoice with him at the total discomfiture of all his foes.

     Verse 4. One of our nobility has for his motto, "I will maintain it;" but the Christian has a better and more humble one, "Thou hast maintained it." "God and my right," are united by my faith: while God lives my right shall never be taken from me. If we seek to maintain the cause and honour of our Lord we may suffer reproach and misrepresentation, but it is a rich comfort to remember that he who sits on the throne knows our hearts, and will not leave us to the ignorant and ungenerous judgment of erring man.

     Verse 5. God rebukes before he destroys, but when he once comes to blows with the wicked he ceases not until he has dashed them in pieces so small that their very name is forgotten, and like a noisome snuff their remembrance is put out for ever and ever. How often the word "thou" occurs in this and the former verse, to show us that the grateful strain mounts up directly to the Lord as doth the smoke from the altar when the air is still. My soul send up all the music of all thy powers to him who has been and is thy sure deliverance.

     Verse 6. Here the Psalmist exults over the fallen foe. He bends as it were, over his prostrate form, and insults his once vaunted strength. He plucks the boaster's song out of his mouth, and sings it for him in derision. After this fashion doth our Glorious Redeemer ask of death, "Where is thy sting?" and of the grave, "Where is thy victory?" The spoiler is spoiled, and he who made captive is led into captivity himself. Let the daughters of Jerusalem go forth to meet their King, and praise him with timbrel and harp.

     In the light of the past the future is not doubtful. Since the same Almighty God fills the throne of power, we can with unhesitating confidence, exult in our security for all time to come.

     Verse 7. The enduring existence and unchanging dominion of our Jehovah, are the firm foundations of our joy. The enemy and his destructions shall come to a perpetual end, but God and his throne shall endure for ever. The eternity of divine sovereignty yields unfailing consolation. By the throne being prepared for judgment, are we not to understand the swiftness of divine justice. In heaven's court suitors are not worn out with long delays. Term-time lasts all the year round in the court of King's Bench above. Thousands may come at once to the throne of the Judge of all the earth, but neither plaintiff nor defendant shall have to complain that he is not prepared to give their cause a fair hearing.

     Verse 8. Whatever earthly courts may do, heaven's throne ministers judgment in uprightness. Partiality and respect of persons are things unknown in the dealings of the Holy One of Israel. How the prospect of appearing before the impartial tribunal of the Great King should act as a check to us when tempted to sin, and as a comfort when we are slandered or oppressed.

     Verse 9. He who gives no quarter to the wicked in the day of judgment, is the defence and refuge of his saints in the day of trouble. There are many forms of oppression; both from man and from Satan oppression comes to us; and for all its forms, a refuge is provided in the Lord Jehovah. There were cities of refuge under the law, God is our refuge-city under the gospel. As the ships when vexed with tempest make for harbour, so do the oppressed hasten to the wings of a just and gracious God. He is a high tower so impregnable, that the hosts of hell cannot carry it by storm, and from its lofty heights faith looks down with scorn upon her enemies.

     Verse 10. Ignorance is worst when it amounts to ignorance of God, and knowledge is best when it exercises itself upon the name of God. This most excellent knowledge leads to the most excellent grace of faith. O, to learn more of the attributes and character of God. Unbelief, that hooting nightbird, cannot live in the light of divine knowledge, it flies before the sun of God's great and gracious name. If we read this verse literally, there is, no doubt, a glorious fulness of assurance in the names of God. We have recounted them in the "Hints for Preachers," and would direct the reader's attention to them. By knowing his name is also meant an experimental acquaintance with the attributes of God, which are every one of them anchors to hold the soul from drifting in seasons of peril. The Lord may hide his face for a season from his people, but he never has utterly, finally, really, or angrily forsaken them that seek him. Let the poor seekers draw comfort from this fact, and let the finders rejoice yet more exceedingly, for what must be the Lord's faithfulness to those who find if he is so gracious to those who seek.

"O hope of every contrite heart,
O joy of all the meek,
To those who fall how kind thou art,
How good to those who seek.
"But what to those who find, ah, this
Nor tongue nor pen can show
The love of Jesus what it is,
None but his loved ones know."

     Verse 11. Being full of gratitude himself, our inspired author is eager to excite others to join the strain, and praise God in the same manner as he himself vowed to do in the first and second verses. The heavenly spirit of praise is gloriously contagious, and he that hath it is never content unless he can excite all who surround him to unite in his sweet employ. Singing and preaching, as means of glorifying God, are here joined together, and it is remarkable that, connected with all revivals of gospel ministry, there has been a sudden outburst of the spirit of song. Luther's Psalms and Hymns were in all men's mouths, and in the modern revival under Wesley and Whitefield, the strains of Charles Wesley, Cennick, Berridge, Toplady, Hart, Newton, and many others, were the outgrowth of restored piety. The singing of the birds of praise fitly accompanies the return of the gracious spring of divine visitation through the proclamation of the truth. Sing on brethren, and preach on, and these shall both be a token that the Lord still dwelleth in Zion. It will be well for us when coming up to Zion, to remember that the Lord dwells among his saints, and is to be had in peculiar reverence of all those that are about him.

     Verse 12. When an inquest is held concerning the blood of the oppressed, the martyred saints will have the first remembrance; he will avenge his own elect. Those saints who are living shall also be heard; they shall be exonerated from blame, and kept from destruction, even when the Lord's most terrible work is going on; the man with the inkhorn by his side shall mark them all for safety, before the slaughtermen are permitted to smite the Lord's enemies. The humble cry of the poorest saints shall neither be drowned by the voice of the thundering justice nor by the shrieks of the condemned.

     Verse 13. Memories of the past and confidences concerning the future conducted the man of God to the mercy seat to plead for the needs of the present. Between praising and praying he divided all his time. How could he have spent it more profitably? His first prayer is one suitable for all persons and occasions, it breathes a humble spirit, indicates self-knowledge, appeals to the proper attributes, and to the fitting person. Have mercy upon me, O Lord. Just as Luther used to call some texts little bibles, so we may call this sentence a little prayer-book; for it has in it the soul and marrow of prayer. It is multum in parvo, and like the angelic sword turns every way. The ladder looks to be short, but it reaches from earth to heaven.

     What a noble title is here given to the Most High. Thou that liftest me up from the gates of death! What a glorious lift! In sickness, in sin, in despair, in temptation, we have been brought very low, and the gloomy portal has seemed as if it would open to imprison us, but, underneath us were the everlasting arms, and, therefore, we have been uplifted even to the gates of heaven. Trapp quaintly says, "He commonly reserveth his hand for a dead lift, and rescueth those who were even talking of their graves."

     Verse 14. We must not overlook David's object in desiring mercy, it is God's glory: "that I may show forth all thy praise." Saints are not so selfish as to look only to self; they desire mercy's diamond that they may let others see it flash and sparkle, and may admire Him who gives such priceless gems to his beloved. The contrast between the gates of death and the gates of the New Jerusalem is very striking; let our songs be excited to the highest and most rapturous pitch by the double consideration of whence we are taken, and to what we have been advanced, and let our prayers for mercy be made more energetic and agonizing by a sense of the grace which such a salvation implies. When David speaks of his showing forth all God's praise, he means that, in his deliverance grace in all its heights and depths would be magnified. Just as our hymn puts it:—

"O the length and breadth of love!
Jesus, Saviour, can it be?
All thy mercy's height I prove,
All the depth is seen in me.

     Here ends the first part of this instructive Psalm, and in pausing awhile we feel bound to confess that our exposition has only flitted over its surface and has not digged into the depths. The verses are singularly full of teaching, and if the Holy Spirit shall bless the reader, he may go over this Psalm, as the writer has done scores of times, and see on each occasion fresh beauties.

     Verse 15. In considering this terrible picture of the Lord's overwhelming judgments of his enemies, we are called upon to ponder and meditate upon it with deep seriousness by the two untranslated words, Higgaion, Selah. Meditate, pause. Consider, and tune your instrument. Bethink yourselves and solemnly adjust your hearts to the solemnity which is so well becoming the subject. Let us in a humble spirit approach these verses, and notice, first, that the character of God requires the punishment of sin.

     Verse 16. Jehovah is known by the judgment which he executeth; his holiness and abhorrence of sin is thus displayed. A ruler who winked at evil would soon be known by all his subjects to be evil himself, and he, on the other hand, who is severely just in judgment reveals his own nature thereby. So long as our God is God, he will not, he cannot spare the guilty; except through that one glorious way in which he is just, and yet the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. We must notice, secondly, that the manner of his judgment is singularly wise, and indisputably just. He makes the wicked become their own executioners. "The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made," etc. Like cunning hunters they prepared a pitfall for the godly and fell into it themselves: the foot of the victim escaped their crafty snares, but the toils surrounded themselves: the cruel snare was laboriously manufactured, and it proved its efficacy by snaring its own maker. Persecutors and oppressors are often ruined by their own malicious projects. "Drunkards kill themselves; prodigals beggar themselves;" the contentious are involved in ruinous costs; the vicious are devoured with fierce diseases; the envious eat their own hearts; and blasphemers curse their own souls. Thus, men may read their sin in their punishment. They sowed the seed of sin, and the ripe fruit of damnation is the natural result.

     Verse 17. The justice which has punished the wicked, and preserved the righteous, remains the same, and therefore in days to come, retribution will surely be meted out. How solemn is the seventeenth verse, especially in its warning to forgetters of God. The moral who are not devout, the honest who are not prayerful, the benevolent who are not believing, the amiable who are not converted, these must all have their own portion with the openly wicked in the hell which is prepared for the devil and his angels. There are whole nations of such; the forgetters of God are far more numerous than the profane or profligate, and according to the very forceful expression of the Hebrew, the nethermost hell will be the place into which all of them shall be hurled headlong. Forgetfulness seems a small sin, but it brings eternal wrath upon the man who lives and dies in it.

     Verse 18. Mercy is as ready to her work as ever justice can be. Needy souls fear that they are forgotten; well, if it be so, let them rejoice that they shall not alway be so. Satan tells poor tremblers that their hope shall perish, but they have here the divine assurance that their expectation shall not perish for ever. "The Lord's people are a humbled people, afflicted, emptied, sensible of need, driven to a daily attendance on God, daily begging of him, and living upon the hope of what is promised;" such persons may have to wait, but they shall find that they do not wait in vain.

     Verse 19. Prayers are the believer's weapons of war. When the battle is too hard for us, we call in our great ally, who, as it were, lies in ambush until faith gives the signal by crying out, "Arise, O Lord." Although our cause be all but lost, it shall be soon won again, if the Almighty doth but bestir himself. He will not suffer man to prevail over God, but with swift judgments will confound their gloryings. In the very sight of God the wicked will be punished, and he who is now all tenderness will have no bowels of compassion for them, since they had no tears of repentance while their day of grace endured.

     Verse 20. One would think that men would not grow so vain as to deny themselves to be but men, but it appears to be a lesson which only a divine schoolmaster can teach to some proud spirits. Crowns leave their wearers but men, degrees of eminent learning make their owners not more than men, valour and conquest cannot elevate beyond the dead level of "but men;" and all the wealth of Croesus, the wisdom of Solon, the power of Alexander, the eloquence of Demosthenes, if added together, would leave the possessor but a man. May we ever remember this lest like those in the text, we should be put in fear.

     Before leaving this Psalm, it will be very profitable if the student will peruse it again as the triumphal hymn of the Redeemer, as he devoutly brings the glory of his victories and lays it down at his Father's feet. Let us joy in his joy, and our joy shall be full.


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).

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 84

My Soul Longs for the Courts of the LORD
84 To The Choirmaster: According To The Gittith. A Psalm Of The Sons Of Korah.

8 O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
9 Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of your anointed!

10 For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
12 O LORD of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you!

ESV Study Bible

  • Lect 26 1-2 Cor
  • 1 Gen Letters
  • 2 Letters Genre

#2    Dr. Herb Bateman

 

#3    Dr. Herb Bateman

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     3/1/2016    The Orthodoxy of Community

     The love language of all marriages is self-denial. When both husband and wife are consumed not with their own immediate happiness but with the happiness of one another, they will enjoy a happy marriage. The same is true for enduring friendships and for authentic community.

     With the disintegration of marriage has come the dissolution of community. As such, community has fallen on hard times. What every generation in every society in all of history has enjoyed, the rising generation will have to fight for. With the rise of online communities, online church, and online everything, face-to-face, eye-to-eye, shoulder-to-shoulder community has become increasingly difficult to find. Moreover, many don’t know what real community is and thus don’t know what to look for. Real community doesn’t happen on its own—it takes time, patience, repentance, forgiveness, and love that covers a multitude of sins. The church community is not just a crowd of people on a Sunday morning; it is the gathered, worshiping people of God in a congregation where masks aren’t needed and where real friends help bear the real burdens of one another. Community is not just getting together; it is living together, suffering together, rejoicing together, and dying together.

     Although many Christians claim to want genuine community, many want it only on their own terms, when it’s convenient, and when it demands nothing from them. What they want isn’t the church community, but a country club where they pay their dues for services rendered. They want to be served without having to serve anyone else. Real community forces us to die to ourselves and get over ourselves so that we might love one another as ourselves. Francis Schaeffer observed that “the early church practiced two things simultaneously: orthodoxy of doctrine and orthodoxy of visible community.” Such orthodoxy of visible community is grounded in the “one another” passages of Scripture, which provide us with the essential elements of authentic community. They strike at the root of our self-centeredness, and they lead us to take our eyes off ourselves and to deny ourselves so that we might love one another, encourage one another, confess our sins to one another, forgive one another, and not slander one another, gossip about one another, devour one another, or envy one another. In so doing, our Father in heaven is glorified as we manifest the beauty of the gospel of Christ through the power of the Spirit, who has united a bunch of repentant sinners like us.

     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

     August 8, 1974, President Richard Nixon chose to resign, the first ever to do so, rather than put the country through the ordeal of an impeachment. In a televised address, he said: “To continue to fight… for my personal vindication would… totally absorb the time and attention of… the President and the Congress.” In a private farewell to his Cabinet, President Nixon stated: “Mistakes, yes… for personal gain, never… I can only say to each… one of you… we come from many faiths… but really the same God… You will be in our hearts and… in our prayers.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


As recorded by James Madison,
In the… Contest with Great Britain…
we had daily prayer in this room for Divine protection.

- Our prayers, Sir, were heard, &…
graciously answered….
And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend?
or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?
--- Benjamin Franklin

Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family.
--- Henri J.M. Nouwen

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

This alone breaks the bonds of both legalism (the law is no longer divorced from the person of Christ) and antinomianism (we are not divorced from the law, which now comes to us from the hand of Christ and in the empowerment of the Spirit, who writes it in our hearts).
--- Sinclair Ferguson The Whole Christ

... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 3.

     A Description Of Galilee, Samaria, And Judea.

     1. Now Phoenicia and Syria encompass about the Galilees, which are two, and called the Upper Galilee and the Lower. They are bounded toward the sun-setting, with the borders of the territory belonging to Ptolemais, and by Carmel; which mountain had formerly belonged to the Galileans, but now belonged to the Tyrians; to which mountain adjoins Gaba, which is called the City of Horsemen, because those horsemen that were dismissed by Herod the king dwelt therein; they are bounded on the south with Samaria and Scythopolis, as far as the river Jordan; on the east with Hippeae and Gadaris, and also with Ganlonitis, and the borders of the kingdom of Agrippa; its northern parts are hounded by Tyre, and the country of the Tyrians. As for that Galilee which is called the Lower, it, extends in length from Tiberias to Zabulon, and of the maritime places Ptolemais is its neighbor; its breadth is from the village called Xaloth, which lies in the great plain, as far as Bersabe, from which beginning also is taken the breadth of the Upper Galilee, as far as the village Baca, which divides the land of the Tyrians from it; its length is also from Meloth to Thella, a village near to Jordan.

     2. These two Galilees, of so great largeness, and encompassed with so many nations of foreigners, have been always able to make a strong resistance on all occasions of war; for the Galileans are inured to war from their infancy, and have been always very numerous; nor hath the country been ever destitute of men of courage, or wanted a numerous set of them; for their soil is universally rich and fruitful, and full of the plantations of trees of all sorts, insomuch that it invites the most slothful to take pains in its cultivation, by its fruitfulness; accordingly, it is all cultivated by its inhabitants, and no part of it lies idle. Moreover, the cities lie here very thick, and the very many villages there are here are every where so full of people, by the richness of their soil, that the very least of them contain above fifteen thousand inhabitants.

     3. In short, if any one will suppose that Galilee is inferior to Perea in magnitude, he will be obliged to prefer it before it in its strength; for this is all capable of cultivation, and is every where fruitful; but for Perea, which is indeed much larger in extent, the greater part of it is desert and rough, and much less disposed for the production of the milder kinds of fruits; yet hath it a moist soil [in other parts], and produces all kinds of fruits, and its plains are planted with trees of all sorts, while yet the olive tree, the vine, and the palm tree are chiefly cultivated there. It is also sufficiently watered with torrents, which issue out of the mountains, and with springs that never fail to run, even when the torrents fail them, as they do in the dog-days. Now the length of Perea is from Machaerus to Pella, and its breadth from Philadelphia to Jordan; its northern parts are bounded by Pella, as we have already said, as well as its Western with Jordan; the land of Moab is its southern border, and its eastern limits reach to Arabia, and Silbonitis, and besides to Philadelphene and Gerasa.

     4. Now as to the country of Samaria, it lies between Judea and Galilee; it begins at a village that is in the great plain called Ginea, and ends at the Acrabbene toparchy, and is entirely of the same nature with Judea; for both countries are made up of hills and valleys, and are moist enough for agriculture, and are very fruitful. They have abundance of trees, and are full of autumnal fruit, both that which grows wild, and that which is the effect of cultivation. They are not naturally watered by many rivers, but derive their chief moisture from rain-water, of which they have no want; and for those rivers which they have, all their waters are exceeding sweet: by reason also of the excellent grass they have, their cattle yield more milk than do those in other places; and, what is the greatest sign of excellency and of abundance, they each of them are very full of people.

     5. In the limits of Samaria and Judea lies the village Anuath, which is also named Borceos. This is the northern boundary of Judea. The southern parts of Judea, if they be measured lengthways, are bounded by a Village adjoining to the confines of Arabia; the Jews that dwell there call it Jordan. However, its breadth is extended from the river Jordan to Joppa. The city Jerusalem is situated in the very middle; on which account some have, with sagacity enough, called that city the Navel of the country. Nor indeed is Judea destitute of such delights as come from the sea, since its maritime places extend as far as Ptolemais: it was parted into eleven portions, of which the royal city Jerusalem was the supreme, and presided over all the neighboring country, as the head does over the body. As to the other cities that were inferior to it, they presided over their several toparchies; Gophna was the second of those cities, and next to that Acrabatta, after them Thamna, and Lydda, and Emmaus, and Pella, and Idumea, and Engaddi, and Herodium, and Jericho; and after them came Jamnia and Joppa, as presiding over the neighboring people; and besides these there was the region of Gamala, and Gaulonitis, and Batanea, and Trachonitis, which are also parts of the kingdom of Agrippa. This [last] country begins at Mount Libanus, and the fountains of Jordan, and reaches breadthways to the lake of Tiberias; and in length is extended from a village called Arpha, as far as Julias. Its inhabitants are a mixture of Jews and Syrians. And thus have I, with all possible brevity, described the country of Judea, and those that lie round about it.

          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 22:15
     by D.H. Stern

15     Doing wrong is firmly tied to the heart of a child,
but the rod of discipline will drive it far away from him.


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

     VIII | THE FIRST MATE

     'First officers are often worse than skippers,' remarked the night watchman in Mr. W. W. Jacobs' Light Freights. 'In the first place, they know they ain't skippers, and that alone is enough to put 'em in a bad temper, especially if they've 'ad their certificate a good many years, and can't get a vacancy.' I fancy there is something in the night watchman's philosophy; and I am therefore writing a word or two for the special benefit of first mates. I am half inclined to address it 'to first mates only,' for to second mates, third mates, and other inferior officers I have nothing to say. But the first mate evokes our sympathy on the ground that the night watchman states so forcibly, 'First mates know they ain't skippers, and that alone is enough to put 'em in a bad temper.' It is horribly vexatious to be next door to greatness. An old proverb tells us that a miss is as good as a mile; but like most proverbs, it is as false as false can be. A mile is ever so much better than a miss.

     I am fond of cricket, and am president of a certain club. I invariably attend the matches unless the house happens to be on fire. I have enough of the sporting instinct to be able to take defeat cheerfully—if the defeat falls within certain limits. It must not be so crushing as to be a positive humiliation, nor must it be by so fine a margin as to constitute itself a tantalization. Of the two, I prefer the former to the latter. The former can be dismissed under certain recognized forms. 'The glorious uncertainty of cricket!' you say to yourself. 'It's all in the game; and the best side in the world sometimes has an off day!' But, if, after a great struggle, you lose by a run, you go home thinking uncharitable thoughts of the bowler who might have prevented the other fellow from making a certain boundary hit, of the wicket-keeper who might have saved a bye, or of the batsman who might easily have got a few more runs if he hadn't played such a ridiculously fluky stroke. To be beaten by a hundred runs is bad, but bearable; to be beaten by an innings and a hundred runs is humiliating and horrible; to be beaten by a single run is exasperating and intolerable.

     The same thing meets us at every turn. A few minutes ago I picked up the Life of Lord Randolph Churchill, by his son. In the very first chapter there is a letter written by Dr. Creighton to the Duchess of Marlborough commiserating her ladyship on the fact that Lord Randolph had been placed in the second class at the December examinations at Oxford. 'I must own,' the Bishop writes, 'that I was sorry when I heard how narrowly Lord Randolph missed the first class; a few more questions answered, and a few more omissions in some of his papers, and he would have secured it. He was, I am told by the examiners, the best man who was put into the second class; and the great hardship is, as your Grace observes, that he should be in the same class with so many who are greatly his inferior in knowledge and ability. It is rather tantalizing to think that he came so near; if he had been farther off I should have been more content.' Now that is exactly the misery of the first mate. He is so near to being a skipper, so very near. He even carries continually in his pocket the official papers that certify that he is fully qualified to be a skipper. And yet, for all that, he is not a skipper. Sometimes, indeed, he fancies that he will never be a skipper. It is very trying. I am sorry—genuinely sorry—for the first mate. What can I say to help him?

     Perhaps the thing that he will most appreciate is a reminder of the tremendous debt that the world owes to its first mates. I was reading the other day Dasent's great John Thadeus Delane, Editor of "The Times": His Life and Correspondence, Volume 1. Among the most striking documents printed in these five volumes are the letters that Delane wrote from the seat of war during the struggle in the Crimea to the substitute who occupied his own editorial chair in the office of The Times. And the whole burden of those letters is to show that England was saved in those days by a first mate. 'The admiral,' he says in one letter, 'is by no means up to his position. The real commander is Lyons, who is just another Nelson—full of energy and activity.' Two days later, he says again, 'Nothing but the energy and determination of Sir E. Lyons overcame the difficulties and "impossibilities" raised by those who seem to have always a consistent objection to doing anything until their "to-morrow" shall arrive. All the credit is due to him, and to him alone, for our admiral never left his ship, which was anchored three miles from the shore, and contented himself with sending the same contingent of men and boats as the other ships.' And, writing again after the landing had been effected, Delane says, 'Remember always, that, in the great credit which the success of this landing deserves, Dundas has no share. Lyons has done all, and this in spite of discouragement such as a smaller man would have resented. Nelson could not have done better, and, indeed, his case at Copenhagen nearly resembles this.' Here, then, is a feather in the cap of the first mate. He may often save a vital situation which, in the hands of a dilatory skipper, might easily have been lost. The skipper is skipper, and knows it. He is at the top of the tree, and there remains nothing to struggle after. He is apt to rest on his laurels and lose his energy. This subtle tendency is the first mate's opportunity. The ship must not be lost because the skipper goes to sleep. Everything, at such an hour, depends on the first mate.

     Nor is it only in time of war and of crisis that the first mate comes to his own. In the arts of peace the selfsame principle holds good. What could our literature have done without the first mate? And in the republic of letters the first mate is usually a woman. It is only quite lately that women have, to any appreciable extent, applied themselves to the tasks and responsibilities of authorship. Until well into the eighteenth century, Mrs. Grundy scowled out of countenance any intrepid female who threatened to invade the sacred domain. In 1778, however, Miss Fanny Burney braved the old lady's wrath, published Evelina, and became the pioneer of a new epoch. One of these days, perhaps on the bi-centenary of that event, the army of women who wield the pen will erect a statue to the memory of that courageous and brilliant pathfinder. When they do so, two memorable scenes in the life of their heroine will probably be represented in bas-relief upon the pedestal. The one will portray Miss Burney, hopeless of ever inducing a biased public to read a woman's work, making a bonfire of the manuscripts to which she had devoted such patient care. The other will illustrate the famous scene when Miss Burney danced a jig to Daddy Crisp round the great mulberry-tree at Chessington. It was, her diary tells us, the uncontrollable outcome of her exhilaration on learning of the praise which the great Dr. Johnson bestowed on Evelina. 'It gave me such a flight of spirits,' she says, 'that I danced a jig to Mr. Crisp, without any preparation, music, or explanation, to his no small amazement and diversion.' Macaulay declared that Miss Burney did for the English novel what Jeremy Collier did for the English drama; and she did it in a better way. 'She first showed that a tale might be written in which both the fashionable and the vulgar life of London might be exhibited with great force, and with broad comic humour, and which should yet contain not a single line inconsistent with rigid morality, or even with virgin delicacy. She took away the reproach which lay on a most useful and delightful species of composition.' Prejudice, however, dies hard; and the same writer tells us in another essay that seventy years later, some reviewers were still of opinion that a lady who dares to publish a book renounces by that act the franchises appertaining to her sex, and can claim no exemption from the utmost rigour of critical procedure.

     But, however strong may have been the prejudice against a woman becoming captain, and taking her place upon the bridge, nobody could object to her becoming first mate; and it is as first mate that woman has rendered the most valuable service. A few, like Fanny Burney and Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë and George Eliot, may have become skippers; but we could better afford to lose all the works of such writers than lose the influence which women have exerted over captains whom they served in the capacity of first mate. It was a saying of Emerson's that a man is entitled to credit, not only for what he himself does, but for all that he inspires others to do. To no subject does this axiom apply with greater force than to this. It would be a fatal mistake to suppose that the contribution of women to the republic of letters begins and ends with the works that bear feminine names upon their title-pages. Our literature is adorned by a few examples of acknowledged collaboration between a man and a woman, and only in very rare instances is the woman the minor contributor. But, in addition to these, there are innumerable records of men whose names stand in the foremost rank among our laureates and teachers yet whose work would have been simply impossible but for the woman in the background. From a host of examples that naturally rush to mind we may instance, almost at random, the cases of Wordsworth, Carlyle, and Robert Louis Stevenson. In the days of his restless youth, when Wordsworth was in danger of entangling himself in the military and political tumults of the time, it was his sister who recalled him to his desk and pointed him along the road that led to destiny. 'It is,' Miss Masson remarks, 'in moments such as this that men, especially those who feed on their feelings, become desperate, and think and do desperate acts. It was at this critical moment for Wordsworth that his sister Dorothy stepped into his life and saved him.' 'She soothed his mind,' the same writer says again, banished from it both contemporary politics and religious doubts, and infused instead love of beauty and dependence on faith, and so she re-awoke craving for poetic expression.'

She, in the midst of all, preserved him still
  A poet; made him seek beneath that name,
  And that alone, his office upon earth.

     Poor Dorothy! She accompanied her brother on more than half his wanderings; she pointed out to him more than half the loveliness that is embalmed in his verses; she suggested to him half his themes. As the poet himself confessed:

She gave me eyes, she gave me ears,
  And humble cares, and delicate fears;
  A heart, the fountain of sweet tears;
  And love, and thought, and joy.

     Yes, the world owes more than it will ever know to first mates as loyal and true and helpful as Dorothy Wordsworth. The skipper stands on the bridge and gets all the glory, but only he and the first mate know how much was due to the figure in the background. Think, too, of that bright spring day, nearly fifty years ago now, when a lady, driving through Hyde Park to see the beauty of the crocuses and the snowdrops, was seen to lurch suddenly forward in her carriage, and a moment after was found to be dead. 'It was a loss unspeakable in its intensity for Carlyle,' Mr. Maclean Watt says in his monograph. 'This woman was one of the bravest and brightest influences in his life, though, perhaps, it was entirely true that he was not aware of his indebtedness until the Veil of Silence fell between.' The skipper never is aware of his indebtedness to the first mate; that is an essential feature of the relationship. It is the glory of the first mate that he works without thought of recognition or reward; glad if he can keep the ship true to her course; and ever proud to see the skipper crowned with all the glory. Carlyle's debt to his wife is one of the most tragic stories in the history of letters. 'In the ruined nave of the old Abbey Kirk,' the sage tells us, 'with the skies looking down on her, there sleeps my little Jeannie, and the light of her face will never shine on me more. I say deliberately her part in the stern battle (and except myself none knows how stern) was brighter and braver than my own.'

     And in Stevenson's case the obligation is even more marked. 'What a debt he owed to women!' one of his biographers exclaims. 'In his puny, ailing infancy, his mother and his nurse Cummie had soothed and tended him; in his troubled hour of youth he had found an inspirer, consoler, and guide in Mrs. Sitwell to teach him belief in himself; in his moment of failure, and struggle with poverty and death itself, he had married a wife capable of being his comrade, his critic, and his nurse.' We owe all the best part of Stevenson's work to the presence by his side of a wife who possessed, as Sir Sidney Colvin testifies, 'a character as strong, interesting, and romantic as his own. She was the inseparable sharer of all his thoughts; the staunch companion of all his adventures; the most open-hearted of friends to all who loved him; the most shrewd and stimulating critic of his work; and in sickness, despite her own precarious health, the most devoted and most efficient of nurses.'

     Dorothy Wordsworth, Jane Carlyle, and Fanny Stevenson are representatives of a great host of brave and brilliant women without whom our literature would have been poor indeed. Some day we shall open a Pantheon in which we shall place splendid monuments to our first mates. At present we fill our Westminster Abbeys with the statues of skippers. But, depend upon it, injustice cannot last for ever. Some day the world will ask, not only, 'Was this man great?' but also, 'Who made this man so great?' And when this old world of ours takes it into its head to ask such questions, the day of the first mate will at last have dawned.

     One other word ought to be said, although it seems a cruel kindness to say it. It is this. There are people who succeed brilliantly as first mates, but who fail ignominiously as skippers. Aaron is, of course, the classical example. As long as Moses was skipper, and Aaron first mate, everything went well. But Moses withdrew for awhile, and then Aaron took command. 'And the Lord said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them; they have made a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt!' As long, I say, as Moses was skipper and Aaron first mate, Aaron did magnificently. But when Aaron took command, he was, as Dr. Whyte says, 'a mere reed shaken with the wind; as weak and as evil as any other man. Those forty days that Moses spent on the mount brought out, among other things, both Moses' greatness and Aaron's littleness and weakness in a way that nothing else could have done. "Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for, as for this Moses, we know not what is become of him." And Aaron went down like a broken reed before the idolatrous clamour of the revolted people.' The day of judgement, depend upon it, will be a day of tremendous surprises. And not least among its astonishments will be the disclosure of the immense debt that the world owes to its first mates. And the first mates who never become skippers will in that great day understand the reason why. And when they know the reason why, they will be among the most thankful of the thankful. It will be so much better for me to be applauded at the last as a good and faithful first mate than to have to confess that, as skipper, I drove the vessel on the rocks.

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


                Prayer in the Father’s house

     That holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. --- Luke 1:35.

     If the Son of God is born into my mortal flesh, is His holy innocence and simplicity and oneness with the Father getting a chance to manifest itself in me? What was true of the Virgin Mary in the historic introduction of God’s Son into this earth is true in every saint. The Son of God is born into me by the direct act of God; then I as a child of God have to exercise the right of a child, the right of being always face to face with my Father. Am I continually saying with amazement to my commonsense life—‘Why do you want to turn me off here? Don’t you know that I must be about my Father’s business?’ Whatever the circumstances may be, that Holy, Innocent, Eternal Child must be in contact with His Father.

     Am I simple enough to identify myself with my Lord in this way? Is He getting His wonderful way in me? Is God realizing that His Son is formed in me, or have I carefully put Him on one side? Oh the clamour of these days! Everyone is clamouring—for what? For the Son of God to be put to death. There is no room here for the Son of God just now, no room for quiet holy communion with the Father.

     Is the Son of God praying in me or am I dictating to Him? Is He ministering in me as He did in the days of His flesh? Is the Son of God in me going through His passion for His own purposes? The more one knows of the inner life of God’s ripest saints, the more one sees what God’s purpose is—“filling up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ.” There is always something to be done in the sense of “filling up.”


My Utmost for His Highest

Parry
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


                Parry

You say the word
  'God'. I cancel
  It with a smile.
  You make the smile proof
  That God is. I try
  A new gambit. Look,
  I say, the wide air ---
  Empty. You listen
  To it as one hearing
  The God breathe.
          Shout, then,
  I cry; waken
  The unseen sleeper; let
  Him come forth, history
  Yearns for him.
          You smile
  Now in your turn,
  Putting a finger
  To my lips, not cancelling
  My cry, pardoning it
  Under the green tree
  Where history nailed him.


H'm

Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     D’RASH


     Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Zakkai once asked his five disciples to name the most important quality toward which a person should strive. Generosity, friendliness, kindness, and helpfulness were four of the answers offered. Rabbi Shimon had a very different response: Foresight or (to use his unusual idiom) “the ability to see the not-yet-born” (Avot 2:13). He believed that it was imperative to think ahead, consider all the things that could go wrong, and—in the words of the Boy Scout motto—” Be prepared.”

     When people are taught how to drive a car, they learn “defensive driving.” That means anticipating what might happen and planning how to deal with it if it does. While driving through a residential neighborhood, the eye registers a group of children playing ball on the sidewalk, about fifty yards ahead and to the right. A defensive driver thinks, “What if one of those kids misses the ball and runs into the street to chase after it, without looking? What if he rushes right out in front of my car?” In a split second, the defensive driver takes her foot off the gas pedal, positions it over the brake, checks the rearview and side mirrors to see if there will be room to swerve to the left, grasps the steering wheel a little tighter, and moves her left thumb to where it can quickly sound the horn. Nine hundred ninety-nine times out of one thousand, the ball is caught and the kids remain safely on the sidewalk. But when that one time comes when the little boy is in the street, the driver is prepared and ready to avoid hitting him. It’s merely a matter of having “the healing ready even before you need it.”

     The Book of Proverbs offers a very strange observation: “Happy is the man who is always afraid” (
28:14, authors’ translation). How can someone who is eternally nervous, anxious, or worried be happy? Rashi comments that one who is afraid of punishment will avoid sinning. The implication is that if you are fearful in this world, you will end up being happy in the world-to-come. A more contemporary explanation would be: Every time you get behind the wheel of your car, be afraid of what damage and harm it—and you—can do. That way, when you arrive at your destination safe and sound, you will be happy.

     When many people drive, they are in a reactive mode. They aren’t “afraid”; they don’t see the “not-yet-born.” They wait for something to happen, and then they react. Sadly, it may be too late.

     At the Sea of Reeds, God said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to go forward.” Rabbi Elazar ben Pedat, were he living today, might add, “When you step on the gas and go forward, be proactive; drive defensively!”

     ANOTHER D’RASH

     Anne and her husband joined a synagogue when their son was old enough for Hebrew School. The family wasn’t very observant; they were mainly interested in a Bar Mitzvah for their child. They attended services three times a year; beyond that, Anne’s only contact with her religion was carpooling her son to temple. She never learned to read Hebrew, so at the Bar Mitzvah, she settled for opening the ark instead of taking an Aliyah.

     When the service was over, the family pretty much left the synagogue for good. Ten years passed; the family didn’t even attend High Holy Day services. All connections to the Jewish religion were severed. And then, suddenly, Anne’s husband had a heart attack and died at the age of forty-eight. The family didn’t belong to a synagogue, and the funeral chapel hired a rabbi for the service. Since the rabbi didn’t know Anne’s husband, the eulogy seemed rather generic and impersonal. During shivah, friends filed in and out of the house, but because the family wasn’t connected to a Jewish community, there were no services or spiritual guidance. A neighbor offered to bring Anne to his synagogue for Evening services one night so she could at least recite the Kaddish. For whatever reason, Anne thought that a good idea. Perhaps she was looking for a way to connect with God and understand her husband’s death. Perhaps she thought that saying Kaddish was what she was supposed to do, or that reciting the mourner’s prayer would somehow bring her closer to her husband.

     She came for Ma’ariv and was handed a siddur. The cantor announced the page, and the ten-minute Evening service began. But Anne was lost. She had no idea about the order of the service or the meaning of the prayers. The Hebrew might as well have been Chinese or Greek, and even the English translation seemed like a foreign language. She had no idea when the mourner’s prayer would come or what she was supposed to do when it did. The cantor noticed her black ribbon, came over and showed her the proper page, and even recited the Kaddish with her in a slower than usual pace. While appreciative of his kindness, she left the synagogue not having found what she had come for.

     Rabbi Elazar ben Pedat’s advice was: Be on good terms with your doctor. Your welfare may be in his or her hands. You want someone you can trust, someone who knows and cares for you, someone you can talk to and, in an emergency, someone you can call at two o’clock in the Morning.

     Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish would add: The same is true about God.


Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Take Heart
     August 8

     This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. --- Ephesians 5:32.

     There is a conjugal union between Christ and believers. From that we may draw many inferences. (The Essential Works of Thomas Watson

     See the dignity of all true believers. They are joined in marriage with Christ. There is not only assimilation but union—they are not only like Christ but one with Christ. When a king marries a beggar, by virtue of the union she is made of the blood royal. So the godly are divinely united to Christ, who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. By virtue of this sacred union the saints are given distinction above the angels. Christ is the Lord of the angels but not their husband.

     See how rich believers are. They have married into the crown of heaven, and by virtue of the union all Christ’s riches go to them. Christ communicates his graces, and he communicates his privileges—justification, glorification. He settles a kingdom on his spouse as her inheritance
(
Heb. 12:28). This is a key to the apostle’s riddle, “having nothing, and yet possessing everything” (2 Cor. 6:10). By virtue of the marriage union, the saints have an interest in all Christ’s riches.

     See how fearful a sin it is to abuse the saints. It is an injury done to Christ, for believers are spiritually one with him: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (
Acts 9:4). When the body was wounded, the Head, in heaven, cried out. In this sense, people crucify Christ afresh, because what is done to his members is done to him. Will a king tolerate having his treasure rifled, his crown thrown in the dust, his queen beheaded? The saints are the apple of Christ’s eye, and let those who strike at his eye answer for it.

     See the reason why the saints so rejoice in the Word and sacrament, because here they meet with their husband, Christ. The wife desires to be in the presence of her husband. The Lord’s Supper is nothing other than a pledge and token of that eternal communion which the saints will have with Christ in heaven. Then he will take the spouse to his bosom. If Christ is so sweet in an ordinance, when we have only short glances and dark glimpses of him by faith, oh, then, how delightful and captivating will his presence be in heaven when we see him face-to-face and are forever in his loving embraces!
--- Thomas Watson


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

On This Day
     Winds of Providence  August 8

     King Philip II of Spain, a Catholic, wanted to topple Queen Elizabeth of England, a Protestant. In 1586 he conspired to assassinate her. When that failed, he readied his navy, the largest and strongest on earth, to invade her land. It was a critical hour for Protestantism. Elizabeth’s defeat would mean ultimate disaster for Protestants in England and everywhere in Europe.

     Philip was trusting God, he said, to send him favorable weather, as he would be fighting a divine cause. On May 30, 1588 he fell to his knees before his “Invincible Armada,” prayed for victory, and watched it disappear over the horizon.

     But providence sided with the English. The Spanish Armada was quickly hurled in every direction by a violent storm. The beleaguered fleet regrouped, pressed on, and was spotted by the British on July 19. Winds turned against the Armada, slowing its progress. When the battle was joined on July 21, weather again aided the English. Heavy winds favored their smaller, more manageable ships. The English outmaneuvered the Spanish, and at just the right moment the weather shifted, always in England’s favor.

     By July 31 the Duke of Parma had informed Philip of likely defeat: “God knows how grieved I am at this news at a time when I hoped to send Your Majesty congratulations. I will only say that this must come from the hand of the Lord, who knows well what He does. … ”

     On August 8, 1588 Elizabeth visited her military headquarters at Tilbury and was told there that the danger of invasion was past. The relieved queen addressed her forces, saying: I know that I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king.

     Philip’s tattered ships, limping back to Spain, were caught in another deadly squall. Less than half the vessels and a third of the troops survived the storms and battles. But back in London, the queen went to St. Paul’s Cathedral and “with her own princely voice, she most christianly urged the people to give thanks unto God.”

     England and Protestantism were saved.

   Have you been to the places where I keep snow and hail,
   Until I use them to punish and conquer nations?
   From where does lightning leap, or the east wind blow?
   Who carves out a path for thunderstorms?
   Who sends torrents of rain?
   --- Job 38:22-25.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - August 8

     “They weave the spider’s web.” --- Isaiah 59:5.

     See the spider’s web, and behold in it a most suggestive picture of the hypocrite’s religion. It is meant to catch his prey: the spider fattens himself on flies, and the Pharisee has his reward. Foolish persons are easily entrapped by the loud professions of pretenders, and even the more judicious cannot always escape. Philip baptized Simon Magus, whose guileful declaration of faith was so soon exploded by the stern rebuke of Peter. Custom, reputation, praise, advancement, and other flies, are the small game which hypocrites take in their nets. A spider’s web is a marvel of skill: look at it and admire the cunning hunter’s wiles. Is not a deceiver’s religion equally wonderful? How does he make so barefaced a lie appear to be a truth? How can he make his tinsel answer so well the purpose of gold? A spider’s web comes all from the creature’s own bowels. The bee gathers her wax from flowers, the spider sucks no flowers, and yet she spins out her material to any length. Even so hypocrites find their trust and hope within themselves; their anchor was forged on their own anvil, and their cable twisted by their own hands. They lay their own foundation, and hew out the pillars of their own house, disdaining to be debtors to the sovereign grace of God. But a spider’s web is very frail. It is curiously wrought, but not enduringly manufactured. It is no match for the servant’s broom, or the traveller’s staff. The hypocrite needs no battery of Armstrongs to blow his hope to pieces, a mere puff of wind will do it. Hypocritical cobwebs will soon come down when the besom of destruction begins its purifying work. Which reminds us of one more thought, viz., that such cobwebs are not to be endured in the Lord’s house: he will see to it that they and those who spin them shall be destroyed for ever. O my soul, be thou resting on something better than a spider’s web. Be the Lord Jesus thine eternal hiding-place.


          Evening - August 8

     “All things are possible to him that believeth.” --- Mark 9:23.

     Many professed Christians are always doubting and fearing, and they forlornly think that this is the necessary state of believers. This is a mistake, for “all things are possible to him that believeth”; and it is possible for us to mount into a state in which a doubt or a fear shall be but as a bird of passage flitting across the soul, but never lingering there. When you read of the high and sweet communions enjoyed by favoured saints, you sigh and murmur in the chamber of your heart, “Alas! these are not for me.” O climber, if thou hast but faith, thou shalt yet stand upon the sunny pinnacle of the temple, for “all things are possible to him that believeth.” You hear of exploits which holy men have done for Jesus; what they have enjoyed of him; how much they have been like him; how they have been able to endure great persecutions for his sake; and you say, “Ah! as for me, I am but a worm; I can never attain to this.” But there is nothing which one saint was, that you may not be. There is no elevation of grace, no attainment of spirituality, no clearness of assurance, no post of duty, which is not open to you if you have but the power to believe. Lay aside your sackcloth and ashes, and rise to the dignity of your true position; you are little in Israel because you will be so, not because there is any necessity for it. It is not meet that thou shouldst grovel in the dust, O child of a King. Ascend! The golden throne of assurance is waiting for you! The crown of communion with Jesus is ready to bedeck your brow. Wrap yourself in scarlet and fine linen, and fare sumptuously every day; for if thou believest, thou mayst eat the fat of kidneys of wheat; thy land shall flow with milk and honey, and thy soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness. Gather golden sheaves of grace, for they await thee in the fields of faith. “All things are possible to him that believeth.”

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     August 8

          TEACH ME THY WAY, O LORD

     Words and Music by ManseIl Ramsey, 1849–1923

     Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path. (Psalm 27:11)

     I have held many things in my hands,
     and I have lost them all;
     but whatever I have placed in God’s hands,
     that I still possess.

--- Martin Luther

     I thank God for my handicaps, for, through them,
I have found myself, my work, and my God.
--- Helen Keller

     Whatever absorbs our thinking will ultimately control our actions. It is so important for a Christian, then, to let the ways of the Lord become the controlling force in life. It was C. S. Lewis who reminded us that we are becoming now what we will be in eternity—either something beautiful and full of glory or something hideous and full of darkness.

     A spiritual knowledge of Christ is always a personal knowledge. It is not gained through the experiences of others. Knowing the Lord in all of His fullness for every situation we encounter is a lifetime pursuit. Discipleship involves a willingness to be taught and then a desire to follow the ways of the Lord—to go with Him in the same direction He is going. We must be willing to say with David Livingstone, the noted missionary statesman of the past century, “I will place no value on anything I have or may possess except in relation to the kingdom of Christ.”

     This hymn first appeared in 1920 in England. The author and composer, Benjamin Ramsey, was a well-known local church musician in the Bournemouth area of England. It has since had a wide use by student groups as well as by sincere believers everywhere who genuinely desire to have a greater knowledge of their Lord.

     Teach me Thy Way, O Lord, teach me Thy way! Thy guiding grace afford—teach me Thy way! Help me to walk aright, more by faith, less by sight; lead me with heav’nly light—teach me Thy Way!
     When I am sad at heart, teach me Thy Way! When earthly joys depart, teach me Thy Way! In hours of loneliness, in times of dire distress, in failure or success, teach me Thy Way.
     When doubts and fears arise, teach me Thy Way! When storms o’er spread the skies, teach me Thy Way! Shine thru the cloud and rain, thru sorrow, toil and pain; make Thou my pathway plain—teach me Thy Way!

     Long as my life shall last, teach me Thy Way! Where’er my lot be cast, teach me Thy Way! Until the race is run, until the journey’s done, until the crown is won, teach me Thy Way!


     For Today: Psalm 25:4, 5; 86:11; 90:12; Matthew 11:29; Romans 12:2

     Ask God to teach you some fresh insight from the Scriptures about Himself. Use this musical prayer to help ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

The Existence and Attributes of God
     Stephen Charnock

          DISCOURSE I - ON THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

     Reason III. It is a folly to deny that which a man’s own nature witnesseth to him. The whole frame of bodies and souls bears the impress of the infinite power and wisdom of the Creator: a body framed with an admirable architecture, a soul endowed with understanding, will, judgment, memory, imagination.

     Man is the epitome of the world, contains in himself the substance of all natures, and the fulness of the whole universe; not only in regard of the universalness of his knowledge, whereby he comprehends the reasons of many things; but as all the perfections of the several natures of the world are gathered and united in man, for the perfection of his own, in a smaller volume. In his soul he partakes of heaven; in his body of the earth. There is the life of plants, the sense of beasts, and the intellectual nature of angels. “The Lord breathed into his nostril the breath of life, and man,” &c.: חזום , of lives. Not one sort of lives, but several; not only an animal, but a rational life; a soul of a nobler extract and nature, than what was given to other creatures. So that we need not step out of doors, or cast our eyes any further than ourselves, to behold a God. He shines in the capacity of our souls, and the vigor of our members. We must fly from ourselves, and be stripped of our own humanity, before we can put off the notion of a Deity. He that is ignorant of the existence of God, must be possessed of so much folly, as to be ignorant of his own make and frame.

     1. In the parts whereof he doth consist, body and soul.

     First, Take a prospect of the body. The Psalmist counts it a matter of praise and admiration (Psalm 139:15, 16): “I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. When I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth, in thy book all my members were written.” The scheme of man and every member was drawn in his book. All the sinews, veins, arteries, bones, like a piece of embroidery or tapestry, were wrought by God, as it were, with deliberation; like an artificer, that draws out the model of what he is to do in writing, and sets it before him when he begins his work. And, indeed, the fabric of man’s body, as well as his soul, is an argument for a Divinity. The artificial structure of it, the elegancy of every part, the proper situation of them, their proportion one to another, the fitness for their several functions, drew from Galen (a heathen, and one that had no raised sentiments of a Deity) a confession of the admirable wisdom and power of the Creator, and that none but God could frame it.

     1. In the order, fitness, and usefulness of every part. The whole model of the body is grounded upon reason. Every member hath its exact proportion, distinct office, regular motion. Every part hath a particular comeliness, and convenient temperament bestowed upon it, according to its place in the body. The heart is hot, to enliven the whole; the eye clear, to take in objects to present them to the soul. Every member is presented for its peculiar service and action. Some are for sense, some for motion, some for preparing, and others for dispensing nourishment to the several parts: they mutually depend upon and serve one another. What small strings fasten the particular members together, “as the earth, that hangs upon nothing!” Take but one part away, and you either destroy the whole, or stamp upon it some mark of deformity. All are knit together by an admirable symmetry; all orderly perform their functions, as acting by a settled law; none swerving from their rule, but in case of some predominant humor. And none of them, in so great a multitude of parts, stifled in so little a room, or jostling against one another, to hinder their mutual actions; none can be better disposed. And the greatest wisdom of man could not imagine it, till his eyes present them with the sight and connection of one part and member with another.

     (1.) The heart. How strongly it is guarded with ribs like a wall, that it might not be easily hurt! It draws blood from the liver, through a channel made for that purpose; rarefies it, and makes it fit to pass through the arteries and veins, and to carry heat and life to every part of the body: and by a perpetual motion, it sucks in the blood, and spouts it out again; which motion depends not upon the command of the soul, but is pure natural.

     (2.) The mouth takes in the meat, the teeth grind it for the stomach, the stomach prepares it, nature strains it through the milky veins, the liver refines it, and mints it into blood, separates the purer from the drossy parts, which go to the heart, circuits through the whole body, running through the veins, like rivers through so many channels of the world, for the watering of the several parts; which are framed of a thin skin for the straining the blood through, for the supply of the members of the body, and framed with several valves or doors, for the thrusting the blood forwards to perform its circular motion.

     (3.) The brain, fortified by a strong skull, to hinder outward accidents, a tough membrane or skin, to hinder any oppression by the skull; the seat of sense, that which coins the animal spirits, by purifying and refining those which are sent to it, and seems like a curious piece of needlework.

     (4.) The ear, framed with windings and turnings, to keep any thing from entering to offend the brain; so disposed as to admit sounds with the greatest safety and delight; filled with an air within, by the motion whereof the sound is transmitted to the brain: as sounds are made in the air by diffusing themselves, as you see circles made in the water by the flinging in a stone. This is the gate of knowledge, whereby we hear the oracles of God, and the instruction of men for arts. It is by this they are exposed to the mind, and the mind of another man framed in our understandings.

     (5.) What a curious workmanship is that of the eye, which is in the body, as the sun in the world; set in the head as in a watchtower, having the softest nerves for the receiving the greater multitude of spirits necessary for the act of vision! How is it provided with defence, by the variety of coats to secure and accommodate the little humor and part whereby the vision is made! Made of a round figure, and convex, as most commodious to receive the species of objects shaded by the eyebrows and eyelids; secured by the eyelids, which are its ornament and safety, which refresh it when it is too much dried by heat, hinder too much light from insinuating itself into it to offend it, cleanse it from impurities, by their quick motion preserve it from any invasion, and by contraction confer to the more evident discerning of things. Both the eyes seated in the hollow of the bone for security, yet standing out, that things may be perceived more easily on both sides. And this little member can behold the earth, and in a moment view things as high as heaven.

     (6.) The tongue for speech framed like a musical instrument; the teeth serving for variety of sounds; the lungs serving for bellows to blow the organs as it were, to cool the heart, by a continual motion transmitting a pure air to the heart, expelling that which was smoky and superfluous. It is by the tongue that communication of truth hath a passage among men; it opens the sense of the mind; there would be no converse and commerce without it. Speech among all nations hath an elegancy and attractive force, mastering the affections of men. Not to speak of other parts, or of the multitude of spirits that act every part; the quick flight of them where there is a necessity of their presence. Solomon (Eccles. 12.) makes an elegant description of them, in his speech of old age; and Job speaks of this formation of the body (Job 10:9–11), &c. Not the least part of the body is made in vain. The hairs of the head have their use, as well as are an ornament. The whole symmetry of the body is a ravishing object. Every member hath a signature and mark of God and his wisdom. He is visible in the formation of the members, the beauty of the parts, and the vigor of the body. This structure could not be from the body; that only hath a passive power, and cannot act in the absence of the soul. Nor can it be from the soul. How comes it then to be so ignorant of the manner of its formation? The soul knows not the internal parts of its own body, but by information from others, or inspection into other bodies. It knows less of the inward frame of the body than it doth of itself; but he that makes the clock can tell the number and motions of the wheels within, as well as what figures are without.

     This short discourse is useful to raise our admirations of the wisdom of God, as well as to demonstrate that there is an infinite wise Creator; and the consideration of ourselves every day, and the wisdom of God in our frame, would maintain religion much in the world; since all are so framed that no man can tell any error in the constitution of him.   The following makes me think of Rev 4:11.   If thus the body of man is fitted for the service of his soul by an infinite God, the body ought to be ordered for the service of this God, and in obedience to him.

     2. In the admirable difference of the features of men; which is a great argument that the world was made by a wise Being. This could not be wrought by chance, or be the work of mere nature, since we find never, or very rarely, two persons exactly alike. This distinction is a part of infinite wisdom; otherwise what confusion would be introduced into the world? Without this, parents could not know their children, nor children their parents, nor a brother his sister, nor a subject his magistrate. Without it there had been no comfort of relations, no government, no commerce. Debtors would not have been known from strangers, nor good men from bad. Propriety could not have been preserved, nor justice executed; the innocent might have been apprehended for the nocent; wickedness could not have been stopped by any law. The faces of men are the same for parts, not for features, a dissimitude in a likeness. Man, like to all the rest in the world, yet unlike to any, and differenced by some mark from all, which is not to be observed in any other species of creatures. This speaks some wise agent which framed man; since, for the preservation of human society and order in the world, this distinction was necessary.

     Secondly, As man’s own nature witnesseth a God to him in the structure of his body, so also “in the nature of his soul.” We know that we have an understanding in us; a substance we cannot see, but we know it by its operations; as thinking, reasoning, willing, remembering, and as operating about things that are invisible and remote from sense. This must needs be distinct from the body; for that being but dust and earth in its original, hath not the power of reasoning and thinking; for then it would have that power, when the soul were absent, as well as when it is present. Besides, if it had that power of thinking, it could think only of those things which are sensible, and made up of matter, as itself is. This soul hath a greater excellency; it can know itself, rejoice in itself, which other creatures in this world are not capable of. The soul is the greatest glory of this lower world; and, as one saith, “There seems to be no more difference between the soul and an angel, than between a sword in the scabbard and when it is out of the scabbard.” 1. Consider the vastness of its capacity. The understanding can conceive the whole world, and paint in itself the invisible pictures of all things. It is capable of apprehending and discoursing of things superior to its own nature. “It is suited to all objects, as the eye to all colors, or the ear to all sounds.” How great is the memory, to retain such varieties, such diversities! The will also can accommodate other things to itself. It invents arts for the use of man: prescribes rules for the government of states; ransacks the bowels of nature; makes endless conclusions, and steps in reasoning from one thing to another, for the knowledge of truth. It can contemplate and form notions of things higher than the world.

     2. The quickness of its motion. “Nothing is more quick in the whole course of nature. The sun runs through the world in a day; this can do it in a moment. It can, with one flight of fancy, ascend to the battlements of heaven.” The mists of the air, that hinder the sight of the eye, cannot hinder the flights of the soul; it can pass in a moment from one end of the world to the other, and think of things a thousand miles distant. It can think of some mean thing in the world; and presently, by one cast, in the twinkling of an aye, mount up as high as heaven. As its desires are not bounded by sensual objects, so neither are the motions of it restrained by them. It will break forth with the greatest vigor, and conceive things infinitely above it; though it be in the body, it acts as if it were ashamed to be cloistered in it. This could not be the result of any material cause. Whoever knew mere matter understand, think, will? and what it hath not, it cannot give. That which is destitute of reason and will, could never confer reason and will. It is not the effect of the body; for the body is fitted with members to be subject to it. It is in part ruled by the activity of the soul, and in part by the counsel of the soul; it is used by the soul, and knows not how it is used. Nor could it be from the parents, since the souls of the children often transcend those of the parents in vivacity, acuteness and comprehensiveness. One man is stupid, and begets a son with a capacious understanding; one is debauched and beastly in morals, and begets a son who, from his infancy, testifies some virtuous inclinations, which sprout forth in delightful fruit with the ripeness of his age. Whence should this difference arise,—a fool begat the wise man, and a debauched the virtuous man? The wisdom of the one could not descend from the foolish soul of the other; nor the virtues of the son, from the deformed and polluted soul of the parent. It lies not in the organs of the body: for if the folly of the parent proceeded not from their souls, but the ill disposition of the organs of their bodies, how comes it to pass that the bodies of the children are better organized beyond the goodness of their immediate cause?

     We must recur to some invisible hand, that makes the difference, who bestows upon one at his pleasure richer qualities than upon another. You can see nothing in the world endowed with some excellent quality, but you must imagine some bountiful hand did enrich it with that dowry. None can be so foolish as to think that a vessel ever enriched itself with that sprightly liquor wherewith it is filled; or that anything worse than the soul should endow it with that knowledge and activity which sparkles in it. Nature could not produce it. That nature is intelligent, or not; if it be not, then it produceth an effect more excellent than itself, inasmuch as an understanding being surmounts a being that hath no understanding. If the supreme cause of the soul be intelligent, why do we not call it God as well as nature? We must arise from hence to the notion of a God; a spiritual nature cannot proceed but from a spirit higher than itself, and of a transcendent perfection above itself. If we believe we have souls, and understand the state of our own faculties, we must be assured that there was some invisible hand which bestowed those faculties, and the riches of them upon us. A man must be ignorant of himself before he can be ignorant of the existence of God. By considering the nature of our souls, we may as well be assured that there is a God, as that there is a sun, by the shining of the beams in at our windows; and, indeed, the soul is a statue and representation of God, as the landscape of a country or a map represents all the parts of it, but in a far less proportion than the country itself is. The soul fills the body, and God the world; the soul sustains the body, and God the world; the soul sees, but is not seen; God sees all things, but is himself invisible. How base are they then that prostitute their souls, an image of God, to base things unexpressibly below their own nature!

     3. I might add, the union of soul and body. Man is a kind of compound of angel and beast, of soul and body; if he were only a soul, he were a kind of angel; if only a body, he were another kind of brute. Now that a body as vile and dull as earth, and a soul that can mount up to heaven, and rove about the world, with so quick a motion, should be linked in so strait an acquaintance; that so noble a being as the soul should be inhabitant in such a tabernacle of clay; must be owned to some infinite power that hath so chained it. Thirdly, Man witnesseth to a God in the operations and reflections of conscience. (Rom. 2:15), “Their thoughts are accusing or excusing.” An inward comfort attends good actions, and an inward torment follows bad ones; for there is in every man’s conscience fear of punishment and hope of reward; there is, therefore, a sense of some superior judge, which hath the power both of rewarding and punishing. If man were his supreme rule, what need he fear punishment, since no man would inflict any evil or torment on himself; nor can any man be said to reward himself, for all rewards refer to another, to whom the action is pleasing, and is a conferring some good a man had not before; if an action be done by a subject or servant, with hopes of reward, it cannot be imagined that he expects a reward from himself, but from the prince or person whom he eyes in that action, and for whose sake he doth it.

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. CXI. — THE Diatribe at length comes to THE PASSAGES CITED BY LUTHER AGAINST “FREE-WILL,” WITH THE INTENT TO REFUTE THEM.

     The first passage, is that of Gen. vi. 3, “My Spirit shall not always remain in man; seeing that he is flesh.” This passage it confutes, variously. First, it says, ‘that flesh, here, does not signify vile affection, but infirmity.’ Then it augments the text of Moses, ‘that this saying of his, refers to the men of that age, and not to the whole race of men: as if he had said, in these men.’ And moreover, ‘that it does not refer to all the men, even of that age; because, Noah was excepted,’ And at last it says, ‘that this word has, in the Hebrew, another signification; that it signifies the mercy, and not the severity, of God; according to the authority of Jerome.’ By this it would, perhaps, persuade us, that since that saying did not apply to Noah but to the wicked, it was not the mercy, but the severity of God that was shewn to Noah, and the mercy, not the severity of God that was shewn to the wicked.

     But let us away with these ridiculing vanities of the Diatribe: for there is nothing which it advances, which does not evince that it looks upon the Scriptures as mere fables. What Jerome here triflingly talks about, is nothing at all to me; for it is certain that he cannot prove any thing that he says. Nor is our dispute concerning the sense of Jerome, but concerning the sense of the Scripture. Let that perverter of the Scriptures attempt to make it appear, that the Spirit of God signifies indignation. — I say, that he is deficient in both parts of the necessary two-fold proof. First, he cannot produce one passage of the Scripture, in which the Spirit of God is understood as signifying indignation: for, on the contrary, kindness and sweetness are every where ascribed to the Spirit. And next, if he should prove that it is understood in any place as signifying indignation, yet, he cannot easily prove, that it follows of necessity, that it is so to be received in this place.

     So also, let him attempt to make it appear, that “flesh,” is here to be understood as signifying infirmity; yet, he is as deficient as ever in proof. For where Paul calls the Corinthians “carnal,” he does not signify infirmity, but corrupt affection, because, he charges them with “strife and divisions;’ ’ which is not infirmity, or incapacity to receive “stronger” doctrine, but malice and that “old leaven,” which he commands them to “purge out.” (1 Cor. iii. 3; v. 7.) But let us examine the Hebrew.


The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library


Ruth 1-2
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What About God’s Wrath?
Psalm 9:5-8
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Psalm 9-13
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Lecture 13 NT Survey
Luke Parables
Dr. Ted Hildebrandt





Lecture 14 NT Survey Luke
Dr. Ted Hildebrandt






Lecture 15 NT Survey
Synoptic Problem
Dr. Ted Hildebrandt





Lecture 16 NT Survey
Synoptic Sources
Dr. Ted Hildebrandt






Lecture 17 NT Survey
Introduction to John
Dr. Ted Hildebrandt





Lecture 18 NT Survey John Cont
Dr. Ted Hildebrandt






Lecture 19 NT Survey John-Acts
Dr. Ted Hildebrandt





Lecture 20 NT Survey Acts Intrro
Dr. Ted Hildebrandt






Lecture 21 NT First Missionary Journey
Dr. Ted Hildebrandt





Lecture 22 NT Survey
Acts, 2-3 Missionary Journeys
Dr. Ted Hildebrandt






Lecture 23 NT Survey Romans Part 1
Dr. Ted Hildebrandt





Lecture 24 NT Survey Romans Part 2
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Lecture 25 NT Survey 1 Corinthians
Dr. Ted Hildebrandt