GreetingPhilippians 1 1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
God of All Comfort3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, We are blessed that we might be a blessing to others. We are supposed to be a conduit from God to others, an extension cord if you will. We are supposed to be an extension of God's life and an expression of God's love. Then we can be an exhibition of God's power. Jesus said our purpose for being here is to love God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourself. He made it clear the Torah, the Bible, the Ten Commandments, everything rests on these two precepts. What better evangelism is there? We must learn that we are not the source and we are not the goal. Life is not about us, or our stuff. Life is about others. We are for connecting.
with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.
Paul’s Change of Plans12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. 13 For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and understand and I hope you will fully understand— 14 just as you did partially understand us—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.
15 Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. 16 I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea. 17 Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? 18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. Referring to 1:21 above, "But it is God who has established us with you [together] in Christ, and has anointed us; and he has sealed us and given us the earnest of the Spirit." See (Hengel, M. (2004). Studies in Early Christology (Academic Paperback)
23 But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. 24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.
Christ’s Example of HumilityPhilippians 2:1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Paul instructs us to adopt the humility modeled by Jesus Christ in His incarnation and crucifixion (Phil. 2:5–8). As Christians, we know the reality of God’s sovereignty, and we recognize that we cannot take credit for whatever intellectual gifts we have been given. In addition, we should not assume that we have all of the answers — except, of course, for those provided explicitly in Scripture. We should not jump to conclusions. We ought to humble ourselves and listen, even to those with whom we disagree. This attitude of humility is a surefire antidote for intellectual laziness and apathy. In light of it, we are obligated to work diligently to uncover insights in the views of others. We ought to assume that those whom we read or study have something of value to say — that they might possess some common - grace insight into the nature of reality. We ought not to dismiss others out of hand. We are ourselves, after all, finite and fallen people. Humbly acknowledging our limitations and allowing that others might have something to teach us ought to be natural for us as Christians. And doing so will make us more effective in our pursuit of God’s truth. Derek Halvorson
4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Lights in the World12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.
Timothy and Epaphroditus19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. 23 I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, 24 and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.
25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.
Ministers of the New CovenantPhilippians 3 1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. 3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Yet even if we do all the particular things God wants and explicitly commands us to do, we might still not be the person God would have us be. It is always true that “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor 3:6). An obsession merely with doing all God commands may be the very thing that rules out being the kind of person that he calls us to be.
Jesus told a parable to make clear what God treasures in those who intend to serve him:
Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, “Come here at once and take your place at the table”? Would you not rather say to him, “Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink”? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!” (Lk 17:7-10; cf. Mt 5:20)
The watchword of the worthy servant is not mere obedience but love, from which appropriate obedience naturally flows. Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God
7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory. How I wish people who claim to be followers of Christ would actually read the Bible for themselves, instead of just repeating what they hear someone else say. Reread this paragraph. Don't you see it is not necessary to turn to the Sermon on the Mount to understand that Christians are NOT supposed to go around threatening others with hell. We are supposed to be an extension of God's life. Live THAT and the Spirit of Christ will do what God promised.
12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
The Light of the GospelPhilippians 4 1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Treasure in Jars of Clay7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
The Reformation Study Bible
What I'm Reading
Why Would a Good God Allow Natural Evil?
By J. Warner Wallace 6/12/2017
As a police officer and homicide detective, I’ve seen my fair share of injustice and hardship. Every time I’m asked to defend the existence of God in light of the evil we observe in our world, I take a deep breath and try to separate the emotional nature of this issue from the rational explanations I might offer. I recognize the impotence of my rational response when trying to address to the emotional pain people experience when they suffer evil. At the same time, I think it’s important for us explore reasonable explanations. Natural evil is perhaps the most difficult category of evil we, as Christians, can address. It’s one thing to explain the presence of moral evil in our world (the evil actions of humans); it’s another to explain the existence of natural evil (earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters). If an all-powerful and all-loving God exists, why does He permit natural evil? If God exists, it is certainly within His power to prevent such things. Why wouldn’t He?
The problem of natural evil is irreconcilable unless there are necessary or good reasons for God to permit such evil. If God exists, it is reasonable to believe that He would design a world in which free agency is possible (this is a necessity for true love to be achievable). In order to understand why God might allow natural evil, we have to do our best to examine the nature of the world around us, the nature of humans and the desires of God:
Some “Natural Evil” May Be the Result of Necessity | God may tolerate some natural evil because it is the necessary consequence of a free natural process that makes it possible for freewill creatures to thrive. Scientist-theologian John Polkinghornesuggests that God has created a universe with particular natural laws that make life on earth possible so that humans with free will can exist in the first place. As an example, the same weather systems that create tornadoes that kill humans also create thunderstorms that provide our environment with the water needed for human existence. The same plate tectonics that kill humans (in earthquakes) are necessary for regulation of soils and surface temperatures needed for human existence.
Some “Natural Evil” May Be the Result of the Nature of Free Agency | God may also tolerate some natural evil because it is the necessary consequence of human free agency. Humans often rebuild along earthquake fault lines and known hurricane pathways, and they frequently cut corners on building guidelines in order to save money. Much of this activity results in the catastrophic loss that we see in times of ‘natural’ disaster. There are times when ‘natural’ evil is either caused or aggravated by free human choices.
Some “Natural Evil” May Be the Result of God’s Nudging | God may permit some natural evil because it challenges people to think about God for the first time. For many people, the first prayers or thoughts of God came as the result of some tragedy. When our present lives are in jeopardy or in question, we find ourselves thinking about the possibility of a future life. If an eternal future life is a reality, God may use the temporary suffering of this life to focus our thoughts and desires on eternity.
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James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
Strange Traditions, Unchanging Truth
By Dr. Michael Svigel
In December of 1993, I visited Germany for the first time, stepping from my comfortable American surroundings into an unfamiliar European culture. During the Christmas season, the already charming country of Germany transforms into an enchanting wonderland. I had never experienced such magical sights, sounds, and scents as I did in that strange new world.
Or maybe I should say, strange old world, because the German Christmas traditions I regarded as “new” went back centuries: real candles burning on real trees, vibrant Christmas markets peddling candied almonds and sugared stollen, a chorus of trumpets echoing through the vale, and a real goose for Christmas dinner. My German friends thought these traditions were normal. I thought they were strange. How could I enjoy Christmas without Charlie Brown, Frosty, and Rudolph? Where was Santa Claus with his flying sleigh? What about the inflatable snowmen, plastic nativities, and Christmas lights dancing to “Jingle Bell Rock”? Germany was doing Christmas completely wrong, and they didn’t even know it!
But on Christmas Eve, when I stepped out of the bustling market into a dimly lit church that had stood in that same place for six hundred years, my disorientation dissolved like melting snow. We sang “Silent Night” in its original German. The pastor read the real Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke. And I heard, loudly and clearly, the unchanging truth of the Incarnation—when God the Son stepped out of the comfort of His heavenly home into our own strange, old world. For that hour, gone were the tinny twangs of unfamiliar carols, the sweet scent of spiced wine, and the light of candles flickering through frosted windows.
Click here to go to source
- 1 1: Exploring Christian Theology: Revelation, Scripture, and the Triune God
- 2 RetroChristianity: Reclaiming the Forgotten Faith
- 3 2: Exploring Christian Theology: Creation, Fall, and Salvation
- 4 Exploring Christian Theology: The Church, Spiritual Growth, and the End Times
- 5 The Center and the Source: Second Century Incarnational Christology and Early Catholic Christianity
- 6 Heroes and Heretics
- 7 By Michael J. Svigel - RetroChristianity: Reclaiming the Forgotten Faith (2012-05-15) [Paperback]
- 8 Heir of the Forgotten Realm
- 9 Exploring Christian Theology : Volume 2: Creation, Fall, and Salvation
- 10 Exploring Christian Theology : Volume 3: The Church, Spiritual Growth, and the End Times
Jesus: David’s Lord and King
By Stephen J. BramerThe Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” (Psalm 110:1, ESV) ESV
Almost one thousand years before Jesus was born, King David spoke of our Savior in Psalm 110. He described the Lord God speaking to One who was David’s Lord. This One, later specified as Jesus Christ, would be the final Davidic King who would reign over His people as they embraced Him as King (Psalm 110:1–3). David further describes this One as the ultimate Priest in the order of Melchizedek (110:4) and the Judge over all nations (110:5–7). In seven short verses, David captured the essence of Jesus Christ.
Jesus personally quoted this Psalm to affirm His deity when He debated with the Pharisees (Matthew 22:44). Peter quoted it on the Day of Pentecost to argue for the ascension of Christ (Acts 2:34). The author of Hebrews quoted it to clarify that Christ is greater than any angel (Hebrews 1:13). In fact, this Psalm is recognized to be quoted or alluded to in our New Testament more than any other Old Testament passage!
Christ came as David’s Lord to offer Himself as Israel’s, and ultimately the world’s, Savior and King. His rejection by that Jewish generation has resulted in some aspects of His ultimate rule being delayed. However, Jesus Christ will come again to earth to complete all that was prophesied of Him! It’s like part of a Christmas gift that is delivered sometime later!
At Christmas, we recognize and rejoice that He came the first time, not merely as a human baby in Bethlehem but as David’s Lord — God in human flesh. We rejoice that He is OUR Lord, OUR King, and OUR Great High Priest. What a Christmas gift we have to enjoy — the God-Man, Jesus Christ.
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Truth In The Midst Of Trouble
1-16-2015 | Dallas Theological Seminary
The Fine Print Of Many Commitments
6-8-2016 | Dallas Theological Seminary
Is Your Middle Name Ahaz
10-25-2018 | Dallas Theological Seminary
Taking Back Christianese #6: “All Sins Are Equal in God’s Sight”
By Michael J. Kruger 12/05/2016
For advocates of Reformed theology, we are keen to emphasize the seriousness of sin. Sin is a big deal. Each and every one of them. Indeed, this is precisely why we all desperately need a Savior.
As true as this is, however, our enthusiasm for maintaining the seriousness of sin (which is good) can lead us to make additional statements which may not be so true (depending on how they are understood). One of these statements, and the next installment in our “Taking Back Christianese” series, is, “All sins are equal in God’s sight.”
On the surface, this phrase seems like a great way to uphold our commitment to sin’s seriousness. It is the equivalent of the phrase “there are no little sins” (a line you probably first heard from your parents after you locked your little sister in her room).
Our purpose in this post (as in all the posts in this series) is simply to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of this phrase. We will do this by asking three questions: (1) Why do people use this phrase? (2) What is correct or helpful about this phrase? and (3) What is problematic about this phrase?
Why Do People Use This Phrase? | We should begin by observing that this phrase does not come from Scripture. People do not use it because it appears in the Bible. Why then do they use it? Click here to go to source
Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate
A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized
The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture's Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity
The Early Text of the New Testament
Further Reflections on the Belief That “All Sins Are Equal”: It’s More Widespread Than You Think
By Michael J. Kruger 12/07/2016
Two days ago I posted an article on the phrase, “All Sins are Equal in God’s Eyes.” This was the latest installment in the “Taking Back Christianese” series.
In that post, I argued that this phrase is frequently misunderstood and misused. Paradoxically, some use the phrase to bolster the seriousness of sin (by arguing every sin is equally a big deal), while other use the phrase to downplay the seriousness of sin (by arguing that no sins are any worse than others).
In short, I argued that while no sin is small, some sins are smaller (or larger). Put differently, sin is serious enough that one is sufficient to separate you from God, but that does not mean all sins are equally heinous.
After writing that article, and seeing the response that it received, I decided to poke around Twitter to see how common this belief “all sins are equal” really is. I was surprised by what I found.
Of course, what people say on Twitter is not a scientific test of what people generally believe. But, it is illuminating nonetheless. Below are a few examples to give you a feel for how the phrase “all sins are equal” is being used in our world today. Click here to go to source
Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate
A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized
The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture's Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity
The Early Text of the New Testament
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 139:7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them. The Holy Bible: ESV Reformation Study Bible, Condensed Edition (2017) - Black, Genuine Leather. (2016). (ESV). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Is Football Too Violent for Christians?
By Tony Reinke 12/10/2017
This week, in perhaps the most violent football game of the NFL season, Monday Night Football featured the Cincinnati Bengals hosting their rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers. By the time it ended, Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman called it “terrible for the NFL and the game of football overall.”
The injuries were brutal.
Early in the first quarter, Ryan Shazier, a Pro Bowl linebacker for the Steelers, injured his back on a tackle, fell to the ground, and rolled from his side to his back, clearly unable to move his legs, signaling for help from the sideline. He was carted off on a stretcher and hospitalized over several days for a serious spinal injury.
What unfolded next, in the words of one reporter, was “a parade of illegal hits and deliberate head shots between regional rivals” — a melee ending in flags, fines, and a few suspensions from the league.
JuJu Smith-Schuster was flagged, fined, and suspended for a dirty blindside block of Vontaze Burfict. On the broadcast, Jon Gruden called it “bad football” and “bad for the game.”
Click here to go to source
Tony Reinke is senior writer for Desiring God and author of three books. He hosts the Ask Pastor John podcast and lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and three children.
Tony Reinke Books:
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
20. Meanwhile, being placed in this most beautiful theatre, let us not
decline to take a pious delight in the clear and manifest works of God.
For, as we have elsewhere observed, though not the chief, it is, in
point of order, the first evidence of faith, to remember to which side
soever we turn, that all which meets the eye is the work of God, and at
the same time to meditate with pious care on the end which God had in
view in creating it. Wherefore, in order that we may apprehend with
true faith what it is necessary to know concerning God, it is of
importance to attend to the history of the creation, as briefly
recorded by Moses and afterwards more copiously illustrated by pious
writers, more especially by Basil and Ambrose. From this history we
learn that God, by the power of his Word and his Spirit, created the
heavens and the earth out of nothing; that thereafter he produced
things inanimate and animate of every kind, arranging an innumerable
variety of objects in admirable order, giving each kind its proper
nature, office, place, and station; at the same time, as all things
were liable to corruption, providing for the perpetuation of each
single species, cherishing some by secret methods, and, as it were,
from time to time instilling new vigour into them, and bestowing on
others a power of continuing their race, so preventing it from
perishing at their own death. Heaven and earth being thus most richly
adorned, and copiously supplied with all things, like a large and
splendid mansion gorgeously constructed and exquisitely furnished, at
length man was made--man, by the beauty of his person and his many
noble endowments, the most glorious specimen of the works of God. But,
as I have no intention to give the history of creation in detail, it is
sufficient to have again thus briefly touched on it in passing. I have
already reminded my reader, that the best course for him is to derive
his knowledge of the subject from Moses and others who have carefully
and faithfully transmitted an account of the creation.
21. It is unnecessary to dwell at length on the end that should be aimed at in considering the works of God. The subject has been in a great measure explained elsewhere, and in so far as required by our present work, may now be disposed of in a few words. Undoubtedly were one to attempt to speak in due terms of the inestimable wisdom, power, justice, and goodness of God, in the formation of the world, no grace or splendour of diction could equal the greatness of the subject. Still there can be no doubt that the Lord would have us constantly occupied with such holy meditation, in order that, while we contemplate the immense treasures of wisdom and goodness exhibited in the creatures as in so many mirrors, we may not only run our eye over them with a hasty, and, as it were, evanescent glance, but dwell long upon them, seriously and faithfully turn them in our minds, and every now and then bring them to recollection. But as the present work is of a didactic nature, we cannot fittingly enter on topics which require lengthened discourse. Therefore, in order to be compendious, let the reader understand that he has a genuine apprehension of the character of God as the Creator of the world; first, if he attends to the general rule, never thoughtlessly or obliviously to overlook the glorious perfections which God displays in his creatures; and, secondly, if he makes a self application of what he sees, so as to fix it deeply on his heart. The former is exemplified when we consider how great the Architect must be who framed and ordered the multitude of the starry host so admirably, that it is impossible to imagine a more glorious sight, so stationing some, and fixing them to particular spots that they cannot move; giving a freer course to others yet setting limits to their wanderings; so tempering the movement of the whole as to measure out day and night, months, years, and seasons, and at the same time so regulating the inequality of days as to prevent every thing like confusion. The former course is, moreover, exemplified when we attend to his power in sustaining the vast mass, and guiding the swift revolutions of the heavenly bodies, &c. These few examples sufficiently explain what is meant by recognising the divine perfections in the creation of the world. Were we to attempt to go over the whole subject we should never come to a conclusion, there being as many miracles of divine power, as many striking evidences of wisdom and goodness, as there are classes of objects, nay, as there are individual objects, great or small, throughout the universe.
22. The other course which has a closer relation to faith remains to be considered--viz. that while we observe how God has destined all things for our good and salvation, we at the same time feel his power and grace, both in ourselves and in the great blessings which he has bestowed upon us; thence stirring up ourselves to confidence in him, to invocation, praise, and love. Moreover, as I lately observed, the Lord himself, by the very order of creation, has demonstrated that he created all things for the sake of man. Nor is it unimportant to observe, that he divided the formation of the world into six days, though it had been in no respect more difficult to complete the whole work, in all its parts, in one moment than by a gradual progression. But he was pleased to display his providence and paternal care towards us in this, that before he formed man, he provided whatever he foresaw would be useful and salutary to him. How ungrateful, then, were it to doubt whether we are cared for by this most excellent Parent, who we see cared for us even before we were born! How impious were it to tremble in distrust, lest we should one day be abandoned in our necessity by that kindness which, antecedent to our existence, displayed itself in a complete supply of all good things! Moreover, Moses tells us that everything which the world contains is liberally placed at our disposal. This God certainly did not that he might delude us with an empty form of donation. Nothing, therefore, which concerns our safety will ever be wanting. To conclude, in one word; as often as we call God the Creator of heaven and earth, let us remember that the distribution of all the things which he created are in his hand and power, but that we are his sons, whom he has undertaken to nourish and bring up in allegiance to him, that we may expect the substance of all good from him alone, and have full hope that he will never suffer us to be in want of things necessary to salvation, so as to leave us dependent on some other source; that in everything we desire we may address our prayers to him, and, in every benefit we receive, acknowledge his hand, and give him thanks; that thus allured by his great goodness and beneficence, we may study with our whole heart to love and serve him.
 Gen 18:2; 32:1, 28; Josh. 5:14; Judges 6:14; 13:10, 22.
 Ps. 91:11; 34:8; Gen. 16:9; 24:7; 48:16; Ex. 14:19, 28, 29; Judges 2:1, 20; 6:11; 13:10; Mt. 4:11; Luke 22:43; Mt. 28:5; Luke 24:5; Acts 1:10; 2 Kings 19:35; Isa 37:36.
 Dan. 10:13, 20; 12:1; Mt. 18:20; Luke 15:7; 16:22; 2 Kings 16:17; Acts 12:15.
 Dan 12:1; Jude 9; 1 Thess. 4:16; Dan. 10:13, 21; Luke 1:19, 26; Tobit 3:17; 5:5; Mt. 26:53; Dan. 7:10; 2 Kings 6:17; Ps. 34:7.
 Luke 15:10; Ps. 91:11; Mt. 4:6; Luke 4:10, 16, 22; Matt. 18:10; Acts 7:55; Gal. 3:19; Mt. 22:80; 24:36; Eph. 30:10; 1 Peter 1:12; Heb. 1:6; Ps. 97:7.
 2 Cor. 4:4; John 12:31; Mt. 12:29; Eph. 2:2.
 Mark 16:9; Mt. 12:43; Luke 8:30.
 Job 1:6; 2:1; 1 Kings 22:20; 1 Sam.16:14; 18:10; 2 Thess. 2:9, 11.
 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2; Rom. 9:22; John 8:44; 1 John 3:8.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
The Intellectual Roots of the Sexual Revolution
By Albert Mohler 8/01/2016
The new sexual morality did not emerge from a vacuum. Massive intellectual changes at a worldview level over the last two hundred years set the stage for the revolution in which we currently find ourselves. We are living in times rightly, if rather awkwardly, described as the late modern age. Just a decade ago, we spoke of the postmodern age, as if modernity had given way to something fundamentally new. Like every new and self-declared epoch, the postmodern age was declared to be a form of liberation. Whereas the modern age announced itself as a secular liberation from a Christian authority that operated on claims of divine revelation, the postmodern age was proposed as a liberation from the great secular authorities of reason and rationality. The postmodern age, it was claimed, would liberate humanity by operating with an official “incredulity toward all metanarratives.” In other words, postmodernity denied all of the big narratives that had previously shaped the culture and specifically put an end to the Christian narrative.
And yet, postmodern thought eventuated, as all intellectual movements must, in its own metanarrative. Then it just passed away. We still speak of postmodern thinking, even as we speak rightly of postmodern architecture and postmodern art, but we are speaking, for the most part, of a movement that has given way and given up. In retrospect, the postmodern age was not a new age at all; it was only the alarm that announced the end of modernity and the beginning of the late modern age. Modernity has not disappeared. It has only grown stronger, if also more complex.
The claim that humanity can only come into its own and overcome various invidious forms of discrimination by secular liberation is not new, but it is now mainstream. It is now so common to the cultures of Western societies that it need not be announced, and often it is not noticed. Those born into the cultures of late modernity simply breathe these assumptions as they breathe the atmosphere, and their worldviews are radically realigned, even if their language retains elements of the old worldview.
The background to this great intellectual shift is the secularization of Western societies. Modernity has brought many cultural goods, but it has also, as predicted, brought a radical change in the way citizens of Western societies think, feel, relate, and reason. The Enlightenment’s liberation of reason at the expense of revelation was followed by a radical anti-supernaturalism that can scarcely be exaggerated. Looking at Europe and Britain, it is clear that the modern age has alienated an entire civilization from its Christian roots, along with Christian moral and intellectual commitments. This did not happen all at once, of course, though the change came very quickly in nations such as France and Germany. Scandinavian nations now register almost imperceptible levels of Christian belief. Increasingly, the same is also true of Britain. Sociologists now speak openly of the death of Christian Britain — and the evidence of Christian decline is abundant.
Some prophetic voices recognized the scale and scope of the intellectual changes taking place in the West. Just over thirty years ago, Francis Schaeffer wrote of a shift in worldview away from one that was at least vaguely Christian in the memory of society toward a completely different way of looking at the world. This new worldview was based on the idea that final reality was impersonal matter or energy shaped into its present form by impersonal chance. Significantly, Schaeffer observed that Christians in his time did not see this new worldview as taking the place of the Christian worldview that had previously dominated northern European and American cultures, either by personal conviction or cultural impression. These two worldviews, one generally Christian and the other barely deistic, stood in complete antithesis to each other in content and also in moral results. These contrary ways of seeing the world would lead to very different sociological and governmental results, including the conception and implementation of law.
In 1983, writing just a few years after Francis Schaeffer made that contribution, Carl F.H. Henry described the situation and future possibilities in terms of a strict dichotomy:
If modern culture is to escape the oblivion that has engulfed the earlier civilizations of man, the recovery of the will of the self-revealed God in the realm of justice and law is crucially imperative. Return to pagan misconceptions of divinized rulers, or a divinized cosmos, or a quasi-Christian conception of natural law or natural justice will bring inevitable disillusionment. Not all pleas for transcendent authority will truly serve God or man. By aggrandizing law and human rights and welfare to their sovereignty, all manner of earthly leaders eagerly preempt the role of the divine and obscure the living God of Scriptural revelation. The alternatives are clear: we return to the God of the Bible or we perish in the pit of lawlessness.
Writing even earlier, in 1976, Henry had already identified the single greatest intellectual obstacle to a cultural return to the God of the Bible: “No fact of contemporary Western life is more evident than the growing distrust of final truth and its implacable questioning of any sure word.” This obstacle to the return to the authority of a Christian worldview is really part of a vicious circle that begins with the departure from at least a cultural impression of God’s revealed authority. Leaving a Christian worldview leads to a distrust of final truth and a rejection of universal authority, which then blockades the way back to the God of the Bible.
The reality is that Christians who define Christianity in terms of historic Christian doctrine and moral teachings do not believe merely that the Bible is true, but that it points to the only way we will produce real and lasting human happiness. We are not merely opposed to same-sex marriage because we believe it to be contrary to Scripture; we believe that anything opposed to Scripture cannot lead to human flourishing.
Albert Mohler Books | Go to Books Page
The Most Solemn Mandate
By R.C. Sproul 9/01/2016
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard parents who are members of churches say to me:
I intentionally never discuss theology or religion with my children, because I want them to believe whatever they come to believe honestly and not because they’ve been indoctrinated by us in the home. I don’t want them to be slaves to a parental tradition. I want them to experience reality on its own terms and come to whatever conclusion they are drawn from the evidence.
Such sentiments mystify me because they are at such odds with the teaching of Scripture. Just consider Deuteronomy 6:4–9:
4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. ESV
What I find remarkable about this text is how closely it places the mandate to teach our children to what Jesus calls the greatest commandment, namely, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (v. 5; see Matt. 22:36–40). There is no commandment more important than to love our Creator, but what’s the very next command in Deuteronomy 6? That the law of God is to be on our hearts and taught to our children. The divine mandate is that parents should teach the Lord’s commandments to their children. Not that the parents should send their children somewhere else to learn these things, but the responsibility is given to the parents.
Moreover, Deuteronomy 6 doesn’t say that “you shall teach them casually, occasionally, once in a while to your children.” No, it says,
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (vv. 7–9) That is, these things are to be taught so diligently that they are going to be taught every single day, in every place, even in every room of our homes.
I don’t think there’s a mandate to be found in sacred Scripture that is more solemn than this one. That we are to teach our children the truth of God’s Word is a sacred, holy responsibility that God gives to His people. And it’s not something that is to be done only one day a week in Sunday school. We can’t abdicate the responsibility to the church. The primary responsibility for the education of children according to Scripture is the family, the parents. And what is commanded is the passing on of tradition.
In our forward-looking age, many look upon tradition with scorn. It is seen as the province of reactionaries and conservatives who refuse to get with the times. But when we look at Scripture, we find it has much to say about tradition, some of it negative, some of it positive. One of the judgments of God upon the nation of Israel and upon the teachers of Israel was that they began to substitute human traditions for the Word of God, with the human traditions taking the place of Scripture. Because of that error, we may jump to the conclusion that we should, therefore, never communicate traditions.
Yet when we come to the New Testament, we find a distinction made between the traditions of men and the tradition of God. The Apostle Paul, for example, claims that he did not invent out of his own mind the message that he proclaimed to the churches and was passing on to the churches — the paradosis, the tradition, of God. Paradosis is the Greek word for “tradition,” and it comes from the same root as the Greek term for “gift” as well as the prefix para-, which means “alongside of ” or “passing on.” Literally, the meaning of “tradition” in the Scriptures is the passing on of a gift. The gift that is to be passed on is the gift of the knowledge of God, of what He has revealed about Himself in His Word, of what He inspired the prophets and Apostles to tell us in sacred Scripture.
It’s my responsibility as a parent and it’s your responsibility as a parent to pass on that gift. If you aren’t a parent, it’s your responsibility to support the work of the church and those who are parents in passing on that gift. It is a great and glorious calling to lead our children into the truth of God’s Word. Indeed, there is no more solemn mandate given to parents and adults in the church than to raise up covenant children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
Fox's Book Of Martyrs (Chapter 19)
By John Foxe 1563
An Account of the Life and Persecutions of John BunyanThis great Puritan was born the same year that the Pilgrim Fathers landed at Plymouth. His home was Elstow, near Bedford, in England. His father was a tinker and he was brought up to the same trade. He was a lively, likeable boy with a serious and almost morbid side to his nature. All during his young manhood he was repenting for the vices of his youth and yet he had never been either a drunkard or immoral. The particular acts that troubled his conscience were dancing, ringing the church bells, and playing cat. It was while playing the latter game one day that "a voice did suddenly dart from Heaven into my soul, which said, 'Wilt thou leave thy sins and go to Heaven, or have thy sins and go to Hell?'" At about this time he overheard three or four poor women in Bedford talking, as they sat at the door in the sun. "Their talk was about the new birth, the work of God in the hearts. They were far above my reach."
In his youth he was a member of the parliamentary army for a year. The death of his comrade close beside him deepened his tendency to serious thoughts, and there were times when he seemed almost insane in his zeal and penitence. He was at one time quite assured that he had sinned the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost. While he was still a young man he married a good woman who bought him a library of pious books which he read with assiduity, thus confirming his earnestness and increasing his love of religious controversies.
His conscience was still further awakened through the persecution of the religious body of Baptists to whom he had joined himself. Before he was thirty years old he had become a leading Baptist preacher.
Then came his turn for persecution. He was arrested for preaching without license. "Before I went down to the justice, I begged of God that His will be done; for I was not without hopes that my imprisonment might be an awakening to the saints in the country. Only in that matter did I commit the thing to God. And verily at my return I did meet my God sweetly in the prison."
His hardships were genuine, on account of the wretched condition of the prisons of those days. To this confinement was added the personal grief of being parted from his young and second wife and four small children, and particularly, his little blind daughter. While he was in jail he was solaced by the two books which he had brought with him, the Bible and Fox's "Book of Martyrs."
Although he wrote some of his early books during this long imprisonment, it was not until his second and shorter one, three years after the first, that he composed his immortal "Pilgrim's Progress," which was published three years later. In an earlier tract he had thought briefly of the similarity between human life and a pilgrimage, and he now worked this theme out in fascinating detail, using the rural scenery of England for his background, the splendid city of London for his Vanity Fair, and the saints and villains of his own personal acquaintance for the finely drawn characters of his allegory.
The "Pilgrim's Progress" is truly the rehearsal of Bunyan's own spiritual experiences. He himself had been the 'man cloathed in Rags, with his Face from his own House, a Book in his hand, and a great Burden upon his Back.' After he had realized that Christ was his Righteousness, and that this did not depend on "the good frame of his Heart"-or, as we should say, on his feelings-"now did the Chains fall off my legs indeed." His had been Doubting Castle and Sloughs of Despond, with much of the Valley of Humiliation and the Shadow of Death. But, above all, it is a book of Victory. Once when he was leaving the doors of the courthouse where he himself had been defeated, he wrote: "As I was going forth of the doors, I had much ado to bear saying to them, that I carried the peace of God along with me." In his vision was ever the Celestial City, with all its bells ringing. He had fought Apollyon constantly, and often wounded, shamed and fallen, yet in the end "more than conqueror through Him that loved us."
His book was at first received with much criticism from his Puritan friends, who saw in it only an addition to the worldly literature of his day, but there was not much then for Puritans to read, and it was not long before it was devoutly laid beside their Bibles and perused with gladness and with profit. It was perhaps two centuries later before literary critics began to realize that this story, so full of human reality and interest and so marvelously modeled upon the English of the King James translation of the Bible, is one of the glories of English literature. In his later years he wrote several other allegories, of which of one of them, "The Holy War," it has been said that, "If the 'Pilgrim's Progress' had never been written it would be regarded as the finest allegory in the language."
During the later years of his life, Bunyan remained in Bedford as a venerated local pastor and preacher. He was also a favorite speaker in the non-conformist pulpits of London. He became so national a leader and teacher that he was frequently called "Bishop Bunyan."
In his helpful and unselfish personal life he was apostolic.
His last illness was due to exposure upon a journey in which he was endeavoring to reconcile a father with his son. His end came on the third of August, 1688. He was buried in Bunhill Fields, a church yard in London.
There is no doubt but that the "Pilgrim's Progress" has been more helpful than any other book but the Bible. It was timely, for they were still burning martyrs in Vanity Fair while he was writing. It is enduring, for while it tells little of living the Christian life in the family and community, it does interpret that life so far as it is an expression of the solitary soul, in homely language. Bunyan indeed "showed how to build a princely throne on humble truth." He has been his own Greatheart, dauntless guide to pilgrims, to many.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Do what God has told you (1)
12/11/2017 Bob Gass
‘Noah did everything just as God commanded him.’
(Ge 6:22) 22 Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him. ESV
Noah’s ark measured 300 cubits in length, 50 cubits in width, and 30 cubits in height. A cubit is the equivalent of 17.5 inches. That means the ark was the length of one and a half football fields. The internal volume of the ark was 1,518,750 cubic feet – the equivalent of around 350 buses. If the average animal was the size of a sheep, it had capacity for 125,000 animals. To put that into perspective, there are 21,600 animals from 700 different species at London Zoo. That means you could fit nearly six London Zoos on board Noah’s ark. And since it was the first boat ever built, it’s not like it came with an instruction manual. It was back-breaking work that required blood, sweat, and tears. And it took an incredible amount of faith to build the ark. Who builds a boat in the desert? Who hammers away for 120 years on something they might not even need? Who banks their entire future on something that has never happened before? According to Jewish tradition, Noah didn’t just start building the ark. He planted trees first. After they were fully grown, he cut down the trees, sawed them into planks, and built the boat. And here’s an interesting piece of information: not until the late nineteenth century did a ship that size get constructed again. Yet that design ratio is still considered the golden mean for stability during storms at sea. Noah’s act of obedience literally changed the world – and obedience will change your world too. So do what God has told you to do.
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
Alexander Solzhenitsyn was born in Russia this day, December 11, 1918. He was arrested for writing a letter criticizing Joseph Stalin and spent eleven years in prisons and labor camps. He began writing and eventually received the Nobel Prize for Literature. Solzhenitsyn wrote: “At the height of Stalin’s terror… more than 40,000 persons [were] shot per month… Over there… in psychiatric hospitals… doctors are… injecting people with drugs which destroy their brain.” Solzhenitsyn concluded: “You know the words from the Bible: ‘Build not on sand, but on rock…. Communist leaders respect only firmness… and laugh at persons who give in to them.’ ”
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Chapter 16 December 11
I didn’t mean that a “bright blur” is my only idea of God. I meant that something of that sort tends to be there when I start praying, and would remain if I made no effort to do bet ter. And "bright blur" is not a very good description. In fact you can't have a good description of anything so vague. If the description became good it would become false.
Betty's recipe-"use images as the rest of us do"--doesn't help me much. And which does she mean? Images in the outer world, things made of wood or plaster? Or mental images?
As regards the first kind, I am not, as she suggests, suffering from a phobia about "idolatry." I don't think people of our type are in any danger of that. We shall always be aware that the image is only a bit of matter. But its use, for me, is very limited. I think the mere fact of keeping one's eyes focussed on something-almost any object will do-is some help towards concentration. The visual concentration symbolizes, and promotes, the mental. That's one of the ways the body teaches the soul. The lines of a well-designed church, free from stunts, drawing one's eyes to the altar, have something of the same effect.
But I think that is all an image does for me. If I tried to get more out of it, I think it would get in the way. For one thing, it will have some artistic merits or (more probably) demerits. Both are a distraction. Again, since there can be no plausible images of the Father or the Spirit, it will usually be an image of Our Lord. The continual and exclusive addressing our prayers to Him surely tends to what has been called "Jesus-worship"? A religion which has its value; but not, in isolation, the religion Jesus taught.
Mental images may have the same defect, but they give rise to another problem as well.
St. Ignatius Loyola (I think it was) advised his pupils to begin their meditations with what he called a compositio loci. The Nativity or the Marriage at Cana, or whatever the theme might be, was to be visualized in the fullest possible detail. One of his English followers would even have us look up "what good Authors write of those places" so as to get the topography, "the height of the hills and the situation of the towns," correct. Now for two different reasons this is not "addressed to my condition."
One is that I live in an archaeological age. We can no longer, as St. Ignatius could, believingly introduce the clothes, furniture, and utensils of our own age into ancient Palestjne. I'd know I wasn't getting them right. I'd know that the very sky and sunlight of those latitudes were •different from any my northern imagination could supply. I could no doubt pretend to myself a naivete I don't really possess; but that would cast an unreality over the whole exercise.
The second reason is more important. St. Ignatius was a great master, and I am sure he knew what his pupils needed. I conclude that they were people whose visual imagination was weak and needed to be stimulated. But the trouble with people like ourselves is the exact reverse. We can say this to one another because, in our mouths, it is not a boast but a confession. We are agreed that the power-indeed, the compulsion-to visualize is not "Imagination" in the higher sense, not the Imagination which makes a man either a great author or a sensitive reader. Ridden on a very tight rein, this visualizing power can sometimes serve true Imagination; very often it merely gets in the way.
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Praying without ceasing obviously presumes
an inner posture of being for its fulfillment,
a posture that undergirds all the activities
and relationships of life.
M. Robert Mulholland Jr.
Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation
Compassion will cure more sins than condemnation.
--- Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887 American preacher and reformer)
Reaching for God: The Benedictine Oblate Way of Life
A single conversation across the table with a wise man is better than ten years mere study of books.
--- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Poems & Other Writings: (Library of America 118)
Enthusiasm is the best protection in any situation. Wholeheartedness is contagious. Give yourself, if you wish to get others.
-- David Seabury
When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life's Sacred Questions (Plus)
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
and don’t bless their mothers.
12 There is a type of people clean in their own view,
but not cleansed from their filth.
13 There is a type of people—how haughty their look!—
14 There is a type of people whose teeth are like swords,
yes, their fangs are knives;
they devour the poor from the earth,
the needy from humankind.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
Richard S. Adams
1 Cor 16:9, 2 Cor 2:12, and Col 4:3 lead me to believe an open door means an opportunity to share the Gospel, but also an opportunity to live the Gospel.
Living the Gospel means loving God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. Who is your neighbor? Come on. We live in a global community. Your neighbor is everyone. Democrats, your neighbors are Republicans. Republicans, your neighbors are Democrats and conservatives, your neighbors are liberals.
What does this mean in real life for you and me? I will start with the simple, but ignored. It means, if you borrow your neighbor’s shovel you return it as soon as you can. If you borrow a friend’s vehicle you return it with a tank of gas. If you are given the wrong change you give back the excess. You don’t stick it to the insurance company. You don’t give in to road rage. Just suck it up and go on.
If you live in Oregon where the law requires a service attendant to pump your gas you don’t yell at them for the high price. Instead, thank them and give them a fifty cent or a dollar tip. Yes you can do it. Do you want to change the world? I mean do YOU really want to change the world? Do these simple things, but don’t tell anyone. I said don’t tell anyone! Fight the urge to make people think you are holy. You aren’t.
Look at the cashier at the grocery store; really look at her or him and make eye contact and smile. If they are wearing a name tag call them by name. A smile and a short greeting will make a difference.
Don’t take advantage of your parents. If you borrow money from them pay them back first. Don’t constantly drop your kids off with grandma and grandpa. They might like a week end off too. You see her as mom or grandma, but maybe grandpa still sees her as his young bride. Give them some respect. Don’t you know that old people are only young people in an old body? Remember that honorong your parents is the first commandment with a promise.
Don’t yell at the people at the library over a couple of bucks. You should have brought the book back when it was due.
Don’t leave your trash on the floor at the theatre saying you are just giving someone job security. It isn't that far to push your shopping cart to the corral. You need the exercise. The lady that cleans your house needs her Sundays off too. She also needs her pay. The cable person on the phone is not the one who raised your rates ... again. Don't yell.
You might say none of these things have anything to do with the Kingdom of God or the verse above. I completely disagree. I could write a book on all the things each and every one of us COULD do that would make our world a better place, but if you are doing it to “look” good then you have completely missed the point.
If you are a pastor or missionary and doing great things for God, but you are not doing these things then I hope I miss your church. Integrity does not start in the pulpit. The person in the pulpit should have been walking in integrity long before they got in the pulpit. If not, do you really think God called them? It is hard for me to put much faith in their great works for God, that they want to tell you about, when they have not done the basics. These are the basics, Living 101. Jesus said his yoke is light.
Yippee, you have not missed a Sunday at church in a month, but you cut someone off getting a parking space. You don't think this matters? The world disagrees too. Instead of a city on a hill drawing everyone to it, the world sees Christians as a mess of neon lights, just like the artificial worldly lights that are all around us. Every now and then there is a zap as another bug or pre-believer is zapped by the neon lights of the church.
Remember the movie about the guy who had something wrong with his brain and he became an instant genius? He loved this girl and she made chairs so he bought a pickup full of her chairs. Do you have friends who have a business? Maybe they opened their own restaurant. Instead of joining the big group to go pick up paper along side of the road, (you know it is mostly a social event and everyone can pat each other on the back for being good Christians) you might want to go to your friend’s restaurant, not to expect a ‘deal,’ but to encourage them with your patronage, instead of just your prayers and blessings. If your friend has employees make sure you tip at least 20%. More is expected from friends. What will the employees think of their boss when his friends don’t try to take advantage?
We are so concerned about the BIG sins that we die in our blindness thinking we are such great witnesses for the Lord. The door is open. The opportunities are here. We don’t need to preach on a soap box, fly to Peru, or even attend a church to do what Jesus wants us to do. The opportunities are all around us. If we start taking care of the basics, "They will come."
Do you remember Jesus said, "it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” so maybe we should all start by mostly, yeah mostly, keeping our mouths shut.
We live in a world of dreams. We all have dreams. Some call these dreams ministry. Others might call the former ministry an agenda. Whatever, if we can slow down enough to have respect, show an interest in the people around us and their dreams, ministry and yes, even their agendas, we might 'eventually' be able to tackle the bigger sins that make the church bulletins and nightly news. Until then, we should leave so and so alone.
Richard S. Adams | Lover of Christ, husband of Lily, father of four, grandfather of eleven, Masters in Divinity and Certificate in Spiritual Direction from George Fox Evangelical Seminary in 2008, on staff at Portland Seminary since 2009.Articles
- Feb 5 Prosperity and the Camp Fire
- Feb 7 Job 6:14-23
- Feb 10 Spontaneous Generation
- Feb 14 Hindsight
- Feb 18 The Cure For Despair
- Feb 22 RE: Job's Friends
- Feb 23 Job 23:14
- Feb 25 No Time To Text
- Mar 5 Polemics and Caricature
- Apr 20 Death and My Master's Voice
- May 10 Ruth | Relationships
- June 18 Lincoln City 6/2/18
- July 14 Tom - Gen & Revelation
- Nov 27 The Way The World Is
- Nov 30 The Renewal Of Israel
- Dec 11 Open Door
- Dec 20 Replacement Theology
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself.
--- Matthew 16:24.
Individuality is the husk of the personal life. Individuality is all elbows, it separates and isolates. It is the characteristic of the child and rightly so; but if we mistake individuality for the personal life, we shall remain isolated. The shell of individuality is God’s created natural covering for the protection of the personal life; but individuality must go in order that the personal life may come out and be brought into fellowship with God. Individuality counterfeits personality as lust counterfeits love. God designed human nature for Himself; individuality debases human nature for itself.
The characteristics of individuality are independence and self-assertiveness. It is the continual assertion of individuality that hinders our spiritual life more than anything else. If you say—‘I cannot believe,’ it is because individuality never can believe. Personality cannot help believing. Watch yourself when the Spirit of God is at work. He pushes you to the margins of your individuality, and you have either to say—‘I shan’t,’ or to surrender, to break the husk of individuality and let the personal life emerge. The Holy Spirit narrows it down every time to one thing (cf. Matthew 5:23–24). The thing in you that will not be reconciled to your brother is your individuality. God wants to bring you into union with Himself, but unless you are willing to give up your right to yourself, He cannot. “Let him deny himself”—deny his independent right to himself, then the real life has a chance to grow.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Whatever you imagine
has happened. No words
are unspoken, no actions
undone: wine poisoned
in the chalice, the corpses
raped. While Isaiah's
angel hither and thither
flies with his hot coal.
The Poems of R.S. Thomas
When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. --- Luke 22:14.
The Lord’s supper, like believers’ baptism, is simplicity itself. Till He Come It consists of bread broken and wine poured out, these provisions being eaten and drunk at a festival—a delightful picture of the sufferings of Christ for us and of the communion that the saints have with one another and with him.
We now ask you in contemplation to gaze on the first celebration of the Lord’s supper. You perceive at once that there was no altar in that large upper room. There was a table, a table with bread and wine on it. Jesus did not kneel, there is no sign of that, but he sat in the Oriental way, by a partial reclining. He sat down with his apostles. Now, he who ordained this supper knew how it ought to be observed, and as the first celebration of it was the model for all others, we may be assured that the right way of coming to this communion is to assemble around a table and to sit or recline while we eat bread and drink wine together in remembrance of our Lord.
There are some of you who must not come to the table of communion because you do not love Christ. You have not trusted him; you have no part in him. There is no salvation in sacraments. Believe me, they are but delusions to those who do not come to Christ with their hearts. You must not come to the outward sign if you have not the thing signified. Here is the way of salvation: believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. To believe in him is to trust him; to use an old word, it is recumbency; it is leaning on him, resting on him. Here I lean, I rest my whole weight on this support before me; do so with Christ in a spiritual sense; lean on him. You have a load of sin, lean on him, sin and all. You are unworthy and weak and perhaps miserable; then cast on him the weakness, the unworthiness, the misery, and all. Take him to be all in all to you, and when you have thus trusted him, you will have become his follower; go on by humility to be his disciple, by obedience to be his servant, by love to be his friend, and by communion to be his table companion.
The Lord so lead you, for Jesus’ sake! Amen.
--- C. H. Spurgeon
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Nine Rabid Teeth
Susan Talbott Wengatz, Methodist missionary in Malange, Angola, began Wednesday, December 11, 1929, by strolling through her garden, soaking up the fragrances of the roses and the brilliance of the sunshine. She gathered as many blossoms as she could carry, then turned toward the house to prepare her Morning Bible class. Suddenly, she saw a large dog tramping toward her. “Shoo!” Susan cried. “Shoo! Go back!”
But the dog snarled, bared its teeth, and lunged. Susan dropped her roses and threw her arms over her face. The dog tore into her, sinking nine rabid teeth into the flesh. Mr. Wengatz rushed his wife to a nearby hospital, but there was no rabies serum. They sped to another hospital. No serum. They rushed to the port to find a boat leaving the country, but the ships had left. They considered driving to the Belgian Congo, but heavy rains had washed out the roads.
Cables flashed to Lisbon, Capetown, Johannesburg, and the Congo where pharmacists quickly wrapped and sent packages of rabies serum. Days of unbearable suspense passed as local Christians in Angola wept, fasted, and prayed. For various reasons the serums were delayed in transit. Meanwhile Susan felt no pain or sickness. Her wounds healed, and she returned to business as usual. When one of the packages finally arrived, she began taking the shots.
One month after the attack, Susan found her husband in the workshop and told him, “It’s aching today, my arm.” The ache grew worse, and she was put to bed. She declined rapidly. “I hear the music of heaven,” she whispered. “I see Jesus. My anchor holds. Does yours? I’ll see you in the Morning. Now I’m going to sleep in Jesus’ name.”
No one understands why God permitted a rabid dog to enter Susan Wengatz’s garden that Morning in 1929. He allows us unanswered questions—the stuff of faith. Southern preacher Vance Havner, mulling over similar imponderables, spoke of being “shipwrecked on God and stranded on Omnipotence.” Charles Spurgeon put it like this: “When we can’t trace God’s hand we can trust his heart.”
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus then said, “I am the one who raises the dead to life! Everyone who has faith in me will live, even if they die. And everyone who lives because of faith in me will never really die.”
--- John 11:21,25,26a.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
God Is In The Manger (Day 1)
Jesus Enters into the Guilt of Human Beings
Jesus does not want to be the only perfect human being at the expense of humankind. He does not want, as the only guiltless one, to ignore a human¬ity that is being destroyed by its guilt; he does not want some kind of human ideal to triumph over the ruins of a wrecked humanity. Love for real people leads into the fellowship of human guilt. Jesus does not want to exonerate himself from the guilt in which the people he loves are living. A love that left people alone in their guilt would not have real people as its object. So, in vicarious responsibility for people and in his love for real human beings, Jesus becomes the one burdened by guilt-indeed, the one upon whom all human guilt ultimately falls and the one who does not turn it away but bears it humbly and in eternal love. As the one who acts responsibly in the historical existence of humankind, as the human being who has entered reality, Jesus becomes guilty. But because his historical existence, his incarnation, has its sole basis in God's love for human beings, it is the love of God that makes Jesus become guilty. Out of selfless love for human beings, Jesus leaves his state as the one without sin and enters into the guilt of human beings. He takes it upon himself'.
We have something to hide. We have secrets, worries, thoughts, hopes, desires, passions which no one else gets to know. We are sensitive when people get near those domains with their questions. And now, against all rules of tact the Bible speaks of the truth that in the end we will appear before Christ with everything we are and were.... And we all know that we could justify ourselves before any human court, but not before this one. Lord, who can justify, themselves?'
Bonhoeffer's sermon for Repentance
Sunday. November 19, 1933
Go to 2 Corinthians 5:10 Click Here
God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - December 11
“Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it." 1 Thessalonians 5:24.
Heaven is a place where we shall never sin; where we shall cease our constant watch against an indefatigable enemy, because there will be no tempter to ensnare our feet. There the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest. Heaven is the “undefiled inheritance”; it is the land of perfect holiness, and therefore of complete security. But do not the saints even on earth sometimes taste the joys of blissful security? The doctrine of God’s word is, that all who are in union with the Lamb are safe; that all the righteous shall hold on their way; that those who have committed their souls to the keeping of Christ shall find him a faithful and immutable preserver. Sustained by such a doctrine we can enjoy security even on earth; not that high and glorious security which renders us free from every slip, but that holy security which arises from the sure promise of Jesus that none who believe in him shall ever perish, but shall be with him where he is. Believer, let us often reflect with joy on the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, and honour the faithfulness of our God by a holy confidence in him.
May our God bring home to you a sense of your safety in Christ Jesus! May he assure you that your name is graven on his hand; and whisper in your ear the promise, “Fear not, I am with thee.” Look upon him, the great Surety of the covenant, as faithful and true, and, therefore, bound and engaged to present you, the weakest of the family, with all the chosen race, before the throne of God; and in such a sweet contemplation you will drink the juice of the spiced wine of the Lord’s pomegranate, and taste the dainty fruits of Paradise. You will have an antepast of the enjoyments which ravish the souls of the perfect saints above, if you can believe with unstaggering faith that “faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.”
Evening - December 11
“Ye serve the Lord Christ.” --- Colossians 3:24.
To what choice order of officials was this word spoken? To kings who proudly boast a right divine? Ah, no! too often do they serve themselves or Satan, and forget the God whose sufferance permits them to wear their mimic majesty for their little hour. Speaks then the apostle to those so-called “right reverend fathers in God,” the bishops, or “the venerable the archdeacons”? No, indeed, Paul knew nothing of these mere inventions of man. Not even to pastors and teachers, or to the wealthy and esteemed among believers, was this word spoken, but to servants, aye, and to slaves. Among the toiling multitudes, the journeymen, the day labourers, the domestic servants, the drudges of the kitchen, the apostle found, as we find still, some of the Lord’s chosen, and to them he says, “Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” This saying ennobles the weary routine of earthly employments, and sheds a halo around the most humble occupations. To wash feet may be servile, but to wash his feet is royal work. To unloose the shoe-latchet is poor employ, but to unloose the great Master’s shoe is a princely privilege. The shop, the barn, the scullery, and the smithy become temples when men and women do all to the glory of God! Then “divine service” is not a thing of a few hours and a few places, but all life becomes holiness unto the Lord, and every place and thing, as consecrated as the tabernacle and its golden candlestick.
“Teach me, my God and King, in all things thee to see;
And what I do in anything to do it as to thee.
All may of thee partake, nothing can be so mean,
Which with this tincture, for thy sake, will not grow bright and clean.
A servant with this clause makes drudgery divine;
Who sweeps a room, as for thy laws, makes that and the action fine.”
Morning and Evening
O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM
Phillips Brooks, 1835–1893
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. (Luke 2:4)
In the same way that God’s “wondrous gift” came to Bethlehem, silently, so Christ comes into our lives today and casts out our sins and fears if we are willing to have Him abide in our lives. Then “the dear Christ enters in.” How beautifully the glorious message of Christmas is told in this well-phrased hymn by Phillips Brooks, one of America’s most outstanding ministers of the past century.
During a trip to the Holy Land in 1865, Brooks went to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve and worshiped there. He was deeply moved by this experience. Three years later, while pastoring the Holy Trinity Church in Philadelphia, Brooks desired to have a special carol for the children to sing in their Sunday school Christmas program. Recalling the peaceful scene in the little town of Bethlehem, Brooks completed the writing of the text in just one Evening. He gave a copy of the words to his organist, Lewis R. Redner, and requested him to compose a melody that would be easy for the children to sing. On the Evening just before the program was to be given, Redner awakened suddenly from his sleep with the present melody in his mind—and he quickly wrote it out. “O Little Town of Bethlehem” has been a favorite with children and adults around the world since that time.
O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie! Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by; yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light—the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
For Christ is born of Mary—and gathered all above, while mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wond’ring love. O Morning stars, together proclaim the holy birth, and praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth.
How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is giv’n! So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heav’n. No ear may hear His coming, but, in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive Him still the dear Christ enters in.
O holy Child of Bethlehem descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin and enter in—be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!
For Today: Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1–12; Luke 2:1–7
In the midst of all the rush and activity of the Christmas season, take time to rejoice in the joy of Christ’s birth and ask Him to abide with you in a special way.
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
What merit can be discovered in the Gentiles? There is something of justice in the case of the Jews’ rejection, nothing but sovereignty in the Gentiles’ reception into the church. If the Jews were bad, the Gentiles were in some sort worse: the Jews owned the one true God, without mixture of idols, though they owned not the Messiah in his appearance, which they did in a promise; but the Gentiles owned neither the one nor the other. Some tell us, it was for the merit of some of their ancestors. How comes the means of grace, then, to be taken from the Jew, who had (if any people ever had) meritorious ancestors for a plea? If the merit of some of their former progenitors were the cause, what was the reason the debt due to their merit was not paid to their immediate progeny, or to themselves, but to a posterity so distant from them, and so abominably depraved as the Gentile world was at the day of the gospel-sun striking into their horizon? What merit might be in their ancestors (if any could be supposed in the most refined rubbish), it was so little for themselves, that no oil could be spared out of their lamps for others. What merit their ancestors might have, might be forfeited by the succeeding generations. It is ordinarily seen, that what honor a father deserves in a state for public service, may be lost by the son, forfeited by treason, and himself attainted. Or was it out of a foresight that the Gentiles would embrace it, and the Jews reject it; that the Gentiles would embrace it in one place, and not in another? How did God foresee it, but in his own grace, which he was resolved to display in one, not in another? It must be then still resolved into his sovereign pleasure. Or did he foresee it in their wills and nature? What, were they not all one common dross? Was any part of Adam, by nature, better than another? How did God foresee that which was not, nor could be, without his pleasure to give ability, and grace to receive? Well, then, what reason but the sovereign pleasure of God can be alleged, why Christ forbade the apostles, at their first commission, to preach to the Gentiles (Matt. 10:15), but, at the second and standing commission, orders them to preach to “every creature?” Why did he put a demur to the resolutions of Paul and Timothy, to impart light to Bithynia, or order them to go into Macedonia? Was that country more worthy upon whom lay a great part of the blood of the world shed in Alexander’s time Acts 16:6, 7, 9, 10)? Why should Corazin and Bethsaida enjoy those means that were not granted to the Tyrians and Sidonians, who might probably have sooner reached out their arms to welcome it (Matt. 11:21)? Why should God send the gospel into our island, and cause it to flourish so long here, and not send it, or continue it, in the furthest eastern parts of the world? Why should the very profession of Christianity possess so small a compass of ground in the world, but five parts in thirty, the Mahometans holding six parts, and the other nineteen overgrown with Paganism, where either the gospel was never planted, or else since rooted up? To whom will you refer this, but to the same cause our Saviour doth the revelation of the gospel to babes, and not to the wise—even to his Father? “For so it seemed good in thy sight” (Matt. 11:25, 26); “For so was thy good pleasure before thee” (as in the original); it is at his pleasure whether he will give any a clear revelation of his gospel, or leave them only to the light of nature. He could have kept up the first beam of the gospel in the promise in all nations among the apostasies of Adam’s posterity, or renewed it in all nations when it began to be darkened, as well as he first published it to Adam after his fall; but it was his sovereign pleasure to permit it to be obscured in one place, and to keep it lighted in another.
4. His sovereignty is manifest in the various influences of the means of grace. He saith to these waters of the sanctuary, as to the floods of the sea, “Hitherto you shall go, and no further.” Sometimes they wash away the filth of the flesh and outward man, but not that of the spirit; the gospel spiritualizeth some, and only moralizeth others; some are by the power of it struck down to conviction, but not raised up to conversion; some have only the gleams of it in their consciences, and others more powerful flashes; some remain in their thick darkness under the beaming of the gospel every day in their face, and after a long insensibleness are roused by its light and warmth; sometimes there is such a powerful breath in it, that it levels the haughty imaginations of men, and lays them at its feet that before strutted against it in the pride of their heart. The foundation of this is not in the gospel itself, which is always the same, nor in the ordinances, which are channels as sound at one time as at another, but Divine sovereignty that spirits them as he pleaseth, and “blows when and where it lists.” It has sometimes conquered its thousands (Acts 2:41); at another time scarce its tens; sometimes the harvest hath been great, when the laborers have been but few; at another time it hath been small, when the laborers have been many; sometimes whole sheaves; at another time scarce gleanings. The evangelical net hath been sometimes full at a cast, and at every cast; at another time many have labored all night, and day too, and catched nothing (Acts 2:47): “The Lord added to the church daily.” The gospel chariot doth not always return with captives chained to the sides of it, but sometimes blurred and reproached, wearing the marks of hell’s spite, instead of imprinting the marks of its own beauty. In Corinth it triumphed over many people (Acts 18:10); in Athens it is mocked, and gathers but a few clusters (Acts 17:32, 34). God keeps the key of the heart, as well as of the womb. The apostles had a power of publishing the gospel, and working miracles, but under the Divine conduct; it was an instrumentality durante bene placito, and as God saw it convenient. Miracles were not upon every occasion allowed to them to be wrought, nor success upon every administration granted to them; God sometimes lent them the key, but to take out no more treasure than was allotted to them. There is a variety in the time of gospel operation; some rise out of their graves of sin, and beds of sluggishness, at the first appearance of this sun; others lie snorting longer. Why doth not God spirit it at one season as well as at another, but set his distinct periods of time, but because he will show his absolute freedom? And do we not sometimes experiment that after the most solemn preparations of the heart, we are frustrated of those incomes we expected? Perhaps it was because we thought Divine returns were due to our preparations, and God stops up the channel, and we return drier than we came, that God may confute our false opinion, and preserve the honor of his own sovereignty. Sometimes we leap with John Baptist in the womb at the appearance of Christ; sometimes we lie upon a lazy bed when he knocks from heaven; sometimes the fleece is dry, and sometimes wet, and God withholds to drop down his dew of the morning upon it. The dews of his word, as well as the droppings of the clouds, belong to his royalty; light will not shine into the heart, though it shine round about us, without the sovereign order of that God “who commanded light to shine out of the darkness” of the chaos (2 Cor. 4:6). And is it not seen also in regard of the refreshing influences of the word? sometimes the strongest arguments, and clearest promises, prevail nothing towards the quelling black and despairing imaginations; when, afterwards, we have found them frighted away by an unexpected word, that seemed to have less virtue in it itself than any that passed in vain before it. The reasonings of wisdom have dropped down like arrows against a brazen wall, when the speech of a weaker person hath found an efficacy. It is God by his sovereignty spirits one word and not another; sometimes a secret word comes in, which was not thought of before, as dropped from heaven, and gives a refreshing, when emptiness was found in all the rest. One word from the lips of a sovereign prince is a greater cordial than all the harangues of subjects without it; what is the reason of this variety, but that God would increase the proofs of his own sovereignty? that as it was a part of his dominion to create the beauty of a world, so it is no less to create the peace as well as the grace of the heart (Isa. 57:19): “I create the fruit of the lips, peace.” Let us learn from hence to have adoring thoughts of, not murmuring fancies against, the sovereignty of God; to acknowledge it with thankfulness in what we have; to implore it with a holy submission in what we want. To own God as a sovereign in a way of dependence, is the way to be owned by him as subjects in a way of favor.
5. His sovereignty is manifested in giving a greater measure of knowledge to some than to others. What parts, gifts, excellency of nature, any have above others, are God’s donative; “He gives wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding” (Dan. 2:21); wisdom, the habit, and knowledge, the right use of it, in discerning the right nature of objects, and the fitness of means conducing to the end; all is but a beam of Divine light; and the different degrees of knowledge in one man above another, are the effects of his sovereign pleasure. He enlightens not the minds of all men to know every part of his will; one “eats with a doubtful conscience,” another in “faith,” without any staggering (Rom. 14:2). Peter had a desire to keep up circumcision, not fully understandmg the mind of God in the abolition of the Jewish ceremonies; while Paul was clear in the truth of that doctrine. A thought comes into our mind that, like a sunbeam, makes a Scripture truth visible in a moment, which before we were poring upon without any success; this is from his pleasure. One in the primitive times had the gift of knowledge, another of wisdom, one the gift of prophecy, another of tongues, one the gift of healing, another that of discerning spirits; why this gift to one man, and not to another? Why such a distribution in several subjects? Because it is his sovereign leasure. “The Spirit divides to every man severally as he will” (1 Cor. 12:11). Why doth he give Bezaleel and Aholiab the gift of engraving, and making curious works for the tabernacle (Exod. 31:3), and not others Why doth he bestow the treasures of evangelical knowledge upon the meanest of earthen vessels, the poor Galileans, and neglect the Pharisees, stored with the knowledge both of naturals and morals? Why did he give to some, and not to others, “to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven?” (Matt. 13:11.) The reason is implied in the words, “Because it was the mystery of his kingdom,” and therefore was the act of his sovereignty. How would it be a kingdom and monarchy if the governor of it were bound to do what he did? It is to be resolved only into the sovereign right of propriety of his own goods, that he furnisheth babes with a stock of knowledge, and leaves the wise and prudent empty of it (Matt. 11:26): “Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.” Why did he not reveal his mind to Eli, a grown man, and in the highest office in the Jewish church, but open it to Samuel, a stripling? why did the Lord go from the one to the other? Because his motion depends upon his own will. Some are of so dull a constitution, that they are incapable of any impression, like rocks too hard for a stamp; others like water; you may stamp what you please, but it vanisheth as soon as the seal is removed. It is God forms men as he pleaseth: some have parts to govern a kingdom, others scarce brains to conduct their own affairs; one is fit to rule men, and another scarce fit to keep swine; some have capacious souls in crazy and deformed bodies, others contracted spirits and heavier minds in a richer and more beautiful case. Why are not all stones alike? some have a more sparkling light, as gems, more orient than pebbles;—some are stars of first, and others of a less magnitude; others as mean as glow-worms, a slimy lustre: — it is because he is the sovereign Disposer of what belongs to him; and gives here, as well as at the resurrection, to one “a glory of the sun;” to another that of the “moon;” and to a third a less, resembling that of a “star” (1 Cor. 15:40). And this God may do by the same right of dominion, as he exercised when he endowed some kinds of creatures with a greater perfection than others in their nature. Why may he not as well garnish one man with a greater proportion of gifts, as make a man differ in excellency from the nature of a beast? or frame angels to a more purely spiritual nature than a man? or make one angel a cherubim or seraphim, with a greater measure of light than another? Though the foundation of this is his dominion, yet his wisdom is not uninterested in his sovereign disposal; he garnisheth those with a greater ability whom he intends for greater service, than those that he intends for less, or none at all; as an artificer bestows more labor, and carves a more excellent figure upon those stones that he designs for a more honorable place in the building. But though the intending this or that man for service be the motive of laying in a greater provision in him than in others, yet still it is to be referred to his sovereignty, since that first act of culling him out for such an end was the fruit solely of his sovereign pleasure: as when he resolved to make a creature actively to glorify him, in wisdom he must give him reason; yet the making such a creature was an act of his absolute dominion.
6. His sovereignty is manifest in the calling some to a more special service in their generation. God settles some in immediate offices of his service, and perpetuates them in those offices, with a neglect of others, who seem to have a greater pretence to them. Moses was a great sufferer for Israel, the solicitor for them in Egypt, and the conductor of them from Egypt to Canaan; yet he was not chosen to the high priesthood, but that was an office settled upon Aaron, and his posterity after him, in a lineal descent; Moses was only pitched upon for the present rescue of the captived Israelites, and to be the instrument of Divine miracles; but notwithstanding all the success he had in his conduct, his faithfulness in his employment, and the transcendent familiarity he had with the great Ruler of the world, his posterity were left in the common level of the tribe of Levi, without any special mark of dignity upon them above the rest for all the services of that great man. Why Moses for a temporary magistrate, Aaron for a perpetual priesthood, above all the rest of the Israelites? hath little reason but the absolute pleasure of God, who distributes his employments as he pleaseth; and as a master orders his servant to do the noblest work, and another to labor in baser offices, according to his pleasure. Why doth he call out David, a shepherd, to sway the Jewish sceptre, above the rest of the brothers, that had a fairer appearance, and had been bred in arms, and inured to the toils and watchings of a camp? Why should Mary be the mother of Christ, and not some other of the same family of David, of a more splendid birth, and a nobler education? Though some other reasons may be rendered, yet that which affords the greatest acquiescence, is the sovereign will of God. Why did Christ choose out of the meanest of the people the twelve apostles, to be heralds of his grace in Judea, and other parts of the world; and afterwards select Paul before Gamaliel, his instructor, and others of the Jews, as learned as himself, and advance him to be the most eminent apostle, above the heads of those who had ministered to Christ in the days of his flesh? Why should he preserve eleven of those he first called to propagate and enlarge his kingdom, and leave the other to the employment of shedding his blood? Why, in the times of our reformation, he should choose a Luther out of a monastery, and leave others in their superstitious nastiness, to perish in the traditions of their fathers? Why set up Calvin, as a bulwark of the gospel, and let others as learned as himself wallow in the sink of popery? It is his pleasure to do so. The potter hath power to separate this part of the clay to form a vessel for a more public use, and another part of the clay to form a vessel for a more private one. God takes the meanest clay to form the most excellent and honorable vessels in his house. As he formed man, that was to govern the creatures of the same clay and earth whereof the beasts were formed, and not of that nobler element of water, which gave birth to the fish and birds: so he forms some, that are to do him the greatest service, of the meanest materials, to manifest the absolute right of his dominion.
7. His sovereignty is manifest in the bestowing much wealth and honor upon some, and not vouchsafing it to the more industrious labors and attempts of others. Some are abased, and others are elevated; some are enriched, and others impoverished; some scarce feel any cross, and others scarce feel any comfort in their whole lives; some sweat and toil, and what they labor for runs out of their reach; others sit still, and what they wish for falls into their lap. One of the same clay hath a diadem to beautify his head, and another wants a covering to protect him from the weather. One hath a stately palace to lodge in, and another is scarce master of a cottage where to lay his head. A sceptre is put into one man’s hand, and a spade into another’s; a rich purple garnisheth one man’s body, while another wraps himself in dunghill rags. The poverty of some, and the wealth of others, is an effect of the Divine sovereignty, whence God is said to be the Maker of the “poor as well as the rich” (Prov. 22:2), not only of their persons, but of their conditions. The earth, and the fulness thereof, is his propriety; and he hath as much a right as Joseph had to bestow changes of raiment upon what Benjamins he please. There is an election to a greater degree of worldly felicity, as there is an election of some to a greater degree of supernatural grace and glory: as he makes it “rain upon one city, and not upon another” (Amos 4:7), so he causeth prosperity to distil upon the head of one and not upon another; crowning some with earthly blessings, while he crosseth others with continual afflictions: for he speaks of himself as a great proprietor of the corn that nourisheth us, and the wine that cheers us, and the wood that warm us (Hos. 2:8, 9): “I will take away,” not your corn and wine, but “my corn, my wine, my wool.” His right to dispose of the goods of every particular person is unquestionable. He can take away from one, and pass over the propriety to another. Thus he devolved the right of the Egyptian jewels to the Israelites, and bestowed upon the captives what before he had vouchsafed to the oppressors; as every sovereign state demands the goods of their subjects for the public advantage in a case of exigency, though none of that wealth was gained by any public office, but by their private industry, and gained in a country not subject to the dominion of those that require a portion of them. By this right he changes strangely the scene of the world; sometimes those that are high are reduced to a mean and ignominious condition, those that are mean are advanced to a state of plenty and glory. The counter, which in accounting signifies now but a penny, is presently raised up to signify a pound. The proud ladies of Israel, instead of a girdle of curious needlework, are brought to make use of a cord; as the vulgar translates rent, a rag, or list of cloth (Isa. 3:24), and sackcloth for a stomacher instead of silk. This is the sovereign act of God, as he is Lord of the world (Psalm 75:6, 7): “Promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south, but God is the Judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.” He doth no wrong to any man, if he lets him languish out his days in poverty and disgrace: if he gives or takes away, he meddles with nothing but what is his own more than ours: if he did dispense his benefits equally to all, men would soon think it their due. The inequality and changes preserve the notion of God’s sovereignty, and correct our natural unmindfulness of it. If there were no changes, God would not be feared as the “King of all the earth” (Psalm 55:19): to this might also be referred his investing some countries with greater riches in their bowels, and on the surface; the disposing some of the fruitful and pleasant regions of Canaan or Italy, while he settles others in the icy and barren parts of the northern climates.
8. His sovereignty is manifest in the times and seasons of dispensing his goods. He is Lord of the times when, as well as of the goods which, he doth dispose of to any person; these “the Father hath put in his own power” (Acts 1:7). As it was his sovereign pleasure to restore the kingdom to Israel, so he would pitch upon the time when to do it, and would not have his right invaded, so much as by a question out of curiosity. This disposing of opportunities, in many things, can be referred to nothing else but his sovereign pleasure. Why should Christ come at the twilight and evening of the world? at the fulness, and not at the beginning, of time? Why should he be from the infancy of the world so long wrapt up in a promise, and not appear in the flesh till the last times and gray hairs of the world, when so many persons, in all nations, had been hurried out of the world without any notice of such a Redeemer? What was this but his sovereign will? Why the Gentiles should be left so long in the devil’s chains, wallowing in the sink of their abominable superstitions, since God had declared his intention by the prophets to call multitudes of them, and reject the Jews; — why he should defer it so long, can be referred to nothing but the same cause. What is the reason the veil continues so long upon the heart of the Jews, that is promised, one time or other, to be taken off? Why doth God delay the accomplishment of those glorious predictions of the happiness and interest of that people? Is it because of the sin of their ancestors, — a reason that cannot bear much weight? If we cast it upon that account, their conversion can never be expected, can never be effected; if for the sins of their ancestors, is it not also for their own sins? Do their sins grow less in number, or less venomous, or provoking in quality, by this delay? Is not their blasphemy of Christ as malicious, their hatred of him as strong and rooted, as ever? Do they not as much approve of the bloody act of their ancestors, since so many ages are past, as their ancestors did applaud it at the time of the execution? are they not the same disposition and will, discovered sufficiently by the scorn of Christ, and of those that profess his name, to act the same thing over again, were Christ now in the same state in the world, and they invested with the same power of government? If their conversion were deferred one age after the death of Christ for the sins of their preceding ancestors, is it to be expected now; since the present generation of the Jews in all countries have the sins of those remote, the succeeding, and their more immediate ancestors, lying upon them? This, therefore, cannot be the reason; but as it was the sovereign pleasure of God to foretell his intention to overcome the stoutness of their hearts, so it is his sovereign pleasure that it shall not be performed till the “fulness of the Gentiles be come in” (Rom. 11:25). As he is the Lord of his own grace, so he is the Lord of the time when to dispense it. Why did God create the world in six days, which he could have erected and beautified in a moment? Because it was his pleasure so to do. Why did he frame the world when he did, and not many ages before? Because he is Master of his own work. Why did he not resolve to bring Israel to the fruition of Canaan till after four hundred years? Why did he draw out their deliverance to so long time after he began to attempt it? Why such a multitude of plagues upon Pharaoh to work it, when he could have cut short the work by one mortal blow upon the tyrant and his accomplices? It was his sovereign pleasure to act so, though not without other reasons intelligible enough by looking into the story. Why doth he not bring man to a perfection of stature in a moment after his birth, but let him continue in a tedious infancy, in a semblance to beasts, for the want of an exercise of reason? Why doth he not bring this or that man, whom he intends for service, to a fitness in an instant, but by long tracts of study, and through many meanders and labyrinths? Why doth he transplant a hopeful person in his youth to the pleasures of another world, and let another, of an eminent holiness, continue in the misery of this, and wade through many floods of afflictions? What can we chiefly refer all these things to but his sovereign pleasure? The “times are determined by God” (Acts 17:26).
The Existence and Attributes of God
Randy Alcorn | Biola University
Alistair Begg | Truthforlife
Wine, Women and Self