GreetingEphesians 1 1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Spiritual Blessings in Christ3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Thanksgiving and Prayer15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
By Grace Through FaithEphesians 2 1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
One in Christ11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
The Mystery of the Gospel Revealed
Ephesians 3 1 For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
Prayer for Spiritual Strength14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
The Reformation Study Bible
What I'm Reading
Why Does God Want Us to Have Resurrection Bodies?
By J. Warner Wallace 5/18/2014
There are good philosophical, evidential reasons to believe we are more than simply physical creatures. We are living souls, and the Bible also describes us in this way. We know our souls are united to our bodies while our bodies are alive, and we also know our souls exist beyond the death of our bodies (and will be united with resurrection bodies at the Second Coming of Jesus). As a new Christian, however, I often wondered why God would want us to have a resurrection body in the first place. Why not just leave us as spiritual creatures after the death of our bodies? Why not simply interact with us as living souls? It appears God originally created us as everlasting, living souls in partnership with everlasting material bodies. Both were intended to live forever. Remember, Adam was created as an immortal man, capable of living forever unless he chose to violate God’s singular requirement:
Genesis 2:16-17 | And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.”
The command to Adam was simple: don’t eat and you won’t die. Your soul and body will be united forever. This appears to have been God’s initial design for us as humans. Any separation of the soul from the body came simply as the result of Adam’s rebellion. What we experience today, as fallen humans, is not what God initially intended for us. As Millard J. Erickson (author of Christian Theology) describes, we endure a conditional unity punctuated by the separation of body and soul in this period of time between death and the resurrection. God intends to return us to His original design for humans at the Second Coming of Jesus. As living souls, God intends to reunite us with our bodies for several important reasons:
The Whole Person is Important | The unity of our souls and bodies is important to God; He designed us as holistic creatures, and our physical condition is inseparably connected to our spiritual condition. For this reason, the Bible does not make a distinction between physical health and spiritual health. One is related to the other in a way we are yet to understand completely. That’s why Jesus healed in a holistic way:
Matthew 8:16 | When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.
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.
On Tithing (Not What You Think) II
By Glen Peoples
Should Christians tithe? The question, along with its archaic language, may be unfamiliar to outsiders to
Christian churches. In everyday terms, the question means this: “Are Christians morally required to give ten
percent of their income to the church that they are a member of?”
The first thing to contend with is terminology. The word “tithe” itself does not simply denote an offering. It means one tenth. The question of tithing then is not the same as the question of “giving.” Instead it is a question of how much should be given, and to whom. It is important to make this as clear as possible at the outset so that the person who says “I do not tithe” is not misunderstood as saying “I do not believe in financially supporting the church.”
Biblical support for tithing is drawn from several passages of Scripture. Something to be careful about is the tendency to draw on a passage of Scripture to bolster the case for tithing when the passage itself concerns only giving to the church in general, not giving ten percent of one’s income to the church, which is a much more specific practice. Obviously a good case for tithing will emphasise the place of giving in general, since tithing is one kind of giving, but it would be an important mistake to think that an argument for giving is an argument for tithing. The texts that I am interested in here are those that specifically mention a tenth, or texts that require an interpretation that connects them to other texts that refer to a tenth. For this reason, familiar texts such as “the Lord loves a cheerful giver” do not bear on the question of tithing.
Most of the references to the practice of tithing in the Torah (the five books of the law) do not describe what a tithe is. They merely tell us that it happens. For example in Numbers 18:26, instructions are given to the Levites: “When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the LORD’s offering.” We know that the Levites received something from the community, and that they were supposed to give something. But understanding what this passage refers to requires that we know the details surrounding the tithe that the Levites received. Likewise, Leviticus 27:32 says, “The entire tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod—will be holy to the LORD.” It tells us how much a tithe is, but not what it is, in the sense of what it was for. It would be a mistake, then, to think that we have a very strong case for tithing because of the large number of texts that refer to tithing, such as this one (or Deuteronomy 12:17, for example). All such texts presuppose a prior understanding of what tithing is. That understanding is spelt out in detail in two places. Those passages are Deuteronomy 14:22-29 and Deuteronomy 26:12-15. To gain an understanding of what tithing is in the Old Testament then, these are the most important passages to familiarise ourselves with. For that reason I will reproduce them here in their entirety.
22 “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. 23 And before the LORD your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. 24 And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, 25 then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses 26 and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. 27 And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you.
28 “At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.
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Say Hello to my Little Friend is the most widely listened to podcast on philosophy or theology in the southern hemisphere. You can find and listen to the episodes by browsing the blog (click on the “podcast” button over on the right to only see the posts that are in the podcast category), or you can subscribe to the podcast at the iTunes Store. The iTunes page for this podcast is here.
The subject areas that come up most frequently at the blog and podcast will continue to evolve as my interests evolve, but some that interest me are:
- Philosophy of religion in general, including arguments for and against theism, the (alleged) problem of miracles and the traditional issues covered in philosophy of religion.
- Meta-ethics, the question of moral foundations, and in particular defending models of ethics with a theological grounding (like certain types of natural law view or a divine command theory), along with defending the thesis that philosophical naturalism leads to moral nihilism.
- Theological / biblical hermeneutical issues including personal and corporate eschatology (heaven and hell, life after death, as well as theological/biblical questions surrounding the future of humanity and creation), biblical views of human nature, issues surrounding the charismatic/pentecostal phenomenon and various other areas of theological inquiry.
- The place of religious convictions in public and political life.
- Philosophy of mind, the questions surrounding the makeup of the human person and the relationship between the mind/soul and the body.
- Lastly (but never least!), general heckling of those with whom I happen to disagree, humour, capitalising on the political misfortune of others, music, and random comments that have no apparent causal explanation.
Pain: God’s Megaphone
By Alistair Begg
For sixty years, successive generations have been helped by what C.S. Lewis wrote on the subject of pain and suffering. The sustained benefit is due in large measure to the fact that he brought to the “problem” a solid dose of Christian realism. This medicine may be more important now than ever. It is not uncommon to watch as television preachers inform their audiences that God “does not want you to be sick.” It is hard to imagine such an assertion proving to be an encouragement to the wheel-chair bound, long-term sufferer of multiple sclerosis. At best, such preachers are confused. The Bible makes a clear distinction between the now of our earthly pilgrimage and the then of our heavenly home. A day is coming when there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. But as any honest observer of the human condition will admit, that day has not arrived. While most of us are probably not facing “the heartbreaking routine of monotonous misery,” as Lewis puts it, few of us are untouched by trials of various kinds.
Although the trial may appear in the disguise of an enemy, in reality it may prove to be a friend. The biblical writer James encourages his readers when faced with trials to welcome them as friends rather than resenting them as intruders. Instead of running and hiding we are to face them in the awareness that they come to prove us and to improve us. Lewis does not argue that suffering is good in itself. Instead, he points to the redemptive, sanctifying effects of suffering.
Thirty-two years of pastoral ministry have brought me into direct contact with those whose experiences of pain and suffering have proved to be a severe mercy. I think of a nuclear physicist in our church in Scotland who attended out of deference to his wife and three young daughters. He listened to the sermons with an air of polite indifference; he accepted a copy of John Stott’s Basic Christianity (IVP Classics) but remained secure in his scientific shell. It was only when his fourth child, a son, died at eleven months that the megaphone sounded. Recognizing that his worldview was inadequate to deal with tragedy and loss, he found himself reaching beyond his shadow land to find himself caught up in the embrace of the God who is there. By this terrible necessity of tribulation God conquered his rebel will and brought him to the place of peace.
It is also true that God uses suffering to wean His children away from the plausible sources of false happiness. The Christian may grow drowsy in the sun but will not fall asleep in the fire or the flood. Each of us must recognize how easy it is to think little of God when all is well on the outside. But what a change occurs when, for example, the biopsy comes back positive. A sharp blast of anxiety comes to shatter any illusions of self-sufficiency. How kind of God to rouse us and to bring us to the place of dependence.
Our experience of pain, if sanctified, will create an awareness of the trials that others face and a tenderness in our dealings. When our pains and disappointments become the occasion for the softening of our hearts, we can anticipate the privilege of bearing with the infirmities of others. Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, our great High Priest, is “touched with the feelings of our infirmities,” and He has left us an example that we should follow. It ought to concern us greatly when those of us who have been called to teach and to lead fail to display gentleness and compassion for the faint and the trembling. Although I have only dipped a toe in the sea of suffering, it is immediately apparent that God uses the lonely hours in the middle of the night to teach us lessons that we never learned in our bright and healthy hours. We rise to affirm Wiliam Cowper’s observation that “behind a frowning providence, God hides a smiling face.”
Dr. Alistair Begg | (Trent University; London School of Theology; Westminster Seminary) was born in Scotland and spent the first 30 years of life in the United Kingdom. Since September of 1983, he has been the senior pastor at Parkside Church in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. He is the daily speaker on the national radio program Truth For Life which stems from his weekly Bible teaching at Parkside. He and his wife, Susan, have three grown children.
Dr. Alistair Begg Books:
- 1 Name above All Names
- 2 On Being a Pastor: Understanding Our Calling and Work
- 3 Pathway to Freedom: How God's Laws Guide Our Lives
- 4 Preaching for God's Glory (Redesign) (Today's Issues)
- 5 The Hand of God: Finding His Care in All Circumstances
- 6 Made For His Pleasure: Ten Benchmarks of a Vital Faith
- 7 Evening by Evening: A New Edition of the Classic Devotional Based on ESV Version
- 8 Lasting Love: How to Avoid Marital Failure
- 9 What Angels Wish They Knew: The basics of true Christianity
- 10 Pathway to Freedom: How God's Laws Guide Our Lives
- 11 One Year NIV Devotional: New Testament
- 12 Pathway to Freedom: How God's Laws Guide Our Lives by Alistair Begg (2015-03-01)
Why So Much Hatred Against Christians in America Today?
By Michael Brown 11/07/2017
On Sunday, the day of the church massacre, cultural commentator David French tweeted, “The amount of anti-Christian hate on Twitter the same day Christians were massacred is stunning and chilling.”
If ever there was a time when we might have expected sympathy for Christians, or at least restraint in attacking them, it’s at a time like this. But the opposite proved true far too many times. Why?
On Fox News, Laura Ingraham noted that some of the reactions to the shooting pointed to “elite hostility to people of faith.” She stated that “hostility to faith infects the popular culture.” She also spoke of a rising “militant secularism,” drawing attention to comments which mocked the prayers of believers on behalf of those affected by Sunday’s church massacre.
This is more than heartless and tactless. It’s intentional and focused: Faith in God is to be mocked, in particular Christian faith. And when Christians are slaughtered during a church service? That’s the perfect time to pile on.
To paraphrase: “Where was your God, you stupid Christians? A lot of good your praying did! Go ahead and stick your head in the sand some more and keep praying to your imaginary deity. You deserve each other!”
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Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is a Senior Contributor to The Stream, and the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Breaking the Stronghold of Food. Connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.
He became a believer in Jesus 1971 as a sixteen year-old, heroin-shooting, LSD-using Jewish rock drummer. Since then, he has preached throughout America and around the world, bringing a message of repentance, revival, reformation, and cultural revolution. He holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University and has served as a visiting or adjunct professor at Southern Evangelical Seminary, Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (Charlotte), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Fuller Theological Seminary, Denver Theological Seminary, the King’s Seminary, and Regent University School of Divinity, and he has contributed numerous articles to scholarly publications, including the Oxford Dictionary of Jewish Religion and the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament.
Dr. Brown is a national and international speaker on themes of spiritual renewal and cultural reformation, and he has debated Jewish rabbis, agnostic professors, and gay activists on radio, TV, and college campuses. He is widely considered to be the world’s foremost Messianic Jewish apologist. He and his wife Nancy, who is also a Jewish believer in Jesus, have been married since 1976. They have two daughters and four grandchildren.
Dr. Michael Brown Books:
- 1 Breaking the Stronghold of Food: How We Conquered Food Addictions and Discovered a New Way of Living
- 2 Can You Be Gay and Christian?: Responding With Love and Truth to Questions About Homosexuality
- 3 The Real Kosher Jesus: Revealing the Mysteries of the Hidden Messiah
- 4 In the Line of Fire: 70 Articles from the Front Lines of the Culture Wars
- 5 Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message
- 6 Outlasting the Gay Revolution: Where Homosexual Activism Is Really Going and How to Turn the Tide
- 7 Our Hands Are Stained with Blood
- 8 Authentic Fire: A Response to John MacArthur's Strange Fire
- 9 Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: General and Historical Objections, Vol. 1
- 10 A Queer Thing Happened To America: And what a long, strange trip it's been
- 11 Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Messianic Prophecy Objections, Vol. 3
- 12 Go And Sin No More: A Call To Holiness
- 13 Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Theological Objections Vol. 2
- 14 Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: New Testament Objections (Vol. 4)
- 15 Whatever Happened to the Power of God?/It's Time to Rock the Boat
- 16 The Grace Controversy: Answers to 12 Common Questions
- 17 60 Questions Christians Ask About Jewish Beliefs and Practices
- 18 Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus:Traditional Jewish Objections Vol 5
- 19 Israel's Divine Healer
- 20 Whatever Happened to the Power of God
- 21 A Time For Holy Fire: Preparing the Way for Divine Visitation
- 22 How Saved Are We?
- 23 Saving a Sick America: A Prescription for Moral and Cultural Transformation
- 24 Revolution in the Church: Challenging the Religious System with a Call for Radical Change
- 25 What Do Jewish People Think about Jesus?: And Other Questions Christians Ask about Jewish Beliefs, Practices, and History
- 26 From Holy Laughter to Holy Fire: America on the Edge of Revival
- 27 Revolution: Jesus' Call to Change the World
- 28 Let No One Deceive You
- 29 Revolution!: The Call to Holy War
- 30 It's Time to Rock the Boat
- 31 The End of the American Gospel Enterprise
- 32 Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message by Michael L. Brown (2014-01-07)
- 33 The Revival Answer Book
Is Racial Harmony Disintegrating?
By John Piper 12/07/2017
John Piper originally shared his burden live online on Thursday, November 30, in a 35-minute address. This article is John’s written version of that address, revised and expanded to provide more clarity on the finer points of his burden.
I write not as an authority on race relations, nor as one with vast experience across cultures, nor as one who considers himself especially successful in realizing my own dreams. Instead I write as a watcher of our sad world, a pursuer of biblical reality, a lover of Jesus Christ, and a hoper for more harmony, more justice, and more beauty in my wider family — the body of Jesus Christ.
From a global perspective, my focus is narrow. But unless I’m mistaken, a few things I say will be relevant beyond my own context. Within the family of human beings, my focus has three narrowings. First, I am focusing on Christians. Then, narrowing further, I am focusing on evangelicals — that group of Christian who try to conform to the authority of Scripture, who gladly embrace the historic creeds of the Christian church, who cherish the fact that Christ died for sinners like us, and who seek to persuade other people about the preciousness of what we have found in Christ.
With the third narrowing, I focus on a group of evangelicals who are labeled in various ways — perhaps most notably by the title of Collin Hansen’s book Young, Restless, and Reformed. My short definition of this group is that (1) they stand in awe of the glory of God as the most important reality in the universe; (2) they gladly embrace the sovereign rule of God over all events — from galaxies to subatomic particles, including our own suffering, in the hope that God can turn the worst of circumstances for the best of outcomes; and (3) they believe that the only reason we have any love for Christ is that God raised us from spiritual death and gave us new believing hearts.
Marks of a Reformed Movement | As I said, my focus is narrow. This is a small group of people globally speaking. But it has some characteristics that are very striking, and that lead to the issue of racial harmony and racial justice that we are moving toward.
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John Piper Books | Go to Books Page
Here’s What Christians Should Be Busy Protesting
By Michael J. Kruger 10/24/2017
There’s a lot of protesting going on in our culture today. Seems like everyone is upset about something. And they are quite willing to let the world know about it. Indeed, even in the evangelical Christian world, it seems like protesting has become the thing to do.
The key question, however, will always be, “Against what things should Christians offer a protest?”
I suppose there are many answers to that question. But, as we near the 500th anniversary of Luther’s nailing of the 95 theses to the Wittenberg door (Oct 31st), we should at least consider what the Reformers were busy protesting.
After all, that is what the Reformers were. The term “Protestant,” of course, comes from the Latin protestari, which simply means to “declare publicly, testify, protest.” And if you are a Protestant today, then you still are, effectively, a protestor.
Unfortunately, most modern day Protestants have forgotten what the protest was (originally) all about. And now they have moved on to protesting other things that perhaps seem more important. And, indeed, many modern issues are important and deserve protest (e.g., we should protest the practice of abortion).
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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
“Life is but a Weaving” (the Tapestry Poem)
By Corrie ten Boom
“My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.”
― Corrie ten Boom
Cornelia "Corrie" ten Boom was a Dutch watchmaker and Christian who, along with her father and other family members, helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II by hiding them in her closet. She was imprisoned for her actions.
Corrie ten Boom Books:
Corrie ten Boom Books | Go to Books Page
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
IN THE CREATION OF THE WORLD, AND ALL THINGS IN IT, THE TRUE GOD DISTINGUISHED BY CERTAIN MARKS FROM FICTITIOUS GODS.
In this chapter commences the second part of Book First--viz. the knowledge of man. Certain things premised. I. The creation of the world generally (s. 1 and 2). II. The subject of angels considered (s. 3-13). III. Of bad angels or devils (s. 13-20); and, IV. The practical use to be made of the history of the creation (s. 20-22).
1. The mere fact of creation should lead us to acknowledge God, but to prevent our falling away to Gentile fictions, God has been pleased to furnish a history of the creation. An impious objection, Why the world was not created sooner? Answer to it. Shrewd saying of an old man.
2. For the same reason, the world was created, not in an instant, but in six days. The order of creation described, showing that Adam was not created until God had, with infinite goodness made ample provision for him.
3. The doctrine concerning angels expounded. 1. That we may learn from them also to acknowledge God. 2. That we may be put on our guard against the errors of the worshippers of angels and the Manichees. Manicheeism refuted. Rule of piety.
4. The angels created by God. At what time and in what order it is inexpedient to inquire. The garrulity of the Pseudo-Dionysius.
5. The nature, offices, and various names of angels.
6. Angels the dispensers of the divine beneficence to us.
7. A kind of prefects over kingdoms and provinces, but specially the guardians of the elect. Not certain that every believer is under the charge of a single angel. Enough, that all angels watch over the safety of the Church.
8. The number and orders of angels not defined. Why angels said to be winged.
9. Angels are ministering spirits and spiritual essences.
10. The heathen error of placing angels on the throne of God refuted. 1. By passages of Scripture.
11. Refutation continued. 2. By inferences from other passages. Why God employs the ministry of angels.
12. Use of the doctrine of Scripture concerning the holy angels.
13. The doctrine concerning bad angels or devils reduced to four heads. 1. That we may guard against their wiles and assaults.
14. That we may be stimulated to exercises of piety. Why one angel in the singular number often spoken of.
15. The devil being described as the enemy of man, we should perpetually war against him.
16. The wickedness of the devil not by creation but by corruption. Vain and useless to inquire into the mode, time, and character of the fall of angels.
17. Though the devil is always opposed in will and endeavour to the will of God, he can do nothing without his permission and consent.
18. God so overrules wicked spirits as to permit them to try the faithful, and rule over the wicked.
19. The nature of bad angels. They are spiritual essences endued with sense and intelligence.
20. The latter part of the chapter briefly embracing the history of creation, and showing what it is of importance for us to know concerning God.
21. The special object of this knowledge is to prevent us, through ingratitude or thoughtlessness, from overlooking the perfections of God. Example of this primary knowledge.
22. Another object of this knowledge--viz. that perceiving how these things were created for our use, we may be excited to trust in God, pray to him, and love him.
1. Although Isaiah justly charges the worshipers of false gods with stupidity, in not learning from the foundations of the earth, and the circle of the heavens, who the true God is (Isa. 40:21); yet so sluggish and grovelling is our intellect, that it was necessary he should be more clearly depicted, in order that the faithful might not fall away to Gentile fictions. the idea that God is the soul of the world, though the most tolerable that philosophers have suggested, is absurd; and, therefore, it was of importance to furnish us with a more intimate knowledge in order that we might not wander to and fro in uncertainty. Hence God was pleased that a history of the creation should exist--a history on which the faith of the Church might lean without seeking any other God than Him whom Moses sets forth as the Creator and Architect of the world. First, in that history, the period of time is marked so as to enable the faithful to ascend by an unbroken succession of years to the first origin of their race and of all things. This knowledge is of the highest use not only as an antidote to the monstrous fables which anciently prevailed both in Egypt and the other regions of the world, but also as a means of giving a clearer manifestation of the eternity of God as contrasted with the birth of creation, and thereby inspiring us with higher admiration. We must not be moved by the profane jeer, that it is strange how it did not sooner occur to the Deity to create the heavens and the earth, instead of idly allowing an infinite period to pass away, during which thousands of generations might have existed, while the present world is drawing to a close before it has completed its six thousandth year. Why God delayed so long it is neither fit nor lawful to inquire. Should the human mind presume to do it, it could only fail in the attempt, nor would it be useful for us to know what God, as a trial of the modesty of our faith, has been pleased purposely to conceal. It was a shrewd saying of a good old man, who when some one pertly asked in derision what God did before the world was created, answered he made a hell for the inquisitive (August. Confess., lib. 11 c. 12). This reproof, not less weighty than severe, should repress the tickling wantonness which urges many to indulge in vicious and hurtful speculation.
In fine, let us remember that that invisible God, whose wisdom, power, and justice, are incomprehensible, is set before us in the history of Moses as in a mirror, in which his living image is reflected. For as an eye, either dimmed by age or weakened by any other cause, sees nothing distinctly without the aid of glasses, so (such is our imbecility) if Scripture does not direct us in our inquiries after God, we immediately turn vain in our imaginations. Those who now indulge their petulance, and refuse to take warning, will learn, when too late, how much better it had been reverently to regard the secret counsels of God, than to belch forth blasphemies which pollute the face of heaven. Justly does Augustine complain that God is insulted whenever any higher reason than his will is demanded. (Lib. de Gent.). He also in another place wisely reminds us that it is just as improper to raise questions about infinite periods of time as about infinite space. (De Civit. Dei.). However wide the circuit of the heavens may be, it is of some definite extent. But should any one expostulate with God that vacant space remains exceeding creation by a hundred-fold, must not every pious mind detest the presumption? Similar is the madness of those who charge God with idleness in not having pleased them by creating the world countless ages sooner than he did create it. In their cupidity they affect to go beyond the world, as if the ample circumference of heaven and earth did not contain objects numerous and resplendent enough to absorb all our senses; as if, in the period of six thousand years, God had not furnished facts enough to exercise our minds in ceaseless meditation. Therefore, let us willingly remain hedged in by those boundaries within which God has been pleased to confine our persons, and, as it were, enclose our minds, so as to prevent them from losing themselves by wandering unrestrained.
2. With the same view Moses relates that the work of creation was accomplished not in one moment, but in six days. By this statement we are drawn away from fiction to the one God who thus divided his work into six days, that we may have no reluctance to devote our whole lives to the contemplation of it. For though our eyes, in what direction soever they turn, are forced to behold the works of God, we see how fleeting our attention is, and holy quickly pious thoughts, if any arise, vanish away. Here, too, objection is taken to these progressive steps as inconsistent with the power of God, until human reason is subdued to the obedience of faith, and learns to welcome the calm quiescence to which the sanctification of the seventh day invited us. In the very order of events, we ought diligently to ponder on the paternal goodness of God toward the human race, in not creating Adam until he had liberally enriched the earth with all good things. Had he placed him on an earth barren and unfurnished; had he given life before light, he might have seemed to pay little regard to his interest. But now that he has arranged the motions of the sun and stars for man's use, has replenished the air, earth, and water, with living creatures, and produced all kinds of fruit in abundance for the supply of food, by performing the office of a provident and industrious head of a family, he has shown his wondrous goodness toward us. These subjects, which I only briefly touch, if more attentively pondered, will make it manifest that Moses was a sure witness and herald of the one only Creator. I do not repeat what I have already explained--viz. that mention is here made not of the bare essence of God, but that his eternal Wisdom and Spirit are also set before us, in order that we may not dream of any other God than Him who desires to be recognised in that express image.
3. But before I begin to treat more fully of the nature of man (chap. 15 and B. 2 c. 1), it will be proper to say something of angels. For although Moses, in accommodation to the ignorance of the generality of men, does not in the history of the creation make mention of any other works of God than those which meet our eye, yet, seeing he afterwards introduces angels as the ministers of God, we easily infer that he for whom they do service is their Creator. Hence, though Moses, speaking in popular language, did not at the very commencement enumerate the angels among the creatures of God, nothing prevents us from treating distinctly and explicitly of what is delivered by Scripture concerning them in other places. For if we desire to know God by his works, we surely cannot overlook this noble and illustrious specimen. We may add that this branch of doctrine is very necessary for the refutation of numerous errors. The minds of many are so struck with the excellence of angelic natures, that they would think them insulted in being subjected to the authority of God, and so made subordinate. Hence a fancied divinity has been assigned them. Manes, too, has arisen with his sect, fabricating to himself two principles--God and the devil, attributing the origin of good things to God, but assigning all bad natures to the devil as their author. Were this delirium to take possession of our minds, God would be denied his glory in the creation of the world. For, seeing there is nothing more peculiar to God than eternity and autousi'a, i.e. self-existence, or existence of himself, if I may so speak, do not those who attribute it to the devil in some degree invest him with the honour of divinity? And where is the omnipotence of God, if the devil has the power of executing whatever he pleases against the will, and notwithstanding of the opposition of God? But the only good ground which the Manichees have--viz. that it were impious to ascribe the creation of any thing bad to a good God, militates in no degree against the orthodox faith, since it is not admitted that there is any thing naturally bad throughout the universe; the depravity and wickedness whether of man or of the devil, and the sins thence resulting, being not from nature, but from the corruption of nature; nor, at first, did anything whatever exist that did not exhibit some manifestation of the divine wisdom and justice. To obviate such perverse imaginations, we must raise our minds higher than our eyes can penetrate. It was probably with this view that the Nicene Creed, in calling God the creator of all things, makes express mention of things invisible. My care, however, must be to keep within the bounds which piety prescribes, lest by indulging in speculations beyond my reach, I bewilder the reader, and lead him away from the simplicity of the faith. And since the Holy Spirit always instructs us in what is useful, but altogether omits, or only touches cursorily on matters which tend little to edification, of all such matters, it certainly is our duty to remain in willing ignorance.
4. Angels being the ministers appointed to execute the commands of God, must, of course, be admitted to be his creatures, but to stir up questions concerning the time or order in which they were created (see Lombard, lib. 2 dist. 2, sqq.), bespeaks more perverseness than industry. Moses relates that the heavens and the earth were finished, with all their host; what avails it anxiously to inquire at what time other more hidden celestial hosts than the stars and planets also began to be? Not to dwell on this, let us here remember that on the whole subject of religion one rule of modesty and soberness is to be observed, and it is this, in obscure matters not to speak or think, or even long to know, more than the Word of God has delivered. A second rule is, that in reading the Scriptures we should constantly direct our inquiries and meditations to those things which tend to edification, not indulge in curiosity, or in studying things of no use. And since the Lord has been pleased to instruct us, not in frivolous questions, but in solid piety, in the fear of his name, in true faith, and the duties of holiness, let us rest satisfied with such knowledge. Wherefore, if we would be duly wise, we must renounce those vain babblings of idle men, concerning the nature, ranks, and number of angels, without any authority from the Word of God. I know that many fasten on these topics more eagerly, and take greater pleasure in them than in those relating to daily practice. But if we decline not to be the disciples of Christ, let us not decline to follow the method which he has prescribed. In this way, being contented with him for our master, we will not only refrain from, but even feel averse to, superfluous speculations which he discourages. None can deny that Dionysus (whoever he may have been) has many shrewd and subtle disquisitions in his Celestial Hierarchy, but on looking at them more closely, every one must see that they are merely idle talk. The duty of a Theologian, however, is not to tickle the ear, but confirm the conscience, by teaching what is true, certain, and useful. When you read the work of Dionysus, you would think that the man had come down from heaven, and was relating, not what he had learned, but what he had actually seen. Paul, however, though he was carried to the third heaven, so far from delivering any thing of the kind, positively declares, that it was not lawful for man to speak the secrets which he had seen. Bidding adieu, therefore, to that nugatory wisdom, let us endeavour to ascertain from the simple doctrine of Scripture what it is the Lord's pleasure that we should know concerning angels.
5. In Scripture, then, we uniformly read that angels are heavenly spirits, whose obedience and ministry God employs to execute all the purposes which he has decreed, and hence their name as being a kind of intermediate messengers to manifest his will to men. The names by which several of them are distinguished have reference to the same office. They are called hosts, because they surround their Prince as his court,--adorn and display his majesty,--like soldiers, have their eyes always turned to their leader's standard, and are so ready and prompt to execute his orders, that the moment he gives the nod, they prepare for, or rather are actually at work. In declaring the magnificence of the divine throne, similar representations are given by the prophets, and especially by Daniel, when he says, that when God stood up to Judgment, "thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him," (Dan. 7:10). As by these means the Lord wonderfully exerts and declares the power and might of his hand, they are called virtues. Again, as his government of the world is exercised and administered by them, they are called at one time Principalities, at another Powers, at another Dominions (Col. 1:16; Eph. 1:21). Lastly, as the glory of God in some measure dwells in them, they are also termed Thrones; though as to this last designation I am unwilling to speak positively, as a different interpretation is equally, if not more congruous. To say nothing, therefore, of the name of Thrones, the former names are often employed by the Holy Spirit in commendation of the dignity of angelic service. Nor is it right to pass by unhonoured those instruments by whom God specially manifests the presence of his power. Nay, they are more than once called Gods, because the Deity is in some measure represented to us in their service, as in a mirror. I am rather inclined, however, to agree with ancient writers, that in those passages  wherein it is stated that the angel of the Lord appeared to Abraham, Jacob, and Moses, Christ was that angel. Still it is true, that when mention is made of all the angels, they are frequently so designated. Nor ought this to seem strange. For if princes and rulers have this honour given them, because in their office they are vicegerents of God, the supreme King and Judge, with far greater reason may it be given to angels, in whom the brightness of the divine glory is much more conspicuously displayed.
6. But the point on which the Scriptures specially insist is that which tends most to our comfort, and to the confirmation of our faith, namely, that angels are the ministers and dispensers of the divine bounty towards us. Accordingly, we are told how they watch for our safety, how they undertake our defence, direct our path, and take heed that no evil befall us. There are whole passages which relate, in the first instance, to Christ, the Head of the Church, and after him to all believers. "He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone." Again, "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them."  By these passages the Lord shows that the protection of those whom he has undertaken to defend he has delegated to his angels. Accordingly, an angel of the Lord consoles Hagar in her flight, and bids her be reconciled to her mistress. Abraham promises to his servant that an angel will be the guide of his journey. Jacob, in blessing Ephraim and Manasseh, prays "The angel which redeemed me from all evil bless the lads." So an angel was appointed to guard the camp of the Israelites; and as often as God was pleased to deliver Israel from the hands of his enemies, he stirred up avengers by the ministry of angels. Thus, in fine (not to mention more), angels ministered to Christ, and were present with him in all straits. To the women they announced his resurrection; to the disciples they foretold his glorious advent. In discharging the office of our protectors, they war against the devil and all our enemies, and execute vengeance upon those who afflict us. Thus we read that an angel of the Lord, to deliver Jerusalem from siege, slew one hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the camp of the king of Assyria in a single night.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 138Give Thanks to the LORD
138 Of David.
138:1 I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
2 I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
3 On the day I called, you answered me;
my strength of soul you increased.
4 All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD,
for they have heard the words of your mouth,
5 and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD,
for great is the glory of the LORD.
6 For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly,
but the haughty he knows from afar.
7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
and your right hand delivers me.
8 The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.
The Importance of Our Devotional Lives
By Ryan Huguley 8/01/2016
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. While I prefer to start most mornings with my standard three eggs scrambled and a cup of coffee, I must respectfully disagree with this popular sentiment. The single most critical meal you and I should consume on a daily basis consists of a focused time with God in His Word and in prayer (Ps. 1:1–2). God’s Word Reveals God’s Will God’s Word Reminds Us of Our Sin God’s Word Revives Our Hearts Click here to go to source
Yet, despite how much you and I need a consistent devotional life, many of us struggle to keep up. We start more Januarys than we care to admit fired up by the grand plans of reading through the entire Bible over the course of the year, ( It takes less than 15 minutes a day to read through the Bible in a year. If you would rather look at the day's scrpture and listen to someone else read it and pronounce those difficult words you can also do that at Lean-Into-God. ) but more often than not we fry out somewhere in the middle of yet another sacrifice in Leviticus.
Why this constant swing from enthusiasm to apathy? When I think about my own experience and the experiences of those I have pastored over the years, I believe that the quality and consistency of our daily time in God’s Word rises and falls based on our remembering why it matters in the first place.
The truth is, pursuing God through prayer and time in His Word is not always easy, fun, or natural for us. It takes effort and discipline. If you are like me, effort and discipline are short-lived when you forget the why that motivates what you are called to.
The Bible is filled with rich motives for making our devotional lives a priority, but for brevity’s sake, allow me to remind you of three.
What a gift that God has not left us to mere speculation but in fact has blessed us with the revelation of His will in His Word. Our paths will be straighter and our decisions will be stronger if we prioritize regular meditation on the Bible. Few things will keep you fired up to dig deep in the Scriptures like knowing that through it God reveals His will.
In our living room, we have an old dresser that is filled with our kids’ toys. This particular dresser looks great — until we open the blinds and let the sunshine hit it. The sun reveals every bump and bruise that many years of use have inflicted upon it. The light reveals what is truly there. Scripture has that same effect in our lives.
I cannot remember a time spent in the Word and in prayer when I did not walk away convicted of some specific shortcoming in my life. Every time I read, I am reminded of God’s holy and perfect standard and my complete inability to live up to it. This regular reminder of my sin helps my humility and keeps me dependent upon His grace.
In Psalm 119:50, the psalmist prays, “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your word has revived me.” The sum total of Scripture points us to who Jesus is and what He has accomplished on our behalf through His life, death, and resurrection. The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to fill our hearts afresh with love, joy, peace, patience, and the rest of the fruit He has promised us (Gal. 5:22–23).
Do not miss another opportunity to get on your knees, open God’s Book, and beg Him to revive your heart in the way that only He can.
Clearly, there is no shortage of reasons why our devotional lives are important, and my guess is that little of what I’ve shared thus far comes as a surprise to you. Unfortunately, familiarity does not necessarily guard us from the legalistic motives that lurk in the dark corners of our hearts. Motives matter. Why you do what you do is just as important as what you do.
Prayer is never a price we pay to put God in our debt. Bible reading is never a means of meriting the approval of God. We do not build a devotional life so that God will love us. We build a devotional life because, in Christ, God already does love us. If your devotional life degenerates into attempts at pandering for the favor and approval of God, you are devaluing the beauty of God’s grace in Christ.
Make no mistake, your devotional life is of the utmost importance. But motive is everything. If you build it for the wrong reasons, the very thing meant to be a means of God’s grace in your life will become a crushing burden that will rob you of joy. Be reminded today of why your devotional life is of so much importance and that we pursue God in devotions because He has first pursued us.
Ryan Hugely is senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Hickory, N.C., and host of the podcast In the Room.
God’s Word Reveals God’s WillAs a pastor, I regularly counsel people who are trying to discern the will of God. For this I am very thankful. I am thankful that most Christians are sincerely concerned with honoring God in their decisions and day-to-day lives. Sadly, too many Christians complain of their desire to know the will of God with a closed copy of the Word of God by their side. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” We have to break open the Book.
God’s Word Reminds Us of Our SinIn Romans 7:7, Paul reminds us that “if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin.” Scripture shines a light on what is truly in our hearts and lives.
God’s Word Revives Our HeartsI need reviving on a regular basis. Coffee has a way of reviving my mind in the morning. Sleep has a way of reviving my body at night. A good laugh with a great friend has a way of reviving my emotions. But only God’s Word by the power of God’s Spirit has the power to revive our hearts — the very seat of all we are.
Click here to go to source
Fox's Book Of Martyrs (Chapter 18)
By John Foxe 1563Yet, under all these calamities, they behaved with patience and modesty towards the government, and upon occasion of the Ryehouse plot in 1682, thought proper to declare their innocence of that sham plot, in an address to the king, wherein "appealing to the Searcher of all hearts," they say, "their principles do not allow them to take up defensive arms, much less to avenge themselves for the injuries they received from others: that they continually pray for the king's safety and preservation; and therefore take this occasion humbly to beseech his majesty to compassionate their suffering friends, with whom the jails are so filled, that they want air, to the apparent hazard of their lives, and to the endangering an infection in divers places. Besides, many houses, shops, barns, and fields are ransacked, and the goods, corn, and cattle swept away, to the discouraging trade and husbandry, and impoverishing great numbers of quiet and industrious people; and this, for no other cause, but for the exercise of a tender conscience in the worship of Almighty God, who is sovereign Lord and King of men's consciences."
On the accession of James II they addressed that monarch honestly and plainly, telling him: "We are come to testify our sorrow for the death of our good friend Charles, and our joy for thy being made our governor. We are told thou art not of the persuasion of the Church of England, no more than we; therefore we hope thou wilt grant us the same liberty which thou allowest thyself, which doing, we wish thee all manner of happiness."
When James, by his dispensing power, granted liberty to the dissenters, they began to enjoy some rest from their troubles; and indeed it was high time, for they were swelled to an enormous amount. They, the year before this, to them one of glad release, in a petition to James for a cessation of their sufferings, set forth, "that of late above one thousand five hundred of their friends, both men and women, and that now there remain one thousand three hundred and eighty-three; of which two hundred are women, many under sentence of praemunire; and more than three hundred near it, for refusing the oath of allegiance, because they could not swear. Three hundred and fifty have died in prison since the year 1680; in London, the jail of Newgate has been crowded, within these two years sometimes with near twenty in a room, whereby several have been suffocated, and others, who have been taken out sick, have died of malignant fevers within a few days. Great violences, outrageous distresses, and woful havoc and spoil, have been made upon people's goods and estates, by a company of idle, extravagant, and merciless informers, by persecutions on the conventicle-act, and others, also on qui tam writs, and on other processes, for twenty pounds a month, and two thirds of their estates seized for the king. Some had not a bed to rest on, others had no cattle to till the ground, nor corn for feed or bread, nor tools to work with; the said informers and bailiffs in some places breaking into houses, and making great waste and spoil, under pretence of serving the king and the Church. Our religious assemblies have been charged at common law with being rioters and disturbers of the public peace, whereby great numbers have been confined in prison without regard to age, and many confined to holes and dungeons. The seizing for 20 pounds a month has amounted to many thousands, and several who have employed some hundreds of poor people in manufactures, are disabled to do so any more, by reason of long imprisonment. They spare neither widow nor fatherless, nor have they so much as a bed to lie on. The informers are both witnesses and prosecutors, to the ruin of great numbers of sober families; and justices of the peace have been threatened with the forfeiture of one hundred pounds, if they do not issue out warrants upon their informations." With this petition they presented a list of their friends in prison, in the several counties, amounting to four hundred and sixty.
During the reign of King James II these people were, through the intercession of their friend Mr. Penn, treated with greater indulgence than ever they had been before. They were now become extremely numerous in many parts of the country, and the settlement of Pennsylvania taking place soon after, many of them went over to America. There they enjoyed the blessings of a peaceful government, and cultivated the arts of honest industry.
As the whole colony was the property of Mr. Penn, so he invited people of all denominations to come and settle with him. A universal liberty of conscience took place; and in this new colony the natural rights of mankind were, for the first time, established.
These Friends are, in the present age, a very harmless, inoffensive body of people; but of that we shall take more notice hereafter. By their wise regulations, they not only do honor to themselves, but they are of vast service to the community.
It may be necessary here to observe, that as the Friends, commonly called Quakers, will not take an oath in a court of justice, so their affirmation is permitted in all civil affairs; but they cannot prosecute a criminal, because, in the English courts of justice, all evidence must be upon oath.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Don’t be a hypocrite
12/09/2017 Bob Gass
‘All their works they do to be seen by men.’
(Mt 23:5) 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, ESV
Here’s a working definition of the word hypocrisy: ‘to be seen by men’. Jesus had a no-tolerance policy when it came to hypocrisy. Why? Because He knew it turns people against God. Instead, He taught: 1) Expect no credit for your good deeds. None. If no one notices, you aren’t disappointed. If someone does, you give the credit to God. Stop and ask yourself this question: ‘If no one knew of the good I do, would I still do it?’ If not, you’re doing it ‘to be seen’ by people. 2) Give your financial gifts in secret. Money stirs the phony within us. We like to be seen earning it. And we like to be seen giving it. So Jesus said, ‘When you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing’ (Matthew 6:3 NLT). 3) Don’t fake your spirituality. When you go to church, don’t select a seat just to be seen, or sing just to be heard. If you raise your hands in worship, raise holy ones, not showy ones. When you talk, don’t doctor your vocabulary with trendy religious terms. Nothing nauseates more than a fake ‘Praise the Lord’, or a shallow ‘Hallelujah’, or an insincere ‘Glory be to God’, Ever watch children in a playground shouting, ‘Watch me!’ That’s acceptable because they’re still immature, but it’s not acceptable in God’s kingdom. Silence the trumpets. Cancel the parade. Enough with the name-dropping. If accolades come, politely deflect them before you believe them. Slay the desire to be noticed. Stir the desire to serve God. In other words, don’t be a hypocrite!
by Bill Federer
In the year 1891, on this day, December 9th, President Benjamin Harrison wrote: “This Government has found occasion to express… to the… Czar its serious concern because of the harsh measures now being enforced against the Hebrews in Russia… Great numbers… have been constrained… to abandon their homes and leave the Empire… It is estimated that over one million will be forced from Russia within a few years.” President Harrison concluded: “The Hebrew… has always kept the law… often under… oppressive…restrictions… This consideration, as well as the suggestion of humanity, furnishes ample ground for the remonstrances… we have presented to Russia.”
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Chapter 15 December 9
Here again, if I could dive deeply enough, I might again reach at the bottom that which simply is.
And only now am I ready, in my own fashion, to "place myself in the presence of God." Either mystery, if I could follow it far enough, would lead me to the same point-the point where something, in each case unimaginable, leaps forth from God's naked hand. The Indian, looking at the material world, says, "I am that." I say, "That and I grow from one root." Verbum superne prodiens, the Word coming forth from the Father, has made both, and brought them together in this subject-object embrace.
And what, you ask, is the advantage of all this? Well, for me-I am not talking about anyone else-it plants the prayer right in the present reality. For, whatever else is or is not real, this momentary confrontation of subject and object is certainly occurring: always occurring except when I am asleep. Here is the actual meeting of God's activity and man's -not some imaginary meeting that might occur if I were an angel or if God incarnate entered the room. There is here no question of a God "up there" or "out there"; rather, the present operation of God "in here," as the ground of my own being, and God "in there," as the ground of the matter that surrounds me, and God embracing and uniting both in the daily miracle of finite consciousness.
The two facades-the room as I perceive it-were obstacles as long as I mistook them for ultimate realities. But the moment I recognized them as facades, Do you see? A lie is a delusion only so long as we believe it; but a recognized lie is a reality-a real lie-and as such may be highly instructive. A dream ceases to be a delusion as soon as we wake. But it does not become a nonentity. It is a real dream: and it also may be instructive. A stage set is not a real wood or drawing room: it is a real stage set, and may be a good one. (In fact we should never ask of anything "Is it real?," for everything is real. The proper question is "A real what?," e.g., a real snake or real delirium tremens?) The objects around me, and my idea of "me," will deceive if taken at their face value. But they are momentous if taken as the end-products of divine activities. Thus and not other wise, the creation of matter and the creation of mind meet one another and the circuit is closed.
Or put it this way. I have called my material surroundings a stage set. A stage set is not a dream nor a nonentity. But if you attack a stage house with a chisel you will not get chips of brick or stone; you'll only get a hole in a piece of canvas and, beyond that, windy darkness. Similarly, if you start investigating the nature of matter, you will not find anything like what imagination has always supposed matter to be. You will get mathematics. From that unimaginable physical reality my senses select a few stimuli. These they translate or symbolize into sensations, which have no likeness at all to the reality of matter. Of these sensations my associative power, very much directed by my practical needs and influenced by social training, makes up little bundles into what I call "things" (labeled by nouns). Out of these I build myself a neat little box stage, suitably provided with properties such as hills, fields, houses, and the rest. In this I can act.
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
As for me, I am tired of talking about what we are going to do. I am sick of talking about helping people, of brainstorming and conferencing about ways we can be radical and make sacrifices. I don't want to merely talk anymore. Life is too short. I don't want to speak ab...out Jesus; I want to know Jesus. I want to be Jesus to people. I don't want to just write about the Holy Spirit; I want to experience His presence in my life in a profound way.
--- Francis Chan
Biblical orthodoxy without compassion
is surely the ugliest thing in the world.
--- Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984)
Do Love: A Love Hack's Path to Spiritual Maturity
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
--- Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt: First Lady (Women of Achievement)
A person is just about as big as the things that make them angry.
Said the robin to the sparrow,
“I should really like to know,
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so.”
Said the sparrow to the robin,
“Friend I think that it must be,
That they have no Heavenly Father,
Such as cares for you and me.”
--- Elizabeth Cheney
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
don’t deny them to me as long as I live—
8 keep falsehood and futility far from me,
and give me neither poverty nor wealth.
Yes, provide just the food I need today;
9 for if I have too much, I might deny you
and say, “Who is ADONAI?”
And if I am poor, I might steal
and thus profane the name of my God.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
What is it?
An ad hominem (Latin for "to the man"), short for argumentum ad hominem, is an argument made personally against an opponent, instead of against the opponent's argument. Ad hominem reasoning is normally described as an informal fallacy, more precisely an irrelevance.
Abusive ad hominem (also called personal abuse or personal attacks) usually involves insulting or belittling one's opponents in order to attack their claims or invalidate their arguments, but can also involve pointing out true character flaws or actions that are irrelevant to the opponent's argument. This is logically fallacious because it relates to the opponent's personal character, which has nothing to do with the logical merit of the opponent's argument, whereas mere verbal abuse in the absence of an argument is not ad hominem nor any kind of logical fallacy.
"Candidate George's proposal about zoning is ridiculous. He was caught cheating on his taxes in 2003."
"What would Margaret know about fixing cars? She is a woman."
"What makes you so smart and all-knowing that you can deny God's existence? You haven't even finished school."
"If Dr. Schweitzer is such a skilled heart surgeon, then why was he arrested for skinny-dipping in the ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese's?!"
"Your fashion opinion isn't valid; you can't even afford new shoes."
"Your exposition is highly correct and valid, but you don't have enough academic certification." (an example of the Credential fallacy)
An abusive ad hominem can apply to a judgment of cultural works or academic efforts based on the behavior or unconventional political beliefs of an artist, author, or musician, or the taste of an infamous person who loved a certain work.
Ad hominem circumstantial points out that someone is in circumstances such that they are disposed to take a particular position. Ad hominem circumstantial constitutes an attack on the bias of a source. This is fallacious because a disposition to make a certain argument does not make the argument false; this overlaps with the genetic fallacy (an argument that a claim is incorrect due to its source).
The circumstantial fallacy applies only where the source taking a position is only making a logical argument from premises that are generally accepted. Where the source seeks to convince an audience of the truth of a premise by a claim of authority or by personal observation, observation of their circumstances may reduce the evidentiary weight of the claims, sometimes to zero.
Mandy Rice-Davies's famous testimony during the Profumo Affair, "Well, he would [say that], wouldn't he?", is an example of a valid circumstantial argument. Her point was that a man in a prominent position, accused of an affair with a callgirl, would deny the claim whether it was true or false. His denial, in itself, carries little evidential weight against the claim of an affair. Note, however, that this argument is valid only insofar as it devalues the denial; it does not bolster the original claim. To construe evidentiary invalidation of the denial as evidentiary validation of the original claim is fallacious (on several different bases, including that of argumentum ad hominem); however likely the man in question would be to deny an affair that did in fact happen, he could only be more likely to deny an affair that never happened.
Conflict of Interest: Where a source seeks to convince by a claim of authority or by personal observation, identification of conflicts of interest are not ad hominem – it is generally well accepted that an "authority" needs to be objective and impartial, and that an audience can only evaluate information from a source if they know about conflicts of interest that may affect the objectivity of the source. Identification of a conflict of interest is appropriate, and concealment of a conflict of interest is a problem.
 Ad feminam/Ad hominem
An ad feminam is an ad hominem attack, used in attempt to defeat a woman's argument. An example would be the response "Is it your time of the month?" to a woman making an argument. The term is most frequently used in this sense in feminist philosophy, to note systemic tendencies to discredit opinions of women. As such, it is similar in nature and purpose to such feminist neologisms as "herstory". Quotes:
"Ahmad's characteristic method here of reductive ad hominem and ad feminam critique subverts his accompanying claim to Marxist subjectivity..." ]
"Almost any ad hominem (or in this case, ad feminam) response such as this one invalidates the content of the patient's viewpoint"
In Latin, the word homō (of which hominem is the accusative case) has the gender-neutral meaning of "a human being", "a person" (unlike the words in Romance languages it gave rise to, such as French homme and Italian uomo). A translation of ad hominem that preserves this gender-neutrality is "to the person". In contrast, ad feminam is gender-specific and used to describe attacks on women as women or because they are women.
 Tu quoque
Main article: Tu quoque
Ad hominem tu quoque (literally: "You also") refers to a claim that the source making the argument has spoken or acted in a way inconsistent with the argument. In particular, if Source A criticizes the actions of Source B, a tu quoque response is that Source A has acted in the same way. This argument is fallacious because it does not disprove the argument; if the premise is true then Source A may be a hypocrite, but this does not make the statement less credible from a logical perspective. Indeed, Source A may be in a position to provide personal testimony to support the argument.
For example, a father may tell his son not to start smoking as he will regret it when he is older, and the son may point out that his father is or was a smoker. This does not alter the fact that his son may regret smoking when he is older.
 Guilt by association
Main article: Association fallacy
Guilt by association can sometimes also be a type of ad hominem fallacy if the argument attacks a source because of the similarity between the views of someone making an argument and other proponents of the argument.
This form of the argument is as follows:
1.Source S makes claim C.
2.Group G, which is currently viewed negatively by the recipient, also makes claim C.
3.Therefore, source S is viewed by the recipient of the claim as associated to the group G and inherits how negatively viewed it is.
 Halo effect
See also; List of cognitive biases
Ad hominem arguments work via the halo effect, a human cognitive bias in which the perception of one trait is influenced by the perception of an unrelated trait, e.g. treating an attractive person as more intelligent or more honest. People tend to see others as tending to all good or tending to all bad. Thus, if you can attribute a bad trait to your opponent, others will tend to doubt the quality of their arguments, even if the bad trait is irrelevant to the arguments.
 Questions about the notion of an ad hominem fallacy
Doug Walton, Canadian academic and author, has argued that ad hominem reasoning is not always fallacious, and that in some instances, questions of personal conduct, character, motives, etc., are legitimate and relevant to the issue, as when it directly involves hypocrisy, or actions contradicting the subject's words.
The philosopher Charles Taylor has argued that ad hominem reasoning is essential to understanding certain moral issues, and contrasts this sort of reasoning with the apodictic reasoning of philosophical naturalism.
Olavo de Carvalho, Brazilian philosopher, has argued that ad hominem reasoning not only has rhetorical, but also logical value. As an example, he cites Karl Marx's idea that only the proletariat has an objective view of history. If that were to be taken rigorously, an ad hominem argument would effectively render Marx's general theory as incoherent: as Marx was not a proletarian, his own view of history couldn't be objective.
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The offence of the natural
And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
--- Galatians 5:24.
The natural life is not sinful; we must be apostatized from sin, have nothing to do with sin in any shape or form. Sin belongs to hell and the devil; I, as a child of God, belong to heaven and God. It is not a question of giving up sin, but of giving up my right to myself, my natural independence and self-assertiveness, and this is where the battle has to be fought. It is the things that are right and noble and good from the natural standpoint that keep us back from God’s best. To discern that natural virtues antagonize surrender to God, is to bring our soul into the centre of its greatest battle. Very few of us debate with the sordid and evil and wrong, but we do debate with the good. It is the good that hates the best, and the higher up you get in the scale of the natural virtues, the more intense is the opposition to Jesus Christ. “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh”—it is going to cost the natural in you everything, not something. Jesus said—“If any man will be My disciple, let him deny himself” i.e., his right to himself, and a man has to realize Who Jesus Christ is before he will do it. Beware of refusing to go to the funeral of your own independence.
The natural life is not spiritual, and it can only be made spiritual by sacrifice. If we do not resolutely sacrifice the natural, the supernatural can never become natural in us. There is no royal road there; each of us has it entirely in his own hands. It is not a question of praying, but of performing.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Something to bring back to show
you have been there: a lock of God's
hair, stolen from him while he was
asleep; a photograph of the garden
of the spirit. As has been said,
the point of traveling is not
to arrive, but to return home
laden with pollen you shall work up
into the honey the mind feeds on.
What are our lives but harbors
we are continually setting out
from, airports at which we touch
down and remain in too briefly
to recognize what it is they remind
us of? And always in one
another we seek the proof
of experiences it would be worth
Surely there is a shirt of fire
this one wore, that is hung up now
like some rare fleece in the hall of
Surely these husbands and wives
have dipped their marriages in a fast
spring? Surely there exists
as the justification for our looking
the one light that can cast
The Poems of R.S. Thomas
When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. --- Luke 22:14.
What [else] did this table companionship imply?
Till He Come
A third meaning of the assembling around the table is camaraderie. Our Lord showed himself one with them, a brother indeed. We do not read that there was any order of priority by which their seats were arranged.
You have no right to come to that table unless those who are washed in Jesus’ blood have a claim on your love and on your benevolence. Are you to live together forever in heaven, and will you show no affection for one another here below? It is your Master’s new command that you love one another; will you disregard it? He has given this as the badge of Christians: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples”—not if you wear a gold cross, but—“if you love one another” (John 13:35).
But this table means more yet: it signifies common enjoyment. Jesus eats, and they eat, the same bread. He drinks, and they drink, the same cup. There is no distinction in the provisions. What means this? The very joy that delights Christ is that which he prepares for his people. You, if you are a true believer, have part in Christ’s joy, you delight to see his kingdom come, the truth advanced, sinners saved, grace glorified, holiness promoted, God exalted; this also is his delight. But are you certain that the mainstay of your life is the same as his, namely, to do the will of the heavenly Father? If it is, may you joy in him as he joys in you, and so may your fellowship be sweet!
The feast at the one table indicated familiar affection. It is the child’s place to sit at the table with its parents, for there affection rules. People at the table often reveal their minds more fully than elsewhere. Now, the Lord Jesus Christ sat at the table with his disciples. ’Twas a meal of a simple kind; intimate exchange ruled the hour. Oh, brothers and sisters, I am afraid we have come to this table sometimes and gone away again without having had communion with Christ, and then it has been an empty formality and nothing more. Do pray the Lord to reveal himself to you. Ask that it may not be a dead form to you but that now in very deed you may give to Christ your heart, while he will show you his hands and his side and make known to you his agonies and death, with which he redeemed you from the coming wrath. All this, and vastly more, is the teaching of the table at which Jesus sat with the Twelve.
--- C. H. Spurgeon
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
The Dream Team
They have been called the Dream Team of missions, seven young aristocratic athletes from Cambridge who stunned England by renouncing fame and fortune to serve Christ in the back country of Asia as missionaries with the China Inland Mission. The greatest speaker among them was Stanley Smith, who was captain of Cambridge’s rowing team. Charles T. Studd, captain of the Cambridge cricket team, was a poor speaker, but imposing in appearance. Smith, Studd, and their five compatriots toured the British Isles, preaching Christ and promoting missions, prior to their departure for the field. They were a media sensation.
On Tuesday, December 9, 1884, Smith and Studd arrived in Edinburgh to speak to students at the university there. They had been staying up all night at various colleges, praying and talking to students, and were in a “mortal funk,” as Studd later described it. Organizers had rented the Free Assembly Hall, distributed bundles of flyers, and put men in placards on sidewalks. There were two fears. Some worried that few of the skeptical Scottish students would show up; others were afraid the meetings would be disrupted by heckling. Studd and Smith spent the afternoon in prayer, “till they got the victory.”
The building was crammed well before the appointed hour, and when the two athletes entered the hall they were loudly cheered. Studd spoke first. His remarks were halting, but his devotion to Christ melted the crowd. Then Smith spoke about the hypocrisy of Christians lacking full commitment. The atmosphere was tense with spiritual power, and when Smith finished the students surged around him wanting to hear more of Christ and the Great Commission. Later that Evening, the two young men arrived at the train station and found it thronged with young people shouting “Speech! Speech!” As the train pulled from the platform, the students ran after it singing, “God be with you till we meet again.”
The Cambridge Seven catapulted the China Inland Mission to the attention of the world. When they arrived in China in 1885, CIM had 163 missionaries there. By 1900 there were 800.
When the good news about the kingdom has been preached all over the world and told to all nations, the end will come.
--- Matthew 24:14.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
God Is In The Manger (Day 6)
The Mysteries of God
No priest, no theologian stood at the manger of Bethlehem. And yet all Christian theology has its origin in the wonder of all wonders: that God became human. Holy theology arises from knees bent before the mystery of' the divine child in the stable. Without the holy night, there is no theology. "God is revealed in flesh," the God-human Jesus Christ¬ that is the holy mystery that theology came into being to protect and preserve. How we fail to understand when we think that the task of theology is to solve the mystery of'God, to drag it down to the flat, ordinary wisdom of human experience and reason! Its sole office is to preserve the miracle as miracle, to comprehend, defend, and glorify God's mystery precisely as mystery. This and nothing else, therefore, is what the early church meant when, with never flagging zeal, it dealt with the mystery of the Trinity and the person of Jesus Christ.... If Christmas time cannot ignite within us again something like a love for holy theology, so that we - captured and compelled by the wonder of the manger of the Son of God - must reverently reflect on the mysteries of God, then it must be that the glow of the divine mysteries has also been extinguished in our heart and has died out.
Wonder is the only adequate launching pad for exploring this fullness, this wholeness, of human life. Once a year, each Christmas, for a few days at least, we and millions of our neighbors turn aside from our pre-occupations with life reduced to biology or economics or psychology and join together in a community of wonder. The wonder keeps us open-eyed, expectant, alive to life that is always more than we can account for, that always exceeds our calculations, that is always beyond anything we can make.
(Lk 2:15–20) 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. ESV
God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - December 9
“Therefore will the Lord wait that he may be gracious unto you." Isaiah 30:18.
God often DELAYS IN ANSWERING PRAYER. We have several instances of this in sacred Scripture. Jacob did not get the blessing from the angel until near the dawn of day—he had to wrestle all night for it. The poor woman of Syrophenicia was answered not a word for a long while. Paul besought the Lord thrice that “the thorn in the flesh” might be taken from him, and he received no assurance that it should be taken away, but instead thereof a promise that God’s grace should be sufficient for him. If thou hast been knocking at the gate of mercy, and hast received no answer, shall I tell thee why the mighty Maker hath not opened the door and let thee in? Our Father has reasons peculiar to himself for thus keeping us waiting. Sometimes it is to show his power and his sovereignty, that men may know that Jehovah has a right to give or to withhold. More frequently the delay is for our profit. Thou art perhaps kept waiting in order that thy desires may be more fervent. God knows that delay will quicken and increase desire, and that if he keeps thee waiting thou wilt see thy necessity more clearly, and wilt seek more earnestly; and that thou wilt prize the mercy all the more for its long tarrying. There may also be something wrong in thee which has need to be removed, before the joy of the Lord is given. Perhaps thy views of the Gospel plan are confused, or thou mayest be placing some little reliance on thyself, instead of trusting simply and entirely to the Lord Jesus. Or, God makes thee tarry awhile that he may the more fully display the riches of his grace to thee at last. Thy prayers are all filed in heaven, and if not immediately answered they are certainly not forgotten, but in a little while shall be fulfilled to thy delight and satisfaction. Let not despair make thee silent, but continue instant in earnest supplication.
Evening - December 9
“My people shall dwell in quiet resting places.” --- Isaiah 32:18.
Peace and rest belong not to the unregenerate, they are the peculiar possession of the Lord’s people, and of them only. The God of Peace gives perfect peace to those whose hearts are stayed upon him. When man was unfallen, his God gave him the flowery bowers of Eden as his quiet resting places; alas! how soon sin blighted the fair abode of innocence. In the day of universal wrath when the flood swept away a guilty race, the chosen family were quietly secured in the resting-place of the ark, which floated them from the old condemned world into the new earth of the rainbow and the covenant, herein typifying Jesus, the ark of our salvation. Israel rested safely beneath the blood-besprinkled habitations of Egypt when the destroying angel smote the first-born; and in the wilderness the shadow of the pillar of cloud, and the flowing rock, gave the weary pilgrims sweet repose. At this hour we rest in the promises of our faithful God, knowing that his words are full of truth and power; we rest in the doctrines of his word, which are consolation itself; we rest in the covenant of his grace, which is a haven of delight. More highly favoured are we than David in Adullam, or Jonah beneath his gourd, for none can invade or destroy our shelter. The person of Jesus is the quiet resting-place of his people, and when we draw near to him in the breaking of the bread, in the hearing of the word, the searching of the Scriptures, prayer, or praise, we find any form of approach to him to be the return of peace to our spirits. “I hear the words of love, I gaze upon the blood,
I see the mighty sacrifice, and I have peace with God.
’Tis everlasting peace, sure as Jehovah’s name,
’Tis stable as his steadfast throne, for evermore the same:
The clouds may go and come, and storms may sweep my sky,
This blood-sealed friendship changes not, the cross is ever nigh.”
Morning and Evening
JOY TO THE WORLD!
Isaac Watts, 1674–1748
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10
As one of the most joyous of all Christmas hymns, this carol omits references to shepherds, angelic choruses, and wise men. It emphasizes instead the reverent but ecstatic joy that Christ’s birth brought to mankind. For centuries hearts had yearned for God to reveal Himself personally. At last it happened as “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The entire Advent season should be filled with solemn rejoicing as we contemplate anew God’s great gift, providing the means whereby sinful man might live eternally.
“Joy to the World” is a paraphrase of the last part of Psalm 98:
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth; make a loud noise and rejoice and sing praise. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together before the Lord; for He cometh to judge the earth; with righteousness shall He judge the world, and the people with equity.
Although it was originally a song of rejoicing for Jehovah’s protection of His chosen people and the anticipation of the time when He would be the God of the whole earth, this psalm was intended by Watts to be a New Testament expression of praise. It exalts the salvation that began when God became incarnate as the Babe of Bethlehem who was destined to remove the curse of Adam’s fall. The text was originally titled “The Messiah’s Coming and Kingdom” when it first appeared in Watts’ hymnal of 1719. The music for this popular carol is thought to have been adapted by Lowell Mason, an American church musician, from some of the phrases used in parts of George Frederick Handel’s beloved oratorio, The Messiah, first performed in 1742.
Through the combined talents of an English literary genius of the 18th century, a German-born musical giant from the same period, and a 19th century American choir director and educator, another great hymn was born.
Joy to the world! the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King; let ev’ry heart prepare Him room, and heav’n and nature sing.
Joy to the earth the Savior reigns. Let men their songs employ, while fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains repeat the sounding joy.
No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.
He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love.
For Today: Genesis 3:17, 18; Psalm 98; Romans 5:20, 21
Express gratitude for our Savior’s birth with these words ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
(2.) Punishing the transgressions of his law. This is a necessary branch of dominion. His sovereignty in making laws would be a trifle, if there were not also an authority to vindicate those laws from contempt and injury; he would be a Lord only spurned at by rebels. Sovereignty is not preserved without justice. When the Psalmist speaks of the majesty of God’s kingdom, he tells us, that “righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne” (Psalm 97:1, 2). These are the engines of Divine dignity which render him glorious and majestic. A legislative power would be trampled on without executive; by this the reverential apprehensions of God are preserved in the world. He is known to be Lord of the world “by the judgments which he executes” (Psalm 9:16). When he seems to have lost his dominion, or given it up in the world, he recovers it by punishment. When he takes some away “with a whirlwind, and in his wrath,” the natural consequence men make of it, is this: “Surely there is a God that judgeth the earth” (Psalm 58:9, 11). He reduceth the creature, by the lash of his judgments, that would not acknowledge his authority in his precepts. Those sins which disown his government in the heart and conscience, as pride, inward blasphemy, &c., he hath reserved a time hereafter to reckon for. He doth not presently shoot his arrows into the marrow of every delinquent, but those sins which traduce his government of the world, and tear up the foundations of human converse, and a public respect to him, he reckons with particularly here, as well as hereafter, that the life of his sovereignty might not always faint in the world.
(3.) This of punishing was the second discovery of his dominion in the world. His first act of sovereignty was the giving a law; the next, his appearance in the state of a judge. When his orders were violated, he rescues the honor of them by an execution of justice. He first judged the angels, punishing the evil ones for their crime: the first court he kept among them as a governor, was to give them a law; the second court he kept was as a judge trying the delinquents, and adjudging the offenders to be “reserved in chains of darkness” till the final execution (Jude 6); and, at the same time probably, he confirmed the good ones in their obedience by grace. So the first discovery of his dominion to man, was the giving him a precept, the next was the inflicting a punishment for the breach of it. He summons Adam to the bar, indicts him for his crime, finds him guilty by his own confession, and passeth sentence on him, according to the rule he had before acquainted him with.
(4.) The means whereby he punisheth shows his dominion. Sometimes he musters up hail and mildew; sometimes he sends regiments of wild beasts; so he threatens Israel (Lev. 26:22). Sometimes he sends out a party of angels to beat up the quarters of men, and make a carnage among them (2 Kings 19:35). Sometimes he mounts his thundering battery, and shoots forth his ammunition from the clouds, as against the Philistines (1 Sam. 7:10). Sometimes he sends the slightest creatures to shame the pride and punish the sin of man, as “lice, frogs, locusts,” as upon the Egyptians (Exod. 8–10.).
Secondly. This dominion it manifested by God as a proprietor and Lord of his creatures and his own goods. And this is evident,
1. In the choice of some persons from eternity. He hath set apart some from eternity, wherein he will display the invincible efficacy of his grace, and thereby infallibly bring them to the fruition of glory (Eph. 1:4, 5): “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love, having predestinated us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” Why doth he write some names in the “book of life,” and leave out others? Why doth he enrol some, whom he intends to make denizens of heaven, and refuse to put others in his register? The apostle tells us, it is the pleasure of his will. You may render a reason for many of God’s actions, till you come to this, the top and foundation of all; and under what head of reason can man reduce this act but to that of his royal prerogative? Why doth God save some, and condemn others at last? because of the faith of the one, and unbelief of the other. Why do some men believe? because God hath not only given them the means of grace, but accompanied those means with the efficacy of his Spirit. Why did God accompany those means with the efficacy of his Spirit in some, and not in others? because he had decreed by grace to prepare them for glory. But why did he decree, or choose some, and not others? Into what will you resolve this but into his sovereign pleasure? Salvation and condemnation at the last upshot, are acts of God as the Judge, conformable to his own law of giving life to believers, and inflicting death upon unbelievers; for those a reason may be rendered; but the choice of some, and preterition of others, is an act of God as he is a sovereign monarch, before any law was actually transgressed, because not actually given. When a prince redeems a rebel, he acts as a judge according to law; but when he calls some out to pardon, he acts as a sovereign by a prerogative above law; into this the apostle resolves it (Rom. 9:13, 15). When he speaks of God’s loving Jacob and hating Esau, and that before they had done either good or evil, it is, “because God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and compassion on whom he will have compassion.” Though the first scope of the apostle, in the beginning of the chapter, was to declare the reason of God’s rejecting the Jews, and calling in the Gentiles; had he only intended to demolish the pride of the Jews, and flat their opinion of merit, and aimed no higher than that providential act of God; he might, convincingly enough to the reason of men, have argued from the justice of God, provoked by the obstinacy of the Jews, and not have had recourse to his absolute will; but, since he asserts this latter, the strength of his argument seems to he thus: if God by his absolute sovereignty may resolve, and fix his love upon Jacob and estrange it from Esau, or any other of his creatures, before they have done good or evil, and man have no ground to call his infinite majesty to account, may he not deal thus with the Jews, when their demerit would be a bar to any complaints of the creature against him? If God were considered here in the quality of a judge, it had been fit to have considered the matter of fact in the criminal; but he is considered as a sovereign, rendering no other reason of his action but his own will; “whom he will he hardens” (ver. 18). And then the apostle concludes (ver. 20), “Who art thou, O man, that repliest against God?” If the reason drawn from God’s sovereignty doth not satisfy in this inquiry, no other reason can be found wherein to acquiesce: for the last condemnation there will be sufficient reason to clear the justice of his proceedings. But, in this case of election, no other reason but what is alleged, viz., the will of God, can be thought of, but what is liable to such knotty exceptions that cannot well be untied.
(1.) It could not be any merit in the creature that might determine God to choose him. If the decree of election falls not under the merit of Christ’s passion, as the procuring cause, it cannot fall under the merit of any part of the corrupted mass. The decree of sending Christ did not precede, but followed, in order of nature, the determination of choosing some. When men were chosen as the subjects for glory, Christ was chosen as the means for the bringing them to glory (Eph. 1:4): “Chosen us in him, and predestinated us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ.” The choice was not merely in Christ as the moving cause; that the apostle asserts to be “the good pleasure of his will;” but in Christ, as the means of conveying to the chosen ones the fruits of their election. What could there be in any man that could invite God to this act, or be a cause of distinction of one branch of Adam from another? Were they not all hewed out of the same rock, and tainted with the same corruption in blood? Had it been possible to invest them with a power of merit at the first, had not that venom, contracted in their nature, degraded all of power for the future? What merit was there in any but of wrathful punishment, since they were all considered as criminals, and the cursed brood of an ungrateful rebel? What dignity can there be in the nature of the purest part of clay, to be made a vessel of honor, more than in another part of clay, as pure as that which was formed into a vessel for mean and sordid use? What had any one to move his mercy more than another, since they were all children of wrath, and equally daubed with original guilt and filth? Had not all an equal proportion of it to provoke his justice? What merit is there in one dry bone more than another, to be inspired with the breath of a spiritual life? Did not all lie wallowing in their own filthy blood? and what could the steam and noisomeness of that deserve at the hands of a pure Majesty, but to be cast into a sink furthest from his sight? Were they not all considered in this deplorable posture, with an equal proportion of poison in their nature, when God first took his pen, and singled out some names to write in the book of life? It could not be merit in any one piece of this abominable mass, that should stir up that resolution in God to set apart this person for a vessel of glory, while he permitted another to putrefy in his own gore. He loved Jacob, and hated Esau, though they were both parts of the common mass, the seed of the same loins, and lodged in the same womb.
(2.) Nor could it be any foresight of works to be done in time by them, or of faith, that might determine God to choose them. What good could he foresee resulting from extreme corruption, and a nature alienated from him? What could he foresee of good to be done by them, but what he resolved in his own will, to bestow an ability upon them to bring forth? His choice of them was to holiness, not for a holiness preceding his determination (Eph. 1:4). He hath chosen us, “that we might be holy” before him; he ordained us “to good works,” not for them (Eph. 2:10). What is a fruit cannot be a moving cause of that whereof it is a fruit: grace is a stream from the spring of electing love; the branch is not the cause of the root, but the root of the branch; nor the stream the cause of the spring, but the spring the cause of the stream. Good works suppose grace, and a good and right habit in the person, as rational acts suppose reason. Can any man say that the rational acts man performs after his creation were a cause why God created him? This would make creation, and everything else, not so much an act of his will, as an act of his understanding. God foresaw no rational act in man, before the act of his will to give him reason; nor foresees faith in any, before the act of his will determining to give him faith: “Faith is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). In the salvation which grows up from this first purpose of God, he regards not the works we have done, as a principal motive to settle the top-stone of our happiness, but his own purpose, and the grace given in Christ; “who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our own works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ, before the world began” (2 Tim. 1:9). The honor of our salvation cannot be challenged by our works, much less the honor of the foundation of it. It was a pure gift of grace, without any respect to any spiritual, much less natural, perfection. Why should the apostle mention that circumstance, when he speaks of God’s loving Jacob, and hating Esau, “when neither of them had done good or evil” (Rom. 9:11), if there were any foresight of men’s works as the moving cause of his love or hatred? God regarded not the works of either as the first cause of his choice, but acted by his own liberty, without respect to any of their actions which were to be done by them in time. If faith be the fruit of election, the prescience of faith doth not influence the electing act of God. It is called “the faith of God’s elect” (Tit. 1:1): “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect;” i. e. settled in this office to bring the elect of God to faith. If men be chosen by God upon the foresight of faith, or not chosen till they have faith, they are not so much God’s elect, as God their elect; they choose God by faith, before God chooseth them by love: it had not been the faith of God’s elect, i. e. of those already chosen, but the faith of those that were to be chosen by God afterwards. Election is the cause of faith, and not faith the cause of election; fire is the cause of heat, and not the heat of fire; the sun is the cause of the day, and not the day the cause of the rising of the sun. Men are not chosen because they believe, but they believe because they are chosen: the apostle did ill, else, to appropriate that to the elect which they had no more interest in, by virtue of their election, than the veriest reprobate in the world. If the foresight of what works might be done by his creatures was the motive of his choosing them, why did he not choose the devils to redemption, who could have done him better service, by the strength of their nature, than the whole mass of Adam’s posterity? Well, then, there is no possible way to lay the original foundation of this act of election and preterition in anything but the absolute sovereignty of God. Justice or injustice comes not into consideration in this case. There is no debt which justice or injustice always respects in its acting: if he had pleased, he might have chosen all; if he had pleased, he might have chosen none. It was in his supreme power to have resolved to have left all Adam’s posterity under the rack of his justice; if he determined to snatch out any, it was a part of his dominion, but without any injury to the creatures he leaves under their own guilt. Did he not pass by the angels, and take man? and, by the same right of dominion, may he pick out some men from the common mass, and lay aside others to bear the punishment of their crimes. Are they not all his subjects? all are his criminals, and may be dealt with at the pleasure of their undoubted Lord and Sovereign. This is a work of arbitrary power; since he might have chosen none, or chosen all, as he saw good himself. It is at the liberty of the artificer to determine his wood or stone to such a figure, that of a prince, or that of a toad; and his materials have no right to complain of him, since it lies wholly upon his own liberty. They must have little sense of their own vileness, and God’s infinite excellency above them by right of creation, that will contend that God hath a lesser right over his creatures than an artificer over his wood or stone. If it were at his liberty whether to redeem man, or send Christ upon such an undertaking, it is as much at his liberty, and the prerogative is to be allowed him, what person he will resolve to make capable of enjoying the fruits of that redemption. One man was as fit a subject for mercy as another, as they all lay in their original guilt: why would not Divine mercy cast its eye upon this man, as well as upon his neighbor? There was no cause in the creature, but all in God; it must be resolved into his own will: yet not into a will without wisdom. God did not choose hand over head, and act by mere will, without reason and understanding; an Infinite Wisdom is far from such a kind of procedure; but the reason of God is inscrutable to us, unless we could understand God as well as he understands himself; the whole ground lies in God himself, no part of it in the creature; “not in him that wills, nor in him that runs, but in God that shows mercy” (Rom. 9:15, 16). Since God hath revealed no other cause than his will, we can resolve it into no other than his sovereign empire over all creatures. It is not without a stop to our curiosity, that in the same place where God asserts the absolute sovereignty of his mercy to Moses, he tells him he could not see his face: “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious;” and he said, “Thou canst not see my face” (Exod. 33:19, 20): the rays of his infinite wisdom are too bright and dazzling for our weakness. The apostle acknowledged not only a wisdom in this proceeding, but a riches and treasure of wisdom; not only that, but a depth and vastness of those riches of wisdom; but was unable to give us an inventory and scheme of it (Rom. 11:33). The secrets of his counsels are too deep for us to wade into; in attempting to know the reason of those acts, we should find ourselves swallowed up into a bottomless gulf: though the understanding be above our capacity, yet the admiration of his authority and submission to it are not. “We should cast ourselves down at his feet, with a full resignation of ourselves to his sovereign pleasure.” This is a more comely carriage in a Christian than all the contentious endeavors to measure God by our line.
2. In bestowing grace where he pleases. God in conversion and pardon works not as a natural agent, putting forth strength to the utmost, which God must do, if he did renew man naturally, as the sun shines, and the fire burns, which always act, ad extremum virium, unless a cloud interpose to eclipse the one, and water to extinguish the other. But God acts as a voluntary agent, which can freely exert his power when he please, and suspend it when he please. Though God be necessarily good, yet he is not necessitated to manifest all the treasures of his goodness to every subject; he hath power to distil his dews upon one part, and not upon another. If he were necessitated to express his goodness without a liberty, no thanks were due to him. Who thanks the sun for shining on him, or the fire for warming him? None; because they are necessary agents, and can do no other. What is the reason he did not reach out his hand to keep all the angels from sinking, as well as some, or recover them when they were sunk? What is the reason he engrafts one man into the true Vine, and lets the other remain a wild olive? Why is not the efficacy of the Spirit always linked with the motions of the Spirit? Why does he not mould the heart into a gospel frame when he fills the ear with a gospel sound? Why doth he strike off the chains from some, and tear the veil from the heart, while he leaves others under their natural slavery and Egyptian darkness? Why do some lie under the bands of death, while another is raised to a spiritual life? What reason is there for all this but his absolute will? The apostle resolves the question, if the question be asked, why he begets one and not another? Not from the will of the creature, but “his own will,” is the determination of one (James 2:18). Why doth he work in one “to will and to do,” and not in another? Because of “his good pleasure,” is the answer of another (Phil. 2:13). He could as well new create every one, as he at first created them, and make grace as universal as nature and reason, but it is not his pleasure so to do.
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