The People ComplainNumbers 11 1 And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp. 2 Then the people cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the LORD, and the fire died down. 3 So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the LORD burned among them.
4 Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. 6 But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” 7 Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium. 8 The people went about and gathered it and ground it in handmills or beat it in mortars and boiled it in pots and made cakes of it. And the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil. 9 When the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell with it. 10 Moses heard the people weeping throughout their clans, everyone at the door of his tent. And the anger of the LORD blazed hotly, and Moses was displeased. 11 Moses said to the LORD, “Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? 12 Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,’ to the land that you swore to give their fathers? 13 Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ 14 I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.”
Elders Appointed to Aid Moses16 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. 17 And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone. 18 And say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat, for you have wept in the hearing of the LORD, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat? For it was better for us in Egypt.” Therefore the LORD will give you meat, and you shall eat. 19 You shall not eat just one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, 20 but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have rejected the LORD who is among you and have wept before him, saying, “Why did we come out of Egypt?” ’ ” 21 But Moses said, “The people among whom I am number six hundred thousand on foot, and you have said, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat a whole month!’ 22 Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, and be enough for them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, and be enough for them?” 23 And the LORD said to Moses, “Is the LORD’s hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.”
24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD. And he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tent. 25 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they did not continue doing it.
26 Now two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the Spirit rested on them. They were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. 27 And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, “My lord Moses, stop them.” 29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” 30 And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.
Quail and a Plague31 Then a wind from the LORD sprang up, and it brought quail from the sea and let them fall beside the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and a day’s journey on the other side, around the camp, and about two cubits above the ground. 32 And the people rose all that day and all night and all the next day, and gathered the quail. Those who gathered least gathered ten homers. And they spread them out for themselves all around the camp. 33 While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD struck down the people with a very great plague. 34 Therefore the name of that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had the craving. 35 From Kibroth-hattaavah the people journeyed to Hazeroth, and they remained at Hazeroth.
Miriam and Aaron Oppose MosesNumbers 12 1 Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. 2 And they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the LORD heard it. 3 Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. 4 And suddenly the LORD said to Moses and to Aaron and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.” And the three of them came out. 5 And the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the tent and called Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forward. 6 And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. 7 Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. 8 With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” 9 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them, and he departed. 10 When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, like snow. And Aaron turned toward Miriam, and behold, she was leprous. 11 And Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned. 12 Let her not be as one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes out of his mother’s womb.” 13 And Moses cried to the LORD, “O God, please heal her—please.” 14 But the LORD said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut outside the camp seven days, and after that she may be brought in again.” 15 So Miriam was shut outside the camp seven days, and the people did not set out on the march till Miriam was brought in again. 16 After that the people set out from Hazeroth, and camped in the wilderness of Paran.
Spies Sent into CanaanNumbers 13 1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel. From each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a chief among them.” 3 So Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran, according to the command of the LORD, all of them men who were heads of the people of Israel. 4 And these were their names: From the tribe of Reuben, Shammua the son of Zaccur; 5 from the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat the son of Hori; 6 from the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh; 7 from the tribe of Issachar, Igal the son of Joseph; 8 from the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea the son of Nun; 9 from the tribe of Benjamin, Palti the son of Raphu; 10 from the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel the son of Sodi; 11 from the tribe of Joseph (that is, from the tribe of Manasseh), Gaddi the son of Susi; 12 from the tribe of Dan, Ammiel the son of Gemalli; 13 from the tribe of Asher, Sethur the son of Michael; 14 from the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi the son of Vophsi; 15 from the tribe of Gad, Geuel the son of Machi. 16 These were the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun Joshua.
17 Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan and said to them, “Go up into the Negeb and go up into the hill country, 18 and see what the land is, and whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak, whether they are few or many, 19 and whether the land that they dwell in is good or bad, and whether the cities that they dwell in are camps or strongholds, 20 and whether the land is rich or poor, and whether there are trees in it or not. Be of good courage and bring some of the fruit of the land.” Now the time was the season of the first ripe grapes.
21 So they went up and spied out the land from the wilderness of Zin to Rehob, near Lebo-hamath. 22 They went up into the Negeb and came to Hebron. Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, were there. (Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) 23 And they came to the Valley of Eshcol and cut down from there a branch with a single cluster of grapes, and they carried it on a pole between two of them; they also brought some pomegranates and figs. 24 That place was called the Valley of Eshcol, because of the cluster that the people of Israel cut down from there.
Report of the Spies25 At the end of forty days they returned from spying out the land. 26 And they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the people of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh. They brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28 However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan.”
30 But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” 31 Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” 32 So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. 33 And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”
The Reformation Study Bible
What I'm Reading
The More Science, the More Reasonable the Pro-Life Position
By J. Warner Wallace 2/11/2018
When I was a new homicide detective, much of the science and technology we now take for granted was unavailable. While fingerprint analysis was common, forensic DNA technology was still in its infancy. In addition, few locations around the country were monitored by surveillance cameras, and even fewer victims or witnesses had access to high definition video technology. Times have certainly changed. I seldom review a case today that doesn’t benefit from DNA evidence, and more cases involve smart phone videos than ever before. As a result, it’s far easier to identify suspects than it has been in the past.
Crime scenes aren’t the only locations that have benefited from scientific advances. Technology is also making it easier to identify fetal humans in the womb. In a recent article in The Atlantic, journalist Emma Green reported that pro-life advocates “are tracking new developments in neonatal research and technology – and transforming one of America’s most contentious debates.” She’s right. When trying to answer the critical question, “What is a fetus, and when (if ever) is it human?” science can now help provide us with an answer, using many of the same categories of forensic technology I’ve used at crime scenes:
DNA Evidence | We now know that from the moment of conception, the resulting fetal human has a unique DNA, distinct from the mother and father. This DNA will not change as the fetal human continues to age over the course of his or her life, and the unique nature of the DNA identifies the baby as a member of the human species immediately.
Fingerprint Evidence | Fingerprints begin to develop relatively early in the life of fetal humans. Pads (bumps) form on the baby’s fingertips and palms within 6 to 13 weeks of conception, and as early as 10 weeks, these pads begin to develop the epidermal ridges destined to become fingerprints. From the very beginning they are unique to each fetal human, and by 21 to 24 weeks they will possess their final, mature form.
Video Imaging Evidence | 4D ultrasound technology now allows us to reproduce a moving image of fetal humans in the womb. Using sound waves, it creates a series of three-dimensional images resulting in what looks like a livevideo. The clarity of these video images is remarkable, showing every movement and feature of the baby – in real time. When jurors watch a video taken at a crime scene, it’s far easier for them to identify the suspect. When watching 4D ultrasound videos, it’s far easier to identify fetal humans as… humans.
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.
Being Prophetic Without Being a Self-Righteous Know-It-All
By Dennis R. Edwards 2/7/2017
Nowadays, especially in light of the new president’s administration, virtually everyone wants to be a prophet, as some claim to “speak truth to power” while thundering from their echo chambers, or glibly offering alternative facts without blinking an eye. Yet, words of deep wisdom simultaneously ring out from others with boldness, clarity, conviction, and faith, offering a clarion call for proper thinking and godly action. Discernment is of paramount importance.
We have always needed prophets, women and men who speak to the now as well as the not-yet, who foretell and forth-tell, who agitate and activate, whose parabolic pondering take us on a trajectory toward truth. The goal of biblical prophecy was to get the people of God to turn in the right direction.
The Hebrew command, shuv, is often translated as “repent,” or “turn.” One of my Old Testament professors from way back in the day, the “punny” Dr. Walter Kaiser, would often say “Israel’s prophets gave the people a shuv in the right direction.”
Four Principles That Guide Prophetic Ministry | Over the years, some have said that I posses a prophetic gift (and the longer I serve God’s people the more I understand the words of Jesus in Matt 13:57 —let the reader understand!). Here are four principles that guide my prophetic ministry. I offer this for those in the “school of the prophets” as well as those who are trying to discern the holy among all manner of uttering.
1. Do the biblical exegesis | The Old Testament prophets typically opened their oracles with “This is what YHWH says!” Lots of people claim to speak for the LORD, but sometimes human words actually come from knee-jerk reactionary anger, damaged psyches, wishful thinking, Oprah, or last night’s spicy meal. Throwing Bible verses at people or posting them on Facebook isn’t the same as understanding what God is saying. Studying Scripture is hard work.
Dennis R. Edwards hails from New York City, by way of Washington, DC. He's a learner and a teacher, a husband and a father, a pastor and servant. His BS degree is from Cornell (chemical engineering), his MDiv from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and both his MA and PhD (in Biblical Studies) are from The Catholic University of America. He has been in urban ministry for more than 2 decades, having started churches in Brooklyn, NY and Washington, DC and currently serving a congregation in Minneapolis, MN. He's also been an adjunct seminary instructor for several years. He likes to lift weights, ride his bicycle, play racquetball, play around on his saxophone and flute, eat, and read. And he has no witty thing to say as the final sentence of this bio.
Resolved: To Read the Bible Why and How to Journey in the Word
By David Mathis 12/31/2014
Whether you feel like a beginner, or the grizzled old veteran, one of the most important things you can do is regularly read the Bible for yourself.
It is a remarkable thing that we have Bibles we can read personally, whenever we want. For most of church history, and still today in many places in the world, Christians have not had their own personal copies of the Bible. They had to gather to hear someone read it to them. “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture” (1 Timothy 4:13) was all they had for Bible time.
But now, with printed Bibles and electronic options galore, we have priceless access to God’s very words to us, words that we are so tragically tempted to take lightly. Reading your own copy of the Bible daily is not a law that every believer must abide; most Christians have not had this option. But daily Bible reading is an extraordinary means of God’s grace. Why miss this bounty and blessing?
The Whole Thing? | “All Scripture,” says 2 Timothy 3:16, “is breathed out by God and profitable.” It is the whole Bible, says Sinclair Ferguson, which was given to make whole Christians. Everything in Scripture, from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, is for the good of the church. “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
But not every text functions to build our faith in the same way, and has the same effect for every one of God’s children in the new covenant. It is a wonderful thing to read all the way through the Bible. It is something that pastors and teachers in the church should strongly consider doing on an annual basis, to let all the Scriptural data pass before their eyes for continually informing their public theological claims. But this is not a yoke to be set on every Christian every year. Though it would be a good thing for every Christian to try at some point, or at least to have some multi-year plan in place to eventually get you through the whole Bible in some cycle.
David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org, pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, and adjunct professor for Bethlehem College & Seminary. He is the husband of Megan, father of four, and his regular articles are available online at desiringGod.org/mathis.
David Mathis Books:
- 1 Habits of Grace Study Guide: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines
- 2 Acting the Miracle: God's Work and Ours in the Mystery of Sanctification
- 3 Finish the Mission: Bringing the Gospel to the Unreached and Unengaged
- 4 How to Stay Christian in Seminary
- 5 The Romantic Rationalist: God, Life, and Imagination in the Work of C. S. Lewis
- 6 Thinking. Loving. Doing.: A Call to Glorify God with Heart and Mind
- 7 Cross: Unrivaled Christ, Unstoppable Gospel, Unreached Peoples, Unending Joy
- 8 With Calvin in the Theater of God: The Glory of Christ and Everyday Life
- 9 By David Mathis - Finish the Mission (First) (9/19/12)
A Dozen Book Favorites, Part 1
By Kenneth Richard Samples 1/2/2018
Only human beings read. The great Greek philosopher Aristotle thought the distinguishing feature of people is their ability to use language. And humans use their unique language ability to think, speak, write, and read.
From a historic Christian perspective, the idea of human exceptionalism is grounded in the biblical truth that people are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27). This imago Dei endowment makes people capable of hunting and gathering truth. And since Christians affirm a propositional (words, statements) revelation from God in the Bible, they join with the Jewish tradition as People of the Book. Thus, reading is a great gift and privilege, but one may also argue that it is a responsibility according to our profound created nature.
12 Book Favorites | This is part one of a three-part series on some of my favorite books. The topics cover theology, philosophy, apologetics, and education. I also note how the books have been helpful to me. The books are listed in alphabetical order, not order of preference:
1. Confessions by St. Augustine
This is St. Augustine’s most famous book and one of the most important Christian books in history. Augustine’s autobiography actually created the genre of biographical writings in Western civilization. Thus, this book is both a Christian and literary classic and it appears in all the great books reading programs. The title, Confessions, is understood in a triple sense: confession of sin, confession of a newfound faith, and confession of the glory of God. When I read this book, I benefit from Augustine’s great wisdom as a Christian philosopher and theologian. But personally, I feel I’m reading the words of an empathetic Christian friend and counselor.
Philosopher and theologian Kenneth Richard Samples has a great passion to help people understand the reasonableness and relevance of Christianity's truth claims. Through his writing and speaking as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), he encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical worldview level.
An intellectual even at a young age, Kenneth's journey to faith in Christ began in earnest during his teenage years as he wrestled with a deep sense of longing and restlessness. His older brother's suicide spurred his efforts to seek answers to life's "big questions." Eventually, he began reading the Bible and attending church, but it was his sister's gift of Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis that helped Kenneth to truly understand the Christian Gospel and to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying and deeply personal faith.
Today, Kenneth focuses on demonstrating the unique compatibility of Christianity's great doctrinal truths with reason and logic. He is the author of several books, including God Among Sages, Christian Endgame, 7 Truths That Changed the World, A World of Difference, and Without a Doubt. He leads RTB's Straight Thinking podcast and also writes Reflections, a weekly blog dedicated to exploring the Christian worldview. Kenneth has spoken at universities and churches around the world on such topics as religion and worldview, the identity of Jesus, and Christian apologetics. He also makes frequent guest appearances on radio programs such as The Frank Sontag Show, Issues Etc., and Stand to Reason, lectures as an adjunct professor at Biola University, and teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California.
An avid student of American history, Kenneth earned a BA in social science with an emphasis in history and philosophy from Concordia University and an MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. Prior to joining RTB in 1997, Kenneth worked for seven years as senior research consultant and correspondence editor at Christian Research Institute, where he regularly cohosted The Bible Answer Man, a popular call-in radio program founded by renowned apologist Dr. Walter Martin. In addition, Kenneth's articles have been published in Christianity Today, Christian Research Journal, and Facts for Faith, and he holds memberships in the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the International Society of Christian Apologetics.
Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan. They have three children.
Kenneth Richard Samples Books:
- 1 God among Sages: Why Jesus Is Not Just Another Religious Leader
- 2 A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test (Reasons to Believe)
- 3 God among Sages: Why Jesus Is Not Just Another Religious Leader
- 4 Christian Endgame: Careful Thinking about the End Times
- 5 Christianity's Most Dangerous Idea (Ebook Shorts)
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 21The King Rejoices in the LORD’s Strength
21 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David.
1 O LORD, in your strength the king rejoices,
and in your salvation how greatly he exults!
2 You have given him his heart’s desire
and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah
3 For you meet him with rich blessings;
you set a crown of fine gold upon his head.
4 He asked life of you; you gave it to him,
length of days forever and ever.
5 His glory is great through your salvation;
splendor and majesty you bestow on him.
6 For you make him most blessed forever;
you make him glad with the joy of your presence.
7 For the king trusts in the LORD,
and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved.
Genesis 49; Luke 2; Job 15; 1 Corinthians 3
By Don Carson 2/16/2018
JESUS GREW UP A THOROUGHLY Jewish boy. Not only was his lineage Jewish, it was Davidic: legally, he belonged to the suppressed royal house (Luke 2:4). Imperial politics were divinely manipulated to ensure that Jesus would be born in the ancient town of David (2:1-4, 11). On the eighth day of his life, he was circumcised (2:21). At the appropriate time, Mary and Joseph offered a sacrifice in keeping with the Law’s prescription of what was required of every firstborn male (2:22-24). “Joseph and Mary,” we are told, did “everything required by the Law of the Lord” (2:39). In the first days of Jesus’ life, Simeon prophetically addressed God in prayer, declaring that the coming of Jesus was “for glory to your people Israel” (2:32); aged Anna “gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (2:38). Every year, Joseph and Mary traveled the long miles from Nazareth to Jerusalem to participate in the Feast of Passover, “according to the custom” (2:41-42), joining tens of thousands of other pilgrims; and of course, Jesus went along, witnessed the slaughter of thousands of Passover lambs, heard the temple choirs, and recited the ancient Scriptures. At the age of twelve, Jesus’ constant exposure to the heritage of his people and the content of their Scriptures led to the extraordinary exchanges he enjoyed with the temple teachers (2:41-52).
We cannot begin to grasp the categories in which Jesus spoke and acted, the categories in which his life and ministry, his death and resurrection, have significance, unless we find them in the ancient Hebrew Bible.
Yet that is not all there is to say. That same Bible does not begin with Abraham and the origins of the Israelites. It begins with God, the origin of the universe, the creation of human beings bearing God’s image, the wretched rebellion of the Fall, the first cycles of judgment and forgiveness, the first promises of redemption to come. Certainly Paul understood that the Bible’s long story of the Jews must be set within the still longer story of the human race, and that even the first calling of the man who is the ancestor of all Jews specifies that through him all the nations of the earth will be blessed (Gal. 3; cf. Gen. 12). Here at the beginning of Jesus’ life, the same framework peeps through. Simeon praises the Sovereign Lord for allowing him to live to see this baby: “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (2:31-32).
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
Apocryphal Writings are All Written in the Second Century or Later
By Michael J. Kruger 2/13/2017
In the prior post, we discussed the first basic fact about the New Testament canon, namely that the New Testament writings are the earliest Christian texts we possess. We were careful to make clear that the early date of these books does not make them canonical, but the early date does show that these books were written during a time period when eyewitnesses of Jesus were still alive.
In this current post, we address the issue of “apocryphal” New Testament writings. These are writings that were not included in the New Testament, but have a similar genre (gospels, acts, letters, apocalypses, etc.). And these writings are often attributed to famous individuals; e.g., the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Thomas, the Acts of John.
While we cannot go into extensive detail about these various apocryphal writings, we can at least note one basic fact that is often overlooked: all of these apocryphal writings are dated to the second century or later. Thus, this post is the corollary of the prior one. Not only are all New Testament writings from the first century, but all apocryphal writings (at least the ones that are extant) are from the second century or later. And many are from the third or fourth century.
What is particularly noteworthy about this fact is that even critical scholars agree. While there is dispute over the dating of some New Testament books (e.g., 2 Peter, the Pastoral Epistles), there is virtual unanimity over the late date of apocryphal books. There are, of course, fringe attempts to place some apocryphal writings into the first century—e.g., Crossan argues that a “cross gospel” embedded in the Gospel of Peter is from the first century—but these suggestions have not been widely received.
The observation of this simple fact quickly calls into question sensationalistic claims about how these “lost” books contain the “real” version of Christianity.
Michael J. Kruger, President and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC. For more on my background and research interests, see here. Michael J. Kruger Books
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
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
3. I come to the Kingly office, of which it were in vain to speak,
without previously reminding the reader that its nature is spiritual;
because it is from thence we learn its efficacy, the benefits it
confers, its whole power and eternity. Eternity, moreover, which in
Daniel an angel attributes to the office of Christ (Dan. 2:44), in Luke
an angel justly applies to the salvation of his people (Luke 1:33). But
this is also twofold, and must be viewed in two ways; the one pertains
to the whole body of the Church the other is proper to each member. To
the former is to be referred what is said in the Psalms, "Once have I
sworn by my holiness, that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall
endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be
established for ever, as the moon, and as a faithful witness in
heaven," (Ps. 89:35, 37). There can be no doubt that God here promises
that he will be, by the hand of his Son, the eternal governor and
defender of the Church. In none but Christ will the fulfilment of this
prophecy be found; since immediately after Solomon's death the kingdom
in n great measure lost its dignity, and, with ignominy to the family
of David, was transferred to a private individual. Afterwards decaying
by degrees, it at length came to a sad and dishonourable end. In the
same sense are we to understand the exclamation of Isaiah, "Who shall
declare his generation?" (Isaiah 53:8). For he asserts that Christ will
so survive death as to be connected with his members. Therefore, as
often as we hear that Christ is armed with eternal power, let us learn
that the perpetuity of the Church is thus effectually secured; that
amid the turbulent agitations by which it is constantly harassed, and
the grievous and fearful commotions which threaten innumerable
disasters, it still remains safe. Thus, when David derides the audacity
of the enemy who attempt to throw off the yoke of God and his anointed,
and says, that kings and nations rage "in vain," (Ps. 2:2-4), because
he who sitteth in the heaven is strong enough to repel their assaults,
assuring believers of the perpetual preservation of the Church, he
animates them to have good hope whenever it is occasionally oppressed.
So, in another place, when speaking in the person of God, he says, "The
Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine
enemies thy footstool," (Ps. 110:1), he reminds us, that however
numerous and powerful the enemies who conspire to assault the Church,
they are not possessed of strength sufficient to prevail against the
immortal decree by which he appointed his Son eternal King. Whence it
follows that the devil, with the whole power of the world, can never
possibly destroy the Church, which is founded on the eternal throne of
Christ. Then in regard to the special use to be made by each believer,
this same eternity ought to elevate us to the hope of a blessed
immortality. For we see that every thing which is earthly, and of the
world, is temporary, and soon fades away. Christ, therefore, to raise
our hope to the heavens, declares that his kingdom is not of this world
(John 18:36). In fine, let each of us, when he hears that the kingdom
of Christ is spiritual, be roused by the thought to entertain the hope
of a better life, and to expect that as it is now protected by the hand
of Christ, so it will be fully realised in a future life.
4. That the strength and utility of the kingdom of Christ cannot, as we have said, be fully perceived without recognising it as spiritual, is sufficiently apparent, even from this, that having during the whole course of our lives to war under the cross, our condition here is bitter and wretched. What then would it avail us to be ranged under the government of a heavenly King, if its benefits were not realised beyond the present earthly life? We must, therefore, know that the happiness which is promised to us in Christ does not consist in external advantages--such as leading a joyful and tranquil life, abounding in wealth, being secure against all injury, and having an affluence of delights, such as the flesh is wont to long for--but properly belongs to the heavenly life. As in the world the prosperous and desirable condition of a people consists partly in the abundance of temporal good and domestic peace, and partly in the strong protection which gives security against external violence; so Christ also enriches his people with all things necessary to the eternal salvation of their souls and fortifies them with courage to stand unassailable by all the attacks of spiritual foes. Whence we infer, that he reigns more for us than for himself, and that both within us and without us; that being replenished, in so far as God knows to be expedient, with the gifts of the Spirit, of which we are naturally destitute, we may feel from their first fruits, that we are truly united to God for perfect blessedness; and then trusting to the power of the same Spirit, may not doubt that we shall always be victorious against the devil, the world, and every thing that can do us harm. To this effect was our Saviour's reply to the Pharisees, "The kingdom of God is within you." "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation," (Luke 17:21, 22). It is probable that on his declaring himself to be that King under whom the highest blessing of God was to be expected, they had in derision asked him to produce his insignia. But to prevent those who were already more than enough inclined to the earth from dwelling on its pomp, he bids them enter into their consciences, for "the kingdom of God" is "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost," (Rom. 14:17). These words briefly teach what the kingdom of Christ bestows upon us. Not being earthly or carnal, and so subject to corruption, but spiritual, it raises us even to eternal life, so that we can patiently live at present under toil, hunger, cold, contempt, disgrace, and other annoyances; contented with this, that our King will never abandon us, but will supply our necessities until our warfare is ended, and we are called to triumph: such being the nature of his kingdom, that he communicates to us whatever he received of his Father. Since then he arms and equips us by his power, adorns us with splendour and magnificence, enriches us with wealth, we here find most abundant cause of glorying, and also are inspired with boldness, so that we can contend intrepidly with the devil, sin, and death. In fine, clothed with his righteousness, we can bravely surmount all the insults of the world: and as he replenishes us liberally with his gifts, so we can in our turn bring forth fruit unto his glory.
5. Accordingly, his royal unction is not set before us as composed of oil or aromatic perfumes; but he is called the Christ of God, because "the Spirit of the Lord" rested upon him; "the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord," (Isaiah 11:2). This is the oil of joy with which the Psalmist declares that he was anointed above his fellows (Ps. 45:7). For, as has been said, he was not enriched privately for himself, but that he might refresh the parched and hungry with his abundance. For as the Father is said to have given the Spirit to the Son without measure (John 3:34), so the reason is expressed, that we might all receive of his fulness, and grace for grace (John 1:16). From this fountain flows the copious supply (of which Paul makes mention, Eph. 4:7) by which grace is variously distributed to believers according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Here we have ample confirmation of what I said, that the kingdom of Christ consists in the Spirit, and not in earthly delights or pomp, and that hence, in order to be partakers with him, we must renounce the world. A visible symbol of this grace was exhibited at the baptism of Christ, when the Spirit rested upon him in the form of a dove. To designate the Spirit and his gifts by the term "unction" is not new, and ought not to seem absurd (see 1 John 2:20, 27), because this is the only quarter from which we derive life; but especially in what regards the heavenly life, there is not a drop of vigour in us save what the Holy Spirit instils, who has chosen his seat in Christ, that thence the heavenly riches, of which we are destitute, might flow to us in copious abundance. But because believers stand invincible in the strength of their King, and his spiritual riches abound towards them, they are not improperly called Christians. Moreover, from this eternity of which we have spoken, there is nothing derogatory in the expression of Paul, "Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father," (1 Cor. 15:24); and also, "Then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in and" (1 Cor. 15:28); for the meaning merely is, that, in that perfect glory, the administration of the kingdom will not be such as it now is. For the Father has given all power to the Son, that by his hand he may govern, cherish, sustain us, keep us under his guardianship, and give assistance to us. Thus, while we wander far as pilgrims from God, Christ interposes, that he may gradually bring us to full communion with God. And, indeed, his sitting at the right hand of the Father has the same meaning as if he was called the vicegerent of the Father, entrusted with the whole power of government. For God is pleased, mediately (so to speak) in his person to rule and defend the Church. Thus also his being seated at the right hand of the Father is explained by Paul, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, to mean, that "he is the head over all things to the Church, which is his body," (Eph. 1:20, 22). Nor is this different in purport from what he elsewhere teaches, that God has "given him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father," (Phil. 2:9-11). For in these words, also, he commends an arrangement in the kingdom of Christ, which is necessary for our present infirmity. Thus Paul rightly infers that God will then be the only Head of the Church, because the office of Christ, in defending the Church, shall then have been completed. For the same reason, Scripture throughout calls him Lord, the Father having appointed him over us for the express purpose of exercising his government through him. For though many lordships are celebrated in the world, yet Paul says, "To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him," (1 Cor. 8:6). Whence it is justly inferred that he is the same God, who, by the mouth of Isaiah, declared, "The Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver, the Lord is our King: he will save us," (Isaiah 33:22). For though he every where describes all the power which he possesses as the benefit and gift of the Father, the meaning simply is, that he reigns by divine authority, because his reason for assuming the office of Mediator was, that descending from the bosom and incomprehensible glory of the Father, he might draw near to us. Wherefore there is the greater reason that we all should with one consent prepare to obey, and with the greatest alacrity yield implicit obedience to his will. For as he unites the offices of King and Pastor towards believers, who voluntarily submit to him, so, on the other hand, we are told that he wields an iron sceptre to break and bruise all the rebellious like a potter's vessel (Ps. 2:9). We are also told that he will be the Judge of the Gentiles, that he will cover the earth with dead bodies, and level down every opposing height (Ps. 110:6). Of this examples are seen at present, but full proof will be given at the final judgment, which may be properly regarded as the last act of his reign.
6. With regard to his Priesthood, we must briefly hold its end and use to be, that as a Mediator, free from all taint, he may by his own holiness procure the favour of God for us. But because a deserved curse obstructs the entrance, and God in his character of Judge is hostile to us, expiation must necessarily intervene, that as a priest employed to appease the wrath of God, he may reinstate us in his favour. Wherefore, in order that Christ might fulfil this office, it behoved him to appear with a sacrifice. For even under the law of the priesthood it was forbidden to enter the sanctuary without blood, to teach the worshipper that however the priest might interpose to deprecate, God could not be propitiated without the expiation of sin. On this subject the Apostle discourses at length in the Epistle to the Hebrews, from the seventh almost to the end of the tenth chapter. The sum comes to this, that the honour of the priesthood was competent to none but Christ, because, by the sacrifice of his death, he wiped away our guilt, and made satisfaction for sin. Of the great importance of this matter, we are reminded by that solemn oath which God uttered, and of which he declared he would not repent, "Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek," (Ps. 110:4). For, doubtless, his purpose was to ratify that point on which he knew that our salvation chiefly hinged. For, as has been said, there is no access to God for us or for our prayers until the priest, purging away our defilements, sanctify us, and obtain for us that favour of which the impurity of our lives and hearts deprives us. Thus we see, that if the benefit and efficacy of Christ's priesthood is to reach us, the commencement must be with his death. Whence it follows, that he by whose aid we obtain favour, must be a perpetual intercessor. From this again arises not only confidence in prayer, but also the tranquillity of pious minds, while they recline in safety on the paternal indulgence of God, and feel assured, that whatever has been consecrated by the Mediator is pleasing to him. But since God under the Law ordered sacrifices of beasts to be offered to him, there was a different and new arrangement in regard to Christ--viz. that he should be at once victim and priest, because no other fit satisfaction for sin could be found, nor was any one worthy of the honour of offering an only begotten son to God. Christ now bears the office of priest, not only that by the eternal law of reconciliation he may render the Father favourable and propitious to us, but also admit us into this most honourable alliance. For we though in ourselves polluted, in him being priests (Rev. 1:6), offer ourselves and our all to God, and freely enter the heavenly sanctuary, so that the sacrifices of prayer and praise which we present are grateful and of sweet odour before him. To this effect are the words of Christ, "For their sakes I sanctify myself," (John 17:19); for being clothed with his holiness, inasmuch as he has devoted us to the Father with himself (otherwise we were an abomination before him), we please him as if we were pure and clean, nay, even sacred. Hence that unction of the sanctuary of which mention is made in Daniel (Dan. 9:24). For we must attend to the contrast between this unction and the shadowy one which was then in use; as if the angel had said, that when the shadows were dispersed, there would be a clear priesthood in the person of Christ. The more detestable, therefore, is the fiction of those who, not content with the priesthood of Christ, have dared to take it upon themselves to sacrifice him, a thing daily attempted in the Papacy, where the mass is represented as an immolation of Christ.
 Calvin translates, "Angelum vel Interpretem magni consilii;"--"the Angel or interpreter of the great counsel."
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Are You Looking For The Perfect Scenario
By Alistair Begg from The Hand of God: Finding His Care in All Circumstances
“Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought [Joseph] from the Ishmaelites” (Genesis 39:1). This suggests a slave auction, an event that could not have been anything but ugly, distasteful, humiliating, and cruel for Joseph. Paraded on the slave block in full view of a leering crowd, perhaps stripped bare, he was offered for sale. There he stood, a teenager subjected to the proddings of his potential master.
Exposure to this kind of humiliation would have ripped into the core of Joseph’s being. Try to get a sense of the pain and confusion he felt as he sought to understand what was happening to him. He was a captive in a foreign country, unable to understand the words spoken to him. He could only try to read their eyes and so figure out what they were thinking and planning.
Joseph didn’t have to wait long to learn his fate. When the ordeal of the slave auction was over, he was taken—probably in chains and under guard—into the palatial home of Potiphar, a prominent Egyptian official.
To put this man’s position in a modern context, we could say that Potiphar was the chief of Pharaoh’s secret police. He was in charge of dealing with political insurrectionists. People who plotted against the Pharaoh were taken into custody by Potiphar and his men, never to be heard from again.
Potiphar’s job was to remove threats to his boss. He was a powerful man and probably had the potential for cruelty. So it is an understatement to say that the circumstances into which Joseph was thrust were less than ideal.
Years later, reflecting upon Joseph’s life, his father, Jacob, said, “With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with hostility” (Genesis 49:23). This was a graphic picture of Joseph’s vulnerability as hostile forces took potshots at him. He was exposed, alone, fearful, and wondering—and, yet, in the center of God’s will.
Here we discover an essential and simple truth, which is this: There is no ideal place to serve God except the place in which He has set you down. There is no ideal job for you to hold, no ideal neighborhood in which to live, and no ideal church you can join.
There are good jobs, good neighborhoods, and good churches, but no ideal ones. People who search for ideal circumstances forget that all that is ideal and perfect is saved for heaven. They launch forth on a journey destined to end in disappointment. One of my goals in this book is to spare you from making such a journey.
Joseph’s life at this point was far from ideal. He may have been tempted to run away, give up, or become angry. But here we discover him making the most of his situation.
Responding to similar circumstances in his life, the psalmist said, “In the Lord I take refuge. How then can you say to me: ‘Flee like a bird to your mountain’?” (Psalm 11:1).
Sometimes circumstances make us want to run. We say to ourselves, If I could only get away for a while—maybe a weekend at the cabin or a few days at the beach.
Refreshments and a vacation may be of temporary help, but we can’t flee from ourselves. I don’t know about you, but my biggest problem is not my circumstances, my colleagues, or my boss. My biggest problem is me.
We may think, I never bargained for this. I never imagined being trapped in this mess. No, we probably didn’t. But God has chosen to set us down in this environment. Even in circumstances like those that surrounded Joseph, we can trace God’s hand.
Alistair Begg Books | Go to Books Page
The Pilgrim's Progress From This World To That Which Is To Come;
Delivered Under The Similitude Of A Dream
By John Bunyan 1678
THE TENTH STAGEThen Christian addressed himself thus to his fellow:
CHR. Well, come, my good Hopeful, I perceive that thou and I must walk by ourselves again.
So I saw in my dream, that they went on apace before, and Ignorance he came hobbling after. Then said Christian to his companion, I much pity this poor man: it will certainly go ill with him at last.
HOPE. Alas! there are abundance in our town in his condition, whole families, yea, whole streets, and that of pilgrims too; and if there be so many in our parts, how many, think you, must there be in the place where he was born?
CHR. Indeed, the word saith, “He hath blinded their eyes, lest they should see,” etc.
John 12:40 “He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes,
and understand with their heart, and turn,
and I would heal them.” ESV
Isaiah 6:10 Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.” ESV
2 Corinthians 4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. ESV
But, now we are by ourselves, what do you think of such men? Have they at no time, think you, convictions of sin, and so, consequently, fears that their state is dangerous?
HOPE. Nay, do you answer that question yourself, for you are the elder man.
CHR. Then I say, sometimes (as I think) they may; but they being naturally ignorant, understand not that such convictions tend to their good; and therefore they do desperately seek to stifle them, and presumptuously continue to flatter themselves in the way of their own hearts.
HOPE. I do believe, as you say, that fear tends much to men’s good, and to make them right at their beginning to go on pilgrimage.
CHR. Without all doubt it doth, if it be right; for so says the word, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
Job 28:28 And he said to man,
‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,
and to turn away from evil is understanding.’ ” ESV
Psalm 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever! ESV
Prov. 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction. ESV
Prov. 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. ESV
HOPE. How will you describe right fear?
CHR. True or right fear is discovered by three things:
1. By its rise; it is caused by saving convictions for sin.
2. It driveth the soul to lay fast hold of Christ for salvation.
3. It begetteth and continueth in the soul a great reverence of God, his word, and ways; keeping it tender, and making it afraid to turn from them, to the right hand or to the left, to any thing that may dishonor God, break its peace, grieve the Spirit, or cause the enemy to speak reproachfully.
HOPE. Well said; I believe you have said the truth. Are we now almost got past the Enchanted Ground?
CHR. Why? are you weary of this discourse?
HOPE. No, verily, but that I would know where we are.
CHR. We have not now above two miles further to go thereon. But let us return to our matter.
Now, the ignorant know not that such conviction as tend to put them in fear, are for their good, and therefore they seek to stifle them.
HOPE. How do they seek to stifle them?
CHR. 1. They think that those fears are wrought by the devil, (though indeed they are wrought of God,) and thinking so, they resist them, as things that directly tend to their overthrow.
2. They also think that these fears tend to the spoiling of their faith; when, alas for them, poor men that they are, they have none at all; and therefore they harden their hearts against them.
3. They presume they ought not to fear, and therefore, in despite of them, wax presumptuously confident.
4. They see that those fears tend to take away from them their pitiful old self-holiness, and therefore they resist them with all their might.
HOPE. I know something of this myself; for before I knew myself it was so with me.
CHR. Well, we will leave, at this time, our neighbor Ignorance by himself, and fall upon another profitable question.
HOPE. With all my heart; but you shall still begin.
CHR. Well then, did you not know, about ten years ago, one Temporary in your parts, who was a forward man in religion then?
HOPE. Know him! yes; he dwelt in Graceless, a town about two miles off of Honesty, and he dwelt next door to one Turnback.
CHR. Right; he dwelt under the same roof with him. Well, that man was much awakened once: I believe that then he had some sight of his sins, and of the wages that were due thereto.
HOPE. I am of your mind, for (my house not being above three miles from him) he would oft-times come to me, and that with many tears. Truly I pitied the man, and was not altogether without hope of him; but one may see, it is not every one that cries, “Lord, Lord!”
Matthew 7:21-23 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ ESV
CHR. He told me once that he was resolved to go on pilgrimage, as we go now; but all of a sudden he grew acquainted with one Save-self, and then he became a stranger to me.
HOPE. Now, since we are talking about him, let us a little inquire into the reason of the sudden backsliding of him and such others.
CHR. It may be very profitable; but do you begin.
HOPE. Well, then, there are, in my judgment, four reasons for it:
1. Though the consciences of such men are awakened, yet their minds are not changed: therefore, when the power of guilt weareth away, that which provoked them to be religious ceaseth; wherefore they naturally turn to their own course again; even as we see the dog that is sick of what he hath eaten, so long as his sickness prevails, he vomits and casts up all; not that he doth this of a free mind, (if we may say a dog has a mind,) but because it troubleth his stomach: but now, when his sickness is over, and so his stomach eased, his desires being not at all alienated from his vomit, he turns him about, and licks up all; and so it is true which is written, “The dog is turned to his own vomit again.”
2 Pet. 2:22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” ESV
Thus, I say, being hot for heaven, by virtue only of the sense and fear of the torments of hell, as their sense and fear of damnation chills and cools, so their desires for heaven and salvation cool also. So then it comes to pass, that when their guilt and fear is gone, their desires for heaven and happiness die, and they return to their course again.
2. Another reason is, they have slavish fears that do overmaster them: I speak now of the fears that they have of men; “For the fear of man bringeth a snare.”
Prov. 29:25 The fear of man lays a snare,
but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe. ESV
So then, though they seem to be hot for heaven so long as the flames of hell are about their ears, yet, when that terror is a little over, they betake themselves to second thoughts, namely, that it is good to be wise and not to run (for they know not what) the hazard of losing all, or at least of bringing themselves into unavoidable and unnecessary troubles; and so they fall in with the world again.
3. The shame that attends religion lies also as a block in their way: they are proud and haughty, and religion in their eye is low and contemptible: therefore when they have lost their sense of hell and the wrath to come, they return again to their former course.
4. Guilt, and to meditate terror, are grievous to them; they like not to see their misery before they come into it; though perhaps the sight of it at first, if they loved that sight, might make them fly whither the righteous fly and are safe; but because they do, as I hinted before, even shun the thoughts of guilt and terror, therefore, when once they are rid of their awakenings about the terrors and wrath of God, they harden their hearts gladly, and choose such ways as will harden them more and more.
CHR. You are pretty near the business, for the bottom of all is for want of a change in their mind and will. And therefore they are but like the felon that standeth before the judge: he quakes and trembles, and seems to repent most heartily, but the bottom of all is the fear of the halter: not that he hath any detestation of the offence, as it is evident; because, let but this man have his liberty, and he will be a thief, and so a rogue still; whereas, if his mind was changed, he would be otherwise.
HOPE. Now I have showed you the reason of their going back, do you show me the manner thereof.
CHR. So I will willingly.
1. They draw off their thoughts, all that they may, from the remembrance of God, death, and judgment to come.
2. Then they cast off by degrees private duties, as closet prayer, curbing their lusts, watching, sorrow for sin, and the like.
3. Then they shun the company of lively and warm Christians.
4. After that, they grow cold to public duty, as hearing, reading, godly conference, and the like.
5. They then begin to pick holes, as we say, in the coats of some of the godly, and that devilishly, that they may have a seeming color to throw religion (for the sake of some infirmities they have espied in them) behind their backs.
6. Then they begin to adhere to, and associate themselves with, carnal, loose, and wanton men.
7. Then they give way to carnal and wanton discourses in secret; and glad are they if they can see such things in any that are counted honest, that they may the more boldly do it through their example.
8. After this they begin to play with little sins openly.
9. And then, being hardened, they show themselves as they are. Thus, being launched again into the gulf of misery, unless a miracle of grace prevent it, they everlastingly perish in their own deceivings.
Pilgrim's Progress (Illustrated): Updated, Modern English. More than 100 Illustrations.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Dealing with depression
2/16/2018 Bob Gass
'Your words…were my joy and my heart’s delight.’
(Je 15:16) Your words were found, and I ate them,
and your words became to me a joy
and the delight of my heart,
for I am called by your name,
O LORD, God of hosts. ESV
People in Bible times dealt with depression too. Elijah said, ‘I have had enough, Lord…Take my life’ (1 Kings 19:4 NIV 2011 Edition). Job said, ‘I loathe my very life’ (Job 10:1 NIV 2011 Edition). David wrote, ‘My soul is downcast’ (Psalm 42:6 NIV 2011 Edition). Now, when you’re clinically depressed you should seek professional help. But the kind of depression we’re talking about here is when your motivation is drained, your desire to pursue God is gone, your conversations have turned sour, you’re blind to your blessings, your enthusiasm is forced, and you’re in a daze regarding the future. ( I call this despair, not depression. See my article, The Cure For Despair on Feb 18. ) Here are some possible causes: 1) Sin. Sin is like a stone in your shoe; you’ll have no peace until you get it out. No holiday, job change, relationship change, or doctor will heal it. But the blood of Jesus will cleanse it (see 1 John 1:7). 2) Greed. King Ahab’s obsession with owning Naboth’s vineyard made him miserable and affected his entire family (see 1 Kings 21:4). 3) Comparisons. Constantly comparing yourself to others will depress you (see 2 Corinthians 10:12). 4) Speaking negatively. ‘The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences’ (Proverbs 18:21 NLT). 5) Fatigue. Jesus called His disciples aside to rest. Why? Because He recognised that when fatigue walks in, faith walks out (see Mark 6:31). 6) Unforgiveness. When you refuse to forgive someone, you carry them like an albatross around your neck. So, what’s the remedy for depression? Often it starts with prayer and Bible reading. Jeremiah, who battled depression, wrote, ‘When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight.’
(1 Ki 19:4) But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” ESV
(Job 10:1) I loathe my life;
I will give free utterance to my complaint;
I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. ESV
(Ps 42:6)and my God.
My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar. ESV
(1 Ki 21:4) And Ahab went into his house vexed and sullen because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had said to him, for he had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And he lay down on his bed and turned away his face and would eat no food. ESV
(2 Co 10:12) Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. ESV
(Pr 18:21) Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruits. ESV
by Bill Federer
“From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shore of Tripoli.” The Marine Corp anthem recalls when North African Barbary Pirates were seizing American ships and cargo, and selling the crews as slaves. On February 16, 1804, in the “most bold and daring act of the age,” Lieutenant Stephen Decatur sailed his ship, the Inrepid, at night into the pirate harbor of Tripoli, burned a ship and escaped unharmed amidst fierce fire. The Arabic treaty offered by Tripoli stated: “We… agreed that if American Christians are traveling with a nation that is at war with… Tripoli… neither he nor his goods shall be taken.”
Thomas R. Kelly
IV. ENTRANCE INTO SUFFERING
Another fruit of holy obedience is entrance into suffering. I would not magnify joy and rapture, although they are unspeakably great in the committed life. For joy and rapture need no advocates. But we shrink from suffering and can easily call all suffering an evil thing. Yet we live in an epoch of tragic sorrows, when man is adding to the crueler forces of nature such blasphemous horrors as drag soul as well as body into hell. And holy obedience must walk in this world, not aloof and preoccupied, but stained with sorrow's travail.
Nor is the God-blinded soul given blissful oblivion but, rather, excruciatingly sensitive eyesight toward the world of men. The sources of suffering for the tendered soul are infinitely multiplied, well-nigh beyond all endurance. Ponder this paradox in religious experience: "Nothing matters; everything matters." I recently had an unforgettable hour with a Hindu monk. He knew the secret of this paradox which we discussed together: "Nothing matters; everything matters." It is a key of entrance into suffering. He who knows only one-half of the paradox can never enter that door of mystery and survive.
There is a lusty, adolescent way of thought among us which oversimplifies the question of suffering. It merely says, "Let us remove it." And some suffering can, through more suffering, be removed. But there is an inexorable residue which confronts you and me and the blighted souls of Europe and China and the Near East and India, awful, unremovable in a life time, withering all souls not genuinely rooted in Eternity itself. The Germans call it Schicksal or Destiny. Under this word they gather all the vast forces of nature and disease and the convulsive upheavals of social life which sweep them along, as individuals, like debris in a raging flood, into an unknown end. Those who are not prepared by the inner certitude of Job, "I know that my Avenger liveth" (Job 19:25) must perish in the flood.
One returns from Europe with the sound of weeping in one's ears, in order to say, "Don't be deceived. You must face Destiny. Preparation is only possible now. Don't be fooled by your sunny skies. When the rains descend and the floods come and the winds blow and beat upon your house, your private dwelling, your own family, your own fair hopes, your own strong muscles, your own body, your own soul itself, then it is well-nigh too late to build a house. You can only go inside what house you have and pray that it is founded upon the Rock. Be not deceived by distance in time or space, or the false security of a bank account and an automobile and good health and willing hands to work. Thousands, perhaps millions as good as you have had all these things and are perishing in body and, worse still, in soul today."
A Testament of Devotion
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Work as if you were to live 100 years;
pray as if you were to die tomorrow.
--- Benjamin Franklin
Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world
as much as adversity has.
--- Billy Graham
Prayer is the native movement of the spiritual life that receives its meaning and its soul only in Eternity, that works in the style and scale of Eternity, owns its principles, and speaks its speech. It is the will’s congenial surrender to that Redemption and Reconciliation between loving wills which is God’s Eternity acting in time. We beseech God because He first besought us.
--- P.T. Forsyth
Mr. Worldly-Wiseman is not an ancient relic of the past. He is everywhere today, disguising his heresy and error by proclaiming the gospel of contentment and peace achieved by self-satisfaction and works. If he mentions Christ, it is not as the Savior who took our place, but as a good example of an exemplary life. Do we need a good example to rescue us, or do we need a Savior?
--- John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress: From This World to That Which Is to Come
... from here, there and everywhere
University of Virginia Library 1994
Soon after my return home I felt an increasing concern for Friends on our seacoast; and on the 8th of eighth month, 1746, I left home with the unity of Friends, and in company with my beloved friend and neighbor Peter Andrews, brother to my companion before mentioned, and visited them in their meetings generally about Salem, Cape May, Great and Little Egg Harbor; we had meetings also at Barnagat, Manahockin, and Mane Squan, and so to the Yearly Meeting at Shrewsbury. Through the goodness of the Lord way was opened, and the strength of Divine love was sometimes felt in our assemblies, to the comfort and help of those who were rightly concerned before him. We were out twenty-two days, and rode, by computation, three hundred and forty miles. At Shrewsbury Yearly Meeting we met with our dear friends Michael Lightfoot and Abraham Farrington, who had good service there.
The winter following died my eldest sister Elizabeth Woolman, of the small-pox, aged thirty-one years.
Of late I found drawings in my mind to visit Friends in New England, and having an opportunity of joining in company with my beloved friend Peter Andrews, we obtained certificates from our Monthly Meeting, and set forward on the 16th of third month, 1747. We reached the Yearly Meeting at Long Island, at which were our friends, Samuel Nottingham from England, John Griffith, Jane Hoskins, and Elizabeth Hudson from Pennsylvania, and Jacob Andrews from Chesterfield, several of whom were favored in their public exercise; and, through the goodness of the Lord, we had some edifying meetings. After this my companion and I visited Friends on Long Island; and through the mercies of God we were helped in the work.
Besides going to the settled meetings of Friends, we were at a general meeting at Setawket, chiefly made up of other societies; we had also a meeting at Oyster Bay in a dwelling-house, at which were many people. At the former there was not much said by way of testimony, but it was, I believe, a good meeting; at the latter, through the springing up of living waters, it was a day to be thankfully remembered. Having visited the island, we went over to the main, taking meetings in our way, to Oblong, Nine-partners, and New Milford. In these back settlements, we met with several people who, through the immediate workings of the Spirit of Christ on their minds, were drawn from the vanities of the world to an inward acquaintance with him. They were educated in the way of the Presbyterians. A considerable number of the youth, members of that society, used often to spend their time together in merriment, but some of the principal young men of the company, being visited by the powerful workings of the Spirit of Christ, and thereby led humbly to take up his cross, could no longer join in those vanities. As these stood steadfast to that inward convincement, they were made a blessing to some of their former companions; so that through the power of truth several were brought into a close exercise concerning the eternal well-being of their souls. These young people continued for a time to frequent their public worship; and, besides that, had meetings of their own, which meetings were awhile allowed by their preacher, who sometimes met with them; but in time their judgment in matters of religion disagreeing with some of the articles of the Presbyterians their meetings were disapproved by that society; and such of them as stood firm to their duty, as it was inwardly manifested, had many difficulties to go through. In a while their meetings were dropped; some of them returned to the Presbyterians, and others joined to our religious society.
I had conversation with some of the latter to my help and edification, and believe several of them are acquainted with the nature of that worship which is performed in spirit and in truth. Amos Powel, a friend from Long Island, accompanied me through Connecticut, which is chiefly inhabited by Presbyterians, who were generally civil to us. After three days' riding, we came amongst Friends in the colony of Rhode Island, and visited them in and about Newport, Dartmouth, and generally in those parts; we then went to Boston, and proceeded eastward as far as Dover. Not far from thence we met our friend Thomas Gawthrop, from England, who was then on a visit to these provinces. From Newport we sailed to Nantucket; were there nearly a week; and from thence came over to Dartmouth. Having finished our visit in these parts, we crossed the Sound from New London to Long Island, and taking some meetings on the island proceeded towards home, which we reached the 13th of seventh month, 1747, having rode about fifteen hundred miles, and sailed about one hundred and fifty.
In this journey, I may say in general, we were sometimes in much weakness, and labored under discouragements, and at other times, through the renewed manifestations of Divine love, we had seasons of refreshment wherein the power of truth prevailed. We were taught by renewed experience to labor for an inward stillness; at no time to seek for words, but to live in the spirit of truth, and utter that to the people which truth opened in us. My beloved companion and I belonged both to one meeting, came forth in the ministry near the same time, and were inwardly united in the work. He was about thirteen years older than I, bore the heaviest burden, and was an instrument of the greatest use.
Finding a concern to visit Friends in the lower counties of Delaware, and on the eastern shore of Maryland, and having an opportunity to join with my well-beloved ancient friend, John Sykes, we obtained certificates, and set off the 7th of eighth month, 1748, were at the meetings of Friends in the lower counties, attended the Yearly Meeting at Little Creek, and made a visit to most of the meetings on the eastern shore, and so home by the way of Nottingham. We were abroad about six weeks, and rode, by computation, about five hundred and fifty miles.
Our exercise at times was heavy, but through the goodness of the Lord we were often refreshed, and I may say by experience "he is a stronghold in the day of trouble." Though our Society in these parts appeared to me to be in a declining condition, yet I believe the Lord hath a people amongst them who labor to serve him uprightly, but they have many difficulties to encounter.
John Woolman's Journal
by D.H. Stern
causes pain, yet a babbling fool will have trouble.
11 The speech of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but the speech of the wicked is a cover for violence.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The inspiration of spiritual initiative
Arise from the dead. --- Eph. 5:14.
All initiative is not inspired. A man may say to you—‘Buck up, take your disinclination by the throat, throw it overboard, and walk out into the thing!’ That is ordinary human initiative. But when the Spirit of God comes in and says, in effect, ‘Buck up,’ we find that the initiative is inspired.
We all have any number of visions and ideals when we are young, but sooner or later we find that we have no power to make them real. We cannot do the things we long to do, and we are apt to settle down to the visions and ideals as dead, and God has to come and say—“Arise from the dead.” When the inspiration of God does come, it comes with such miraculous power that we are able to arise from the dead and do the impossible thing. The remarkable thing about spiritual initiative is that the life comes after we do the ‘bucking up.’ God does not give us overcoming life; He gives us life as we overcome. When the inspiration of God comes, and He says—“Arise from the dead,” we have to get up; God does not lift us up. Our Lord said to the man with the withered hand—“Stretch forth thy hand,” and as soon as the man did so, his hand was healed, but he had to take the initiative. If we will do the overcoming, we shall find we are inspired of God because He gives life immediately.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Let despair be known
as my ebb-tide; but let prayer
have its springs, too, brimming,
disarming him; discovering somewhere
among his fissures deposits of mercy
where trust may take root and grow.
--- "Tidal" in Mass for Hard Times (1992), p. 43
Mass for Hard Times
Lessons for Everyday Living
From Bible to Midrash
In order to understand what the Talmud is, it is crucial to understand how it is related to, yet different from, the Bible. Many people assume that the Bible contains the answers to every question that a person may face in life and that what it says is always crystal clear. Neither assumption is correct. Look at the Ten Commandments, for example. The Fourth Commandment teaches us to keep the Sabbath holy and to refrain from work. This simple notion actually leads a thinking reader to a multitude of questions: What does “holy” really mean? How can a period of time be kept holy? What exactly constitutes work? Is it physical exertion, or a job that one is paid for, or perhaps a labor that one would rather not do? Or is it something else entirely?
Or take the Sixth Commandment, “You shall not murder.” It sounds perfectly logical and clear. Yet many translations read “You shall not kill.” Is there a difference between killing and murdering? Is self-defense allowed? How does this commandment apply to soldiers in war? Or to a police officer chasing a criminal? Is capital punishment considered killing or murder, and is it permitted?
Consider one of the most divisive social issues of our time—abortion. There does not seem to be a single clear reference to abortion in the entire Bible. A person searching the Bible for guidance on this question would come away frustrated and deeply confused. One might ask: Does the Sixth Commandment have anything to add, one way or another, to the debate on abortion? No hint of an answer is forthcoming.
From the very moment that the people of Israel received the written laws (the Torah she-bikhtav) there was a need to elucidate just exactly what the laws meant. This process, according to the Torah, began with Moses himself: “On the other side of the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to expound this Teaching” (Deuteronomy 1:5). The result came to be known as the Oral Law (Torah she-b’al peh). These oral teachings, according to tradition, were given to Moses by God. Moses memorized them and passed them on to Joshua, and then each generation learned them and taught them to the next. A more critical view of the Oral Law sees it as the accumulated wisdom of the wise people of each generation, attempting to explain the Torah and apply it to contemporary issues and concerns. These leaders served in various roles, and were called by different titles over the course of history. They pored over the Bible verse by verse, word by word, and often, letter by letter. Every line was scrutinized, analyzed and elucidated. An entire literature of commentaries and interpretations was developed for each book of the Bible. This literature was called Midrash, from the Hebrew root meaning “to search.” A person who wanted to know what a particular verse meant went to a particular book of Midrash and looked up the interpretation on it.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
Thomas A Kempis
Book One / Thoughts Helpful In The Life Of The Soul
The Sixteenth Chapter / Bearing With The Faults Of Others
UNTIL God ordains otherwise, a man ought to bear patiently whatever he cannot correct in himself and in others. Consider it better thus—perhaps to try your patience and to test you, for without such patience and trial your merits are of little account. Nevertheless, under such difficulties you should pray that God will consent to help you bear them calmly.
If, after being admonished once or twice, a person does not amend, do not argue with him but commit the whole matter to God that His will and honor may be furthered in all His servants, for God knows well how to turn evil to good. Try to bear patiently with the defects and infirmities of others, whatever they may be, because you also have many a fault which others must endure.
If you cannot make yourself what you would wish to be, how can you bend others to your will? We want them to be perfect, yet we do not correct our own faults. We wish them to be severely corrected, yet we will not correct ourselves. Their great liberty displeases us, yet we would not be denied what we ask. We would have them bound by laws, yet we will allow ourselves to be restrained in nothing. Hence, it is clear how seldom we think of others as we do of ourselves.
If all were perfect, what should we have to suffer from others for God’s sake? But God has so ordained, that we may learn to bear with one another’s burdens, for there is no man without fault, no man without burden, no man sufficient to himself nor wise enough. Hence we must support one another, console one another, mutually help, counsel, and advise, for the measure of every man’s virtue is best revealed in time of adversity—adversity that does not weaken a man but rather shows what he is.
The Imitation Of Christ
This first revelation of Law to Israel performed two clear functions. First of all, it revealed the character of God. If Israel was to reflect God’s character, and thus bring Him praise, they must understand His character. The Ten Commandments are our first sharp revelation of the moral character and the deepest values of our God.
Oh, we can infer much from earlier revelation: for instance, we know that God is faithful to His promises. But His moral character still remained something of a mystery. But no more. The Ten Words from Sinai reveal the moral nature of this God who had taken it on Himself to redeem a people to become like Him.
A second important function of the Law is that it defines God’s expectations. In objective, clear, and well-defined standards, the people of God are told how He expects them to behave.
There is a tremendous value in any relationship in having expectations revealed. Some of us grew up in homes where we simply did not know how to please our parents. Nothing we did seemed to meet with their approval, and their commands to us would change from day to day. There was to be no such uncertainty for Israel in its relationship with God. God defined clearly the way He expected them to go; so clearly that even a child could not miss his way.
With the limits established, and with God’s expectations clearly expressed, the people would now have a standard by which to measure their own responses and behavior.
In modern terms this might be called an “immediate feedback system”—something very important when anyone is being trained. For example, imagine a golfer practicing daily to eliminate a slice from his drive. He stands on the tee, swings, and watches the ball … adjusts, and tries again. He gauges each effort by watching that ball in flight, and, when he begins to straighten out the drive, he continues to practice to make sure that he has mastered the correct swing. Now, how much chance would the golfer have to improve if a screen were placed so he could tee up and hit, but not watch the ball’s flight?
Obviously, without the feedback of seeing how he is doing, he simply could not correct his problem. In the same way, the Law provided an objective standard and served as a background against which the Israelites would obtain immediate feedback on their behavior. They could measure their plans, their goals, their values, and their actions against the divine revelation of morality.
There are other functions of the Law as well, but these two help us see its tremendous value to Israel at this point in history. The Law would be for Israel a dual revelation. In it they would see the moral character of God. And in it they would also see themselves.
The Teacher's Commentary
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. --- Psalm 42:1.
We often speak of heaven as our home, and in many senses that is true. ( Sun-rise: Addresses from a city pulpit ) If in heaven we will meet again those whom we loved and lost, and if boys and girls will be playing in the streets of Zion, I have no doubt that heaven will be a homelike place. But in deeper senses heaven is not our home, or if it is, it is just because God is there. In the deepest sense our home is not heaven, but God.
O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.
--- Isaac Watts
God is the true home of the human soul.
Craving for God is one of the strangest facts in human history. You would have thought that in a world like this, full of color, music, and delight, humanity would be content without God. But the book of Psalms is filled with that passionate craving. And if the book of Psalms has lived through chance and change, cherished when ten thousand volumes are forgotten, it is largely because it gives a voice to this unappeased hunger. We do not crave for God because he is glorious or because he is sovereign. We are homesick—that is the meaning of it. We crave for God because he is our home.
Now this homesickness of the soul for God is one of our surest proofs of God. It is an argument more powerful than any that philosophy affords to convince me that there is a God. No one denies that souls still pant for God. And hearts today and here still thirst for him, as truly as the exiled psalmist did. And there cannot be homesickness without a home. All other arguments may fail me. When my mind is wearied and my memory tired, I forget them. But this one, knit with my heart, part and parcel of my truest humanity, survives all moods, is strong when I am weak, and brings me to the door of God my home.
I will arise and go to my Father. Thank God we need no money for that journey. Is there no one here who has been far away who is going to come home—to God—this very hour?
--- George H. Morrison
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Child of Promise
Andrew and Elizabeth Renwick, a young couple, weavers, lived in the hills of Glencairn, Scotland, in the 1600s. All their children had died. Andrew accepted his grief, but Elizabeth cried to the Lord day and night for another child.
The Lord answered, and little James was taught the Holy Scriptures from infancy. Growing up, his conscience was tender; his mind, sharp. He excelled at the University of Edinburgh, but was denied a degree because he refused to accept Charles II as head of the Scottish church.
Remaining in Edinburgh, James watched with alarm as non-conformists were martyred, their severed heads and hands nailed to the city gates as a warning to others. He left Scotland for training and ordination abroad, but his heart was still in the highlands, and he soon returned to preach, teach, organize, counsel, and wear himself out. “Excessive travel,” he told a friend, “night wanderings, unseasonable sleep and diet, and frequent preaching in all seasons of weather, especially in the night, have debilitated me.” He trudged with diligence through moors and mountains, in the cold stormy nights and by day. His study was often a cold glen or cave; his pillow, a rock or log. He managed a hundred escapes, but at length one winter’s night in Edinburgh he was captured, put in irons, and convicted of treason.
His widowed mother visited him in prison, her heart breaking apart. “O James!” she cried, “How shall I look up to see your head and hands upon the city gate? I shall not be able to endure it.” He comforted her as he could, and on February 16, 1688 smuggled a message to her, “There is nothing in the world that I am sorry to leave but you. … Farewell, mother. Farewell, night wanderings, cold, and weariness for Christ. Farewell, sweet Bible and preaching of the Gospel. Welcome, crown of glory. Welcome, O Thou blessed Trinity and one God! I commit my soul into Thy eternal rest.”
The next Morning he embraced his weeping mother once more, then went to the scaffold.
He was twenty-six.
Keep on being faithful to what you were taught and to what you believed. After all, you know who taught you these things. Since childhood, you have known the Holy Scriptures that are able to make you wise enough to have faith in Christ Jesus and be saved.
--- 2 Timothy 3:14,15.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - February 16
“I have learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content.” --- Philippians 4:11.
These words show us that contentment is not a natural propensity of man. “Ill weeds grow apace.” Covetousness, discontent, and murmuring are as natural to man as thorns are to the soil. We need not sow thistles and brambles; they come up naturally enough, because they are indigenous to earth: and so, we need not teach men to complain; they complain fast enough without any education. But the precious things of the earth must be cultivated. If we would have wheat, we must plough and sow; if we want flowers, there must be the garden, and all the gardener’s care. Now, contentment is one of the flowers of heaven, and if we would have it, it must be cultivated; it will not grow in us by nature; it is the new nature alone that can produce it, and even then we must be specially careful and watchful that we maintain and cultivate the grace which God has sown in us. Paul says, “I have learned … to be content;” as much as to say, he did not know how at one time. It cost him some pains to attain to the mystery of that great truth. No doubt he sometimes thought he had learned, and then broke down. And when at last he had attained unto it, and could say, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content,” he was an old, grey-headed man, upon the borders of the grave—a poor prisoner shut up in Nero’s dungeon at Rome. We might well be willing to endure Paul’s infirmities, and share the cold dungeon with him, if we too might by any means attain unto his good degree. Do not indulge the notion that you can be contented with learning, or learn without discipline. It is not a power that may be exercised naturally, but a science to be acquired gradually. We know this from experience. Brother, hush that murmur, natural though it be, and continue a diligent pupil in the College of Content.
Evening - February 16
“Thy good Spirit.” --- Nehemiah 9:20.
Common, too common is the sin of forgetting the Holy Spirit. This is folly and ingratitude. He deserves well at our hands, for he is good, supremely good. As God, he is good essentially. He shares in the threefold ascription of Holy, holy, holy, which ascends to the Triune Jehovah. Unmixed purity and truth, and grace is he. He is good benevolently, tenderly bearing with our waywardness, striving with our rebellious wills; quickening us from our death in sin, and then training us for the skies as a loving nurse fosters her child. How generous, forgiving, and tender is this patient Spirit of God. He is good operatively. All his works are good in the most eminent degree: he suggests good thoughts, prompts good actions, reveals good truths, applies good promises, assists in good attainments, and leads to good results. There is no spiritual good in all the world of which he is not the author and sustainer, and heaven itself will owe the perfect character of its redeemed inhabitants to his work. He is good officially; whether as Comforter, Instructor, Guide, Sanctifier, Quickener, or Intercessor, he fulfils his office well, and each work is fraught with the highest good to the church of God. They who yield to his influences become good, they who obey his impulses do good, they who live under his power receive good. Let us then act towards so good a person according to the dictates of gratitude. Let us revere his person, and adore him as God over all, blessed for ever; let us own his power, and our need of him by waiting upon him in all our holy enterprises; let us hourly seek his aid, and never grieve him; and let us speak to his praise whenever occasion occurs. The church will never prosper until more reverently it believes in the Holy Ghost. He is so good and kind, that it is sad indeed that he should be grieved by slights and negligences.
Morning and Evening
MORE LOVE TO THEE
Elizabeth Prentiss, 1818–1878
And this is my prayer: That your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9–11)
To love Christ more is the deepest need, the constant cry of my soul … out in the woods, and on my bed, and out driving, when I am happy and busy, and when I am sad and idle, the whisper keeps going up for more love, more love, more love!
These were the words of Elizabeth Prentiss, wife of a Presbyterian minister and author of this hymn text. She was often described by her many friends as “a very bright-eyed little woman with a keen sense of humor, who cared more to shine in her own happy household than in a wide circle of society.” Although Elizabeth was strong in spirit, she was frail in body. Throughout her life she was almost an invalid, scarcely knowing a moment free of pain.
“More Love to Thee” was written by Mrs. Prentiss during a time of great personal sorrow, following the loss of two children in a short period of time. For weeks Elizabeth was inconsolable. In her diary she wrote, “empty hands, a worn-out, exhausted body, and unutterable longings to flee from a world that has so many sharp experiences.”
During this period of grief, Mrs. Prentiss began meditating upon the story of Jacob in the Old Testament. She noted how God met him in a very special way during his moments of sorrow and need. Elizabeth prayed earnestly that she too might have a similar experience. While she was meditating and praying one Evening, these four stanzas were born—words that have since become a universal prayer for devout believers everywhere:
More love to Thee, O Christ, more love to Thee! Hear Thou the prayer I make on bended knee; this is my earnest plea: More love, O Christ, to Thee …
Once earthly joy I craved, sought peace and rest; now Thee alone I seek—give what is best; this all my prayer shall be: More love, O Christ, to Thee …
Let sorrow do its work, send grief and pain; sweet are Thy messengers, sweet their refrain, when they can sing with me, more love, O Christ, to Thee …
Then shall my latest breath whisper Thy praise; this be the parting cry my heart shall raise; this still its prayer shall be: More love, O Christ, to Thee.
For Today: 2 Thessalonians 3:5; James 1:12; 1 Peter 1:8; 1 John 4:19; Jude 21.
Try to look beyond your problems. Resolve that regardless of life’s circumstances, your love for Christ will continue to grow and be strong. Carry this musical prayer with you ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Mark J. Boda | Acadia Divinity College
Heart of Old Testament 1
Old Testament 2
Old Testament 3
1 John 15:17–25
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
The Dangers Of Discontentment
Numbers 11:1-9 | s2-077 | 6-14-2015
m2-076 | 6-17-2015
Numbers 13:1-33, 14:1-19
m2-077 | 7-01-2015