The Command to Leave HorebDeuteronomy 1 1 These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab. 2 It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea. 3 In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the people of Israel according to all that the LORD had given him in commandment to them, 4 after he had defeated Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth and in Edrei. 5 Beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to explain this law, saying, 6 “The LORD our God said to us in Horeb, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. 7 Turn and take your journey, and go to the hill country of the Amorites and to all their neighbors in the Arabah, in the hill country and in the lowland and in the Negeb and by the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates. 8 See, I have set the land before you. Go in and take possession of the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their offspring after them.’
Leaders Appointed9 “At that time I said to you, ‘I am not able to bear you by myself. 10 The LORD your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are today as numerous as the stars of heaven. 11 May the LORD, the God of your fathers, make you a thousand times as many as you are and bless you, as he has promised you! 12 How can I bear by myself the weight and burden of you and your strife? 13 Choose for your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads.’ 14 And you answered me, ‘The thing that you have spoken is good for us to do.’ 15 So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and experienced men, and set them as heads over you, commanders of thousands, commanders of hundreds, commanders of fifties, commanders of tens, and officers, throughout your tribes. 16 And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien who is with him. 17 You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’ 18 And I commanded you at that time all the things that you should do.
Israel’s Refusal to Enter the Land19 “Then we set out from Horeb and went through all that great and terrifying wilderness that you saw, on the way to the hill country of the Amorites, as the LORD our God commanded us. And we came to Kadesh-barnea. 20 And I said to you, ‘You have come to the hill country of the Amorites, which the LORD our God is giving us. 21 See, the LORD your God has set the land before you. Go up, take possession, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has told you. Do not fear or be dismayed.’ 22 Then all of you came near me and said, ‘Let us send men before us, that they may explore the land for us and bring us word again of the way by which we must go up and the cities into which we shall come.’ 23 The thing seemed good to me, and I took twelve men from you, one man from each tribe. 24 And they turned and went up into the hill country, and came to the Valley of Eshcol and spied it out. 25 And they took in their hands some of the fruit of the land and brought it down to us, and brought us word again and said, ‘It is a good land that the LORD our God is giving us.’
26 “Yet you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the LORD your God. 27 And you murmured in your tents and said, ‘Because the LORD hated us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us. 28 Where are we going up? Our brothers have made our hearts melt, saying, “The people are greater and taller than we. The cities are great and fortified up to heaven. And besides, we have seen the sons of the Anakim there.” ’ 29 Then I said to you, ‘Do not be in dread or afraid of them. 30 The LORD your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, 31 and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ 32 Yet in spite of this word you did not believe the LORD your God, 33 who went before you in the way to seek you out a place to pitch your tents, in fire by night and in the cloud by day, to show you by what way you should go.
The Penalty for Israel’s Rebellion34 “And the LORD heard your words and was angered, and he swore, 35 ‘Not one of these men of this evil generation shall see the good land that I swore to give to your fathers, 36 except Caleb the son of Jephunneh. He shall see it, and to him and to his children I will give the land on which he has trodden, because he has wholly followed the LORD!’ 37 Even with me the LORD was angry on your account and said, ‘You also shall not go in there. 38 Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall enter. Encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it. 39 And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there. And to them I will give it, and they shall possess it. 40 But as for you, turn, and journey into the wilderness in the direction of the Red Sea.’
41 “Then you answered me, ‘We have sinned against the LORD. We ourselves will go up and fight, just as the LORD our God commanded us.’ And every one of you fastened on his weapons of war and thought it easy to go up into the hill country. 42 And the LORD said to me, ‘Say to them, Do not go up or fight, for I am not in your midst, lest you be defeated before your enemies.’ 43 So I spoke to you, and you would not listen; but you rebelled against the command of the LORD and presumptuously went up into the hill country. 44 Then the Amorites who lived in that hill country came out against you and chased you as bees do and beat you down in Seir as far as Hormah. 45 And you returned and wept before the LORD, but the LORD did not listen to your voice or give ear to you. 46 So you remained at Kadesh many days, the days that you remained there.
The Wilderness YearsDeuteronomy 2 1 “Then we turned and journeyed into the wilderness in the direction of the Red Sea, as the LORD told me. And for many days we traveled around Mount Seir. 2 Then the LORD said to me, 3 ‘You have been traveling around this mountain country long enough. Turn northward 4 and command the people, “You are about to pass through the territory of your brothers, the people of Esau, who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. So be very careful. 5 Do not contend with them, for I will not give you any of their land, no, not so much as for the sole of the foot to tread on, because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession. 6 You shall purchase food from them with money, that you may eat, and you shall also buy water from them with money, that you may drink. 7 For the LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He knows your going through this great wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you. You have lacked nothing.” ’ 8 So we went on, away from our brothers, the people of Esau, who live in Seir, away from the Arabah road from Elath and Ezion-geber.
“And we turned and went in the direction of the wilderness of Moab. 9 And the LORD said to me, ‘Do not harass Moab or contend with them in battle, for I will not give you any of their land for a possession, because I have given Ar to the people of Lot for a possession.’ 10 (The Emim formerly lived there, a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim. 11 Like the Anakim they are also counted as Rephaim, but the Moabites call them Emim. 12 The Horites also lived in Seir formerly, but the people of Esau dispossessed them and destroyed them from before them and settled in their place, as Israel did to the land of their possession, which the LORD gave to them.) 13 ‘Now rise up and go over the brook Zered.’ So we went over the brook Zered. 14 And the time from our leaving Kadesh-barnea until we crossed the brook Zered was thirty-eight years, until the entire generation, that is, the men of war, had perished from the camp, as the LORD had sworn to them. 15 For indeed the hand of the LORD was against them, to destroy them from the camp, until they had perished.
16 “So as soon as all the men of war had perished and were dead from among the people, 17 the LORD said to me, 18 ‘Today you are to cross the border of Moab at Ar. 19 And when you approach the territory of the people of Ammon, do not harass them or contend with them, for I will not give you any of the land of the people of Ammon as a possession, because I have given it to the sons of Lot for a possession.’ 20 (It is also counted as a land of Rephaim. Rephaim formerly lived there—but the Ammonites call them Zamzummim— 21 a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim; but the LORD destroyed them before the Ammonites, and they dispossessed them and settled in their place, 22 as he did for the people of Esau, who live in Seir, when he destroyed the Horites before them and they dispossessed them and settled in their place even to this day. 23 As for the Avvim, who lived in villages as far as Gaza, the Caphtorim, who came from Caphtor, destroyed them and settled in their place.) 24 ‘Rise up, set out on your journey and go over the Valley of the Arnon. Behold, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land. Begin to take possession, and contend with him in battle. 25 This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you on the peoples who are under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you.’
The Defeat of King Sihon26 “So I sent messengers from the wilderness of Kedemoth to Sihon the king of Heshbon, with words of peace, saying, 27 ‘Let me pass through your land. I will go only by the road; I will turn aside neither to the right nor to the left. 28 You shall sell me food for money, that I may eat, and give me water for money, that I may drink. Only let me pass through on foot, 29 as the sons of Esau who live in Seir and the Moabites who live in Ar did for me, until I go over the Jordan into the land that the LORD our God is giving to us.’ 30 But Sihon the king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him, for the LORD your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that he might give him into your hand, as he is this day. 31 And the LORD said to me, ‘Behold, I have begun to give Sihon and his land over to you. Begin to take possession, that you may occupy his land.’ 32 Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to battle at Jahaz. 33 And the LORD our God gave him over to us, and we defeated him and his sons and all his people. 34 And we captured all his cities at that time and devoted to destruction every city, men, women, and children. We left no survivors. 35 Only the livestock we took as spoil for ourselves, with the plunder of the cities that we captured. 36 From Aroer, which is on the edge of the Valley of the Arnon, and from the city that is in the valley, as far as Gilead, there was not a city too high for us. The LORD our God gave all into our hands. 37 Only to the land of the sons of Ammon you did not draw near, that is, to all the banks of the river Jabbok and the cities of the hill country, whatever the LORD our God had forbidden us.
The Reformation Study Bible
What I'm Reading
Learning in War-Time
By C.S. Lewis
A sermon preached in the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford,Autumn, 1939
The second enemy is frustration -- the feeling that we shall not have time to finish. If I say to you that no one has time to finish, that the longest human life leaves a man, in any branch of learning, a beginner, I shall seem to you to be saying something quite academic and theoretical. You would be surprised if you knew how soon one begins to feel the shortness of the tether: of how many things, even in middle life, we lave to say "No time for that", "Too late now", and "Not for me". But Nature herself forbids you to share that experience. A more Christian attitude, which can be attained at any age, is that of leaving futurity in God's hands. We may as well, for God will certainly retain it whether we leave it to Him or not. Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or your happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment "as to the Lord". It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.
The third enemy is fear. War threatens us with death and pain. No man -- and especially no Christian who remembers Gethsemane -- need try to attain a stoic indifference about these things: but we can guard against the illusions of the imagination. We think of the streets of Warsaw and contrast the deaths there suffered with an abstraction called Life. But there is no question of death or life for any of us; only a question of this death or of that -- of a machine gun bullet now or a cancer forty years later. What does war do to death? It certainly does not make it more frequent; 100 per cent of us die, and the percentage cannot be increased. It puts several deaths earlier; but I hardly suppose that that is what we fear. Certainly when the moment comes, it will make little difference how many years we have behind us. Does it increase our chance of a painful death? I doubt it. As far as I can find out, what we call natural death is usually preceded by suffering; and a battlefield is one of the very few places where one has a reasonable prospect of dying with no pain at all. Does it decrease our chances of dying at peace with God? I cannot believe it. If active service does not persuade a man to prepare for death, what conceivable concatenation of circumstance would? Yet war does do something to death. It forces us to remember it. The only reason why the cancer at sixty or the paralysis at seventyfive do not bother us is that we forget them. War makes death real to us: and that would have been regarded as one of its blessings by most of the great Christians of the past. They thought it good for us to be always aware of our mortality. I am inclined to think they were right.
All the animal life in us, all schemes of happiness that centered in this world, were always doomed to a final frustration. In ordinary times only a wise man can realize it. Now the stupidest of us know. We see unmistakable the sort of universe in which we have all along been living, and must come to terms with it. If we had foolish un-Christian hopes about human culture, they are now shattered. If we thought we were building up a heaven on earth, if we looked for something that would turn the present world from a place of pilgrimage into a permanent city satisfying the soul of man, we are disillusioned, and not a moment too soon. But if we thought that for some souls, and at some times, the life of learning, humbly offered to God, was, in its own small way, one of the appointed approaches to the Divine reality and the Divine beauty which we hope to enjoy hereafter, we can think so still.
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5 Pastoral Proverbs That Stuck
By Jared C. Wilson 2/14/2017
Proverbs 25:11 A word fitly spoken
is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
1. “The core you start with isn’t the core you finish with.” — Bill Hybels
Hybels did not say this to me personally, but he said it in a workshop at the 1996 Willow Creek Church Leadership Conference. I don’t know why it stuck with me then—I was a youth pastor at a Willow model church, but I wasn’t thinking in terms of church planting or anything then. I’ve sifted out a lot I’ve heard from the church growth guys, but this one I’ve kept, and it’s pretty true, in a variety of ways. I’ve had guys I was close with, been on leadership teams and in the trenches with, decide the whole “living a Christian life thing” wasn’t for them. Your biggest fans can turn into your biggest critics, and often do. Mainly because they are your biggest fans because there’s some kind of idolatry they’re getting out of you, seeing you as a functional savior in some way. And then you disappoint them and BOOM: it’s all over. But even if nobody turns on you or falls out with you, the longer you go in ministry, you see how the seasons of life and the growth of a church or ministry takes the rose-colored glasses off of “doing ministry” with the same people forever. Some people get to do that. Most don’t. The core you start with is not the core you finish with.
2. “You must renounce comfort as the chief value of your life.” — Mike Ayers
Mike was my first pastoral mentor, the guy whose ministry actually kept my wife and me sane and in ministry after I’d had a bad experience at a previous church that almost made me give up church altogether. He was the first guy to really take me under his wing and trust me and empower me and take me seriously, even as a young punk. I served as a youth minister at his church and learned a lot, especially about loving the lost and building relationships. Mike and his family have been through a lot themselves, so when I heard him say this line in a sermon, I knew it came from a place of authenticity. It stuck with me. And it’s exceptionally important for all Christians, including pastors, who can get too comfortable with praise and growth and too despondent with criticism and conflict.
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Jared C. Wilson is the Director of Content Strategy for Midwestern Seminary, managing editor of For The Church, director of The Pastoral Training Center at Liberty Baptist Church, and author of more than ten books, including Gospel Wakefulness, The Pastor’s Justification, and The Prodigal Church. You can follow him on Twitter.
The Story Behind John Piper’s Most Famous Attack on the Prosperity Gospel
By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra 2/14/2017John Piper’s most-viewed sermon clip of all time was an afterthought.
In fact, it was an off-the-cuff tangent to an afterthought, unusual for a man whose sermons are well-prepared and meticulously researched.
I don’t know what you feel about the prosperity gospel—the health, wealth and prosperity gospel—but I’ll tell you what I feel about it,” Piper told a gathering of more than 1,000 college students in November 2005. “Hatred.”
The founder of Desiring God and then-pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church continued:
It is not the gospel, and it’s being exported from this country to Africa and Asia, selling a bill of goods to the poorest of the poor: “Believe this message, and your pigs won’t die and your wife won’t have miscarriages, and you’ll have rings on your fingers and coats on your back.” That’s coming out of America—the people that ought to be giving our money and our time and our lives, instead selling them a bunch of crap called “gospel.”
The sanctuary at Mountain Brook Community Church in Birmingham, Alabama, was so full “it felt like college students were hanging from the rafters,” recalled David Mathis, who accompanied Piper on the trip.
But “you could hear a pin drop that night,” said Bryan Johnson, who was helping lead the University Christian Fellowship (UCF) campus ministry.
“I’ll tell you what makes Jesus look beautiful,” Piper told them. “It’s when you smash your car, and your little girl goes flying through the windshield, and lands dead on the street . . . and you say through the deepest possible pain, ‘God is enough.’”
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Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra is senior writer for The Gospel Coalition and contributing editor at Christianity Today. She earned her master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University.
Pro-Nicene Theology (Free E-Book)
By Fred Sanders 2/24/2017
Long story: In late 2016, Mike Allen and Scott Swain edited a blog series at Zondervan’s Common Places devoted to Pro-Nicene Theology. Pro-Nicene theology is trinitarianism, of course, but it’s not just the doctrine of the Trinity narrowly considered. To talk about pro-Nicene theology is to draw out some of the conceptual tools in the intellectual culture without which trinitarianism would not have been formulated and cannot thrive now. Chief among these tools are the doctrines of divine ineffability and simplicity, the inseparability of trinitarian operations ad extra, the doctrine of the Son’s eternal generation, and the distinction between theologia and oikonomia. Fred Sanders is Professor of Theology at Biola University's Torrey Honors Institute. He has an MDiv from Asbury Theological Seminary and PhD from Graduate Theological Union. He is the co-editor of Christology, Ancient and Modern: Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics (Los Angeles Theology Conference Series). Fred Sanders Books:
Of course you can read the whole blog series online at the original site, but Zondervan has also edited them together in pdf form as a 51-page e-book. Just click through (link or pic above) and tell them where to e-mail it, and you’ll get the pdf.
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Fred Sanders is Professor of Theology at Biola University's Torrey Honors Institute. He has an MDiv from Asbury Theological Seminary and PhD from Graduate Theological Union. He is the co-editor of Christology, Ancient and Modern: Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics (Los Angeles Theology Conference Series).
Fred Sanders Books:
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 25Teach Me Your Paths
25 Of David.
6 Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
7 Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for the sake of your goodness, O LORD!
8 Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9 He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
11 For your name’s sake, O LORD,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.
A gracious God and a neurotic monk
By Stephen J. Nichols 10/28/2017
One classic fable tells of a competition between the north wind and the sun: Who is stronger? Who can make a passing traveler remove his cloak? The north wind blows hard, but the traveler only wraps his cloak tighter around him. When the sun shines, though, the traveler takes off his cloak. Moral of the story: Persuasion is better than pressure, which is often true when humans are concerned. But Martin Luther knew that God uses both. Stephen J. Nichols, in The Legacy of Luther by R.C. Sproul (2016-10-03), a book he co-edited with R.C. Sproul (Reformation Trust, 2016), describes Luther as neurotically fearful and God as omnisciently gracious. God knew what pressure would get Luther’s attention, and make him understand that our problem is sin, not “sins in the plural. … If sin is quantified, then we look to merits or graces as the remedy.” Why is that so? Please read on. —Marvin Olasky
Erfurt: Becoming a Monk | During the course of his early studies, young Martin excelled, distinguishing himself from his classmates. These accomplishments opened the door for him to study at Erfurt. By the time Luther started there, the university was already more than a century old. The town, with a population hovering around twenty thousand, had industry, trade, and an extensive network of monasteries and churches. By 1502, Martin had earned his bachelor’s degree. Three years later, he took his master’s degree. He also took a Latinized form of his last name. He was now Martin Luther. He stayed in Erfurt, preparing for his doctorate in law.
Amid all of these academic accomplishments, Luther experienced intense struggles in his soul. No matter how much he experienced success, he could not escape the anxiety he felt. The German word for this anxiety is Anfechtung. It could be translated as “trial” or “affliction.” Roland Bainton expresses the difficulty in grasping this word when he observes, “There is no English equivalent.” Anfechtung refers to a deeply seated soul struggle. Bainton adds, “It may be a trial sent by God to test man, or an assault by the Devil to destroy man.”1 For Luther, we need to use the plural, Anfechtungen, as these crises of the soul came often. As his contemporaries did, Luther looked at spirituality and salvation as a contest between sins and merits. And it was a contest he nearly always lost.
In the summer of 1505, Luther traveled to his family’s home in Mansfeld for an extended visit. On his way back to Erfurt, he got caught in a violent thunderstorm. He presumed the storm to be God’s judgment on his soul. While at his family’s home, he more than likely spent time before the family altar, the shrine to St. Anne. Now, in the clutches of the storm, he cried out to her, “Help me, St. Anne, and I will become a monk!” She was the only mediator he knew.
A stone to the east of Stotternheim marks the place. Luther’s appeal to St. Anne is carved in the face of the granite. When Luther survived the storm and made his way back to Erfurt, he kept the words of promise. He turned his back on the law and became a monk.
Dr. Stephen J. Nichols Books | Go to Books Page
What do Christians mean when they say 'God spoke to me?'
by J. Warner Wallace 2/18/2018
I must confess that I empathized with Joy Behar, co-host of ABC’s The View, when she recently expressed concern about a claim that Vice President (and Christian believer) Mike Pence has heard the voice of Jesus on occasion.
I didn’t become a Christian until the age of thirty-five, and prior to that time, I also found it disturbing when Christians said, “God spoke to me last night,” or, “Jesus told me I should do this (or that).” Behar expressed a similar concern when she told her co-hosts, “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you. That’s called mental illness if I’m not correct. Hearing voices.”
I can honestly remember saying something similar to a Christian co-worker back when I was a committed atheist. He claimed that God told him something, and I thought he was, well… crazy. But years later, after becoming a Christian myself, I began to understand exactly what believers mean when they use expressions like this, and it’s not necessarily what Joy Behar may think.
I pressed my Christian friend, all those years ago, and asked him if he actually heard the audible voice of God, and if God sounded like George Burns (the movie, Oh, God!, was my only point of reference prior to Morgan Freeman’s role in Bruce Almighty). My friend laughed and explained that the expression, “God spoke to me,” didn’t necessarily mean that God spoke audibly. Christians, he said, believe the Bible is the “word of God,” and by reading it, gain access to the mind of God.
God can certainly speak to me in an audible way if He chooses, but He also speaks to me daily through Scripture, sage advisors and the everyday situations of my life.
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.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
6. The true knowledge of Christ consists in receiving him as he is
offered by the Father, namely, as invested with his Gospel. For, as he
is appointed as the end of our faith, so we cannot directly tend
towards him except under the guidance of the Gospel. Therein are
certainly unfolded to us treasures of grace. Did these continue shut,
Christ would profit us little. Hence Paul makes faith the inseparable
attendant of doctrine in these words, "Ye have not so learned Christ;
if so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the
truth is in Jesus," (Eph. 4:20, 21). Still I do not confine faith to
the Gospel in such a sense as not to admit that enough was delivered to
Moses and the Prophets to form a foundation of faith; but as the Gospel
exhibits a fuller manifestation of Christ, Paul justly terms it the
doctrine of faith (1 Tim. 4:6). For which reason, also he elsewhere
says, that, by the coming of faith, the Law was abolished (Rom. 10:4),
including under the expression a new and unwonted mode of teaching, by
which Christ, from the period of his appearance as the great Master,
gave a fuller illustration of the Father's mercy, and testified more
surely of our salvation. But an easier and more appropriate method will
be to descend from the general to the particular. First, we must
remember, that there is an inseparable relation between faith and the
word, and that these can no more be disconnected from each other than
rays of light from the sun. Hence in Isaiah the Lord exclaims, "Hear,
and your soul shall live," (Is. 4:3). And John points to this same
fountain of faith in the following words, "These are written that ye
might believe," (John 20:31). The Psalmist also exhorting the people to
faith says, "To-day, if ye will hear his voice," (Ps. 95:7), to hear
being uniformly taken for to believe. In fine, in Isaiah the Lord
distinguishes the members of the Church from strangers by this mark,
"All thy children shall be taught of the Lord," (Is. 54:13); for if the
benefit was indiscriminate, why should he address his words only to a
few? Corresponding with this, the Evangelists uniformly employ the
terms believers and disciples as synonymous. This is done especially by
Luke in several passages of the Acts. He even applies the term disciple
to a woman (Acts 9:36). Wherefore, if faith declines in the least
degree from the mark at which it ought to aim, it does not retain its
nature, but becomes uncertain credulity and vague wandering of mind.
The same word is the basis on which it rests and is sustained.
Declining from it, it falls. Take away the word, therefore, and no
faith will remain. We are not here discussing, whether, in order to
propagate the word of God by which faith is engendered, the ministry of
man is necessary (this will be considered elsewhere); but we say that
the word itself, whatever be the way in which it is conveyed to us, is
a kind of mirror in which faith beholds God. In this, therefore,
whether God uses the agency of man, or works immediately by his own
power, it is always by his word that he manifests himself to those whom
he designs to draw to himself. Hence Paul designates faith as the
obedience which is given to the Gospel (Rom. 1:5); and writing to the
Philippians, he commends them for the obedience of faith (Phil. 2:17).
For faith includes not merely the knowledge that God is, but also, nay
chiefly, a perception of his will toward us. It concerns us to know not
only what he is in himself, but also in what character he is pleased to
manifest himself to us. We now see, therefore, that faith is the
knowledge of the divine will in regard to us, as ascertained from his
word. And the foundation of it is a previous persuasion of the truth of
God. So long as your mind entertains any misgivings as to the certainty
of the word, its authority will be weak and dubious, or rather it will
have no authority at all. Nor is it sufficient to believe that God is
true, and cannot lie or deceive, unless you feel firmly persuaded that
every word which him is sacred, inviolable truth.
7. But since the heart of man is not brought to faith by every word of God, we must still consider what it is that faith properly has respect to in the word. The declaration of God to Adam was, "Thou shalt surely die," (Gen. 2:17); and to Cain, "The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground," (Gen. 4:10); but these, so far from being fitted to establish faith, tend only to shake it. At the same time, we deny not that it is the office of faith to assent to the truth of God whenever, whatever, and in whatever way he speaks: we are only inquiring what faith can find in the word of God to lean and rest upon. When conscience sees only wrath and indignation, how can it but tremble and be afraid? and how can it avoid shunning the God whom it thus dreads? But faith ought to seek God, not shun him. It is evident, therefore, that we have not yet obtained a full definition of faith, it being impossible to give the name to every kind of knowledge of the divine will. Shall we, then, for "will", which is often the messenger of bad news and the herald of terror, substitute the benevolence or mercy of God? In this way, doubtless, we make a nearer approach to the nature of faith. For we are allured to seek God when told that our safety is treasured up in him; and we are confirmed in this when he declares that he studies and takes an interest in our welfare. Hence there is need of the gracious promise, in which he testifies that he is a propitious Father; since there is no other way in which we can approach to him, the promise being the only thing on which the heart of man can recline. For this reason, the two things, mercy and truth, are uniformly conjoined in the Psalms as having a mutual connection with each other. For it were of no avail to us to know that God is true, did He not in mercy allure us to himself; nor could we of ourselves embrace his mercy did not He expressly offer it. "I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy loving-kindness and thy truth. Withhold not thy tender mercies from me, O Lord: let thy loving-kindness and thy truth continually preserve me," (Ps. 40:10, 11). "Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds," (Ps. 36:5). "All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies," (Ps. 25:10). "His merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever," (Ps. 117:2). "I will praise thy name for thy loving-kindness and thy truth," (Ps. 138:2). I need not quote what is said in the Prophets, to the effect that God is merciful and faithful in his promises. It were presumptuous in us to hold that God is propitious to us, had we not his own testimony, and did he not prevent us by his invitation, which leaves no doubt or uncertainty as to his will. It has already been seen that Christ is the only pledge of love, for without him all things, both above and below speak of hatred and wrath. We have also seen, that since the knowledge of the divine goodness cannot be of much importance unless it leads us to confide in it, we must exclude a knowledge mingled with doubt,--a knowledge which, so far from being firm, is continually wavering. But the human mind, when blinded and darkened, is very far from being able to rise to a proper knowledge of the divine will; nor can the heart, fluctuating with perpetual doubt, rest secure in such knowledge. Hence, in order that the word of God may gain full credit, the mind must be enlightened, and the heart confirmed, from some other quarter. We shall now have a full definition of faith  if we say that it is a firm and sure knowledge of the divine favor toward us, founded on the truth of a free promise in Christ, and revealed to our minds, and sealed on our hearts, by the Holy Spirit.
8. But before I proceed farther, it will be necessary to make some preliminary observations for the purpose of removing difficulties which might otherwise obstruct the reader. And first, I must refute the nugatory distinction of the Schoolmen as to formed and unformed faith.  For they imagine that persons who have no fear of God, and no sense of piety, may believe all that is necessary to be known for salvation; as if the Holy Spirit were not the witness of our adoption by enlightening our hearts unto faith. Still, however, though the whole Scripture is against them, they dogmatically give the name of faith to a persuasion devoid of the fear of God. It is unnecessary to go farther in refuting their definition, than simply to state the nature of faith as declared in the word of God. From this it will clearly appear how unskillfully and absurdly they babble, rather than discourse, on this subject. I have already done this in part, and will afterwards add the remainder in its proper place. At present, I say that nothing can be imagined more absurd than their fiction. They insist that faith is an assent with which any despiser of God may receive what is delivered by Scripture. But we must first see whether any one can by his own strength acquire faith, or whether the Holy Spirit, by means of it, becomes the witness of adoption. Hence it is childish trifling in them to inquire whether the faith formed by the supervening quality of love be the same, or a different and new faith. By talking in this style, they show plainly that they have never thought of the special gift of the Spirit; since one of the first elements of faith is reconciliation implied in man's drawing near to God. Did they duly ponder the saying of Paul, "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness," (Rom. 10:10), they would cease to dream of that frigid quality. There is one consideration which ought at once to put an end to the debate--viz. that assent itself (as I have already observed, and will afterwards more fully illustrate) is more a matter of the heart than the head, of the affection than the intellect. For this reason, it is termed "the obedience of faith," (Rom. 1:5), which the Lord prefers to all other service, and justly, since nothing is more precious to him than his truth, which, as John Baptist declares, is in a manner signed and sealed by believers (John 3:33). As there can be no doubt on the matter, we in one word conclude, that they talk absurdly when they maintain that faith is formed by the addition of pious affection as an accessory to assent, since assent itself, such at least as the Scriptures describe, consists in pious affection. But we are furnished with a still clearer argument. Since faith embraces Christ as he is offered by the Father, and he is offered not only for justification, for forgiveness of sins and peace, but also for sanctification, as the fountain of living waters, it is certain that no man will ever know him aright without at the same time receiving the sanctification of the Spirit; or, to express the matter more plainly, faith consists in the knowledge of Christ; Christ cannot be known without the sanctification of his Spirit: therefore faith cannot possibly be disjoined from pious affection.
9. In their attempt to mar faith by divesting it of love, they are wont to insist on the words of Paul, "Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing," (1 Cor. 13:2). But they do not consider what the faith is of which the Apostle there speaks. Having, in the previous chapter, discoursed of the various gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:10), including diversity of tongues, miracles, and prophecy, and exhorted the Corinthians to follow the better gifts, in other words, those from which the whole body of the Church would derive greater benefit, he adds, "Yet show I unto you a more excellent way," (1 Cor. 12:30). All other gifts, how excellent soever they may be in themselves, are of no value unless they are subservient to charity. They were given for the edification of the Church, and fail of their purpose if not so applied. To prove this he adopts a division, repeating the same gifts which he had mentioned before, but under different names. Miracles and faith are used to denote the same thing--viz. the power of working miracles. Seeing, then, that this miraculous power or faith is the particular gift of God, which a wicked man may possess and abuse, as the gift of tongues, prophecy, or other gifts, it is not strange that he separates it from charity. Their whole error lies in this, that while the term faith has a variety of meanings, overlooking this variety, they argue as if its meaning were invariably one and the same. The passage of James, by which they endeavor to defend their error, will be elsewhere discussed (infra, chap. 17, sec. 11). Although, in discoursing of faith, we admit that it has a variety of forms; yet, when our object is to show what knowledge of God the wicked possess, we hold and maintain, in accordance with Scripture, that the pious only have faith. Multitudes undoubtedly believe that God is, and admit the truth of the Gospel History, and the other parts of Scripture, in the same way in which they believe the records of past events, or events which they have actually witnessed. There are some who go even farther: they regard the Word of God as an infallible oracle; they do not altogether disregard its precepts, but are moved to some degree by its threatening and promises. To such the testimony of faith is attributed, but by catachresis; because they do not with open impiety impugn, reject, or condemn, the Word of God, but rather exhibit some semblance of obedience.
10. But as this shadow or image of faith is of no moment, so it is unworthy of the name. How far it differs from true faith will shortly be explained at length. Here, however, we may just indicate it in passing. Simon Magus is said to have believed, though he soon after gave proof of his unbelief (Acts 8:13-18). In regard to the faith attributed to him, we do not understand with some, that he merely pretended a belief which had no existence in his heart: we rather think that, overcome by the majesty of the Gospel, he yielded some kind of assent, and so far acknowledged Christ to be the author of life and salvation, as willingly to assume his name. In like manner, in the Gospel of Luke, those in whom the seed of the word is choked before it brings forth fruit, or in whom, from having no depth of earth, it soon withereth away, are said to believe for a time. Such, we doubt not, eagerly receive the word with a kind of relish, and have some feeling of its divine power, so as not only to impose upon men by a false semblance of faith, but even to impose upon themselves. They imagine that the reverence which they give to the word is genuine piety, because they have no idea of any impiety but that which consists in open and avowed contempt. But whatever that assent may be, it by no means penetrates to the heart, so as to have a fixed seat there. Although it sometimes seems to have planted its roots, these have no life in them. The human heart has so many recesses for vanity, so many lurking places for falsehood, is so shrouded by fraud and hypocrisy, that it often deceives itself. Let those who glory in such semblances of faith know that, in this respect, they are not a whit superior to devils. The one class, indeed, is inferior to them, inasmuch as they are able without emotion to hear and understand things, the knowledge of which makes devils tremble (James 2:19). The other class equals them in this, that whatever be the impression made upon them, its only result is terror and consternation.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
The Pilgrim's Progress From This World To That Which Is To Come;
Delivered Under The Similitude Of A Dream (Part 2)
By John Bunyan 1678
THE SECOND STAGECHR. But are the other righteousnesses of no use to us?
GREAT. Yes; for though they are essential to his natures and office, and cannot be communicated unto another, yet it is by virtue of them that the righteousness that justifies is for that purpose efficacious. The righteousness of his Godhead gives virtue to his obedience; the righteousness of his manhood giveth capability to his obedience to justify; and the righteousness that standeth in the union of these two natures to his office, giveth authority to that righteousness to do the work for which it was ordained.
So then here is a righteousness that Christ, as God, has no need of; for he is God without it: Here is a righteousness that Christ, as man, has no need of to make him so; for he is perfect man without it. Again, here is a righteousness that Christ, as God-man, has no need of; for he is perfectly so without it. Here then is a righteousness that Christ, as God, and as God-man, has no need of, with reference to himself, and therefore he can spare it; a justifying righteousness, that he for himself wanteth not, and therefore giveth it away: Hence it is called the gift of righteousness. This righteousness, since Christ Jesus the Lord has made himself under the law, must be given away; for the law doth not only bind him that is under it, to do justly, but to use charity.
Rom. 5:17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. ESV
Wherefore he must, or ought by the law, if he hath two coats, to give one to him that hath none. Now, our Lord indeed hath two coats, one for himself, and one to spare; wherefore he freely bestows one upon those that have none. And thus, Christiana and Mercy, and the rest of you that are here, doth your pardon come by deed, or by the work of another man. Your Lord Christ is he that worked, and hath given away what he wrought for, to the next poor beggar he meets.
But again, in order to pardon by deed, there must something be paid to God as a price, as well as something prepared to cover us withal. Sin has delivered us up to the just curse of a righteous law: now from this curse we must be justified by way of redemption, a price being paid for the harms we have done; and this is by the blood of your Lord, who came and stood in your place and stead, and died your death for your transgressions: Thus has he ransomed you from your transgressions by blood, and covered your polluted and deformed souls with righteousness,
Rom. 8:34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. ESV
for the sake of which, God passeth by you and will not hurt you when he comes to judge the world.
Gal. 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— ESV
CHR. This is brave! Now I see that there was something to be learned by our being pardoned by word and deed. Good Mercy, let us labor to keep this in mind: and, my children, do you remember it also. But, sir, was not this it that made my good Christian’s burden fall from off his shoulder, and that made him give three leaps for joy?
GREAT. Yes, it was the belief of this that cut those strings that could not be cut by other means; and it was to give him a proof of the virtue of this, that he was suffered to carry his burden to the cross.
CHR. I thought so; for though my heart was lightsome and joyous before, yet it is ten times more lightsome and joyous now. And I am persuaded by what I have felt, though I have felt but little as yet, that if the most burdened man in the world was here, and did see and believe as I now do, it would make his heart the more merry and blithe.
GREAT. There is not only comfort and the ease of a burden brought to us by the sight and consideration of these, but an endeared affection begot in us by it: for who can, if he doth but once think that pardon comes not only by promise but thus, but be affected with the way and means of his redemption, and so with the man that hath wrought it for him?
CHR. True; methinks it makes my heart bleed to think that he should bleed for me. Oh, thou loving One: Oh, thou blessed One. Thou deservest to have me; thou hast bought me. Thou deservest to have me all: thou hast paid for me ten thousand times more than I am worth. No marvel that this made the tears stand in my husband’s eyes, and that it made him trudge so nimbly on. I am persuaded he wished me with him: but, vile wretch that I was, I let him come all alone. Oh, Mercy, that thy father and mother were here; yea, and Mrs. Timorous also: nay, I wish now with all my heart that here was Madam Wanton too. Surely, surely, their hearts would be affected; nor could the fear of the one, nor the powerful lusts of the other, prevail with them to go home again, and to refuse to become good pilgrims.
GREAT. You speak now in the warmth of your affections; will it, think you, be always thus with you? Besides, this is not communicated to every one, nor to every one that did see your Jesus bleed. There were that stood by, and that saw the blood run from the heart to the ground, and yet were so far off this, that instead of lamenting, they laughed at him, and, instead of becoming his disciples, did harden their hearts against him. So that all that you have, my daughters, you have by peculiar impression made by a divine contemplating upon what I have spoken to you. Remember, that ’twas told you, that the hen, by her common call, gives no meat to her chickens. This you have therefore by a special grace.
Now I saw in my dream, that they went on until they were come to the place that Simple, and Sloth, and Presumption, lay and slept in when Christian went by on pilgrimage: and behold, they were hanged up in irons a little way off on the other side.
MER. Then said Mercy to him that was their guide and conductor, what are these three men; and for what are they hanged there?
GREAT. These three men were men of very bad qualities; they had no mind to be pilgrims themselves, and whomsoever they could, they hindered. They were sloth and folly themselves, and whomsoever they could persuade they made so too, and withal taught them to presume that they should do well at last. They were asleep when Christian went by; and now you go by, they are hanged.
MER. But could they persuade any to be of their opinion?
GREAT. Yes, they turned several out of the way. There was Slow-pace that they persuaded to do as they. They also prevailed with one Short-wind, with one No-heart, with one Linger-after-Lust, and with one Sleepy-head, and with a young woman, her name was Dull, to turn out of the way and become as they. Besides, they brought up an ill report of your Lord, persuading others that he was a hard taskmaster. They also brought up an evil report of the good Land, saying, it was not half so good as some pretended it was. They also began to vilify his servants, and to count the best of them meddlesome, troublesome busybodies. Further, they would call the bread of God husks; the comforts of his children, fancies; the travel and labor of pilgrims, things to no purpose.
CHR. Nay, said Christiana, if they were such, they shall never be bewailed by me: they have but what they deserve; and I think it is well that they stand so near the highway, that others may see and take warning. But had it not been well if their crimes had been engraven in some plate of iron or brass, and left here where they did their mischiefs, for a caution to other bad men?
GREAT. So it is, as you may well perceive, if you will go a little to the wall.
MER. No, no; let them hang, and their names rot, and their crimes live forever against them. I think it a high favor that they were hanged before we came hither: who knows else what they might have done to such poor women as we are? Then she turned it into a song, saying,
“Now then you three hang there, and be a sign
To all that shall against the truth combine.
And let him that comes after, fear this end,
If unto pilgrims he is not a friend.
And thou, my soul, of all such men beware,
That unto holiness opposers are.”
Ezek. 34:18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? 19 And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet? ESV
Thereat Mercy said, And why so envious, trow? But, said their guide, it will do, if taken up and put into a vessel that is sweet and good; for then the dirt will sink to the bottom, and the water come out by itself more clear. Thus therefore Christiana and her companions were compelled to do. They took it up, and put it into an earthen pot, and so let it stand till the dirt was gone to the bottom, and then they drank thereof.
Next he showed them the two by-ways that were at the foot of the hill, where Formality and Hypocrisy lost themselves. And, said he, these are dangerous paths. Two were here cast away when Christian came by; and although, as you see these ways are since stopped up with chains, posts, and a ditch, yet there are those that will choose to adventure here rather than take the pains to go up this hill.
CHR. “The way of transgressors is hard.”
Prov. 13:15 Good sense wins favor,
but the way of the treacherous is their ruin. ESV
It is a wonder that they can get into these ways without danger of breaking their necks.
GREAT. They will venture: yea, if at any time any of the King’s servants do happen to see them, and do call upon them, and tell them that they are in the wrong way, and do bid them beware of the danger, then they railingly return them answer, and say, “As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the King, we will not hearken unto thee; but we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth out of our own mouths.”
Jer. 44:16-17 16 “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD, we will not listen to you. 17 But we will do everything that we have vowed, make offerings to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we did, both we and our fathers, our kings and our officials, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no disaster. ESV
Nay, if you look a little further, you shall see that these ways are made cautionary enough, not only by these posts, and ditch, and chain, but also by being hedged up: yet they will choose to go there.
CHR. They are idle; they love not to take pains; up-hill way is unpleasant to them. So it is fulfilled unto them as it is written, “The way of the slothful man is full of thorns.”
Prov. 15:19 The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns,
but the path of the upright is a level highway. ESV
Yea, they will rather choose to walk upon a snare than to go up this hill, and the rest of this way to the city.
Then they set forward, and began to go up the hill, and up the hill they went. But before they got to the top, Christiana began to pant, and said, I dare say this is a breathing hill; no marvel if they that love their ease more than their souls choose to themselves a smoother way.
Then said Mercy, I must sit down: also the least of the children began to cry. Come, come, said Great-Heart, sit not down here; for a little above is the Prince’s arbor. Then he took the little boy by the hand, and led him up thereto.
When they were come to the arbor, they were very willing to sit down, for they were all in a pelting heat. Then said Mercy, “How sweet is rest to them that labor.”
Matt. 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. ESV
and how good is the Prince of pilgrims to provide such resting-places for them! Of this arbor I have heard much; but I never saw it before. But here let us beware of sleeping; for, as I have heard, it cost poor Christian dear.
Then said Mr. Great-Heart to the little ones, Come, my pretty boys, how do you do? What think you now of going on pilgrimage? Sir, said the least, I was almost beat out of heart; but I thank you for lending me a hand at my need. And I remember now what my mother hath told me, namely, that the way to heaven is as a ladder, and the way to hell is as down a hill. But I had rather go up the ladder to life, than down the hill to death.
Then said Mercy, But the proverb is, “To go down the hill is easy.” But James said, (for that was his name,) The day is coming when, in my opinion, when going down the hill will be the hardest of all. ’Tis a good boy, said his master; thou hast given her a right answer. Then Mercy smiled, but the little boy did blush.
CHR. Come, said Christiana, will you eat a bit to sweeten your mouths, while you sit here to rest your legs? for I have here a piece of pomegranate which Mr. Interpreter put into my hand just when I came out of his door; he gave me also a piece of an honeycomb, and a little bottle of spirits. I thought he gave you something, said Mercy, because he called you aside. Yes, so he did, said the other; but, said Christiana, it shall be still as I said it should, when at first we came from home; thou shalt be a sharer in all the good that I have, because thou so willingly didst become my companion. Then she gave to them, and they did eat, both Mercy and the boys. And said Christiana to Mr. Great-Heart, Sir, will you do as we? But he answered, You are going on pilgrimage, and presently I shall return; much good may what you have do you: at home I eat the same every day.
Pilgrim's Progress (Illustrated): Updated, Modern English. More than 100 Illustrations.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Rules of engagement
2/27/2018 Bob Gass
‘A gentle response defuses anger.’
Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger. ESV
Even in the best of marriages arguments will arise from time to time. With two people of differing temperaments, tastes, and ways of thinking, how could it be otherwise? So here are a few rules of engagement: 1) Think before you speak. Ask yourself if fear, stress, or worry may have provoked your mate’s response. Is it bothering you right now because you are feeling insecure and unappreciated? Could you be misreading or exaggerating the problem? Take time to try and identify what’s really happening. (2) Ask for what you need. It’s okay to admit that some days you are needier than others. Dr Gary Oliver says: ‘When a woman feels panicked every time her husband comes home late because her previous husband had an affair…it’s okay to say, “I know it’s irrational, but I’m having a panicky day.” That kind of honesty strengthens a relationship.’ 3) Never threaten. Threats just make your mate defensive and insecure. As a result, they can’t hear what you’re saying and nothing gets resolved. 4) Ditch the baggage from previous relationships. The Bible says, ‘Love…always looks for the best, never looks back’ (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 MSG). It’s wrong to make your mate keep ‘proving’ themselves over and over again. Don’t assume that old relationship problems are destined to keep repeating themselves. They won’t if you’re communicating and growing. 5) Say something nice to your mate every day. Any time you think something good about your spouse, stop and tell them. And when they reciprocate, respond graciously to what they’re saying. Remember, sharp words can create wounds, but ‘a gentle response defuses anger’.
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
“Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere… Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch… One if by land, two if by sea…” These lines are from the famous poem, Paul Revere’s Ride, written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who was born this day, February 27, 1807. He was an American poet and Harvard Professor, and wrote such American classics as: Evangeline; The Song of Hiawatha; and The Courtship of Miles Standish. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow stated: “Man is unjust, but God is just; and finally justice triumphs.”
Thomas R. Kelly
But now let us examine the ordinary experience of time, unrevised by this great discovery of the Eternal Life springing up within it. The ordinary man, busy earning a living, exercises care, caution, foresight. He calculates probabilities. He studies the past in order to predict and control the future. Then when he has weighed all his factors and plotted the outcome, with energy and industry he wills himself into persistent activity along the lines of calculated wisdom.
And much religious work is carried on in just this same way. With shrewd and canny foresight religious people study the past, examine all the factors in the situation which they can foresee, and then decide what is wisest to undertake, or what is most congruous with the Christian life described in the Gospels. Then they breathe a prayer to God to reinforce their wills and keep them strong in executing their resolve.
In this process, time spreads itself out like a ribbon, stretching away from the now into the past, and forward from the now into the future, at the far end of which stands the New Jerusalem. In this ribbon of time we live, anxiously surveying the past in order to learn how to manage the most important part of the ribbon, the future. The now is merely an incidental dividing point, unstable, non-important, except as by its unstaying migration we move ahead into the richer meadows and the greener pastures of the future. This, I fear, is the all-too-familiar world of all too many religious men and women, when a deeper and a richer experience is possible.
The experience of Divine Presence changes all this familiar picture. There come times when the Presence steals upon us, all unexpected not the product of agonized effort, and we live in a new dimension of life. You who have experienced such plateaus of glory know what I mean. Out from the plain of daily living suddenly loom such plateaus. Before we know it we are walking upon their heights, and all the old familiar landscape becomes new. The experience of Paul is very true: "The former things are passed away; behold, they are become new." One walks in the world yet above the world as well, giddy with the height, with feather tread, with effortlessness and calm security, meeting the daily routine, yet never losing the sense of Presence. Sometimes these periods are acute and brief, too dazzling to report to anyone. Sometimes they are less elevated but more prolonged, with a milder sense of glory and of lift, yet as surely of a piece with the more acute experience. Such experiences are emotionless, in themselves, but suffuse all emotion with a background of peace, utter, utter peace and security.
A Testament of Devotion
Compiled by Rick Adams
The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to affect His purpose.
--- Abraham Lincoln
Thus the foremost church father of the 20th century, Karl Barth (1886 -- 1968), reminds us that while justification should be thought of (initially) as God's act in declaring us righteous, that act cannot be separated, in any decisive way, from God's intention to make us righteous:
--- John R. Tyson
Atheism is a strange thing. Even the devils never fell into that vice, for “the devils also believe and tremble” (James 2:19).
--- Charles Spurgeon
In the book of life, the answers aren't in the back.
--- Charlie Brown, "Peanuts" comic strip, created by Charles Schultz
... from here, there and everywhere
University of Virginia Library 1994
From hence I went back into Virginia, and had a meeting near James Cowpland's; it was a time of inward suffering, but through the goodness of the Lord I was made content; at another meeting, through the renewings of pure love, we had a very comfortable season.
Travelling up and down of late, I have had renewed evidences that to be faithful to the Lord, and content with his will concerning me, is a most necessary and useful lesson for me to be learning; looking less at the effects of my labor than at the pure motion and reality of the concern, as it arises from heavenly love. In the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength; and as the mind, by humble resignation, is united to Him, and we utter words from an inward knowledge that they arise from the heavenly spring, though our way may be difficult, and it may require close attention to keep in it, and though the matter in which we may be led may tend to our own abasement; yet, if we continue in patience and meekness, heavenly peace will be the reward of our labors.
I attended Curles Meeting, which, though small, was reviving to the honest-hearted. Afterwards I went to Black Creek and Caroline Meetings, from whence, accompanied by William Standley before mentioned, I rode to Goose Creek, being much through the woods, and about one hundred miles. We lodged the first night at a public-house; the second in the woods; and the next day we reached a Friend's house at Goose Creek. In the woods we were under some disadvantage, having no fire-works nor bells for our horses, but we stopped a little before night and let them feed on the wild grass, which was plentiful, in the meantime cutting with our knives a store against night. We then secured our horses, and gathering some bushes under an oak we lay down; but the mosquitoes being numerous and the ground damp I slept but little. Thus lying in the wilderness, and looking at the stars, I was led to contemplate on the condition of our first parents when they were sent forth from the garden; how the Almighty, though they had been disobedient, continued to be a father to them, and showed them what tended to their felicity as intelligent creatures, and was acceptable to him. To provide things relative to our outward living, in the way of true wisdom, is good, and the gift of improving in things useful is a good gift, and comes from the Father of Lights. Many have had this gift; and from age to age there have been improvements of this kind made in the world. But some, not keeping to the pure gift, have in the creaturely cunning and self-exaltation sought out many inventions. As the first motive to these inventions of men, as distinct from that uprightness in which man was created, was evil, so the effects have been and are evil. It is, therefore, as necessary for us at this day constantly to attend on the heavenly gift, to be qualified to use rightly the good things in this life, amidst great improvements, as it was for our first parents when they were without any improvements, without any friend or father but God only.
I was at a meeting at Goose Creek, and next at a Monthly Meeting at Fairfax, where, through the gracious dealing of the Almighty with us, his power prevailed over many hearts.
From thence I went to Monoquacy and Pipe Creek in Maryland; at both places I had cause humbly to adore Him who had supported me through many exercises, and by whose help I was enabled to reach the true witness in the hearts of others. There were some hopeful young people in those parts. I had meetings afterwards at John Everit's, in Monalen, and at Huntingdon, and I was made humbly thankful to the Lord, who opened my heart amongst the people in these new settlements, so that it was a time of encouragement to the honest-minded.
At Monalen a Friend gave me some account of a religious society among the Dutch called Mennonists, and amongst other things related a passage in substance as follows: One of the Mennonists having acquaintance with a man of another society at a considerable distance, and being with his wagon on business near the house of his said acquaintance, and night coming on, he had thoughts of putting up with him, but passing by his fields, and observing the distressed appearance of his slaves, he kindled a fire in the woods hard by, and lay there that night. His said acquaintance hearing where he lodged, and afterward meeting the Mennonist, told him of it, adding he should have been heartily welcome at his house, and from their acquaintance in former time wondered at his conduct in that case. The Mennonist replied, "Ever since I lodged by thy field I have wanted an opportunity to speak with thee. I had intended to come to thy house for entertainment, but seeing thy slaves at their work, and observing the manner of their dress, I had no liking to come to partake with thee." He then admonished him to use them with more humanity, and added, "As I lay by the fire that night, I thought that as I was a man of substance thou wouldst have received me freely; but if I had been as poor as one of thy slaves, and had no power to help myself, I should have received from thy hand no kinder usage than they."
In this journey I was out about two months, and travelled about eleven hundred and fifty miles. I returned home under an humbling sense of the gracious dealings of the Lord with me, in preserving me through many trials and afflictions.
John Woolman's Journal
by D.H. Stern
and victory comes from much planning.
15 He who guarantees a loan for a stranger will suffer,
but refusing to underwrite is safe.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The impoverished ministry of Jesus
From whence then hast Thou that living water? --- John 4:11.
“The well is deep”—and a great deal deeper than the Samaritan woman knew! Think of the depths of human nature, of human life, think of the depths of the ‘wells’ in you. Have you been impoverishing the ministry of Jesus so that He cannot do anything? Suppose there is a well of fathomless trouble inside your heart, and Jesus comes and says — “Let not your heart be troubled”; and you shrug your shoulders and say—‘But, Lord, the well is deep; You cannot draw up quietness and comfort out of it.’ No, He will bring them down from above. Jesus does not bring anything up from the wells of human nature. We limit the Holy One of Israel by remembering what we have allowed Him to do for us in the past, and by saying—‘Of course I cannot expect God to do this thing.’ The thing that taxes almightiness is the very thing which as disciples of Jesus we ought to believe He will do. We impoverish His ministry the moment we forget He is Almighty; the impoverishment is in us, not in Him. We will come to Jesus as Comforter or as Sympathizer, but we will not come to Him as Almighty.
The reason some of us are such poor specimens of Christianity is because we have no Almighty Christ. We have Christian attributes and experiences, but there is no abandonment to Jesus Christ. When we get into difficult circumstances, we impoverish His ministry by saying—‘Of course He cannot do any thing,’ and we struggle down to the deeps and try to get the water for ourselves. Beware of the satisfaction of sinking back and saying—‘It can’t be done’; you know it can be done if you look to Jesus. The well of your incompleteness is deep, but make the effort and look away to Him.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
And God held in his hand
A small globe. Look, he said.
The son looked. Far off,
As through water, he saw
A scorched land of fierce
Colour. The light burned
There; crusted buildings
Cast their shadows; a bright
Serpent, A river
Uncoiled itself, radiant
On a bare
Hill a bare tree saddened
The sky. Many people
Held out their thin arms
To it, as though waiting
For a vanished April
To return to its crossed
Boughs. The son watched
Them. Let me go there, he said.
H'm: Poems by R. S. Thomas
Moses, the Man Part 1 of 2
Scripture gives us an unmatched picture of the formative decades of the life of Moses, the man God selected to lead Israel from slavery to freedom. We all know the familiar details of his infancy. But we can learn much by looking ahead, at the full scope of his ministry.
Formation (Ex. 2–5). Moses, placed in a floating basket of reeds, was found by the daughter of Thutmose I, Hatshepsut. Captivated by the infant, she adopted him as her own. Later, when a youth, Hatshepsut seized power from a nephew who had been crowned Thutmose III, and she ruled impressively for 22 years. Moses, secure in the affections of this powerful and brilliant woman ruler, was well trained: “Educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22).
When about 40, Moses was forced to make a choice. The burdens on his people Israel had grown greater during his lifetime. Finally Moses actually stepped in and killed an Egyptian who was beating an Israelite slave. When he discovered the killing had been observed, and when Thutmose III tried to kill him, Moses fled. No doubt this Pharaoh, who resumed the throne after his aunt’s death (and immediately ordered the defacing of all her monuments and the destruction of all records of her rule!) was glad to find an excuse to remove his aunt’s favorite.
Moses fled to Midian, a desert country far from Egypt, probably east of the present-day Gulf of Aqaba. There he lived for 40 years, his culture and his pride worn away by the harsh, simple life of a shepherd. Moses abandoned his vision of himself as Israel’s deliverer (cf. Ex. 2:11–15). Now, meek at last, Moses was finally a usable man.
What lessons can we learn from Moses as we meet him in Exodus 2–5? Several.
Use opportunities. God placed Moses, of slave heritage, in the palace of his people’s oppressors. There he was “educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action” (Acts 7:22). We too need to take opportunities to grow, and to develop within our own culture.
Dream dreams. Moses had a vision of himself as his people’s deliverer. When he killed the Egyptian taskmaster he supposed “that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not” (Acts 7:25). Not all of us are called to fulfill our early dreams. But the desire to do great things for God, and to dare great things to help those for whom He cares, is admirable in us as well as in Moses.
Accept discipline. The Jews didn’t share Moses’ vision of himself as a hero. Pharaoh heard what he had done, and Moses fled. For 40 years he lived as a simple shepherd in a backward land. The image of the hero faded under the stress of repetitious toil. Finally Moses learned to accept himself as a “nobody.” We too need this kind of discipline. God does not want to break our spirits. But He cannot use pride. When we accept ourselves as nobodies, only then can we become somebodies whom God can use.
Face limitations. At the burning bush Moses carried his “nobodyness” too far. At 80 God spoke to him, and announced that the youthful dream would be fulfilled. Now Moses hesitated. He saw so many reasons why he could not do what he had once planned to do.
“What if they do not believe me?”
“Lord, I have never been eloquent.”
“Lord, please send someone else.”
Each of these objections indicates clearly that Moses now was all too aware of his inadequacy. From “I can” he had swung to “I can’t.”
It’s important that we face our own limitations, and reject trust in our natural abilities. But we can be too overwhelmed by our weaknesses. We need to remember God, and shift our gaze from ourselves to Him.
Accept God’s commission. In the call to Moses, God had announced His purpose. “I am sending you … to bring My people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Ex. 3:10). For each objection, God had a promise:
“The elders of Israel will listen to you.”
“Go, and I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”
God is well able to do in us what He intends. With the commission of God comes the presence and power of God that enables us to fulfill it.
Expect disappointments. Moses did go as God commanded. And the Hebrews did welcome him. But, as God had also warned, Pharaoh did not listen. The burdens of the slave race were now increased. The people of Israel turned on Moses, and Moses turned to God. “Why have You brought trouble upon this people? Is this why You sent me?”
Every ministry knows disappointments. No path God asks us to follow will always be smooth. Learning to accept the disappointments and yet to always turn back to God is an important aspect of preparation for ministry.
Faithful service (Ex. 15–40). The events immediately following the Lord’s exhilarating victory over Pharaoh thrust Moses into burdensome spiritual leadership.
Moses’ basic problem was with the people he had been called to lead. Their character was all too quickly revealed. When Pharaoh’s army followed Israel to the sea, the people begged in terror to return to slavery (14:11–12). Even after the parting of the Red Sea, the people “grumbled against Moses” within three days because of a lack of water! As the journey toward Sinai continued, the attitude of the people became more and more sour. The “whole community murmured” (16:2), and finally expressed their rebelliousness in an anger so fierce they were ready to stone Moses himself! (17:4)
As we look at Moses the man, we need to see him as a person under pressure. Being a leader means carrying very real and very heavy burdens. Yet this stage of Moses’ life also has helpful lessons for us.
Don’t try to do it alone (Ex. 17–18). Exodus 17:4 shows Moses crying out in frustration. “What am I to do with these people?”
What a fascinating question. What shall I do? Moses was about to learn a vital lesson. He had begun to look at himself as the only one God uses, the one who had to provide all the solutions. He was alone, and indispensable. “What shall I do?”
All too often this is the cry of the ordained in our churches. Somehow the pastor and people alike come to feel that the ministry is one person’s task, and his or her responsibility alone. No wonder it seems impossible. It is!
God’s instructions to Moses give us insights. “Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel” (v. 5). Then God told Moses to strike a rock: “I will stand there before you,” God told him, “and water shall come out of it.”
Here are two ways that Moses was not alone. God was there before him. And some of the elders of Israel were there with him.
The lesson was immediately reinforced. As Israel traveled on, they met an enemy force. Joshua led Israel against the Amalekite army, and whenever Moses held up his arms, stretching them out toward the battlefield, Israel won! But soon Moses’ arms became tired. He couldn’t hold them up alone. And when he lowered his arms, Israel lost. There was only one solution. Moses sat on a rock, and allowed Aaron and Hur to stand beside him and hold up his arms.
What a message for Moses. Moses couldn’t do it alone. He had to have others’ help.
In chapter 18 we see the culmination. Moses, the lonely leader, was still trying to do it all himself. All day long he sat and settled disputes that arose among the people. Finally his visiting father-in-law, Jethro, broke in. “Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?” (v. 14) Moses explained: “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will.” Jethro’s comment was as potent today as it was then. “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out.… You cannot handle it alone.”
At last Moses heard! Moses chose capable men, and delegated authority to them (vv. 24–27). Hard cases were still brought to Moses. But the others were solved within the community.
Ministry in the Christian church is a shared responsibility. Even when members of a congregation are not yet spiritually mature, no leader is to bear the burden alone. The people of God are dependent on God, but interdependent on each other.
The Teacher's Commentary
Prayer, (with tweaks)
Dear Lord, I thank you for this day. I thank You for my being able to see and to hear this morning. I'm blessed because You are a forgiving God and an understanding God. You have done so much for me and You keep on blessing me. Forgive me this day for everything I have done, said or thought that was not pleasing to you. I ask now for Your forgiveness.
Please keep me safe from all danger and harm. Help me to start this day with a new attitude and plenty of gratitude. Let me make the best of each day to clear my mind so that I can hear from You.
Let me not whine and whimper over things I have no control over. Let me continue to see sin through God's eyes and acknowledge it as evil. And when I sin, let me repent, and confess with my mouth my wrongdoing, and receive the forgiveness of God.
And when this world closes in on me, let me remember Jesus' example -- to slip away and find a quiet place to pray. It's the best response when I'm pushed beyond my limits. I know that when I can't pray, You listen to my heart. Continue to use me to do Your will.
Continue to bless me that I may be a blessing to others. Keep me strong that I may help the weak. Keep me uplifted that I may have words of encouragement for others. I pray for those who are lost and can't find their way. I pray for those who are misjudged and misunderstood. I pray for those who don't know You intimately. I pray for those who don't believe. But I thank you that I believe.
I believe that God changes people and God changes things. I pray for all my sisters and brothers. For every family member in their households. I pray for peace, love and joy in their homes that they are out of debt and all their needs are met.
I pray that Your will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven.
I pray that every eye that reads this knows there is no problem, circumstance, or situation greater than God. Every battle is in Your hands for You to fight. I pray that these words be received into the hearts of every eye that sees them and every mouth that confesses them willingly.
This is my prayer.
In Jesus' Name,
Richard S. Adams
In his book, The Imitation Of Christ, Thomas A Kempis asks, “How happy and prudent is he who tries now in life to be what he wants to be found in death?” 1 Corinthians 15:55 “O death, where is your victory? Richard S. Adams | Lover of Christ, husband of Lily, father of four, grandfather of eleven, Masters in Divinity and Certificate in Spiritual Direction from George Fox Evangelical Seminary in 2008, on staff at Portland Seminary 1/2008 - 7/2018.
You’re OK, I’m OK, fades quickly in the shadow of death. We tell ourselves we do love the Lord with all our heart. Maybe we even say we’d do anything the Lord asks, but the Lord has not given us direction. What? We have been given clear direction, and it is for right now, not some future day and asset filled circumstance that may never come.
Matthew 22:37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” ESV
The water will never part till we step in. We need to focus on the present. We need to work to find the perfect, acceptable will of God in the routines and ruts that challenge us today. The curbs along life’s highway are not park benches to sit and watch life’s traffic. They remind us we’re in the mainstream, marching and following the same pied piper as our neighbor. Brave is the person who steps up and over life’s curbs to find the narrow path so many deny.
Isn’t the message of Jesus and Paul that we serve God by being the servants of others? Jesus came to do the will of the Father and the will of the Father is to be known … by everyone. To know God is to love God and if you love God you love others. Of course, so many say God does not exist, but the Bible says we are all without excuse.
Romans 1:20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. ESV
Instead of pointing a condemning finger at those not practicing the things to which they are called, I, and maybe you, need to remember that what I see in others, they see in me.
Many of us claim to love the Lord with all our heart, but miss the part about loving others. Not only are we to love others as ourselves, we are supposed to want what’s best for them, and if they ask for our coat we are supposed to freely give it, as well as a cup of water, food and even wash their feet. Maybe we don’t love God like we say we do.
Just as Jesus Christ became broken bread and poured-out wine in the hands of the Father, we are expected to be broken bread and poured-out wine in the hands of Jesus … and that means for others.
Jesus said that in the kingdom of God the greatest shall be the servant of all. When we are delighted to spend ourselves on what’s best for others, instead of our own agendas, when our conversation is about the gifts of others instead of our own, when our prayers are for others instead of ourselves, the fear of death will lose it's sting.
O death, where is your sting?” ESV
1 Corinthians 15:55 “O death, where is your victory?
Richard S. Adams | Lover of Christ, husband of Lily, father of four, grandfather of eleven, Masters in Divinity and Certificate in Spiritual Direction from George Fox Evangelical Seminary in 2008, on staff at Portland Seminary 1/2008 - 7/2018.Articles
Every discipline develops its own particular “language,” a unique way that its practitioners express themselves and communicate with one another. Sometimes it involves using specific words that no one else uses (as when the police speak about “perpetrators”). Other times, it entails giving ordinary words a unique meaning. (When a diplomat says “The talks were constructive,” he or she really means that things are going poorly, everyone is yelling at each other, but there is still hope.)
The same is true of the Rabbis in the Talmud. There are literally hundreds of technical terms that they use in the Mishnah and the Gemara. Many are concepts that are specific to the Jewish religion; tefillin, lulav, yibum, muad, treif, and niddah to name a few. (In this book, we explain these terms as they appear and define them again in the Glossary.) But there is another kind of technical term that is found in almost every line of the Talmud. Translated into English, it may seem obvious and ordinary, but in actuality, there may be a very specific meaning that the Rabbis are attempting to convey. The novice may be unaware of these coded phrases and thus may miss out on what is being taught.
For example, three phrases which are very similar in the Aramaic, and might be rendered into English in the same way, actually have specific meanings:
t’nan (“we are taught”) introduces a teaching from another Mishnah;
tanna (“he taught”) brings a brief tradition from the Tosefta;
tanya (“it was taught”) quotes a passage from a baraita.
Sometimes, even a minor change in word order can have real significance:
Amar Rabbi Ploni (“Said Rabbi so and so …”)—when the word amar (“said”)
precedes the name of the Rabbi, the statement will be undisputed.
Rabbi Ploni Amar (“Rabbi so and so said …”)—when the Rabbi’s name comes first,
the statement will usually be followed by the views of another Rabbi who disagrees.
Another example: In the give-and-take of a discussion, one view may be introduced with the word leima, translated as “let us say.” But the use of this particular word is a clue that the opinion stated will ultimately be rejected.
How is the beginner to know any of this? Sometimes we are able to figure these things out by ourselves as we study more and more and notice recurring patterns and forms. It is more likely, however, that we will need to turn to an expert for help. Here we begin to understand the important role a teacher plays in the enterprise of learning Talmud. In addition, it is important to have the proper tools as we begin to swim in this sea. There are dictionaries, encyclopedias, and guides (mentioned in the back of this book) which are indispensable to the study of Talmud.
We’re coming back to the surface now, after having taken a brief glimpse of what lies below. Our intent has not been to overwhelm the reader or frighten you away. Rather, it is to make the point that the Talmud is a very complex literature. Having said that, we hasten to add: There is nothing to match its power, its beauty, and its wisdom. Anyone who seriously undertakes to study Talmud will be rewarded immensely by the experience. At times it will be quite difficult. If you stick with it, and if you reach out for help, you will find your way. You will also find that swimming in this sea will change your life.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
Thomas A Kempis
Book Two / The Interior Life
The Second Chapter / Humility
BE NOT troubled about those who are with you or against you, but take care that God be with you in everything you do. Keep your conscience clear and God will protect you, for the malice of man cannot harm one whom God wishes to help. If you know how to suffer in silence, you will undoubtedly experience God’s help. He knows when and how to deliver you; therefore, place yourself in His hands, for it is a divine prerogative to help men and free them from all distress.
It is often good for us to have others know our faults and rebuke them, for it gives us greater humility. When a man humbles himself because of his faults, he easily placates those about him and readily appeases those who are angry with him.
It is the humble man whom God protects and liberates; it is the humble whom He loves and consoles. To the humble He turns and upon them bestows great grace, that after their humiliation He may raise them up to glory. He reveals His secrets to the humble, and with kind invitation bids them come to Him. Thus, the humble man enjoys peace in the midst of many vexations, because his trust is in God, not in the world. Hence, you must not think that you have made any progress until you look upon yourself as inferior to all others.
The Imitation Of Christ
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.
--- Psalm 103:13.
In the former part of this psalm the psalmist sang of God’s deeds of love, his gifts, his benefits, and his acts of kindness, but here he goes deeper into the divine motive and finds sweeter incentives to devout gratitude. (C. H. Spurgeon, “God’s Fatherly Pity, ” sermon 1,650 in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit series, preached on Thursday evening March 2, 1882, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington; downloaded from Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Sermons, at http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/WCarson/.) There is consolation in the fact that the heart of God is toward his people. He takes a warm interest in our welfare and has a feeling toward us of kindly, gentle affection—of such intensity that one of the highest forms of earthly love is here used to set forth the tender mercy of our God toward us.
It is an axiom in theology that God has no griefs—that he is “without parts or passions.” But I inwardly demur to such statements. They seem inconsistent with the tone and tenor of Scripture, for he appears to take pleasure in his people and to be “angry” with their ill-manners. Surely, metaphors that are inspired must have a meaning that is instructive. If the Father’s “heart yearns,” if our Lord and Savior is “filled with compassion,” and if the Holy Spirit is grieved, there must be something analogous to emotion in the attributes of the Most High.
At least he appears to sympathize with us, so that “in all their distress he too was distressed,” and he pities us as a father has compassion on his children. “That is speaking in a human way,” says somebody. True, and it is exactly the way I do speak. In no other way do I know how to speak, and until I learn to speak after the manner of angels you must pardon me and also the incapacity of my hearers to understand any other than human language.
Pity sympathizes with its objects, makes itself one with them. I believe in a God who can feel. As to Baal and the gods of the heathen, they may be passionless and without emotion or without anything that is akin to feeling. Not so do I find Jehovah to be described.
Believe it then, dear friends, with all your hearts, that God has kindly feelings toward those who fear him, such as a father has toward his children. This is a truth of which I feel jealous, and I do not wish to see it toned down.
--- C. H. Spurgeon
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
You can pray when you can do little else.
Robert Murray McCheyne taught himself Greek at age 4. He rose to the top of his elementary school at 5. He entered high school at 8, and enrolled at Edinburgh University at 14.
At age 18, he began dreaming of ministry and began the lifelong habit of the morning quiet time, his journal for February 23, 1834 reading: Rose early to seek God and found Him whom my soul loveth. Who would not rise early to meet such company? In 1836 he began pastoring St. Peter’s church in Dundee, beginning each day reading God’s Word and praying.
But McCheyne wasn’t well. He experienced “violent palpitations” of the heart, growing so weak and frail that he took an extended trip, seeking to recover. But he missed his church, and on February 27, 1839 he wrote them these words in a pastoral letter:
I wish to be like Epaphras in Colossians 4: “Always laboring fervently for you in prayer.” When hindered by God from laboring for you in any other way, it is my heart’s joy to labor for you thus. When Dr. Scott of Greenock, a good and holy minister, was laid aside by old age from preaching some years before his death, he used to say, “I can do nothing for my people now but pray for them. … ” This I also feel.
McCheyne only partially recovered, dying in 1843 at age 29. On the day of his death nothing was heard in the houses of Dundee but weeping. Men, meeting each other on the streets, burst into sobs. Scottish ministers studied his life and methods for the next hundred years, and his collected letters and sermons are classics. He once said, “If the veil of the world’s machinery were lifted off, how much we could find is done in answer to the prayers of God’s children.”
How much indeed.
We have not stopped praying for you since the first day we heard about you. In fact, we always pray that God will show you everything he wants you to do and that you may have all wisdom and understanding that his Spirit gives. Then you will live a life that honors the Lord. …
--- Colossians 1:9,10a.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - February 27
“Thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation.” --- Psalm 91:9.
The Israelites in the wilderness were continually exposed to change. Whenever the pillar stayed its motion, the tents were pitched; but tomorrow, ere the morning sun had risen, the trumpet sounded, the ark was in motion, and the fiery, cloudy pillar was leading the way through the narrow defiles of the mountain, up the hill side, or along the arid waste of the wilderness. They had scarcely time to rest a little before they heard the sound of “Away! this is not your rest; you must still be onward journeying towards Canaan!” They were never long in one place. Even wells and palm trees could not detain them. Yet they had an abiding home in their God, his cloudy pillar was their roof-tree, and its flame by night their household fire. They must go onward from place to place, continually changing, never having time to settle, and to say, “Now we are secure; in this place we shall dwell.” “Yet,” says Moses, “though we are always changing, Lord, thou hast been our dwelling-place throughout all generations.” The Christian knows no change with regard to God. He may be rich to-day and poor to-morrow; he may be sickly to-day and well to-morrow; he may be in happiness to-day, to-morrow he may be distressed—but there is no change with regard to his relationship to God. If he loved me yesterday, he loves me to-day. My unmoving mansion of rest is my blessed Lord. Let prospects be blighted; let hopes be blasted; let joy be withered; let mildews destroy everything; I have lost nothing of what I have in God. He is “my strong habitation whereunto I can continually resort.” I am a pilgrim in the world, but at home in my God. In the earth I wander, but in God I dwell in a quiet habitation.
Evening - February 27
“Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” --- Micah 5:2.
The Lord Jesus had goings forth for his people as their representative before the throne, long before they appeared upon the stage of time. It was “from everlasting” that he signed the compact with his Father, that he would pay blood for blood, suffering for suffering, agony for agony, and death for death, in the behalf of his people; it was “from everlasting” that he gave himself up without a murmuring word. That from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot he might sweat great drops of blood, that he might be spit upon, pierced, mocked, rent asunder, and crushed beneath the pains of death. His goings forth as our Surety were from everlasting. Pause, my soul, and wonder! Thou hast goings forth in the person of Jesus “from everlasting.” Not only when thou wast born into the world did Christ love thee, but his delights were with the sons of men before there were any sons of men. Often did he think of them; from everlasting to everlasting he had set his affection upon them. What! my soul, has he been so long about thy salvation, and will not he accomplish it? Has he from everlasting been going forth to save me, and will he lose me now? What! Has he carried me in his hand, as his precious jewel, and will he now let me slip from between his fingers? Did he choose me before the mountains were brought forth, or the channels of the deep were digged, and will he reject me now? Impossible! I am sure he would not have loved me so long if he had not been a changeless Lover. If he could grow weary of me, he would have been tired of me long before now. If he had not loved me with a love as deep as hell, and as strong as death, he would have turned from me long ago. Oh, joy above all joys, to know that I am his everlasting and inalienable inheritance, given to him by his Father or ever the earth was! Everlasting love shall be the pillow for my head this night.
Morning and Evening
IT’S JUST LIKE HIS GREAT LOVE
Edna R. Worrell, 19th century
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
(1 John 3:1)
The greatest demonstration of love is God’s gift of Jesus Christ to a lost world. It is impossible to comprehend fully this divine love; it can only be learned experientially. As we grow in our love relationship with the Lord, we begin to realize in part the magnitude of His love. This love is unconditional—He loves us regardless of our failures or successes. This love is impartial—it includes everyone. This love is infinite and eternal—simply because God Himself is love! And this love is personal—He loves each of us as if we were the only one in His world to love.
Discouragement is common to each of us, especially in our moments of self-pity or as we are made aware of our shortcomings. In times like these, introspection—continually looking within—only makes us more miserable. Rather, we need to look up. We need to focus on Christ and His great love for us, to remember that we are “children of God,” and to rely on His promise that our eternal destiny is heaven. Such a reflection will assuredly change any gloom to song and restore once more a walk of sweet fellowship with our Lord. Then we will have the joy of knowing that Jesus will keep us from day to day because of His great love.
A Friend I have, called Jesus, whose love is strong and true, and never fails how e’er ’tis tried, no matter what I do; I’ve sinned against this love of His, but when I knelt to pray, confessing all my guilt to Him, the sin-clouds rolled away.
Sometimes the clouds of trouble bedim the sky above. I cannot see my Savior’s face; I doubt His wondrous love; but He, from heaven’s mercy seat, beholding my despair, in pity bursts the clouds between and shows me He is there.
When sorrow’s clouds o’ertake me and break upon my head, when life seems worse than useless and I were better dead, I take my grief to Jesus then, nor do I go in vain, in pity bursts the clouds between and shows me He is there.
Oh, I could sing forever of Jesus’ love divine, of all His care and tenderness for this poor life of mine; His love is in and over all, and wind and waves obey when Jesus whispers “Peace, be still!” and rolls the clouds away.
Chorus: It’s just like Jesus to roll the clouds away; it’s just like Jesus to keep me day by day. It’s just like Jesus all along the way; it’s just like His great love.
For Today: Luke 19:10; Ephesians 3:18, 19; 1 John 3:16; 4:9, 10.
Determine to live joyfully as one who knows what it means to be loved and forgiven by God’s great love. Carry this musical truth with you ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Brett read the following:
m2-086 | 9-9-2015
“I watched them tearing a building down,
A gang of men in a busy town.
With a ho-heave-ho and a lusty yell,
They swung a beam, and the side wall fell.
I asked the foreman: "Are these skilled--
And the men you'd hire if you had to build?"
He gave me a laugh and said: "No, indeed!
Just common labor is all I need.
I can wreck in a day or two
What builders have taken a year to do."
And I thought to myself as I went my way,
Which of these roles have I tried to play?
Am I a builder who works with care
Measuring life by a rule and square?
Am I shaping my deeds to a well made Plan,
Patiently doing the best I can?
Or am I a wrecker, who walks the town
Content with the labor of tearing down?”
--- Edgar A. Guest
m2-087 | 9-16-2015