The Birth of IsaacGenesis 21:1 The LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did to Sarah as he had promised. 2 And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. 3 Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac. 4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6 And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.” 7 And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
God Protects Hagar and Ishmael8 And the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. 9 But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, laughing. 10 So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.” 11 And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account of his son. 12 But God said to Abraham, “Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named. 13 And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring.” 14 So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.
15 When the water in the skin was gone, she put the child under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, “Let me not look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. 17 And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. 18 Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” 19 Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. 20 And God was with the boy, and he grew up. He lived in the wilderness and became an expert with the bow. 21 He lived in the wilderness of Paran, and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.
A Treaty with Abimelech22 At that time Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his army said to Abraham, “God is with you in all that you do. 23 Now therefore swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me or with my descendants or with my posterity, but as I have dealt kindly with you, so you will deal with me and with the land where you have sojourned.” 24 And Abraham said, “I will swear.”
25 When Abraham reproved Abimelech about a well of water that Abimelech’s servants had seized, 26 Abimelech said, “I do not know who has done this thing; you did not tell me, and I have not heard of it until today.” 27 So Abraham took sheep and oxen and gave them to Abimelech, and the two men made a covenant. 28 Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock apart. 29 And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs that you have set apart?” 30 He said, “These seven ewe lambs you will take from my hand, that this may be a witness for me that I dug this well.” 31 Therefore that place was called Beersheba, because there both of them swore an oath. 32 So they made a covenant at Beersheba. Then Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his army rose up and returned to the land of the Philistines. 33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God. 34 And Abraham sojourned many days in the land of the Philistines.
Laborers in the VineyardMatthew 20:1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ 5 So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”
Jesus Foretells His Death a Third Time17 And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 18 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death 19 and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”
A Mother’s Request20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus Heals Two Blind Men29 And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. 30 And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 31 The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 32 And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” 33 They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” 34 And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.
The People Who Sealed the CovenantNehemiah 10:1 On the seals are the names of Nehemiah the governor, the son of Hacaliah, Zedekiah, 2 Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, 3 Pashhur, Amariah, Malchijah, 4 Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch, 5 Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah, 6 Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch, 7 Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin, 8 Maaziah, Bilgai, Shemaiah; these are the priests. 9 And the Levites: Jeshua the son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, Kadmiel; 10 and their brothers, Shebaniah, Hodiah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan, 11 Mica, Rehob, Hashabiah, 12 Zaccur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah, 13 Hodiah, Bani, Beninu. 14 The chiefs of the people: Parosh, Pahath-moab, Elam, Zattu, Bani, 15 Bunni, Azgad, Bebai, 16 Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin, 17 Ater, Hezekiah, Azzur, 18 Hodiah, Hashum, Bezai, 19 Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai, 20 Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir, 21 Meshezabel, Zadok, Jaddua, 22 Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah, 23 Hoshea, Hananiah, Hasshub, 24 Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek, 25 Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah, 26 Ahiah, Hanan, Anan, 27 Malluch, Harim, Baanah.
The Obligations of the Covenant28 “The rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, and all who have separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God, their wives, their sons, their daughters, all who have knowledge and understanding, 29 join with their brothers, their nobles, and enter into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law that was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord and his rules and his statutes. 30 We will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons. 31 And if the peoples of the land bring in goods or any grain on the Sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on a holy day. And we will forego the crops of the seventh year and the exaction of every debt.
32 “We also take on ourselves the obligation to give yearly a third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God: 33 for the showbread, the regular grain offering, the regular burnt offering, the Sabbaths, the new moons, the appointed feasts, the holy things, and the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God. 34 We, the priests, the Levites, and the people, have likewise cast lots for the wood offering, to bring it into the house of our God, according to our fathers’ houses, at times appointed, year by year, to burn on the altar of the LORD our God, as it is written in the Law. 35 We obligate ourselves to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the firstfruits of all fruit of every tree, year by year, to the house of the LORD; 36 also to bring to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in the house of our God, the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, as it is written in the Law, and the firstborn of our herds and of our flocks; 37 and to bring the first of our dough, and our contributions, the fruit of every tree, the wine and the oil, to the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and to bring to the Levites the tithes from our ground, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all our towns where we labor. 38 And the priest, the son of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive the tithes. And the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes to the house of our God, to the chambers of the storehouse. 39 For the people of Israel and the sons of Levi shall bring the contribution of grain, wine, and oil to the chambers, where the vessels of the sanctuary are, as well as the priests who minister, and the gatekeepers and the singers. We will not neglect the house of our God.”
Paul in Macedonia and GreeceActs 20:1 After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. 2 When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece. 3 There he spent three months, and when a plot was made against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. 4 Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus. 5 These went on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas, 6 but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days.
Eutychus Raised from the Dead7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. 9 And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. 10 But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” 11 And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. 12 And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted.
13 But going ahead to the ship, we set sail for Assos, intending to take Paul aboard there, for so he had arranged, intending himself to go by land. 14 And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and went to Mitylene. 15 And sailing from there we came the following day opposite Chios; the next day we touched at Samos; and the day after that we went to Miletus. 16 For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia, for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.
Paul Speaks to the Ephesian Elders17 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18 And when they came to him, he said to them:
“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
The Supreme Court Quietly Gives Religious Liberty a Big Win
By Monica Burke 1/17/2018
It’s a victory in a battle that never should have happened in the first place.
Religious liberty and freedom of conscience won big at the Supreme Court last week, just in time for Religious Freedom Day on Jan. 16.
The justices declined last week to hear a legal challenge against a Mississippi law that protects citizens, small businesses, government employees, and charities from official discrimination by government if they believe that marriage is between one man and one woman.
The Mississippi law benefits people on both sides of the marriage debate because when a government can punish one group of citizens for dissenting from cultural orthodoxy, it can punish any group for any belief.
In declining to hear a case against Mississippi’s Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act (HB 1523), the Supreme Court let stand the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision in the face of challenges by the ACLU and Lambda Legal.
Now a year after HB 1523 was passed, Mississippians know they are free to live according to their religious beliefs about marriage without fear of losing their livelihoods.
Monica Burke is a research assistant in the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation. @MonicaGBurke
A Guide to Basic Differences Between Left and Right
By Dennis Prager 1/16/2017
Right: the Creator
Left: basically good (Therefore, society is primarily responsible for evil.)
Right: not basically good (Therefore, the individual is primarily responsible for
Primary Role of the State
Left: increase and protect equality
Right: increase and protect libertyClick here to go to source Stream contributor Dennis Prager, one of America’s most respected radio talk show hosts, has been broadcasting in Los Angeles since 1982. His popular show became nationally syndicated in 1999 and airs live, Monday through Friday, 9am to 12pm (Pacific Time), 12pm to 3pm (Eastern) from his home station, KRLA.
Dennis Prager Books:
The Women's March on Washington's Decision to Boot Pro-Life Feminist Group is Revealing
By Liberty Mcartor 1/17/2017
Abortion advocates are attempting to hijack the entire concept of feminism. We can't let that happen.
The Women’s March on Washington, slated for this Saturday, has called for “all defenders of human rights” to “join in diversity” and advocate “our multiple and intersecting identities.” The event will march through the nation’s capital to show that “our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”
There’s just one little caveat. “All defenders of human rights” actually means only those who defend a woman’s right to choose abortion. “Diversity” doesn’t mean diversity of beliefs regarding life. And “multiple and intersecting identities” doesn’t include anyone who identifies as a pro-life feminist.
At least, that’s the message that the Women’s March is sending with their latest announcement, which has booted the pro-life non-profit New Wave Feminists from its list of partners.
Pro-Life Feminists Welcome! Wait, Never mind. | It happened on Monday after The Atlantic published an article about pro-life women who intend to join the march. “Is there room in the movement for people who morally object to abortion?” the subtitle asked.
By John Piper 8/15/2004
(Ro 12:1–2)I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. ESV
As I have thought and prayed about these verses, it seems to me that there are two more very large issues we should deal with before moving on to verse 3. I would like to give a week to each of them.
The Will of God | One, which I hope to deal with next week, is the meaning of the term “the will of God.” Verse 2 says that we are to discern what is “the will of God.” It’s a very common phrase and I think that sometimes, when we use it, we may not know what we are talking about. That is not spiritually healthy. If you get into the habit of using religious language without knowing what you mean by it, you will increasingly become an empty shell. And many alien affections move into empty religious minds which have language but little or wrong content.
The term “the will of God” has at least two and possibly three biblical meanings. First, there is the sovereign will of God, that always comes to pass without fail. Second, there is the revealed will of God in the Bible — do not steal, do not lie, do not kill, do not covet — and this will of God often does not come to pass. And third, there is the path of wisdom and spontaneous godliness — wisdom where we consciously apply the word of God with our renewed minds to complex moral circumstances, and spontaneous godliness where we live most of our lives without conscious reflection on the hundreds of things we say and do all day. Next week we need to sort this out and ask what Paul is referring to in Romans 12:2.
Transformation by the Renewal of Your Mind | But today I want to focus on the phrase in Romans 12:2, “by the renewal of your mind.” Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” We are perfectly useless as Christ-exalting Christians if all we do is conform to the world around us. And the key to not wasting our lives with this kind of success and prosperity, Paul says, is being transformed. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed.”
“We are perfectly useless as Christians if all we do is conform to the world around us.”
John Piper Books:
- Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture
- Don't Waste Your Life
- Desiring God, Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist
- When I Don't Desire God (Redesign): How to Fight for Joy
- A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness
- Future Grace, Revised Edition: The Purifying Power of the Promises of God
- When the Darkness Will Not Lift: Doing What We Can While We Wait for God--and Joy
- This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence
- Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God's Grace
- Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ (Revised Edition)
- Living in the Light: Money, Sex and Power
- The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God's Delight in Being God
- Taste and See: Savoring the Supremacy of God in All of Life
- A Camaraderie of Confidence: The Fruit of Unfailing Faith in the Lives of Charles Spurgeon, George Müller, and Hudson Taylor
- A Camaraderie of Confidence: The Fruit of Unfailing Faith in the Lives of Charles Spurgeon, George Müller, and Hudson Taylor
- Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions
- God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself
- Rethinking Retirement: Finishing Life for the Glory of Christ
- The Legacy of Sovereign Joy: God's Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin
- Doctrine Matters: Ten Theological Trademarks From a Lifetime of Preaching
- A Hunger for God (Redesign): Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer
- The Dangerous Duty of Delight: The Glorified God and the Satisfied Soul
- Battling Unbelief: Defeating Sin with Superior Pleasure
- Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry, Updated and Expanded Edition
- The Supremacy of God in Preaching
- Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (Redesign): A Response to Evangelical Feminism
- Risk Is Right: Better to Lose Your Life Than to Waste It
- Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ: The Cost of Bringing the Gospel to the Nations in the Lives of William Tyndale, Adoniram Judson, and John Paton (The Swans Are Not Silent)
- A Godward Heart: Treasuring the God Who Loves You
- The Roots of Endurance: Invincible Perseverance in the Lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon, and William Wilberforce
- Don't Waste Your Cancer
- Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian
- The Hidden Smile of God: The Fruit of Affliction in the Lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper, and David Brainerd
- Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully: The Power of Poetic Effort in the Work of George Herbert, George Whitefield, and C. S. Lewis
- Suffering and the Sovereignty of God
- Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist
- The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23
- Finally Alive
- A Godward Life: Seeing the Supremacy of God in All of Life
- Spectacular Sins (Redesign): And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ
- Pierced by the Word: Thirty-One Meditations for Your Soul
- God's Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards (With the Complete Text of The End for Which God Created the World)
- Life as a Vapor: Thirty-One Meditations for Your Faith
- Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God
- 50 Crucial Questions: An Overview of Central Concerns about Manhood and Womanhood
- What Jesus Demands from the World (Paperback Edition)
- What's the Difference?: Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible
- Contending for Our All: Defending Truth and Treasuring Christ in the Lives of Athanasius, John Owen, and J. Gresham Machen
- Finish the Mission: Bringing the Gospel to the Unreached and Unengaged
- John Calvin and His Passion for the Majesty of God
- A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer
- Does God Desire All to Be Saved?
- Preparing for Marriage: Help for Christian Couples
- The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent
- The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright
- The Satisfied Soul: Showing the Supremacy of God in All of Life
- Thinking. Loving. Doing.: A Call to Glorify God with Heart and Mind
- A Hunger for God (Redesign): Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer
- Quest for Joy (Pack of 25) (Proclaiming the Gospel)
- Ruth: Under the Wings of God
- Not a Day Care: The Devastating Consequences of Abandoning Truth
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 10Why Do You Hide Yourself?
10:1 Why, O LORD, do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
2 In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor;
let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.
3 For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,
and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the LORD.
4 In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him;
all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
5 His ways prosper at all times;
your judgments are on high, out of his sight;
as for all his foes, he puffs at them.
Do You Want the Friends You Need?
By Greg Morse 1/17/2018
He is often the subject of whispering.
“Oh, here he comes — better get your Bibles out.”
“No wonder no one invites him out to lunch; he can never just have a normal conversation.”
“I can’t enjoy the game without being asked a million questions about my walk with the Lord and struggles with sin.”
He is serious about holiness, concerned with his friends’ souls, and devoted to helping them to pursue Jesus with all their heart. Although Solomon calls him the sweetest of friends (Proverbs 27:9), he is often left outside in the wilderness of Christian gatherings to eat locusts and wild honey.
He speaks with urgency, he speaks with sobriety, he says things others don’t. He makes Christians bail and jokers ask under their breath, “Why so serious?” His name is Earnest.
Moralism is Not the Gospel (But Many Christians Think It Is)
By Albert Mohler 1/12/2018
One of the most amazing statements by the Apostle Paul is his indictment of the Galatian Christians for abandoning the Gospel. “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel,” Paul declared. As he stated so emphatically, the Galatians had failed in the crucial test of discerning the authentic Gospel from its counterfeits.
His words could not be more clear: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you have received, he is to be accursed!” [Gal. 1:6-7]
This warning from the Apostle Paul, expressed in the language of the Apostle’s shock and grief, is addressed not only to the church in Galatia, but to every congregation in every age. In our own day — and in our own churches — we desperately need to hear and to heed this warning. In our own time, we face false gospels no less subversive and seductive than those encountered and embraced by the Galatians.
In our own context, one of the most seductive false gospels is moralism. This false gospel can take many forms and can emerge from any number of political and cultural impulses. Nevertheless, the basic structure of moralism comes down to this — the belief that the Gospel can be reduced to improvements in behavior.
Sadly, this false gospel is particularly attractive to those who believe themselves to be evangelicals motivated by a biblical impulse. Far too many believers and their churches succumb to the logic of moralism and reduce the Gospel to a message of moral improvement. In other words, we communicate to lost persons the message that what God desires for them and demands of them is to get their lives straight.
- 1 God and the Transgender Debate
- 2 The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters
- 3 Live Smart: Preparing for the Future God Wants for You
- 4 God's Word Alone---The Authority of Scripture: ...and Why It Still Matters
- 5 Culture Shift: The Battle for the Moral Heart of America
- 6 Echoes of the Reformation
- 7 The Call to Ministry
- 8 A Guide to Church Revitalization
- 9 Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism
- 10 Living The Cross Centered Life Keeping The Gospel The Main Thing
- 11 Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching
- 12 Essential Reading on Preaching (Volume 1)
- 13 Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy
- 14 The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters
- 15 Unashamed of the Gospel
- 16 Desire and Deceit: The Real Cost of the New Sexual Tolerance
- 17 Culture Shift: The Battle for the Moral Heart of America
- 18 Gods of This Age Or... God of the Ages?
- 19 Acts 1-12: The Church is Born
- 20 More Faithful Service
- 21 The Disappearance of God: Dangerous Beliefs in the New Spiritual Openness
- 22 Preaching: The Centrality of Scripture
- 23 Theological Education in the Evangelical Tradition
- 24 More Faithful Service
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
EXPOSITION OF THE MORAL LAW.
This chapter consists of four parts. I. Some general observations necessary for the understanding of the subject are made by way of preface, sec. 1-5. II. Three things always to be attended to in ascertaining and expounding the meaning of the Moral Law, sec. 6-12. III. Exposition of the Moral Law, or the Ten Commandments, sec. 13-15. IV. The end for which the whole Law is intended--viz. to teach not only elementary principles, but perfection, sec. 51, to the end of the chapter.
1. The Law was committed to writing, in order that it might teach more fully and perfectly that knowledge, both of God and of ourselves, which the law of nature teaches meagrely and obscurely. Proof of this, from an enumeration of the principal parts of the Moral Law; and also from the dictate of natural law, written on the hearts of all, and, in a manner, effaced by sin.
2. Certain general maxims. 1. From the knowledge of God, furnished by the Law, we learn that God is our Father and Ruler. Righteousness is pleasing, iniquity is an abomination in his sight. Hence, how weak soever we may be, our duty is to cultivate the one, and shun the other.
3. From the knowledge of ourselves, furnished by the Law, we learn to discern our own utter powerlessness, we are ashamed; and seeing it is in vain to seek for righteousness in ourselves, are induced to seek it elsewhere.
4. Hence, God has annexed promises and threatening to his promises. These not limited to the present life, but embrace things heavenly and eternal. They, moreover, attest the spotless purity of God, his love of righteousness, and also his kindness towards us.
5. The Law shows, moreover, that there is nothing more acceptable to God than obedience. Hence, all superstitious and hypocritical modes of worship are condemned. A remedy against superstitious worship and human presumption.
6. The second part of the chapter, containing three observations or rules. First rule, Our life must be formed by the Law, not only to external honesty, but to inward and spiritual righteousness. In this respect, the Law of God differs from civil laws, he being a spiritual Lawgiver, man not. This rule of great extent, and not sufficiently attended to.
7. This first rule confirmed by the authority of Christ, and vindicated from the false dogma of Sophists, who say that Christ is only another Moses.
8. Second observation or rule to be carefully attended to--viz. that the end of the command must be inquired into, until it is ascertained what the Lawgiver approves or disapproves. Example. Where the Law approves, its opposite is condemned, and vice versa.
9. Full explanation of this latter point. Example.
10. The Law states what is most impious in each transgression, in order to show how heinous the transgression is. Example.
11. Third observation or rule regards the division of the Law into Two Tables: the former comprehending our duty to God; the latter, our duty to our neighbour. The connection between these necessary and inseparable. Their invariable order. Sum of the Law.
12. Division of the Law into Ten Commandments. Various distinctions made with regard to them, but the best distinction that which divides them into Two Tables. Four commandments belong to the First, and six to the Second Table.
13. The third part of the chapter, containing an exposition of the Decalogue. The preface vindicates the authority of the Law. This it does in three ways. First, by a declaration of its majesty.
14. The preface to the Law vindicates its authority. Secondly, by calling to mind God's paternal kindness.
15. Thirdly, by calling to mind the deliverance out of the land of Egypt. Why God distinguishes himself by certain epithets. Why mention is made of the deliverance from Egypt. In what way, and how far, the remembrance of this deliverance should still affect us.
16. Exposition of the First Commandment. Its end. What it is to have God, and to have strange gods. Adoration due to God, trust, invocation, thanksgiving, and also true religion, required by the Commandment. Superstition, Polytheism, and Atheism, forbidden. What meant by the words, "before me."
17. Exposition of the Second Commandment. The end and sum of it. Two parts. Short enumeration of forbidden shapes.
18. Why a threatening is added. Four titles applied to God, to make a deeper impression. He is called Mighty, Jealous, an Avenger, Merciful. Why said to be jealous. Reason drawn from analogy.
19. Exposition of the threatening which is added. First, as to visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children. A misinterpretation on this head refuted, and the genuine meaning of the threatening explained.
20. Whether this visiting of the sins of parents inconsistent with the divine justice. Apparently conflicting passages reconciled.
21. Exposition of the latter part--viz. the showing mercy to thousands. The use of this promise. Consideration of an exception of frequent occurrence. The extent of this blessing.
22. Exposition of the Third Commandment. The end and sum of it. Three parts. These considered. What it is to use the name of God in vain. Swearing. Distinction between this commandment and the Ninth.
23. An oath defined. It is a species of divine worship. This explained.
24. Many modes in which this commandment is violated. 1. By taking God to witness what we know is false. The insult thus offered.
25. Modes of violation continued. 2. Taking God to witness in trivial matters. Contempt thus shown. When and how an oath should be used. 3. Substituting the servants of God instead of himself when taking an oath.
26. The Anabaptists, who condemn all oaths, refuted. 1. By the authority of Christ, who cannot be opposed in anything to the Father. A passage perverted by the Anabaptists explained. The design of our Saviour in the passage. What meant by his there prohibiting oaths.
27. The lawfulness of oaths confirmed by Christ and the apostles. Some approve of public, but not of private oaths. The lawfulness of the latter proved both by reason and example. Instances from Scripture.
28. Exposition of the Fourth Commandment. Its end. Three purposes.
29. Explanation of the first purpose--viz. a shadowing forth of spiritual rest. This the primary object of the precept. God is therein set forth as our sanctifier; and hence we must abstain from work, that the work of God in us may not be hindered.
30. The number seven denoting perfection in Scripture, this commandment may, in that respect, denote the perpetuity of the Sabbath, and its completion at the last day.
31. Taking a simpler view of the commandment, the number is of no consequence, provided we maintain the doctrine of a perpetual rest from all our works, and, at the same time, avoid a superstitious observance of days. The ceremonial part of the commandment abolished by the advent of Christ.
32. The second and third purposes of the Commandment explained. These twofold and perpetual. This confirmed. Of religious assemblies.
33. Of the observance of the Lord's day, in answer to those who complain that the Christian people are thus trained to Judaism. Objection.
34. Ground of this institution. There is no kind of superstitious necessity. The sum of the Commandment.
35. The Fifth Commandment (the first of the Second Table), expounded. Its end and substance. How far honour due to parents. To whom the term father applies.
36. It makes no difference whether those to whom this honour is required are worthy or unworthy. The honour is claimed especially for parents. It consists of three parts. 1. Reverence.
37. Honour due to parents continued. 2. Obedience. 3. Gratitude. Why a promise added. In what sense it is to be taken. The present life a testimony of divine blessing. The reservation considered and explained.
38. Conversely a curse denounced on disobedient children. How far obedience due to parents, and those in the place of parents.
39. Sixth Commandment expounded. Its end and substance. God, as a spiritual Lawgiver, forbids the murder of the heart, and requires a sincere desire to preserve the life of our neighbour.
40. A twofold ground for this Commandment. 1. Man is the image of God. 2. He is our flesh.
41. Exposition of the Seventh Command. The end and substance of it. Remedy against fornication.
42. Continence an excellent gift, when under the control of God only. Altogether denied to some; granted only for a time to others. Argument in favour of celibacy refuted.
43. Each individual may refrain from marriage so long as he is fit to observe celibacy. True celibacy, and the proper use of it. Any man not gifted with continence wars with God and with nature, as constituted by him, in remaining unmarried. Chastity defined.
44. Precautions to be observed in married life. Everything repugnant to chastity here condemned.
45. Exposition of the Eighth Commandment. Its end and substance. Four kinds of theft. The bad acts condemned by this Commandment. Other peculiar kinds of theft.
46. Proper observance of this Commandment. Four heads. Application. 1. To the people and the magistrate. 2. To the pastors of the Church and their flocks. 3. To parents and children. 4. To the old and the young. 5. To servants and masters. 6. To individuals.
47. Exposition of the ninth Commandment. Its end and substance. The essence of the Commandment--detestation of falsehood, and the pursuit of truth. Two kinds of falsehood. Public and private testimony. The equity of this Commandment.
48. How numerous the violations of this Commandment. 1. By detraction. 2. By evil speaking--a thing contrary to the offices of Christian charity. 3. By scurrility or irony. 4. By prying curiosity, and proneness to harsh judgments.
49. Exposition of the Tenth Commandment. Its end and substance. What meant by the term Covetousness. Distinction between counsel and the covetousness here condemned.
50. Why God requires so much purity. Objection. Answer. Charity toward our neighbour here principally commended. Why house, wife, man-servant, maid-servant, ox, and ass, &c., are mentioned. Improper division of this Commandment into two.
51. The last part of the chapter. The end of the Law. Proof. A summary of the Ten Commandments. The Law delivers not merely rudiments and first principles, but a perfect standard of righteousness, modelled on the divine purity.
52. Why, in the Gospels and Epistles, the latter table only mentioned, and not the first. The same thing occurs in the Prophets.
53. An objection to what is said in the former section removed.
54. A conduct duly regulated by the divine Law, characterised by charity toward our neighbour. This subverted by those who give the first place to self-love. Refutation of their opinion.
55. Who our neighbour. Double error of the Schoolmen on this point.
56. This error consists, I. In converting precepts into counsels to be observed by monks.
57. Refutation of this error from Scripture and the ancient Theologians. Sophistical objection obviated.
58. Error of the Schoolmen consists, II. In calling hidden impiety and covetousness venial sins. Refutation drawn, 1. From a consideration of the whole Decalogue. 2. The testimony of an Apostle. 3. The authority of Christ. 4. The nature and majesty of God. 5. The sentence pronounced against sin. Conclusion.
59. Refutation drawn, 1. From a consideration of the whole Decalogue. 2. The testimony of an Apostle. 3. The authority of Christ. 4. The nature and majesty of God. 5. The sentence pronounced against sin. Conclusion.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain Institutes of the Christian Religion
Grace | Matthew 20
By Dr. Sinclair Ferguson
In context the parable is making a larger point about the flow of redemptive history, and perhaps about the ingathering of the Gentiles. But within that context it is fascinating to see Jesus unpick the human heart. Had the all-day laborers not seen the latecomers receive their wages, they would presumably have accepted their payment without comment. It is the Master’s exhibition of grace that evokes their “righteous” indignation. Now we hear their murmuring spirit as they calculate what they have really deserved because of their works, in the light of what others have received in grace.
This is the grace exposé. Without the demonstration of grace, the true nature of their hearts would not have been revealed.
Of course we may assume that later on they told each other that their murmuring was an aberration. They were not usually “like that.” But the truth is their reaction was a revelation. It had never appeared before simply because they had never encountered such grace before.
This “legal temper” has many faces.
Sometimes it manifests itself in our service of God. Others (with lesser gifts, shorter experience, poorer preparation) are given positions in the church, and we are passed over. We are irked, not legalistic! But, to the contrary, what is irking us is the grace of God, which irritates us because deep down we still think that grace should always operate on the principle of merit, as a reward for, or at least a recognition of, our prior faithful service. After all, shouldn’t the one who is faithful in little be given much?
Every form of jealousy, all coveting for oneself of what God has given to others, all seeing God’s distribution of gifts as related to performance rather than his fatherly pleasure and enjoyment, is infected with this. At the end of the day, it means my sense of personal identity and worth has become entwined with performance and its recognition rather than being rooted and grounded in Christ and his de-merited grace. This too is a subtle form of legalism. It emerges from my soul as though God’s grace to others drew it out of me like a powerful magnet. Grace lances the boil of merit.
Sinclair Ferguson Books:
- 1 Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification
- 2 The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance
- 3 The Christian LIfe: A Doctrinal Introduction
- 4 In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life
- 5 Church History 101: The Highlights of Twenty Centuries
- 6 The Holy Spirit (Contours of Christian Theology)
- 7 Sermon on the Mount
- 8 By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me
- 9 From the Mouth of God
- 10 The Grace of Repentance (Redesign) (Today's Issues)
- 11 The Pundit's Folly: Chronicles of an Empty Life
- 12 Let's Study Philippians (Let's Study Series)
- 13 Discovering God's Will
- 14 Heart for God
- 15 Faithful God: An Exposition of the Book of Ruth
- 16 Children of the Living God
- 17 Name above All Names
- 18 Big Book of Questions & Answers: A Family Devotional Guide
- 19 Living for God's Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism
- 20 John Owen on the Christian Life
- 21 Man Overboard!: The Story of Jonah
- 22 Child in the Manger
- 23 The Preacher's Commentary - Vol. 21- Daniel
- 24 Ephesians (Let's Study)
- 25 Let's Study Mark (Let's Study Series)
- 26 Irenaeus of Lyons (Heroes of the Faith)
- 27 Ichthus: Jesus Christ, God's Son, the Saviour
- 28 The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction
- 29 Polycarp of Smyrna (Heroes of the Faith)
- 30 Grow in Grace
- 31 The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance
- 32 Ignatius of Antioch (Heroes of the Faith)
- 33 Deserted by God?
- 34 Big Book of Bible Truths 1
- 35 In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
The difference between Samson and Samuel (4)
1/20/2018 Bob Gass
‘Thus far the LORD has helped us.’
(1 Sa 7:12) Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the LORD has helped us.” ESV
Difference four: Accountability. Samson had an independent attitude and refused to be accountable to anyone else. He was a ‘lone ranger’ who refused to work with others. And his erratic attempts at deliverance caused the Philistines to tax God’s people more and make their burdens heavier. Samuel, on the other hand, worked in consensus with others. When he prayed and God gave Israel a spectacular victory over their enemies, he refused to take any of the credit. ‘Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpeh and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far has the LORD helped us.”’ Samson was ‘me’ focused, but Samuel was ‘us’ focused. The psalmist said, ‘Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity…for there the LORD commanded the blessing’ (Psalm 133:1, 3 NKJV). The secret of walking in God’s blessing is not to operate alone, but cooperate with others. That’s how the New Testament church did it. ‘When they had further threatened them, they let them go…And being let go, they went to their own companions’ (Acts 4:21 23 NKJV). When the apostles came under attack, ‘they went to their own companions’. They had relationships in place with those who knew how to advise and guide them, strengthen and encourage them, pray and share God’s Word with them. You need such relationships too! And you can’t afford to wait until trouble comes before you establish them. Do it now, in the good times, and they’ll be there for you in the bad times.
January 20, 2016
It must be just as frustrating for those on the far right as it is for those on the far left to put up with the great disinterested middle-grounders. It seems the majority of people do not know what they believe and certainly have no idea why they believe this or that. The Bible calls these people luke warm and God has little use for them either. America is complacent about its complacency. I am reminded that Jesus said, “But who do you say that I am?”
It is so easy for people today to do their own research on any topic, but, I guess it is just too much trouble. Most people who don’t believe the truths in the Bible have never read it for themselves and most people who claim to be Christians have never read the Bible either. I find that remarkable.
Those who believe they believe in God but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself. --- Madeleine L’Engle
Writer Michael Novak says that doubt is not so much a dividing line that separates people into different camps as it is a razor's edge that runs through every soul. Michael Novak, Belief and Unbelief
Belief and Unbelief: A Philosophy of Self-Knowledge
by Bill Federer
On this day, January 20, 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered his Inaugural Address, following prayers by a rabbi, a Protestant minister, a Catholic cardinal, a Greek Orthodox bishop, and a poem by Robert Frost. President Kennedy stated: “The same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe - The belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.” President Kennedy concluded: “Let us go forth… asking His blessing and His help… knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”
Thomas R. Kelly
In 1935 Clarence Pickett and Rufus Jones on behalf of the American Friends Service Committee had tried to get Thomas Kelly to go back to Germany after ten years' absence and spend a summer visiting German Friends. His illness and his call to Hawaii made that impossible but now, in the summer of 1938, the call came again and he accepted. During this summer in Germany the ripening process went on apace as he lived in intimate fellowship with German Quakers and with others of all social classes. It was a religious journey, and like the earlier Friends, he went about from place to place and lived in Friends' homes talking out their problems with them, sitting in silence with them, and sharing his witness with them. He wrote a friend of the fellowship that summer where he knew and was known in that which is eternal, "I think, for example, of a day laborer in Stuttgart whom I visited recently. He knows the Presence so well. And we talked for a half an hour and stood together in silence and fully understood each other. He can't even speak correct German, but oh what a precious soul . . . I have had several long talks with the wife of a German, who has horny hands from desperately hard work. She loves the oppressed and the poor and the simple folk in a way that reminds me of St. Francis of Assisi. She knows the depths of the Divine Presence, the peace and creative power that you know, and through no grace of my own, I know also. Such consecration of life is amazing." He was later to write on this inward fellowship which was the social pole of his message in the last years of his life, "When we are drowned in the overwhelming seas of the love of God, we find ourselves in a new and particular relation to a few of our fellows."
He gave the Richard Cary Lecture at the German Yearly Meeting in 1938 presenting essentially the material which was included in his essay on The Eternal Now and Social Concern. It spoke to the condition of German Friends and they responded to him as they have scarcely done to any other American visitor. He left behind in Germany a memory that is still green.
To him, the German experience seemed to clarify still further what had come a few months before. He wrote to his mother at the close of that summer, "I am not at all as I was when I came to Germany, as you will find when you see me." In long visits that we had immediately upon his return in September 1938, he kept repeating, "It is wonderful. I have been literally melted down by the love of God." He told several of his student friends later of a specific experience that he had had on his knees in the great cathedral at Cologne where he seemed to feel God laying the whole congealed suffering of humanity upon his heart-a burden too terrible to be borne but yet with His help bearable.
A Testament of Devotion
Compilation by RickAdams7
When we lose God,
it is not God who is lost.
--- Author Unknown
When Our Lord faced men with all the forces of evil in them,
and men who were clean living and moral and upright,
he did not pay any attention to the moral degradation of the one
or to the moral attainment of the other;
He looked at something we do not see,
viz., the disposition.
--- Oswald Chambers
I would rather teach one man to pray
than ten men to preach.
--- Charles Spurgeon
Give over thine own willing; give over thine own running; give over thine own desiring to know or to be anything, and sink down to the seed which God sows in the heart, and let that grow in thee, and be in thee, and breathe in thee, and act in thee, and thou shalt find by sweet experience that the Lord knows that, and loves and owns that, and will lead it to the inheritance of life, which is his portion.
--- Isaac Penington, 1616-1679 (Some Directions To The Panting Soul
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
16 For they can’t sleep if they haven’t done evil,
they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone fall.
17 For they eat the bread of wickedness
and drink the wine of violence.
18 But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
shining ever brighter until full daylight.
19 The way of the wicked is like darkness;
they don’t even know what makes them stumble.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Are you fresh for everything?
Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. --- John 3:3.
Sometimes we are fresh for a prayer meeting but not fresh for cleaning boots!
Being born again of the Spirit is an unmistakable work of God, as mysterious as the wind, as surprising as God Himself. We do not know where it begins, it is hidden away in the depths of our personal life. Being born again from above is a perennial, perpetual and eternal beginning, a freshness all the time in thinking and in talking and in living, the continual surprise of the life of God. Staleness is an indication of something out of joint with God—‘I must do this thing or it will never be done.’ That is the first sign of staleness. Are we freshly born this minute, or are we stale, raking in our minds for something to do? Freshness does not come from obedience but from the Holy Spirit; obedience keeps us in the light as God is in the light.
Guard jealously your relationship to God. Jesus prayed “that they may be one, even as We are one”—nothing between. Keep all the life perennially open to Jesus Christ, don’t pretend with Him. Are you drawing your life from any other source than God Himself? If you are depending upon anything but Him, you will never know when He is gone.
Being born of the Spirit means much more than we generally take it to mean. It gives us a new vision and keeps us absolutely fresh for everything by the perennial supply of the life of God.
My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
The supreme vow is no
vow but a concession
to anger at the exigencies
of language. The hero
is he who advances
with all his vocabulary
intact to his final
overthrow by an untruth.
The Poems of R.S. Thomas
In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.
--- John 14:2.
If we were to think of every room in [the Father’s house] having its four enclosing walls, each would have its inscription written by God’s own hand.
There are those who have often doubted their acceptance and forgiveness, who have walked in darkness and with difficulty stayed themselves on God, questioning whether they might not in the end be castaways; it stands inscribed, “Your many sins have been forgiven.”
There are those who have felt all through life as if God were turned to be their enemy and were fighting against them. Their desires have been thwarted, their hearts pierced through and through with losses and crosses and cruel wounds, and failure upon failure has followed their plans. But it is written, “The LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in,” and “In all things God works for the good of those who love him.”
And there are those who have yearnings of heart to feel God’s presence close and constant, to hear him and speak with him and be sure his is not, as some would say to them, a voice or a vision or a dream of their fond imagination. They have felt it at times so certain that they could say, “The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” (Ps. 27:1). But clouds roll in on the assurance, and the voice seems far off or silent, as if it were among the trees of the garden, and it is toward evening, and there is doubt and fear. But it shall be “like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings the grass from the earth,” and his name shall be written as the “Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” And the one who reads it shall say, “You are my Father, my God, the Rock my Savior.” Here is hope and aim for stricken spirits and solitary hearts. There is a Father, there is a home. The sky is not empty, the world is not orphaned. Doubtless, you are our Father, our Redeemer.
--- John Ker
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
The church of Jesus Christ is indestructible. Even the weakest Christians are precious in God’s sight, and death itself has no power over his people.
Decius didn’t understand that. When Decius Trajan became ruler of Rome in 249, the empire was weakening. Barbarians were threatening northern borders, and morale was low. Decius, a soldier rigid and determined, blamed Christians for the weakness and unwieldiness of his empire.
The emperor had a strategy. He thought if he removed the leaders of the church the entire fabric would dissolve. If you cut off the head, he said, the body will soon die. So in December 249, arrest warrants went out across the empire for prominent Christians, igniting the first empire-wide attack on the church. On January 20, 250, Fabian, nineteenth pope or bishop of Rome, was arrested, tried, and became the first to die.
Decius reportedly said, “I would far rather receive news of a rival to the throne than of another bishop of Rome.”
Few records remain of Fabian’s life and ministry. We know he improved the organization of the Roman church both above and below ground. He divided the city into seven congregations with a deacon in charge of each section, and he directed work on the catacombs. In those catacombs his broken body was later buried.
But the church wasn’t buried. Brave Christians in Rome wrote from prison to Bishop Cyprian of Carthage: “What more glorious and blessed lot can fall to man by the grace of God, than to confess God the Lord amidst tortures and in the face of death itself; to confess Christ the Son of God with lacerated body and with a spirit departing, yet free; and to become fellow-sufferers with Christ. Though we have not yet shed our blood, we are ready to do so.”
Decius died the next year, but the church he persecuted is still going strong.
Jesus told him: Simon, son of Jonah, you are blessed! You didn’t discover this on your own. It was shown to you by my Father in heaven. So I will call you Peter, which means “a rock.” On this rock I will build my church, and death itself will not have power over it.
--- Matthew 16:17,18.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - January 20
“Abel was a keeper of sheep." --- Genesis 4:2.
As a shepherd Abel sanctified his work to the glory of God, and offered a sacrifice of blood upon his altar, and the Lord had respect unto Abel and his offering. This early type of our Lord is exceedingly clear and distinct. Like the first streak of light which tinges the east at sunrise, it does not reveal everything, but it clearly manifests the great fact that the sun is coming. As we see Abel, a shepherd and yet a priest, offering a sacrifice of sweet smell unto God, we discern our Lord, who brings before his Father a sacrifice to which Jehovah ever hath respect. Abel was hated by his brother—hated without a cause; and even so was the Saviour: the natural and carnal man hated the accepted man in whom the Spirit of grace was found, and rested not until his blood had been shed. Abel fell, and sprinkled his altar and sacrifice with his own blood, and therein sets forth the Lord Jesus slain by the enmity of man while serving as a priest before the Lord. “The good Shepherd layeth down his life for the sheep.” Let us weep over him as we view him slain by the hatred of mankind, staining the horns of his altar with his own blood. Abel’s blood speaketh. “The Lord said unto Cain, ‘The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.’ ” The blood of Jesus hath a mighty tongue, and the import of its prevailing cry is not vengeance but mercy. It is precious beyond all preciousness to stand at the altar of our good Shepherd! to see him bleeding there as the slaughtered priest, and then to hear his blood speaking peace to all his flock, peace in our conscience, peace between Jew and Gentile, peace between man and his offended Maker, peace all down the ages of eternity for blood-washed men. Abel is the first shepherd in order of time, but our hearts shall ever place Jesus first in order of excellence. Thou great Keeper of the sheep, we the people of thy pasture bless thee with our whole hearts when we see thee slain for us.
Evening - January 20
“Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.”
--- Psalm 119:37.
There are divers kinds of vanity. The cap and bells of the fool, the mirth of the world, the dance, the lyre, and the cup of the dissolute, all these men know to be vanities; they wear upon their forefront their proper name and title. Far more treacherous are those equally vain things, the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches. A man may follow vanity as truly in the counting-house as in the theatre. If he be spending his life in amassing wealth, he passes his days in a vain show. Unless we follow Christ, and make our God the great object of life, we only differ in appearance from the most frivolous. It is clear that there is much need of the first prayer of our text. “Quicken thou me in thy way.” The Psalmist confesses that he is dull, heavy, lumpy, all but dead. Perhaps, dear reader, you feel the same. We are so sluggish that the best motives cannot quicken us, apart from the Lord himself. What! will not hell quicken me? Shall I think of sinners perishing, and yet not be awakened? Will not heaven quicken me? Can I think of the reward that awaiteth the righteous, and yet be cold? Will not death quicken me? Can I think of dying, and standing before my God, and yet be slothful in my Master’s service? Will not Christ’s love constrain me? Can I think of his dear wounds, can I sit at the foot of his cross, and not be stirred with fervency and zeal? It seems so! No mere consideration can quicken us to zeal, but God himself must do it, hence the cry, “Quicken thou me.” The Psalmist breathes out his whole soul in vehement pleadings: his body and his soul unite in prayer. “Turn away mine eyes,” says the body: “Quicken thou me,” cries the soul. This is a fit prayer for every day. O Lord, hear it in my case this night.
Morning and Evening: A New Edition of the Classic Devotional Based on The Holy Bible, English Standard Version
DEAR LORD AND FATHER OF MANKIND
John Greenleaf Whittier, 1807–1892
In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. (Isaiah 30:15)
So often in our modern lives we attack our problems with frantic and hurried activity, creating unnecessary stress for ourselves. We easily forget that our heavenly Father can assist us in meeting our daily challenges with serenity and calm assurance. We need the quiet confidence in God and a peaceful resting in His eternal love that is reflected in this beautiful text by John Greenleaf Whittier, “America’s beloved Quaker poet.” Whittier’s poetic lines remind us of this so clearly, admonishing us to listen carefully for God’s “still small voice of calm” in the midst of all of life’s turbulence.
Whittier was a good example of quiet godly life in his speech, dress, and writings. It has been said that he “left upon our literature the stamp of genius and upon our religion the touch of sanity.”
“A good hymn is the best use to which poetry can be devoted, though I do not claim to have succeeded in writing one,” wrote Whittier. Hymnal editors, however, have collected and edited enough of his poems to make seventy-five hymns.
John Greenleaf Whittier’s life expressed the steadfast rest in his heavenly Father’s love that these words suggest. As you read, why not decide now to let Him guide you and give you peace in this hectic world.
Dear Lord and Father of mankind, forgive our fev’rish ways! Reclothe us in our rightful mind; in purer lives Thy service find, in deeper rev’rence, praise.
In simple trust like theirs who heard, beside the Syrian sea, the gracious calling of the Lord, let us, like them, without a word rise up and follow Thee.
Drop Thy still dews of quietness till all our strivings cease; take from our souls the strain and stress, and let our ordered lives confess the beauty of Thy peace.
Breathe thru the heats of our desire Thy coolness and Thy balm; let sense be dumb, let flesh retire; speak thru the earthquake, wind and fire, O still small voice of calm.
For Today: Mark 1:16–20; 4:6; 2 Timothy 1:9; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 John 1:9.
Breathe this prayer as you begin your activities today—“Lord, grant to me a quiet mind, that trusting Thee … for Thou art kind … I may go on without a fear, for Thou, my Lord, art always near.” Use this musical message to remember ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Saturday, January 20, 2018 | Epiphany
Saturday Of The Second Week After Epiphany
Psalms (Morning) Psalm 30, 32
Psalms (Evening) Psalm 42, 43
Old Testament Genesis 12:9–13:1
New Testament Hebrews 7:18–28
Gospel John 4:27–42
Index of Readings
Psalm 30, 32
30 A Psalm Of David. A Song At The Dedication Of The Temple.
1 I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up
and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
2 O LORD my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
3 O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.
4 Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
5 For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
6 As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
7 By your favor, O LORD,
you made my mountain stand strong;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.
8 To you, O LORD, I cry,
and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
9 “What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me!
O LORD, be my helper!”
11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
32 A Maskil Of David.
1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
5 I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
6 Therefore let everyone who is godly
offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
they shall not reach him.
7 You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
9 Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
or it will not stay near you.
10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD.
11 Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
Psalm 42, 43
42 To The Choirmaster. A Maskil Of The Sons Of Korah.
1 As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.
5 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation 6 and my God.
My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
8 By day the LORD commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
9 I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
43 Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
against an ungodly people,
from the deceitful and unjust man
2 For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
why have you rejected me?
Why do I go about mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?
3 Send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling!
4 Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.
5 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
9 And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb.
10 Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. 11 When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, 12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.” 14 When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15 And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16 And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels.
17 But the LORD afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18 So Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.” 20 And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had.
13 So Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the Negeb.
18 For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.
20 And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, 21 but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him:
“The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind,
‘You are a priest forever.’ ”
22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.
23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.
27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.
31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” 39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
The Book of Common Prayer