Sarah’s Death and BurialGenesis 23:1 Sarah lived 127 years; these were the years of the life of Sarah. 2 And Sarah died at Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her. 3 And Abraham rose up from before his dead and said to the Hittites, 4 “I am a sojourner and foreigner among you; give me property among you for a burying place, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.” 5 The Hittites answered Abraham, 6 “Hear us, my lord; you are a prince of God among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will withhold from you his tomb to hinder you from burying your dead.” 7 Abraham rose and bowed to the Hittites, the people of the land. 8 And he said to them, “If you are willing that I should bury my dead out of my sight, hear me and entreat for me Ephron the son of Zohar, 9 that he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he owns; it is at the end of his field. For the full price let him give it to me in your presence as property for a burying place.”
10 Now Ephron was sitting among the Hittites, and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the hearing of the Hittites, of all who went in at the gate of his city, 11 “No, my lord, hear me: I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. In the sight of the sons of my people I give it to you. Bury your dead.” 12 Then Abraham bowed down before the people of the land. 13 And he said to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, “But if you will, hear me: I give the price of the field. Accept it from me, that I may bury my dead there.” 14 Ephron answered Abraham, 15 “My lord, listen to me: a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that between you and me? Bury your dead.” 16 Abraham listened to Ephron, and Abraham weighed out for Ephron the silver that he had named in the hearing of the Hittites, four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weights current among the merchants.
17 So the field of Ephron in Machpelah, which was to the east of Mamre, the field with the cave that was in it and all the trees that were in the field, throughout its whole area, was made over 18 to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the Hittites, before all who went in at the gate of his city. 19 After this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah east of Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. 20 The field and the cave that is in it were made over to Abraham as property for a burying place by the Hittites.
The Parable of the Wedding FeastMatthew 22:1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.” ’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Paying Taxes to Caesar15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. 16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Isn't it interesting that what they knew about Jesus was lacking in them? 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.
Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, (Remember the Sadducees only accepted the first five books of the Bible) 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, (The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection.) therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”
29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.
The Great Commandment34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 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.”
Whose Son Is the Christ?41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,
44 “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet” ’?
Priests and LevitesNehemiah 12:1 These are the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, 2 Amariah, Malluch, Hattush, 3 Shecaniah, Rehum, Meremoth, 4 Iddo, Ginnethoi, Abijah, 5 Mijamin, Maadiah, Bilgah, 6 Shemaiah, Joiarib, Jedaiah, 7 Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah, Jedaiah. These were the chiefs of the priests and of their brothers in the days of Jeshua.
8 And the Levites: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah, who with his brothers was in charge of the songs of thanksgiving. 9 And Bakbukiah and Unni and their brothers stood opposite them in the service. 10 And Jeshua was the father of Joiakim, Joiakim the father of Eliashib, Eliashib the father of Joiada, 11 Joiada the father of Jonathan, and Jonathan the father of Jaddua.
12 And in the days of Joiakim were priests, heads of fathers’ houses: of Seraiah, Meraiah; of Jeremiah, Hananiah; 13 of Ezra, Meshullam; of Amariah, Jehohanan; 14 of Malluchi, Jonathan; of Shebaniah, Joseph; 15 of Harim, Adna; of Meraioth, Helkai; 16 of Iddo, Zechariah; of Ginnethon, Meshullam; 17 of Abijah, Zichri; of Miniamin, of Moadiah, Piltai; 18 of Bilgah, Shammua; of Shemaiah, Jehonathan; 19 of Joiarib, Mattenai; of Jedaiah, Uzzi; 20 of Sallai, Kallai; of Amok, Eber; 21 of Hilkiah, Hashabiah; of Jedaiah, Nethanel.
22 In the days of Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan, and Jaddua, the Levites were recorded as heads of fathers’ houses; so too were the priests in the reign of Darius the Persian. 23 As for the sons of Levi, their heads of fathers’ houses were written in the Book of the Chronicles until the days of Johanan the son of Eliashib. 24 And the chiefs of the Levites: Hashabiah, Sherebiah, and Jeshua the son of Kadmiel, with their brothers who stood opposite them, to praise and to give thanks, according to the commandment of David the man of God, watch by watch. 25 Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon, and Akkub were gatekeepers standing guard at the storehouses of the gates. 26 These were in the days of Joiakim the son of Jeshua son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor and of Ezra, the priest and scribe.
Dedication of the Wall27 And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres. 28 And the sons of the singers gathered together from the district surrounding Jerusalem and from the villages of the Netophathites; 29 also from Beth-gilgal and from the region of Geba and Azmaveth, for the singers had built for themselves villages around Jerusalem. 30 And the priests and the Levites purified themselves, and they purified the people and the gates and the wall. 31 Then I brought the leaders of Judah up onto the wall and appointed two great choirs that gave thanks. One went to the south on the wall to the Dung Gate. 32 And after them went Hoshaiah and half of the leaders of Judah, 33 and Azariah, Ezra, Meshullam, 34 Judah, Benjamin, Shemaiah, and Jeremiah, 35 and certain of the priests’ sons with trumpets: Zechariah the son of Jonathan, son of Shemaiah, son of Mattaniah, son of Micaiah, son of Zaccur, son of Asaph; 36 and his relatives, Shemaiah, Azarel, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethanel, Judah, and Hanani, with the musical instruments of David the man of God. And Ezra the scribe went before them. 37 At the Fountain Gate they went up straight before them by the stairs of the city of David, at the ascent of the wall, above the house of David, to the Water Gate on the east.
38 The other choir of those who gave thanks went to the north, and I followed them with half of the people, on the wall, above the Tower of the Ovens, to the Broad Wall, 39 and above the Gate of Ephraim, and by the Gate of Yeshanah, and by the Fish Gate and the Tower of Hananel and the Tower of the Hundred, to the Sheep Gate; and they came to a halt at the Gate of the Guard. 40 So both choirs of those who gave thanks stood in the house of God, and I and half of the officials with me; 41 and the priests Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Micaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah, and Hananiah, with trumpets; 42 and Maaseiah, Shemaiah, Eleazar, Uzzi, Jehohanan, Malchijah, Elam, and Ezer. And the singers sang with Jezrahiah as their leader. 43 And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.
Service at the Temple44 On that day men were appointed over the storerooms, the contributions, the firstfruits, and the tithes, to gather into them the portions required by the Law for the priests and for the Levites according to the fields of the towns, for Judah rejoiced over the priests and the Levites who ministered. 45 And they performed the service of their God and the service of purification, as did the singers and the gatekeepers, according to the command of David and his son Solomon. 46 For long ago in the days of David and Asaph there were directors of the singers, and there were songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. 47 And all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel and in the days of Nehemiah gave the daily portions for the singers and the gatekeepers; and they set apart that which was for the Levites; and the Levites set apart that which was for the sons of Aaron.
Acts 22Acts 22:1 Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”
2 And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet. And he said:
3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. 4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, 5 as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.
6 “As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ 8 And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ 9 Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.
12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’
17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ ”
Paul and the Roman Tribune22 Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.” 23 And as they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, 24 the tribune ordered him to be brought into the barracks, saying that he should be examined by flogging, to find out why they were shouting against him like this. 25 But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?” 26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.” 27 So the tribune came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” And he said, “Yes.” 28 The tribune answered, “I bought this citizenship for a large sum.” Paul said, “But I am a citizen by birth.” 29 So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately, and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him.
Paul Before the Council30 But on the next day, desiring to know the real reason why he was being accused by the Jews, he unbound him and commanded the chief priests and all the council to meet, and he brought Paul down and set him before them.
ESV Reformation Study Bible
What I'm Reading
What Did Early Christians Believe About Hell?
By J. Warner Wallace 1/19/2018
As we seek to understand what the Bible teaches about Hell, it may be helpful to understand what the earliest believers believed and taught. The teachings of some of these believers has been preserved for us in the writings of ancient church leaders (known as the Early Church Fathers). While their writings are neither canonical nor authoritative, they do help us to understand what those closest to the apostles first believed about Hell. As we assemble the teachings of these first church leaders, several patterns emerge related to the nature of Hell. The Early Church Fathers, with very few exceptions, agree with traditional views descriptions of Hell as a place of eternal, conscious torment:
1. Hell is a place of judgment for those who have rejected God and denied Jesus as their Savior
2. Hell is a place of separation from God
3. Hell is a place of torment in which the rebellious are in anguish and pain
4. Hell is a place where the rebellious are tormented forever and are conscious of this torment for all eternity (In fact, the eternal duration of their torment is often compared to the eternal duration of the reward of the saved)
At the same time, the earliest Church Fathers are ambiguous on those areas where the Bible is ALSO ambiguous.
1. The exact nature of the torment of the rebellious is unknown
2. The manner in which the rebellious are kept alive in spite of ‘deathly’ anguish is also un-described
The Early Church Fathers simply reflected the clearest teachings of the Bible. Here is a very brief assessment of several quotes made by early Christians about the nature of Hell:
J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of:
Trump’s First Year: Circus and Substance
By Al Perrotta 1/19/2018
Saturday marks President Trump’s first year in office and it’s all been one giant yawn. He’s made Calvin Coolidge look like David Lee Roth.
Of course I jest. His first day started with fights about crowd size, fake news about the MLK bust in the Oval Office, and radicals setting fires. His first full day had half a million women yelling in his back yard, led by Madonna wanting to blow up the White House and Ashley Judd purring that she was a “baaaad girl.” That was just the opening act. It hasn’t stopped a day since.
Remember Reince Priebus? Remember Sean Spicer? Remember Melissa McCarthy’s hysterical impersonation of Sean Spicer? Remember “The Mooch”? Crazy Mika? Psycho Joe? Sleazy Dianne Feinstein? Thankfully, we still have “Mad Dog.” And Justice Gorsuch.
And no one’s ever going to forget Trump’s Twitter feed.
Remember the viral video of Trump pounding on CNN at a pro-wrestling match? He’s still pounding on CNN. (Just last night they earned four of his coveted Fake News Awards.) Remember Sarah Sanders being accused of not really baking a pie? Remember Stephen Miller having CNN’s Jim Acosta for lunch? The Great Melania Shoe Scandal? “Covfefe”? “Drive them out!” The firing of Comey? Re-igniting the NFL protests? The damaging leaks? The Obama wiretapping claim?
What Counts | It’s fun to revisit the circus, but at this one year anniversary perhaps we can look a bit at the substance. We know we’ve got our money’s worth out of Trump in terms of entertainment and intrigue, but what did he do? One question matters: Is America better off today than it was a year ago? The answer is yes.
Argue all you will about whether Trump is Making America Great Again. At the very least, he is making Americans Walk and Talk and Think in terms of Greatness Again. Not just America’s, but their own.
The Pro-Life Movement Needs More Wilberforces
By Gracy Olmstead 1/19/2018
The pro-life movement has always been animated by compassion and a zeal for human rights. But if you asked people on the streets whether they associate those two things with the pro-life movement, I wonder how many would agree.
It’s not that the average grassroots pro-lifer has changed—at the March for Life in D.C., in conversations with staunch advocates, or during visits with workers at pregnancy resource centers, I see the same love, passion, and earnest care for the unborn (and, importantly, for their mothers).
But recently, our “pro-life” political representatives around the country have been less than inspiring. Donald Trump has bragged about sexually assaulting women (though he has denied actually assaulting women). Tim Murphy, a “pro-life” congressman, urged his mistress to get an abortion when she said she might be pregnant. Roy Moore, a Republican politician running for U.S. Senate from Alabama, was accused of sexual harassment and molestation of minors by several different women prior to his electoral race (which he lost a month ago).
Many pro-choice advocates, observing this pattern, have claimed the moral high ground in the abortion debate. While our conversations about abortion should consider the humanity and rights of the unborn child, pro-choice advocates have instead turned the conversation entirely to the question of women’s choice and rights—even staging Handmaid’s Tale-inspired protests to reinforce their argument. They point to Trump, Murphy, and Moore, and then tell America, “See? These men have never really cared about the unborn. They care about taking away a woman’s voice and choice.”
I’ve feared that, if these tendencies persist, many Americans—especially swing voters and young people—could turn away from the pro-life cause. But perhaps there is a way we can prevent that.
31 questions to ask for a more Christ-centered 2018
By Don Whitney 1/2018
Once, when the people of God had become careless in their relationship with Him, the Lord rebuked them through the prophet Haggai. “Consider your ways!” (Haggai 1:5) he declared, urging them to reflect on some of the things happening to them, and to evaluate their slipshod spirituality in light of what God had told them.
Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It’s so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we’re going and where we should be going.
The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.
1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
Donald S. Whitney Books:
- 1 Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life
- 2 Praying the Bible
- 3 Family Worship
- 4 Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health
- 5 How Can I Be Sure I'm a Christian?: What the Bible Says About Assurance of Salvation (LifeChange)
- 6 Spiritual Disciplines within the Church: Participating Fully in the Body of Christ
- 7 Simplify Your Spiritual Life: Spiritual Disciplines for the Overwhelmed
- 8 The Call to Ministry
- 9 A God Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards
- 10 Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life/Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health
- 11 10 Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health [10 QUES TO DIAGNOSE YOUR S -OS]
- 12 The Pure Flame of Devotion: The History of Christian Spirituality
- 13 Finding God in Solitude: The Personal Piety of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) and Its Influence on His Pastoral Ministry (American University Studies)
- 14 Onward, Christian Soldiers: Protestants Affirm the Church (Reformation Theology Series)
- 15 By Donald S. Whitney - Family Worship: In the Bible, in History & in Your Home (1905-07-13) [Paperback]
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 10Why Do You Hide Yourself?
10:12 Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand;
forget not the afflicted.
13 Why does the wicked renounce God
and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?
14 But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,
that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself;
you have been the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;
call his wickedness to account till you find none.
16 The LORD is king forever and ever;
the nations perish from his land.
17 O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
18 to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.
13 Films That Capture the Themes of Ecclesiastes
By Kenneth Morefield 1/19/2018
Ecclesiastes is one of the most misunderstood books of the Bible. Its wisdom can be hard to understand and, even when it’s clear, hard to accept. The contemporary tendency to prooftext can be especially problematic with Ecclesiastes. Is life really “vanity”? Is the “house of mourning” really better than the “house of feasting”?
To illustrate Ecclesiastes’s themes with examples from film risks oversimplifying the theology of a complex and profound text. But like all risks, this one comes with potential rewards. Such an exercise can lead to a deeper appreciation of the art, as well as a stronger understanding of the text.
In what follows I cite 13 films intended to illustrate some important themes in Ecclesiastes: Forrest Gump; Searching for Bobby Fischer; Roman Israel, Esq.; The Greatest Showman; La La Land; Before Sunset; No Country for Old Men; In Cold Blood; A Man For All Seasons; Selma; Silence; A Man Escaped; The Man Who Planted Trees. Certainly there could be many, many more.
Limits Of Human Wisdom | Since the Enlightenment, faith in the perfectibility and supremacy of the human intellect has been a driving force in secular philosophy. But there are reasonable distinctions to draw between “intelligence” and “wisdom.” The former usually connotes the accumulation of factual knowledge; the latter the right (just/moral) application of that knowledge. This is why it’s evident throughout literature and even Scripture than one can be intelligent and still a fool, or intellectually limited and still wise.
Film, like other art, is filled with examples of holy fools: characters whose moral integrity inoculates and protects them from malicious, intelligent characters. Forrest Gump is a classic example.
Death is not a Blessing
By Dr. D. Jeffrey Bingham 1/19/2018
Some 20 years ago, Dudley Clendinen wrote an opinion for The New York Times entitled “When Death is a Blessing and Life is Not.” It is a heartbreaking essay about the tragic suffering—illness, loneliness, dementia—experienced by his elderly cousin and aunts before their deaths. Sadly, we could multiply such stories again and again.
Too many of our loved ones bear similar griefs. And many under these clouds of suffering end up feeling that death is a blessing for the relief it brings. At times, these feelings are whispered at funerals; sometimes they are stated plainly. Life, then, ends up being perceived as the curse or, in the word of Clendinen’s poor cousin, “hell.”
I ache for those who are tormented, young or old, emotionally broken or physically shattered. I anguish for those who, in their own darkness, yearn for death. But, death itself brings no peace. Death is no friend of humanity. It is no benefactor, no ally, no comrade. As God says through the apostle Paul, death is the enemy of Christ, a rebel, an insurgent, and a subversive rival to His sovereignty. Thankfully, one day Christ will abolish this tyrant (1 Corinthians 15:25-27a).
But death is not merely the enemy of Christ and His people. It is judgment for sin, a curse, the sentence Adam and Eve must bear for disobeying His command (Genesis 2:16-17; Romans 6:23). God created humanity by His artful crafting of soil and by the breath of His mouth (Genesis 2:7). The prepositions in Genesis 2:7 are important for our understanding of life and death. Adam was configured OF dust FROM the earth. To put it another way: God gave Adam shape by taking soil OUT OF the ground and forming it. However, when God decrees the penalties for disobedience, He portrays death as the utter reversal of His creation of Adam (Genesis 3:19). Death, the dreadful consequence of sin, means decay and burial. Whereas life is God forming humanity OUT OF the dust, death places us back INTO the earth, so that we decay back into dust. Genesis 3:19 erases Genesis 2:7. There is no blessing in death, for it is a curse and a reversal of that which is always the true blessing: life (Deuteronomy 30:19a).
In resurrection, however, the tables are turned, and death itself is reversed. First, God the Father raised Christ bodily so that His body did not succumb to decay (Acts 13:37; cf. Acts 2:31; Psalm 16:10). Then, at His coming, He will deliver the bodies of believers from their graves and decay in the dust. Joyfully, their corpses will rise from dust to inherit eternal life (Daniel 12:2; Isaiah 26:19; John 5:28). Because the Spirit of God the Father who raised His own Son dwells in us, we will be raised to be “like Him” (1 John 3:2), experiencing the redemption (Romans 8:23) and glorification of our bodies at Christ’s second advent. All things, death included, will then be subject to Him (1 Corinthians 15:20-23; Philippians 3:20-21). Subdued, death will die.
(Ge 2:16–17) 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” ESV
(Ro 6:23) 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ESV
(Ge 2:7) 7 then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. ESV
(Ge 3:19) 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” ESV
(Dt 30:19) I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, ESV
(Ac 13:37) but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. ESV
(Ac 2:31) he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. ESV
(Ps 16:10) For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. ESV
(Da 12:2) And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. ESV
(Is 26:19) Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead. ESV
(Jn 5:28) Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice ESV
(1 Jn 3:2) Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. ESV
(Ro 8:23) And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. ESV
(1 Co 15:20–23) 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. ESV
(Php 3:20–21) 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. ESV
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
8. The next observation we would make is, that there is always more in
the requirements and prohibitions of the Law than is expressed in
words. This, however, must be understood so as not to convert it into a
kind of Lesbian code;  and thus, by licentiously wresting the
Scriptures, make them assume any meaning that we please. By taking this
excessive liberty with Scripture, its authority is lowered with some,
and all hope of understanding it abandoned by others. We must,
therefore, if possible, discover some path which may conduct us with
direct and firm step to the will of God. We must consider, I say, how
far interpretation can be permitted to go beyond the literal meaning of
the words, still making it apparent that no appending of human glosses
is added to the Divine Law, but that the pure and genuine meaning of
the Lawgiver is faithfully exhibited. It is true that, in almost all
the commandments, there are elliptical expressions, and that,
therefore, any man would make himself ridiculous by attempting to
restrict the spirit of the Law to the strict letter of the words. It is
plain that a sober interpretation of the Law must go beyond these, but
how far is doubtful, unless some rule be adopted. The best rule, in my
opinion, would be, to be guided by the principle of the
commandment--viz. to consider in the case of each what the purpose is
for which it was given. For example, every commandment either requires
or prohibits; and the nature of each is instantly discerned when we
look to the principle of the commandment as its end. Thus, the end of
the Fifth Commandment is to render honour to those on whom God bestows
it. The sum of the commandment, therefore, is, that it is right in
itself, and pleasing to God, to honour those on whom he has conferred
some distinction; that to despise and rebel against such persons is
offensive to Him. The principle of the First Commandment is, that God
only is to be worshipped. The sum of the commandment, therefore is that
true piety, in other words, the worship of the Deity, is acceptable,
and impiety is an abomination, to him. So in each of the commandments
we must first look to the matter of which it treats, and then consider
its end, until we discover what it properly is that the Lawgiver
declares to be pleasing or displeasing to him. Only, we must reason
from the precept to its contrary in this way: If this pleases God, its
opposite displeases; if that displeases, its opposite pleases: if God
commands this, he forbids the opposite; if he forbids that, he commands
9. What is now touched on somewhat obscurely will become perfectly clear as we proceed and get accustomed to the exposition of the Commandments. It is sufficient thus to have adverted to the subject; but perhaps our concluding statement will require to be briefly confirmed, as it might otherwise not be understood, or, though understood mighty perhaps, at the outset appear unsound. There is no need of proving, that when good is ordered the evil which is opposed to it is forbidden. This every one admits. It will also be admitted, without much difficulty, that when evil is forbidden, its opposite is enjoined. Indeed, it is a common saying, that censure of vice is commendation of virtue. We, however, demand somewhat more than is commonly understood by these expressions. When the particular virtue opposed to a particular vice is spoken of, all that is usually meant is abstinence from that vice. We maintain that it goes farther, and means opposite duties and positive acts. Hence the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill," the generality of men will merely consider as an injunction to abstain from all injury and all wish to inflict injury. I hold that it moreover means, that we are to aid our neighbour's life by every means in our power. And not to assert without giving my reasons I prove it thus: God forbids us to injure or hurt a brother, because he would have his life to be dear and precious to us; and, therefore, when he so forbids, he, at the same time, demands all the offices of charity which can contribute to his preservation.
10. But why did God thus deliver his commandments, as it were, by halves, using elliptical expressions with a larger meaning than that actually expressed? Other reasons are given, but the following seems to me the best:--As the flesh is always on the alert to extenuate the heinousness of sin (unless it is made, as it were, perceptible to the touch), and to cover it with specious pretexts, the Lord sets forth, by way of example, whatever is foulest and most iniquitous in each species of transgression, that the delivery of it might produce a shudder in the hearer, and impress his mind with a deeper abhorrence of sin. In forming an estimate of sins, we are often imposed upon by imagining that the more hidden the less heinous they are. This delusion the Lord dispels by accustoming us to refer the whole multitude of sins to particular heads, which admirably show how great a degree of heinousness there is in each. For example, wrath and hatred do not seem so very bad when they are designated by their own names; but when they are prohibited under the name of murder, we understand better how abominable they are in the sight of God, who puts them in the same class with that horrid crime. Influenced by his judgment, we accustom ourselves to judge more accurately of the heinousness of offences which previously seemed trivial.
11. It will now be proper to consider what is meant by the division of the divine Law into Two Tables. It will be judged by all men of sense from the formal manner in which these are sometimes mentioned, that it has not been done at random, or without reason. Indeed, the reason is so obvious as not to allow us to remain in doubt with regard to it. God thus divided his Law into two parts, containing a complete rule of righteousness, that he might assign the first place to the duties of religion which relate especially to His worship, and the second to the duties of charity which have respect to man. The first foundation of righteousness undoubtedly is the worship of God. When it is subverted, all the other parts of righteousness, like a building rent asunder, and in ruins, are racked and scattered. What kind of righteousness do you call it, not to commit theft and rapine, if you, in the meantime, with impious sacrilege, rob God of his glory? or not to defile your body with fornication, if you profane his holy name with blasphemy? or not to take away the life of man, if you strive to cut off and destroy the remembrance of God? It is vain, therefore, to talk of righteousness apart from religion. Such righteousness has no more beauty than the trunk of a body deprived of its head.  Nor is religion the principal part merely: it is the very soul by which the whole lives and breathes. Without the fear of God, men do not even observe justice and charity among themselves. We say, then, that the worship of God is the beginning and foundation of righteousness; and that wherever it is wanting, any degree of equity, or continence, or temperance, existing among men themselves, is empty and frivolous in the sight of God. We call it the source and soul of righteousness, in as much as men learn to live together temperately, and without injury, when they revere God as the judge of right and wrong. In the First Table, accordingly, he teaches us how to cultivate piety, and the proper duties of religion in which his worship consists; in the second, he shows how, in the fear of his name, we are to conduct ourselves towards our fellow-men. Hence, as related by the Evangelists (Mt. 22:37; Luke 10:27), our Saviour summed up the whole Law in two heads--viz. to love the Lord with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength, and our neighbour as ourselves. You see how, of the two parts under which he comprehends the whole Law, he devotes the one to God, and assigns the other to mankind.
12. But although the whole Law is contained in two heads, yet, in order to remove every pretext for excuse, the Lord has been pleased to deliver more fully and explicitly in Ten Commandments, every thing relating to his own honour, fear, and love, as well as every thing relating to the charity which, for his sake, he enjoins us to have towards our fellowmen. Nor is it an unprofitable study to consider the division of the commandments, provided we remember that it is one of those matters in which every man should have full freedom of judgment, and on account of which, difference of opinion should not lead to contention. We are, indeed, under the necessity of making this observation, lest the division which we are to adopt should excite the surprise or derision of the reader, as novel or of recent invention.
There is no room for controversy as to the fact, that the Law is divided into ten heads since this is repeatedly sanctioned by divine authority. The question, therefore, is not as to the number of the parts, but the method of dividing them. Those who adopt a division which gives three commandments to the First Table, and throws the remaining seven into the Second Table, expunge the commandment concerning images from the list, or at least conceal it under the first, though there cannot be a doubt that it was distinctly set down by the Lord as a separate commandment; whereas the tenth, which prohibits the coveting of what belongs to our neighbour, they absurdly break down into two. Moreover, it will soon appear, that this method of dividing was unknown in a purer age. Others count four commandments in the First Table as we do, but for the first set down the introductory promise, without adding the precept. But because I must hold, unless I am convinced by clear evidence to the contrary, that the "ten words" mentioned by Moses are Ten Commandments and because I see that number arranged in most admirable order, I must, while I leave them to hold their own opinion, follow what appears to me better established--viz. that what they make to be the first commandment is of the nature of a preface to the whole Law, that thereafter follow four commandments in the First Table, and six in the Second, in the order in which they will here be reviewed. This division Origin adopts without discussion, as if it had been every where received in his day.  It is also adopted by Augustine, in his book addressed to Boniface, where, in enumerating the commandments, he follows this order, Let one God be religiously obeyed, let no idol be worshipped, let the name of God be not used in vain; while previously he had made separate mention of the typical commandment of the Sabbath. Elsewhere, indeed, he expresses approbation of the first division, but on too slight grounds, because, by the number three (making the First Table consist of three commandments), the mystery of the Trinity would be better manifested. Even here, however, he does not disguise his opinion, that in other respects, our division is more to his mind. Besides these, we are supported by the author of an unfinished work on Matthew.  Josephus, no doubt with the general consent of his age, assigns five commandments to each table. This, while repugnant to reason, inasmuch as it confounds the distinction between piety and charity, is also refuted by the authority of our Saviour, who in Matthew places the command to honour parents in the list of those belonging to the Second Table (Mt. 19:19). Let us now hear God speaking in his own words.
I AM THE LORD THY GOD, WHICH BROUGHT THEE OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT, OUT OF THE HOUSE OF BONDAGE. THOU SHALT HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME.
13. Whether you take the former sentence as a part of the commandment, or read it separately is to me a matter of indifference, provided you grant that it is a kind of preface to the whole Law. In enacting laws, the first thing to be guarded against is their being forthwith abrogated by contempt. The Lord, therefore, takes care, in the first place, that this shall not happen to the Law about to be delivered, by introducing it with a triple sanction. He claims to himself power and authority to command, that he may impress the chosen people with the necessity of obedience; he holds forth a promise of favour, as a means of alluring them to the study of holiness; and he reminds them of his kindness, that he may convict them of ingratitude, if they fail to make a suitable return. By the name, Lord, are denoted power and lawful dominion. If all things are from him, and by him consist, they ought in justice to bear reference to him, as Paul says (Rom. 11:36). This name, therefore, is in itself sufficient to bring us under the authority of the divine majesty: for it were monstrous for us to wish to withdraw from the dominion of him, out of whom we cannot even exist.
14. After showing that he has a right to command, and to be obeyed, he next, in order not to seem to drag men by mere necessity, but to allure them, graciously declares, that he is the God of the Church. For the mode of expression implies, that there is a mutual relation included in the promise, "I will be their God, and they shall be my people," (Jer. 31:33). Hence Christ infers the immortality of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, from the fact that God had declared himself to be their God (Mt. 22:32). It is, therefore, the same as if he had said, I have chosen you to myself, as a people to whom I shall not only do good in the present life, but also bestow felicity in the life to come. The end contemplated in this is adverted to in the Law, in various passages. For when the Lord condescends in mercy to honour us so far as to admit us to partnership with his chosen people, he chooses us, as Moses says, "to be a holy people," "a peculiar people unto himself," to "keep all his commandments," (Deut. 7:6; 14:2; 26:18). Hence the exhortation, "Ye shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy," (Lev. 19:2). These two considerations form the ground of the remonstrance, "A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master; if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of hosts," (Mal. 1:6).
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Your new Christlike body
1/22/2018 Bob Gass
‘He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own.’
(Php 3:20–21) who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. ESV
The Bible says our heavenly bodies will be exactly like the one Jesus had following His resurrection. He resembled Himself, because the disciples could recognise Him. He ate and drank with them. He could be touched. He could miraculously pass through walls. Talk about ‘time travel’ – He could appear in various places to different people without travelling by any recognised means. His transformed body no longer aged, nor was it subject to sickness and death. And your new body will be like His. ‘Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back. After that the end will come’ (1 Corinthians 15:23-24 NLT). Scottish Presbyterian Robert Baillie learned in 1684 that he would be hanged for his alleged involvement in a plot to assassinate King Charles II, then drawn and quartered, and his head and hands nailed to a local bridge. How did he respond? By first quoting this Scripture: ‘Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour…who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body’ (Philippians 3:20-21 NKJV). Then he declared: ‘They may hack and hew my body as they please, but I know assuredly that nothing will be lost, that all these my members shall be wonderfully gathered and made like Christ’s glorious body.’ The truth is that whether you get buried in a casket or cremated and your ashes scattered, it makes no difference. God has prepared for you a glorious body just like Christ’s.
January 22, 2016
We are surrounded by hurting people; folks on the news, people we meet, friends, family, and sometimes ourselves. We all cope with pain differently; denial, humor, aggressiveness and sometimes we take our pain to God. Some of the things we suffer are common to all of us. None the less, it is important not to trivialize someone else’s pain. We all suffer differently. I am reminded of these verses from Matthew 12.
15 When Jesus became aware of this, he departed. Many crowds followed him, and he cured all of them, 16 and he ordered them not to make him known. 17 This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
18 “Here is my servant, whom I have chosen,
my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19 He will not wrangle or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
20 He will not break a bruised reed
or quench a smoldering wick
until he brings justice to victory.
21 And in his name the Gentiles will hope.”
This is very revealing. Some people have told me they think there are two Gods in the Bible, the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. I think these verses from Matthew are very revealing because they quote from Isaiah, an Old Testament prophet. It is clear to me that God in the Old Testament is tender hearted. Jesus said He only does what He sees the Father doing.
So what does that mean for me? It means that I need to watch my mouth, especially around people who are hurting and hurting people are everywhere, most hiding their pain from others. I understand it is a metaphor, but the message is clear, if Jesus is so careful with people’s pain how can I claim to follow Jesus and act like a bull in a china cabinet?
by Bill Federer
On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Roe v. Wade, allowed abortions in the first six months of pregnancy. Twenty-three years later, Norma McCorvey, who was the “Jane Roe” in the Roe v. Wade suit, was interviewed by USA Today. She stated that once, while employed at a clinic when no one was in: “I went into the procedure room and laid down on the table… trying to imagine what it would be like having an abortion… I broke down and cried.” On ABC’s World News Tonight, Norma McCorvey said: “I think abortion’s wrong. I think what I did with Roe v. Wade was wrong.”
Thomas R. Kelly
As the experience of this inward life matured, Thomas Kelly found himself using language that would have repelled him during his years of rebellion against evangelical religion. "Have I discovered God as a sweet Presence and a stirring life-renovating Power within me? Do I walk by His Guidance feeding every day, like the knights of the Grail on the body and the blood of Christ?" An Earlham colleague wrote of his visit there in the autumn of 1940, "He almost startled me, and he shocked some of us who were still walking in the ways of logic and science and the flesh, by the high areas of being he had penetrated. He had returned to old symbols like the blood of Christ, that were shocking to a few of his old colleagues who had not grown and lived as he had. But he brought new meaning to all symbols, and he was to me, and to some others a prophet whose tongue had been touched by coals of fire."
As his experience ripened, there also came a growing reemphasis upon the centrality of devotion, a devotion that far exceeds the mere possession of inward states of exaltation: "Let us be quite dear that mystical exaltations are not essential to religious dedication … Many a man professes to be without a shred of mystical elevation, yet is fundamentally a heaven-dedicated soul. It would be a tragic mistake to suppose that religion is only for a small group, who have certain vivid but transient inner experiences, and to preach those experiences so that those who are relatively insensitive to them should feel excluded, denied access to the Eternal love, deprived of a basic necessity for religious living. The crux of religious living lies in the will, not in transient and variable states. Utter dedication of will to God is open to all … Where the will to will God's will is present, there is a child of God. When there are graciously given to us such glimpses of glory as aid us in softening own-will, then we may be humbly grateful. But glad willing away of self that the will of God, so far as it can be discerned, may become what we will – that is the basic condition.
A Testament of Devotion
Compilation by RickAdams7
I would rather walk with God in the dark
than go alone in the light.
--- Mary Gardiner Brainard
God cannot be greater than he is,
but he can be greater in you than he is at present.
He cannot increase;
there cannot be more of God than there is,
but there may be more of God in you.
--- C. H. Spurgeon
There is no improving the future without disturbing the present.
--- Catherine Booth co-founder of the Salvation Army
It is not wealth, riches, or the honor of this world that I crave. It is not change of place or outward circumstances that will make me happy, but it is a mind resigned to do the Lord’s will, to follow Him whithersoever He is pleased to lead. This is what I desire more than any earthly gain.
--- Ann Branson, 1808-1892
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
for it is the source of life’s consequences.
24 Keep crooked speech out of your mouth,
banish deceit from your lips.
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead,
fix your gaze on what lies in front of you.
26 Level the path for your feet,
let all your ways be properly prepared;
27 then deviate neither right nor left;
and keep your foot far from evil.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
What am I looking at?
Look unto Me, and be ye saved. --- Isaiah 45:22.
Do we expect God to come to us with His blessings and save us? He says—‘Look unto Me, and be saved.’ The great difficulty spiritually is to concentrate on God, and it is His blessings that make it difficult. Troubles nearly always make us look to God; His blessings are apt to make us look elsewhere. The teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is, in effect—Narrow all your interests until the attitude of mind and heart and body is concentration on Jesus Christ.
Many of us have a mental conception of what a Christian should be, and the lives of the saints become a hindrance to our concentration on God. There is no salvation in this way, it is not simple enough. “Look unto Me” and—not ‘you will be saved,’ but ‘you are saved.’ The very thing we look for, we shall find if we will concentrate on Him. We get preoccupied and sulky with God, while all the time He is saying—‘Look up and be saved.’ The difficulties and trials, the casting about in our minds as to what we shall do this summer, or to-morrow, all vanish when we look to God.
Rouse yourself up and look to God. Build your hope on Him. No matter if there are a hundred and one things that press, resolutely exclude them all and look to Him. “Look unto Me,” and salvation is, the moment you look.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
With the deterioration of sight
they see more clearly what is missing
from their expressions. With the
dulling of the ear, the silences
before the endearments are
louder than ever.
Their hands have their accidents
still, but no hospital will
receive them. With their licences
expired, though they keep to their own
side, there are corners
in waiting. Theirs is a strange
house. Over the door in
invisible letters there is the name:
Home, but it is no place
to return to. On the floor
are the upset smiles, on the
table the cups unwashed they drank
their happiness from. There are themselves
at the windows, faces staring
at an unreached finishing
post. There is the sound
in the silence of the breathing
of their reluctant bodies as
they enter each of them the last lap.
The Poems of R.S. Thomas
Abraham stands as the greatest figure to be found in the ancient world. Three world religions—Islam, Judaism, and Christianity—revere him as the father of their faiths. Archeologists have explored the city of his origin, traced his journeys, probed the ruins of towns mentioned in Genesis, and have reconstructed a striking portrait of life 2,000 years before Christ that in detail after detail confirms the accuracy of the Old Testament account.
But what makes Abraham important to the Bible student is not the reverence in which he is held. It is not even the belief The National Geographic once expressed, that “Abraham the patriarch conceived a great and simple idea: the idea of a single Almighty God” (Dec. 1966, p. 740). Abraham’s importance is not even found in the fact that he is today a prime model of saving faith. No, the importance of Abraham in Genesis is that through Abraham God reveals His purpose and His goal for the universe. In promises to Abram God revealed that He had a plan!
To Abraham were given wonderful covenant promises that show us history’s direction, and reassure us that our personal universe is a purposive universe as well.
Covenant. In Old Testament times the berit was at the foundation of social relationships. It might represent a treaty between nations, or a business contract, or a national constitution. In each case it represented a binding agreement, and expressed a firm commitment which was to be faithfully honored by all.
The Teacher's Commentary
In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. --- John 14:2.
It is Christ’s Father’s house because he is the way and the door to it. (Classic Sermons on Heaven and Hell (Kregel Classic Sermons Series)) “No one,” he himself has said, “comes to the Father except through me.” I know not of any heaven for human beings but that which the Lord Jesus has opened up and fitted and filled, and I know of no Father for them but the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. None will ever reach it but that his foot led the way and his hand upheld their goings. It is because it is Christ’s Father’s house that new songs have been made for it and a new and peculiar joy created, joy among the angels for sinners that repent, joy among the saved that they have had wonderful deliverance, and joy in the heart of the Father himself—“For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” It is this that gives its deepest and highest meaning to the heaven of the Gospel; it is the heaven of the Redeemer.
Yet this truth, that the heavenly house has for its center the throne and cross of Christ, that it is the home of the pardoned and purified, makes it needful that a closing word should be spoken to be pondered by us all. Are you on the way to it, are you preparing for it? It is surely the most reasonable of all things to believe that someone cannot dwell in peace in God’s house unless he or she is at peace with God himself and cannot enjoy the heaven of Christ without the mind of Christ. God cannot make you blessed by surrounding you with blessings. He cannot give someone heaven who will not have God himself. If, then you are refusing God, you are refusing God’s heaven; if you will not have him in your heart, you can never look with loving confidence on his face. All deceptive dreams, all vain illusion about what God may do are scattered by this, that God has set heaven’s door open to you, and you will not enter it; you are framing a heart and life within you that make misery sure by the most fixed of all laws, the law of the divine nature. He who has made heaven ready and who is the door to it is now at the door of your heart, ready to enter with pardon for all the past and divine help for all the future. Will you not receive him?
--- John Ker
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
The Pope’s Hope
The little man before whom Henry IV had stood half-frozen, Gregory VII, didn’t become pope in the usual manner. He had not been elected behind closed doors by cardinals but proclaimed pope by the people.
His name was actually Hildebrand. His insight and integrity had made him advisor to five popes, and he preferred working behind the scenes to foster reform. That reputation earned him the respect of the people.
During the funeral of Pope Alexander II in 1073, the crowds began shouting “Hildebrand shall be pope!” When Hildebrand tried to ascend the pulpit to quiet the people, Cardinal Candidus stopped him. “Men and brethren,” shouted the cardinal. “We cannot find for the papacy a better man, or even one his equal. Let us elect him.” The cardinals and clergy, using the ancient formula, all exclaimed, “St. Peter elects Gregory (Hildebrand) pope.”
Gregory VII tried to bring integrity and revival to the church, but many church leaders opposed him. One who didn’t was his friend Hugo, a monk in Cluny. On January 22, 1075, the pope wrote to his friend about his burdens:
The Eastern Church fallen from the faith, and attacked by infidels from without. In the West, South, or North, scarcely any bishops who have obtained their office regularly, or whose life and conduct correspond to their calling, and who are actuated by the love of Christ instead of worldly ambition. Nowhere princes who prefer God’s honor to their own, and justice to gain. The Romans among whom I live are worse than heathens. And when I look to myself, I feel oppressed by such a burden of sin that no other hope of salvation is left me but in the mercy of Christ alone.
Hildebrand did his best to free the church from corruption and from political control by secular princes. But frostbitten Henry IV eventually regained strength enough for revenge. He marched to Rome, reduced it nearly to ruins, and drove Gregory into exile. The pope died in Salerno, heartbroken, in 1085.
No hope suckled him but the mercy of Christ alone.
Only God can save me, and I calmly wait for him.
I feel like a shaky fence or a sagging wall.
You want to bring me down from my place of honor.
Only God gives inward peace, and I depend on him.
God is our place of safety.
--- Psalm 62:1,3–5,8.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - January 22
“Son of man, What is the vine tree more than any tree, or than a branch which is among the trees of the forest?”
--- Ezekiel 15:2.
These words are for the humbling of God’s people; they are called God’s vine, but what are they by nature more than others? They, by God’s goodness, have become fruitful, having been planted in a good soil; the Lord hath trained them upon the walls of the sanctuary, and they bring forth fruit to his glory; but what are they without their God? What are they without the continual influence of the Spirit, begetting fruitfulness in them? O believer, learn to reject pride, seeing that thou hast no ground for it. Whatever thou art, thou hast nothing to make thee proud. The more thou hast, the more thou art in debt to God; and thou shouldst not be proud of that which renders thee a debtor. Consider thine origin; look back to what thou wast. Consider what thou wouldst have been but for divine grace. Look upon thyself as thou art now. Doth not thy conscience reproach thee? Do not thy thousand wanderings stand before thee, and tell thee that thou art unworthy to be called his son? And if he hath made thee anything, art thou not taught thereby that it is grace which hath made thee to differ? Great believer, thou wouldst have been a great sinner if God had not made thee to differ. O thou who art valiant for truth, thou wouldst have been as valiant for error if grace had not laid hold upon thee. Therefore, be not proud, though thou hast a large estate—a wide domain of grace, thou hadst not once a single thing to call thine own except thy sin and misery. Oh! strange infatuation, that thou, who hast borrowed everything, shouldst think of exalting thyself; a poor dependent pensioner upon the bounty of thy Saviour, one who hath a life which dies without fresh streams of life from Jesus, and yet proud! Fie on thee, O silly heart!
Evening - January 22
“Doth Job fear God for nought?” --- Job 1:9.
This was the wicked question of Satan concerning that upright man of old, but there are many in the present day concerning whom it might be asked with justice, for they love God after a fashion because he prospers them; but if things went ill with them, they would give up all their boasted faith in God. If they can clearly see that since the time of their supposed conversion the world has gone prosperously with them, then they will love God in their poor carnal way; but if they endure adversity, they rebel against the Lord. Their love is the love of the table, not of the host; a love to the cupboard, not to the master of the house. As for the true Christian, he expects to have his reward in the next life, and to endure hardness in this. The promise of the old covenant is adversity. Remember Christ’s words—“Every branch in me that beareth not fruit”—What? “He purgeth it, that it may bring forth fruit.” If you bring forth fruit, you will have to endure affliction. “Alas!” you say, “that is a terrible prospect.” But this affliction works out such precious results, that the Christian who is the subject of it must learn to rejoice in tribulations, because as his tribulations abound, so his consolations abound by Christ Jesus. Rest assured, if you are a child of God, you will be no stranger to the rod. Sooner or later every bar of gold must pass through the fire. Fear not, but rather rejoice that such fruitful times are in store for you, for in them you will be weaned from earth and made meet for heaven; you will be delivered from clinging to the present, and made to long for those eternal things which are so soon to be revealed to you. When you feel that as regards the present you do serve God for nought, you will then rejoice in the infinite reward of the future.
Morning and Evening: A New Edition of the Classic Devotional Based on The Holy Bible, English Standard Version
Priscilla J. Owens, 1829–1907
Sing to the Lord, praise His name; proclaim His salvation day after day. Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples. (Psalm 96:2, 3)
The heart of the Christian gospel is a person, not a church or a system of doctrinal interpretation. To evangelize is to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ—that He came to this world, died for our sins, and was raised from the grave according to the Scriptures. And, as the reigning Lord, He now meets every human need with His forgiveness of sins and the indwelling gift of His Holy Spirit to all who repent and believe.
Today, however, many false teachers claim that God speaks equally through all religions and ideologies. Those who believe this do not consider a personal faith in the person and work of Christ to be essential. We must reject as derogatory to our Lord and His gospel every teaching that makes this boast. The Bible is dogmatic: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
Priscilla J. Owens, a Baltimore public school teacher for 49 years, wrote these stirring soul-winning words for a missionary service in the Sunday school of the Union Square Methodist Church. Fourteen years later, William Kirkpatrick wedded his vibrant music to her words. Through the years they have challenged God’s people with the urgency of soul winning.
We have heard the joyful sound: Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Spread the tidings all around: Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Bear the news to every land; climb the steeps and cross the waves; onward!—’tis our Lord’s command; Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Waft it on the rolling tide; Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Tell to sinners far and wide: Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Sing, ye islands of the sea; echo back, ye ocean caves; earth shall keep her jubilee: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Sing above the battle strife, Jesus saves! Jesus saves! By His death and endless life, Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Sing it softly through the gloom, when the heart for mercy craves; sing in triumph o’er the tomb;—Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Give the winds a mighty voice, Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Let the nations now rejoice,—Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Shout salvation full and free; highest hills and deepest caves; this our song of victory,—Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
For Today: Psalm 67:2; Isaiah 52:7; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8; Romans 1:16.
Try to speak to someone about trusting Jesus and Him alone for salvation from sin and the satisfaction of every need. Carry this musical message that ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Monday, January 22, 2018 | Epiphany
Psalms (Morning) Psalm 41, 52
Psalms (Evening) Psalm 44
Old Testament (Genesis 14:1–7) 8–24
New Testament Hebrews 8:1–13
Gospel John 4:43–54
Index of Readings
Psalm 41, 52
41 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David.
1 Blessed is the one who considers the poor!
In the day of trouble the LORD delivers him;
2 the LORD protects him and keeps him alive;
he is called blessed in the land;
you do not give him up to the will of his enemies.
3 The LORD sustains him on his sickbed;
in his illness you restore him to full health.
4 As for me, I said, “O LORD, be gracious to me;
heal me, for I have sinned against you!”
5 My enemies say of me in malice,
“When will he die, and his name perish?”
6 And when one comes to see me, he utters empty words,
while his heart gathers iniquity;
when he goes out, he tells it abroad.
7 All who hate me whisper together about me;
they imagine the worst for me.
8 They say, “A deadly thing is poured out on him;
he will not rise again from where he lies.”
9 Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.
10 But you, O LORD, be gracious to me,
and raise me up, that I may repay them!
11 By this I know that you delight in me:
my enemy will not shout in triumph over me.
12 But you have upheld me because of my integrity,
and set me in your presence forever.
13 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting!
Amen and Amen.
52 To The Choirmaster. A Maskil Of David, When Doeg, The Edomite, Came And Told Saul, “David Has Come To The House Of Ahimelech.”
1 Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man?
The steadfast love of God endures all the day.
2 Your tongue plots destruction,
like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit.
3 You love evil more than good,
and lying more than speaking what is right. Selah
4 You love all words that devour,
O deceitful tongue.
5 But God will break you down forever;
he will snatch and tear you from your tent;
he will uproot you from the land of the living. Selah
6 The righteous shall see and fear,
and shall laugh at him, saying,
7 “See the man who would not make
God his refuge,
but trusted in the abundance of his riches
and sought refuge in his own destruction!”
8 But I am like a green olive tree
in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God
forever and ever.
9 I will thank you forever,
because you have done it.
I will wait for your name, for it is good,
in the presence of the godly.
44 To The Choirmaster. A Maskil Of The Sons Of Korah.
1 O God, we have heard with our ears,
our fathers have told us,
what deeds you performed in their days,
in the days of old:
2 you with your own hand drove out the nations,
but them you planted;
you afflicted the peoples,
but them you set free;
3 for not by their own sword did they win the land,
nor did their own arm save them,
but your right hand and your arm,
and the light of your face,
for you delighted in them.
4 You are my King, O God;
ordain salvation for Jacob!
5 Through you we push down our foes;
through your name we tread down those who rise up against us.
6 For not in my bow do I trust,
nor can my sword save me.
7 But you have saved us from our foes
and have put to shame those who hate us.
8 In God we have boasted continually,
and we will give thanks to your name forever. Selah
9 But you have rejected us and disgraced us
and have not gone out with our armies.
10 You have made us turn back from the foe,
and those who hate us have gotten spoil.
11 You have made us like sheep for slaughter
and have scattered us among the nations.
12 You have sold your people for a trifle,
demanding no high price for them.
13 You have made us the taunt of our neighbors,
the derision and scorn of those around us.
14 You have made us a byword among the nations,
a laughingstock among the peoples.
15 All day long my disgrace is before me,
and shame has covered my face
16 at the sound of the taunter and reviler,
at the sight of the enemy and the avenger.
17 All this has come upon us,
though we have not forgotten you,
and we have not been false to your covenant.
18 Our heart has not turned back,
nor have our steps departed from your way;
19 yet you have broken us in the place of jackals
and covered us with the shadow of death.
20 If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
21 would not God discover this?
For he knows the secrets of the heart.
22 Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.
23 Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
24 Why do you hide your face?
Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
25 For our soul is bowed down to the dust;
our belly clings to the ground.
26 Rise up; come to our help!
Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!
(Genesis 14:1–7) 8–24
[ 14 In the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim, 2 these kings made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). 3 And all these joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). 4 Twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled. 5 In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him came and defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim, 6 and the Horites in their hill country of Seir as far as El-paran on the border of the wilderness. 7 Then they turned back and came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh) and defeated all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites who were dwelling in Hazazon-tamar. ]
8 Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out, and they joined battle in the Valley of Siddim 9 with Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goiim, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar, four kings against five. 10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of bitumen pits, and as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into them, and the rest fled to the hill country. 11 So the enemy took all the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way. 12 They also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who was dwelling in Sodom, and his possessions, and went their way.
13 Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and of Aner. These were allies of Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 And he divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. 16 Then he brought back all the possessions, and also brought back his kinsman Lot with his possessions, and the women and the people.
17 After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) 19 And he blessed him and said,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
20 and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”
And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. 21 And the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.” 22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have lifted my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, 23 that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ 24 I will take nothing but what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me. Let Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre take their share.”
8 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
8 For he finds fault with them when he says:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah,
9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
and I will remember their sins no more.”
13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
43 After the two days he departed for Galilee. 44 (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) 45 So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast.
46 So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you3 see signs and wonders you will not believe.” 49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. 51 As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. 52 So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. 54 This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.
The Book of Common Prayer