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Genesis 29     Matthew 28     Esther 5     Acts 28

Jacob Marries Leah and Rachel

Genesis 29:1 Then Jacob went on his journey and came to the land of the people of the east. 2 As he looked, he saw a well in the field, and behold, three flocks of sheep lying beside it, for out of that well the flocks were watered. The stone on the well’s mouth was large, 3 and when all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone from the mouth of the well and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place over the mouth of the well.

4 Jacob said to them, “My brothers, where do you come from?” They said, “We are from Haran.” 5 He said to them, “Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?” They said, “We know him.” 6 He said to them, “Is it well with him?” They said, “It is well; and see, Rachel his daughter is coming with the sheep!” 7 He said, “Behold, it is still high day; it is not time for the livestock to be gathered together. Water the sheep and go, pasture them.” 8 But they said, “We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together and the stone is rolled from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep.”

9 While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess. 10 Now as soon as Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, Jacob came near and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother. 11 Then Jacob kissed Rachel and wept aloud. 12 And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s kinsman, and that he was Rebekah’s son, and she ran and told her father.

13 As soon as Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he ran to meet him and embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his house. Jacob told Laban all these things, 14 and Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh!” And he stayed with him a month.

15 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” 16 Now Laban had two daughters. The name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance. 18 Jacob loved Rachel. And he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” 19 Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” 22 So Laban gathered together all the people of the place and made a feast. 23 But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he went in to her. 24 (Laban gave his female servant Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her servant.) 25 And in the morning, behold, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” 26 Laban said, “It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. 27 Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.” 28 Jacob did so, and completed her week. Then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. 29 (Laban gave his female servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel to be her servant.) 30 So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years.

Jacob’s Children

31 When the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. 32 And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, “Because the LORD has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.” 33 She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the LORD has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.” And she called his name Simeon. 34 Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore his name was called Levi. 35 And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “This time I will praise the LORD.” Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she ceased bearing.

The Resurrection

Matthew 28:1 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

The Report of the Guard

11 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.

The Great Commission

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Esther Prepares a Banquet

Esther 5:1 On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, in front of the king’s quarters, while the king was sitting on his royal throne inside the throne room opposite the entrance to the palace. 2 And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter. 3 And the king said to her, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given you, even to the half of my kingdom.” 4 And Esther said, “If it please the king, let the king and Haman come today to a feast that I have prepared for the king.” 5 Then the king said, “Bring Haman quickly, so that we may do as Esther has asked.” So the king and Haman came to the feast that Esther had prepared. 6 And as they were drinking wine after the feast, the king said to Esther, “What is your wish? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” 7 Then Esther answered, “My wish and my request is: 8 If I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my wish and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come to the feast that I will prepare for them, and tomorrow I will do as the king has said.”

Haman Plans to Hang Mordecai

9 And Haman went out that day joyful and glad of heart. But when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, that he neither rose nor trembled before him, he was filled with wrath against Mordecai. 10 Nevertheless, Haman restrained himself and went home, and he sent and brought his friends and his wife Zeresh. 11 And Haman recounted to them the splendor of his riches, the number of his sons, all the promotions with which the king had honored him, and how he had advanced him above the officials and the servants of the king. 12 Then Haman said, “Even Queen Esther let no one but me come with the king to the feast she prepared. And tomorrow also I am invited by her together with the king. 13 Yet all this is worth nothing to me, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.” 14 Then his wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Let a gallows fifty cubits high be made, and in the morning tell the king to have Mordecai hanged upon it. Then go joyfully with the king to the feast.” This idea pleased Haman, and he had the gallows made.

Paul on Malta

Acts 28:1 After we were brought safely through, we then learned that the island was called Malta. 2 The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. 3 When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. 4 When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” 5 He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.

7 Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days. 8 It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him, healed him. 9 And when this had taken place, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured. 10 They also honored us greatly, and when we were about to sail, they put on board whatever we needed.

Paul Arrives at Rome

11 After three months we set sail in a ship that had wintered in the island, a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods as a figurehead. 12 Putting in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. 13 And from there we made a circuit and arrived at Rhegium. And after one day a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. 14 There we found brothers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. 15 And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage. 16 And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him.

Paul in Rome

17 After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews, and when they had gathered, he said to them, “Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. 18 When they had examined me, they wished to set me at liberty, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. 19 But because the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar—though I had no charge to bring against my nation. 20 For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.” 21 And they said to him, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken any evil about you. 22 But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.”

23 When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. 24 And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. 25 And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:

26  “ ‘Go to this people, and say,
“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
27  For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed;
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’

28 Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” 30 He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

The Reformation Study Bible

What I'm Reading

The First Question to Ask of an Ancient, Holy Book: Is It Ancient?

By J. Warner Wallace 1/23/2017

     Many of the world’s best known religious texts are silent when it comes to claims about history. Many Eastern religious scriptures, for example, describe spiritual principles devoid of historical location or setting. Texts such as these are proverbial in nature, proclaiming ancient wisdom without any connection to historical context. The Abrahamic religions are very different, however. Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Mormonism make claims about ancient history. For this reason, these religious worldviews are both verifiable and falsifiable. We ought to be able to corroborate the historical claims of ancient religious texts just as we could other historical documents. Such verification would certify their antiquity, if nothing else. On the other hand, if the claims of an ancient holy book are consistently incorrect related to the ancient world it allegedly describes, we ought to consider the text with suspicion.

     It’s also important to remember that not every ancient text makes a claim about “divinity”; there are many texts from antiquity that are ancient, but not “holy”. If a text claims to be both ancient and holy, it needs to pass the first test related to antiquity before it can hope to qualify in the second category as holy. After all, a book cannot be holy or divine if it is lying about ancient history.

     The test of antiquity was incredibly important to me as a skeptic examining the claims of scripture for the first time. As I became interested in Christianity, my Mormon family encouraged me to examine Mormonism as well. I read the entire Book of Mormon before I completed the Old and New Testament. I wanted to determine the “antiquity” of the Gospels and the Book of Mormon before I could examine the question of “divinity”. I needed to know if the New Testament gospels were written early enough to have been written by eyewitnesses who were actually present to observe what was recorded in these accounts. Similarly, I needed to know if the Book of Mormon was an accurate account of the history of the American continent from 600BC to 400AD (as it claims). My first investigation was centered on the foundational question: Are these ancient holy books truly ancient?

     What kinds of questions can an investigator ask when trying to answer this important question related to antiquity? I considered the following:

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J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of:

Did God Really Command Genocide?

By Matt Flannagan and Paul Copan 11/2/2015

     Karen Armstrong and Philip Jenkins, among others, have argued that there’s far more violence in the Bible than in the Koran. Jenkins refers to the Old Testament’s ethnic cleansing, institutionalization of segregation, and hate and fear of other races and religions. F&C review some of these themes they’ve already covered: In terms of ethnic cleansing, what we find in the OT instead is “moral cleansing,” and long-awaited judgment on a wicked people whose time had finally come. And God warns the Israelites will experience the same judgment if they commit the same sins. The OT represents a God whose salvation is intended to affect all the peoples of the world. In terms of segregation, Israel was to be distinct morally and spiritually, but they were repeatedly commanded to care for the alien and sojourner in their midst since they too had been aliens in the land of Egypt. In terms of other races and religions, the charge of hating and fearing other races is clearly false, though the Bible is opposed to idolatry, and God brings judgment on ancient Israel for engaging in idolatry and breaking covenant with him after promising to love, cling to, and obey him.

     Biblical and Koranic Texts | We see many Koranic references to warfare, and this warfare is not simply defensive but offensive as well. F&C give copious examples; here’s just one: “And those who are slain in the way of God, He will not send their works astray…. And He will admit them to Paradise, that He has made known to them” (47:4, 6).

     Clear differences obtain between the Bible and Koran. First, military events captured in a biblical canon are merely descriptive of a unique part of the unfolding of salvation history. Second, whereas the biblical texts offer descriptions of unique history, the Koranic texts by contrast appear to be issuing enduring commands. Islam has exhibited a militaristic aggressiveness from the beginning, and this aggressiveness has been fed by Koranic texts that many Muslims throughout history have taken as normative or binding, enduring throughout history, and worldwide in applicability. Third, the distinctions between divinely commanded wars in the OT and Islamic jihad are much more pronounced than their similarities.

     In addition to being unique and unrepeatable events within scripture itself, these wars are restricted to a relatively small portion of land, and accompanied by widely witnessed miracles. By contrast, the “revelations” to Muhammad were private and not publicly available for scrutiny or reinforced by dramatic signs and wonders. What’s more, Israel was an instrument of divine judgment on wicked people, unlike Muhammad, who attacked and overtook even those who were “People of the Book” (Jews and Christians)—part of the global reach to which Muhammed and his followers aspired.

     Muhammad’s Example | Consider now Muhammed himself, the supreme human example for Muslims to follow. His goal was “to fight all men until they say, ‘There is no God but Allah.’” He died in AD 632 with his own plans for attacking neighboring nations unfulfilled. In his career, he fought in an estimated eighty-six military campaigns. The first authoritative biography of him covers his battles in 75 percent of its 813 pages, and includes depictions of assassination, rape, and cruelty that met with Muhammed’s approval. In one instance he said, “Kill any Jew that falls into your power.” A number of instances recount his approval of violence. According to the Koran and the traditions about Muhammed (Hadith), he permitted his soldiers to have sex not only with their wives, but also with female captives and female slaves.

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     Dr. Matthew Flannagan is a theologian with proficiency in contemporary analytic philosophy. He holds a PhD in Theology from the University of Otago, a Master’s (with First Class Honours), and a Bachelor’s in Philosophy from the University of Waikato; he also holds a post-graduate diploma in secondary teaching from Bethlehem Tertiary Institute. He currently works as an independent researcher and as teaching pastor at Takanini Community Church in Auckland, New Zealand.

Samson: Emptied to Be Filled

By Elton Higgs

     The story of Samson in the book of Judges (Judges 13-16) is one of the two longest narratives in the book, and the saddest and most incredible of all. How can a man endowed with such a gift from God, and born with such promise, be so utterly and stupidly reckless? It seems that God wanted to show in him how personal exploitation of a gift from God, without regard to the holy purpose for which God intended it, leads to a folly as great as the holy gift. It ends up as a supreme example of God’s strength being made perfect in weakness, as the blind and bound Sampson, in one final reckless act, slays more Philistines in his death than he had in his lifetime.

     Samson’s story begins with a kind of annunciation and a supernatural conception and birth (Judges 13), strangely foreshadowing the birth of Jesus. At the center of these events is the strict charge that Samson be dedicated from birth as a lifelong Nazirite, which required that he never cut his hair, that he imbibe no strong drink, and that he have no contact with dead bodies (see Num. 6). Although his final violation of the first of these is at the climax of his story, he had already by that time violated the first two, as well as having gone against the spirit of God’s sanctification of him by being sexually promiscuous. But at the core of his downfall is his failure to realize that God’s gift of supernatural strength to him was itself holy, and that to use it to satisfy his own pride was to set himself up for a profound fall.

     The marvel is that God went along with his self-indulgence for so long, for we are told that he judged Israel for twenty years (Judges 15:20), presumably holding the Philistines at bay for that entire period. At first, God is behind his apparently reckless and inappropriate actions, as he goes down to Timnah to get a Philistine wife, “seeking an opportunity against the Philistines,” an action he took because it was “from the Lord” (Judges 14:4). In all the rest of his great feats, even though we can infer that he revels more and more pridefully in doing them, God was still using him to deliver His people from their oppression.

     It was only at the end of this period that he had his disastrous encounter with Delilah (Judges 16). The narrator of the story does a superb job of teasing out the degrees of Samson’s downfall, showing how the hero taunts Delilah and her Philistine masters with false (but increasingly true) answers to her pleas to be told the secret of his strength. When he commits the final desecration of his Nazirite sanctification, and his hair has been cut and the Philistines are upon him, he says to himself, “’I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the Lord had left him” (Judges 16:20). I think that must be among the most poignant statements in all of biblical history. When Samson’s eyes are gouged out, it is but a physical confirmation of his spiritual blindness which had occurred long before.

     Another mark of the inspired literary quality of this tragic story is that the account of Samson’s first great feat of strength, the killing of a lion and later finding honey in its carcass, foreshadows God’s final act of strength through a helpless (but enlightened) Samson. As the following poem indicates, Samson’s use of the experience with the lion to pose a riddle to his enemies was, ironically, even deeper than he himself knew.

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     Dr. Elton Higgs was a faculty member in the English department of the University of Michigan-Dearborn from 1965-2001. Having retired from UM-D as Prof. of English in 2001, he now lives with his wife and adult daughter in Jackson, MI.. He has published scholarly articles on Chaucer, Langland, the Pearl Poet, Shakespeare, and Milton. His self-published Collected Poems is online at Lulu.com. He also published a couple dozen short articles in religious journals.

Timeless Parenting in an iWorld

By Gina Stepp Winter 2016

     With each technological advance, life seems to get more complicated—especially for parents. Four books explore the challenges of raising children in the age of technology.

     For thousands of years parents have been raising children with varying levels of success—whether leaning on punishment as their most trusted tool, trying out their own balance of “carrots and sticks,” hovering incessantly in a vain attempt to spare their children the pain of life’s inevitable trials and tribulations, or forgoing any kind of parental guidance whatsoever.

     As we consider the many options and approaches, it can be tempting to believe that the parenting style that produced us is clearly the way to go; after all, look at how well we turned out. Yet we probably also realize that we have flaws and inconsistencies in our thinking and character, opening the possibility that maybe, just maybe, our parents didn’t have all the answers.

     Then again, judging by the number of new parenting books that come out every year, perhaps neither do the so-called experts. How do we find our way through this jumble of often contradictory parenting advice? Is there a standard we can hold up against it—and against our own ideas that, precious as they are, may yet be colored by biases and misunderstandings arising from what we imagine were the lessons of our life experiences? Though considered a great teacher, even experience is open to misinterpretation.

     While the world is continually changing and new technologies offer increasing challenges to parents, there must be timeless parenting principles we can apply no matter where modern trends take us, if only we can identify them. Let’s see how some recent books stack up as they attempt to do just that.

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     Gina Stepp is a writer and editor with a master's degree in forensic psychology and a focus on trauma, resilience, attachment, and family dynamics.

Books mentioned from this article:

8 Keys to Old School Parenting for Modern-Day Families (8 Keys to Mental Health)
It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens
iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know about Selfies, Sexting, Gaming, and Growing Up
How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 15

Who Shall Dwell on Your Holy Hill?
15 A Psalm of David.

1 O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

2 He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
and speaks truth in his heart;
3 who does not slander with his tongue
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
4 in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
but who honors those who fear the LORD;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5 who does not put out his money at interest
and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.

ESV Study Bible

Lyrics Change Laws How Music Might End Abortion

By John Ensor 1/27/17

     Percy Bysshe Shelly once said, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” In A Defense of Poetry, he explains, “The great secret of morals is love, or a going out of our nature. . . . To be greatly good, [a man] must put himself in the place of another. . . . The pain and pleasures of his species must become his own. The great instrument of moral good is the imagination.”

     Poets, or artists in general, help us think sympathetically with the plight of others. Doing so, of course, is Christ’s Golden Rule: do for others what you would have them do for you — what you imagine you would want done in your defense if you were the one being targeted (Matthew 7:12).

     Poetry Precedes Politics | In this sense, lyrics come before law. Poetry precedes politics. Can you even think of the Civil Rights Movement apart from the song “We Shall Overcome”? I cannot. Yes, politicians were needed to secure equal rights and protections in the law. But upstream from politics were preachers and poets — wooing and warning, clarifying and calling, exposing and exhorting, summoning and singing, “We shall overcome someday.”

     Twenty-five years prior to these marches, Abel Meeropol, a white, Jewish, New York City poet, saw a picture of a lynching. He set out to stop it — by writing a poem. That poem became Billy Holiday’s 1939 song “Strange Fruit.” Her rendition provided moral imagination for millions of people and pierced their passive disregard. “Not my business” became “That’s wrong, and I will do something to stop it.”

     Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
     Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
     Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
     Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

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     Per Amazon | John Ensor is an Evangelical pastor, who for the last 25 years, has helped lead the prolife moment as a speaker, a writer and a developer of pregnancy help medical clinics. He currently serves as the President of PassionLife Ministries; and leads their effort to train up Christians in biblical ethics, prolife apologetics, and pregnancy crisis intervention services, in nations where abortion, infanticide and gendercide is most concentrated.

     Prior to this, John served as the Director of Urban Initiatives for Heartbeat International, working with minority churches to develop pregnant help services in Boston, Miami, LA and Pittsburgh. When he is not overseas, John lives in Atlanta, GA.

John Ensor Books:

Innocent Blood: Challenging the Powers of Death with the Gospel of Life
Answering the Call: Saving Innocent Lives One Woman at a Time
Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart
The Great Work of the Gospel: How We Experience God's Grace Stand for Life: Answering the Call, Making the Case, Saving Lives
The Rockefeller Century: Three Generations of America's Greatest Family
The Rockefeller Conscience: An American Family in Public and in Private
Experiencing God's Forgiveness: The Journey from Guilt to Gladness

Do You Exercise for the Wrong Reasons?

By David Mathis / 1/26/2017

     “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.”

     Perhaps you’ve heard his inspiring line in terms of life-calling. In what vocation do you feel God’s pleasure? What role or occupation does it seem he made you to fulfill? However, with the last generation of research in view, it might be interesting to introduce Liddell to the fairly recent discovery of endorphins, and ask how much they played a part in his feeling God’s pleasure as a runner.

     My experience as a very amateur runner is that you don’t have to be a pro to “feel God’s pleasure” in, and because of, intense bodily exertion.

     God made endorphins to help us feel his joy.

     God’s Grace in Exercise | God made us to move, and to do so vigorously. And he wired our brains to reward and reinforce it. Regular human movement has been assumed throughout history, but the innovations and seeming progress of modern life have made a sedentary lifestyle more typical than ever before. We’ve never needed to state the obvious about exercise as much as we do today — not just for earthly health, but for the sake of spiritual soundness and strength.

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     David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org, pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, and adjunct professor for Bethlehem College & Seminary. He is the husband of Megan, father of four, and his regular articles are available online at desiringGod.org/mathis.

David Mathis Books:

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     Eighth Commandment.


45. The purport is, that injustice being an abomination to God, we must render to every man his due. In substance, then, the commandment forbids us to long after other men's goods, and, accordingly, requires every man to exert himself honestly in preserving his own. For we must consider, that what each individual possesses has not fallen to him by chance, but by the distribution of the sovereign Lord of all, that no one can pervert his means to bad purposes without committing a fraud on a divine dispensation. There are very many kinds of theft. One consists in violence, as when a man's goods are forcibly plundered and carried off; another in malicious imposture, as when they are fraudulently intercepted; a third in the more hidden craft which takes possession of them with a semblance of justice; and a fourth in sycophancy, which wiles them away under the pretence of donation. But not to dwell too long in enumerating the different classes, we know that all the arts by which we obtain possession of the goods and money of our neighbours, for sincere affection substituting an eagerness to deceive or injure them in any way, are to be regarded as thefts. Though they may be obtained by an action at law, a different decision is given by God. He sees the long train of deception by which the man of craft begins to lay nets for his more simple neighbour, until he entangles him in its meshes--sees the harsh and cruel laws by which the more powerful oppresses and crushes the feeble--sees the enticements by which the more wily baits the hook for the less wary, though all these escape the judgment of man, and no cognisance is taken of them. Nor is the violation of this commandment confined to money, or merchandise, or lands, but extends to every kind of right; for we defraud our neighbours to their hurt if we decline any of the duties which we are bound to perform towards them. If an agent or an indolent steward wastes the substance of his employer, or does not give due heed to the management of his property; if he unjustly squanders or luxuriously wastes the means entrusted to him; if a servant holds his master in derision, divulges his secrets, or in any way is treacherous to his life or his goods; if, on the other hand, a master cruelly torments his household, he is guilty of theft before God; since every one who, in the exercise of his calling, performs not what he owes to others, keeps back, or makes away with what does not belong to him.

46. This commandment, therefore, we shall duly obey, if, contented with our own lot, we study to acquire nothing but honest and lawful gain; if we long not to grow rich by injustice, nor to plunder our neighbour of his goods, that our own may thereby be increased; if we hasten not to heap up wealth cruelly wrung from the blood of others; if we do not, by means lawful and unlawful, with excessive eagerness scrape together whatever may glut our avarice or meet our prodigality. On the other hand, let it be our constant aim faithfully to lend our counsel and aid to all so as to assist them in retaining their property; or if we have to do with the perfidious or crafty, let us rather be prepared to yield somewhat of our right than to contend with them. And not only so, but let us contribute to the relief of those whom we see under the pressure of difficulties, assisting their want out of our abundance. Lastly, let each of us consider how far he is bound in duty to others, and in good faith pay what we owe. In the same way, let the people pay all due honour to their rulers, submit patiently to their authority, obey their laws and orders, and decline nothing which they can bear without sacrificing the favour of God. Let rulers, again, take due charge of their people, preserve the public peace, protect the good, curb the bad, and conduct themselves throughout as those who must render an account of their office to God, the Judge of all. Let the ministers of churches faithfully give heed to the ministry of the word, and not corrupt the doctrine of salvation, but deliver it purely and sincerely to the people of God. Let them teach not merely by doctrine, but by example; in short, let them act the part of good shepherds towards their flocks. Let the people, in their turn, receive them as the messengers and apostles of God, render them the honour which their Supreme Master has bestowed on them, and supply them with such things as are necessary for their livelihood. Let parents be careful to bring up, guide, and teach their children as a trust committed to them by God. Let them not exasperate or alienate them by cruelty, but cherish and embrace them with the levity and indulgence which becomes their character. The regard due to parents from their children has already been adverted to. Let the young respect those advanced in years as the Lord has been pleased to make that age honourable. Let the aged also, by their prudence and their experience (in which they are far superior), guide the feebleness of youth, not assailing them with harsh and clamorous invectives but tempering strictness with ease and affability. Let servants show themselves diligent and respectful in obeying their masters, and this not with eye-service, but from the heart, as the servants of God. Let masters also not be stern and disobliging to their servants, nor harass them with excessive asperity, nor treat them with insult, but rather let them acknowledge them as brethren and fellow-servants of our heavenly Master, whom, therefore, they are bound to treat with mutual love and kindness. Let every one, I say, thus consider what in his own place and order he owes to his neighbours, and pay what he owes. Moreover, we must always have a reference to the Lawgiver, and so remember that the law requiring us to promote and defend the interest and convenience of our fellow-men, applies equally to our minds and our hands.

Ninth Commandment.


47. The purport of the commandment is, since God, who is truth, abhors falsehood, we must cultivate unfeigned truth towards each other. The sum, therefore, will be, that we must not by calumnies and false accusations injure our neighbour's name, or by falsehood impair his fortunes; in fine, that we must not injure any one from petulance, or a love of evil-speaking. To this prohibition corresponds the command, that we must faithfully assist every one, as far as in us lies, in asserting the truth, for the maintenance of his good name and his estate. The Lord seems to have intended to explain the commandment in these words: "Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness." "Keep thee far from a false matter," (Exod. 23:1, 7). In another passage, he not only prohibits that species of falsehood which consists in acting the part of tale-bearers among the people, but says, "Neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour," (Lev. 19:16). Both transgressions are distinctly prohibited. Indeed, there can be no doubt, that as in the previous commandment he prohibited cruelty unchastity, and avarice, so here he prohibits falsehood, which consists of the two parts to which we have adverted. By malignant or vicious detraction, we sin against our neighbour's good name: by lying, sometimes even by casting a slur upon him, we injure him in his estate. It makes no difference whether you suppose that formal and judicial testimony is here intended, or the ordinary testimony which is given in private conversation. For we must always recur to the consideration, that for each kind of transgression one species is set forth by way of example, that to it the others may be referred, and that the species chiefly selected, is that in which the turpitude of the transgression is most apparent. It seems proper, however, to extend it more generally to calumny and sinister insinuations by which our neighbours are unjustly aggrieved. For falsehood in a court of justice is always accompanied with perjury. But against perjury, in so far as it profanes and violates the name of God, there is a sufficient provision in the third commandment. Hence the legitimate observance of this precept consists in employing the tongue in the maintenance of truth, so as to promote both the good name and the prosperity of our neighbour. The equity of this is perfectly clear. For if a good name is more precious than riches, a man, in being robbed of his good name, is no less injured than if he were robbed of his goods; while, in the latter case, false testimony is sometimes not less injurious than rapine committed by the hand.

48. And yet it is strange, with what supine security men everywhere sin in this respect. Indeed, very few are found who do not notoriously labour under this disease: such is the envenomed delight we take both in prying into and exposing our neighbour's faults. Let us not imagine it is a sufficient excuse to say that on many occasions our statements are not false. He who forbids us to defame our neighbour's reputation by falsehood, desires us to keep it untarnished in so far as truth will permit. Though the commandment is only directed against falsehood, it intimates that the preservation of our neighbour's good name is recommended. It ought to be a sufficient inducement to us to guard our neighbour's good name, that God takes an interest in it. Wherefore, evil-speaking in general is undoubtedly condemned. Moreover, by evil-speaking, we understand not the rebuke which is administered with a view of correcting; not accusation or judicial decision, by which evil is sought to be remedied; not public censure, which tends to strike terror into other offenders; not the disclosure made to those whose safety depends on being forewarned, lest unawares they should be brought into danger, but the odious crimination which springs from a malicious and petulant love of slander. Nay, the commandment extends so far as to include that scurrilous affected urbanity, instinct with invective, by which the failings of others, under an appearance of sportiveness, are bitterly assailed, as some are wont to do, who court the praise of wit, though it should call forth a blush, or inflict a bitter pang. By petulance of this description, our brethren are sometimes grievously wounded. [217] But if we turn our eye to the Lawgiver, whose just authority extends over the ears and the mind, as well as the tongue, we cannot fail to perceive that eagerness to listen to slander, and an unbecoming proneness to censorious judgments are here forbidden. It were absurd to suppose that God hates the disease of evil-speaking in the tongue, and yet disapproves not of its malignity in the mind. Wherefore, if the true fear and love of God dwell in us, we must endeavour, as far as is lawful and expedient, and as far as charity admits, neither to listen nor give utterance to bitter and acrimonious charges, nor rashly entertain sinister suspicions. As just interpreters of the words and the actions of other men, let us candidly maintain the honour due to them by our judgment, our ear, and our tongue.

     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain      Institutes of the Christian Religion

From The Holiness of God

By R.C. Sproul

     The biblical record contains the stories of men and women who have wrestled with God. The very name Israel means “one who strives with God.” God is holy. He is high above us, transcendent. Yet He is a God with whom we can wrestle. In our wrestling match the goal is not final war but final peace. Some have found it. In this chapter we will look at examples of people who have gone to the mat with God and come away at peace. We will look at Jacob, Job, Habakkuk, and Saul of Tarsus. Then we will examine what it means to make peace with God.

     Jacob was a rascal. His name means “Supplanter.” He was the fellow who deceived his father, conned his brother, and entered into an ungodly conspiracy with his mother. It is hard to imagine that the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham could be so corrupt. But in the course of his life he underwent a radical transformation. It started at Bethel:

     See Genesis 28:10-11 in yesterday's Daily Bible reading.

     Travel in ancient Palestine was often an ordeal. The evening brought danger from marauding thieves and wild beasts. On Jacob’s journey there was no way station for him to seek lodging. He traveled as far as he could until the sun went down. At that point he made camp under the stars. His pillow for the night was a stone. When he settled into sleep, he had a dream that was destined to change his life:

     See Genesis 28:12-15 in yesterday's Daily Bible reading.

     The stairway Jacob saw in his dream is commonly referred to as Jacob’s ladder. It served as a bridge between heaven and earth. Up to this point in his life Jacob was not a man who was in touch with heavenly things. He had a profound sense of the absence of God. It seems strange that a son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham would be so “secular.” Abraham had spoken with God. Surely young Jacob had sat around camp fires and heard stories from his father and grandfather. He must have known about God’s order to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on an altar at Mount Moriah.

     Jacob’s life had been lived out on the plane of this world. Talk about heavenly matters had made little impression upon him. His mind was fixed on the earth. As far as he was concerned there was an unbridgeable chasm between heaven and earth. If there was a God, He was so remote, so utterly transcendent that He had no relevance to Jacob’s life. This God of whom his parents spoke was too high for Jacob to reach. Until he had a dream.

     The dream featured a stairway. The stairway was a contact point, a connection between the realm of the holy and the realm of the profane. On the stairway Jacob saw angels ascending and descending. They were moving in both directions, from earth to heaven and from heaven to earth. The traffic was continuous. They moved from the presence of God to the presence of men. At the top of the staircase Jacob saw the figure of God. God spoke to him confirming the promise that He had made earlier to Abraham and Isaac. The promise of God would continue to future generations. It was going to pass through Jacob. He would be the carrier of the covenant oath that God had sworn. God promised to be with Jacob wherever he went and to stay with him until all the promises had been accomplished.

     Whatever happened to Jacob’s ladder? The image virtually disappears in Old Testament history. Centuries pass with no mention of it. Then suddenly, it appears again in the New Testament:

     45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

     Jesus’ words to Nathanael were radical. In this conversation He declared that He is the ladder of Jacob; He is the bridge between heaven and earth; He is the one who spans the chasm between the Transcendent One and mortal men. The angels of God ascend and descend upon Him. He makes the absent God present among us. Was this what Jacob saw in a dim, shadowy way?

     When Jacob awoke from his dream he was stunned. He was overcome by the power of his nighttime vision:

     See Genesis 28:16-17 in yesterday's Daily Bible reading.

     The name of the place where Jacob had his dream became known as “Bethel.” The word Bethel means in Hebrew “house of God.” There was no tabernacle there, no temple, no church. Jacob called it the house of God because there the Holy One made Himself known. Jacob’s words are typical of the plight modern man feels. Ours is a day when men feel a sense of the absence of God. We see no burning bushes, no pillars of fire, no incarnate Christ walking in our midst. We feel abandoned, thrown to the waters of a hostile, or even worse, indifferent universe. We seem locked into a world from which there is no exit, no stairway to the stars.

     Jacob felt the same way until he had his dream. His words are relevant to our modern situation. “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” God was there all the time. He was not remote from Jacob but Jacob had missed Him all his life. He was unaware of the presence of God. This tragic ignorance of God’s presence is played out in our culture every day in the lives of millions of people. God is here but we are unaware. The moment awareness of His divine presence begins, the deepest personal struggle a man can experience begins as well. The dream did not end Jacob’s struggle. It was the beginning of a struggle that was for keeps. From that moment on, he was fighting for his own soul.

     “How awesome is this place!” This was Jacob’s response to being in the house of God. People do not normally feel that way in church. There is no sense of awe, no sense of being in the presence of One who makes us tremble. The complaint that church is boring is never made by people in awe.

     Scholars do not agree on the precise time of Jacob’s conversion. Some locate it here at Bethel when he had the overwhelming sense of God’s presence. Others pinpoint it years later in Jacob’s life when he had his fateful wrestling match with God:

     (Ge 32:22–30) 22 The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. 24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”

     Obviously the “man” Jacob wrestled was more than a man—he was the angel of God. The battle was fierce, raging through the night with neither combatant gaining the upper hand. Finally the angel used the overpowering might of God to touch the socket of Jacob’s hip. Jacob’s “victory” was not one of conquest but of survival. He walked away from the duel, but he walked with a limp for the rest of his life.

     The discussion with the angel about names is significant. The angel demanded the name of Jacob. The demand for the name was similar to the custom we have today of indicating surrender by saying “uncle.” For the combatant to yield his name meant that he was acknowledging the superiority of the other party. The yielding of the name was an act of submission. When Jacob surrendered his name, he surrendered his soul. He relinquished authority over his own life. With the surrender came a new name, a new identity. Israel.

     In defeat Jacob was still hoping for a draw, a tie in the contest that would leave his pride intact. Even a split decision would help. He said to the angel, “Please tell me your name.” Note the difference in the name-exchange issue. The angel demanded Jacob’s name and Jacob surrendered it. Jacob politely requested the angel’s name and did not get it. This was the final act of divine conquest. There are no draws with God, no split decisions. When we wrestle with the Almighty, we lose. He is the undefeated champion of the universe.

     The Holy One cannot be defeated in personal combat. But there is some consolation here. Jacob wrestled with God and lived. He was beaten; he was left crippled, but he survived that battle. At least we can learn from this that God will engage us in our honest struggles. We may wrestle with the Holy One. Indeed, for the transforming power of God to change our lives there is a sense in which we must wrestle with Him. We must know what it means to fight with God all night if we are also to know what it means to experience the sweetness of the soul’s surrender.

Amazon says, "Dr. R.C. Sproul is founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He is also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. He can be heard on the radio program Renewing Your Mind, which is broadcast on hundreds of radio outlets in the United States and around the world. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books, including The Holiness of God, Faith Alone, and Everyone’s a Theologian. He also serves as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible."

R.C. Sproul Books:

  • Q & A
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  • Q & A

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     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

UCB The Word For Today
     A small change can make a big difference
     1/28/2018    Bob Gass

     ‘Does anyone dare despise this day of small beginnings?’

(Zec 4:10) For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. ESV

     Imagine the temple lying in ruins, and having to be rebuilt from the ground up. That’s what things were like when Zechariah shared his vision with the people of Israel. Some thought it couldn’t be done, and others thought that their particular contribution would make no difference. So Zechariah challenged them in these words: ‘Does anyone dare despise this day of small beginnings? They’ll change their tune when they see Zerubbabel setting the last stone in place!’ In 1963, MIT meteorologist Edward Lorenz presented the hypothesis that became known as the butterfly effect. He theorised that a minor event, like the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil, could conceivably alter wind currents sufficiently to cause a tornado in Texas. Lorenz came to the simple yet profound conclusion: ‘Minuscule changes in input can make macroscopic differences in output.’ That simple discovery has the power to change your life. It can radically alter your spiritual, emotional, relational, or financial forecast. It can change the atmosphere of your organisation or your marriage. One decision. One change. One risk. One idea. That’s all it takes. You don’t have to make one hundred changes. All that does is divide your energy by one hundred, and results in a 1 per cent chance of success. You have to be 100 per cent committed to one change. It will take an all-out effort. It will probably be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. But that one change has the potential to make a 100 per cent difference in your life.

Luke 1:57-80
Psalm 10-12

UCB The Word For Today

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Seventy-three seconds after lift-off, on this day, January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, killing its entire seven member crew, which included a Highschool teacher, the first private citizen to fly aboard the craft. In his address to the nation after this disaster, President Ronald Reagan stated: “The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth,’ to ‘touch the face of God.’ ”

American Minute

A Testament Of Devotion
     Thomas R. Kelly

     The Society of Friends arose as a rediscovery of the ever-open inward springs of immediacy and revelation. George Fox and the Quakers found a Principle within men, a Shekinah of the soul, a Light Within that lights every man coming into the world. Dedicating themselves utterly and completely to attendance upon this Inward Living Christ, they were quickened into a new and bold tenderness toward the blindness of the leaders of Christian living. Aflame with the Light of the inner sanctuary, they went out into the world, into its turmoil and its fitfulness, and called men to listen above all to that of God speaking within them, to order all life by the Light of the Sanctuary. "Dear Friends," writes Fox to his groups, "keep close to that which is pure within you, which leads you up to God." John Woolman, the Quaker tailor of Mt. Holly, New Jersey, resolved so to order his outward affairs, so to adjust his business burdens, that nothing, absolutely nothing would crowd out his prime attendance upon the Inward Principle. And in this sensitizing before the inward altar of his soul, he was quickened to see and attack effectively the evils of slave-holding, of money-loaning, of wars upon the Indians.

     But the value of Woolman and Fox and the Quakers of today for the world does not lie merely in their outward deeds of service to suffering men, it lies in that call to all men to the practice of orienting their entire being in inward adoration about the springs of immediacy and ever fresh divine power within the secret silences of the soul. The Inner Light, the Inward Christ, is no mere doctrine, belonging peculiarly to a small religious fellowship, to be accepted or rejected as a mere belief. It is the living Center of Reference for all Christian souls and Christian groups-yes, and of non-Christian groups as well who seriously mean to dwell in the secret place of the Most High. He is the center and source of action, not the end-point of thought. He is the locus of commitment, not a problem for debate. Practice comes first in religion, not theory or dogma. And Christian practice is not exhausted in outward deeds. These are the fruits, not the roots. A practicing Christian must above all be one who practices the perpetual return of the soul into the inner sanctuary, who brings the world into its Light and rejudges it, who brings the Light into the world with all its turmoil and its fitfulness and recreates it (after the pattern seen on the Mount). To the reverent exploration of this practice we now address ourselves.

A Testament of Devotion

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

God is more concerned about His workers
than He is about their work,
for if the workers are what they ought to be,
the work will be what it ought to be.
--- Warren W. Wiersbe

Confession of errors is like a broom
which sweeps away the dirt
and leaves the surface brighter and clearer.
I feel stronger for confession.
--- Mohandas Gandhi

For we must Consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us; so that if we shall deal falsely with our god in this work we have undertaken and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world, we shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of god and all professors for Gods sake; we shall shame the faces of many of gods worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into Curses upon us till we be consumed out of the good land whether we are going: And to shut up this discourse with that exhortation of Moses that faithful servant of the Lord in his last farewell to Israel Deut. 30. Beloved there is now set before us life, and good, death and evil in that we are Commanded this day to love the Lord our God, and to love one another to walk in his ways and to keep his Commandments and his Ordinance, and his laws, and the Articles of our Covenant with him that we may live and be multiplied, and that the Lord our God may bless us in the land whether we go to possess it: But if our hearts shall turn away so that we will not obey, but shall be seduced and worship other Gods our pleasures, and profits, and serve them, it is propounded unto us this day, we shall surely perish out of the good Land whether we pass over this vast Sea to possess it.
--- John Winthrop

Marital fidelity echoes and anticipates God’s fidelity to the whole creation.
--- Derek Prince

... from here, there and everywhere

Proverbs 6:12-15
     by D.H. Stern

12     A scoundrel, a vicious man,
lives by crooked speech,
13     winking his eyes, shuffling his feet,
pointing with his fingers.
14     With deceit in his heart,
he is always plotting evil and sowing discord.
15     Therefore disaster suddenly overcomes him;
unexpectedly, he is broken beyond repair.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                But it is hardly credible
               that one could so persecute Jesus!

     Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? --- Acts 26:14.

     Am I set on my own way for God? We are never free from this snare until we are brought into the experience of the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire. Obstinacy and self-will will always stab Jesus Christ. It may hurt no one else, but it wounds His Spirit. Whenever we are obstinate and self-willed and set upon our own ambitions, we are hurting Jesus. Every time we stand on our rights and insist that this is what we intend to do, we are persecuting Jesus. Whenever we stand on our dignity we systematically vex and grieve His Spirit; and when the knowledge comes home that it is Jesus Whom we have been persecuting all the time, it is the most crushing revelation there could be.

     Is the word of God tremendously keen to me as I hand it on to you, or does my life give the lie to the things I profess to teach? I may teach sanctification and yet exhibit the spirit of Satan, the spirit that persecutes Jesus Christ. The Spirit of Jesus is conscious of one thing only—a perfect oneness with the Father, and He says “Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.” All I do ought to be founded on a perfect oneness with Him, not on a self-willed determination to be godly. This will mean that I can be easily put upon, easily over-reached, easily ignored; but if I submit to it for His sake, I prevent Jesus Christ being persecuted.

My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition

     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas


As though a voice
     said to me not
in words: I ask the supreme
     gesture. Take me
as I am. And the sky
was round as though everything
was inside.
     But my mind,
I said, holding it
     in my unseen
hands: the pain of it
     is what keeps
me human. What you ask
     is an assemblage
that shall pass unscathed
     through the bonfire
of its knowledge.
          You do yourself
harm, coming to us
with your sleeves rolled up
     as though not responsible
for deception. We have seen
you lay life like a cloth
          over the bones
at our parties and wave
     your cold wand and expect
us to smile, when you took it away
     again and there was nothing.

The Poems of R.S. Thomas

Teacher's Commentary
     The Stolen Blessing

     Genesis 27

     Rebekah, and Jacob her son, plotted to deceive Isaac and get the blessing for Jacob that Isaac wanted to go to his oldest son, Esau. Disguised to fool the now-blind Isaac, Jacob stood before his father and lied, “I am Esau your firstborn” (v. 19).

     How completely unnecessary! At the brothers’ births God had told Rebekah that the older would serve the younger (25:23). Yet as the critical time drew closer and closer, mother and son felt impelled to “help God out.”

     What was the result? Jacob did receive the blessing—which he would have received anyway. Bitterness was heightened between the brothers, and Esau’s hatred became so intense that he planned to kill Jacob after their father died. Rebekah, who had plotted to help her favorite son, was forced to send him away for 20 years, and did not live to see him return.

     True, it worked out in the end. But the anger, the fear, the separation—all these might have been avoided had Jacob and Rebekah simply trusted God and rejected deceit.

The Teacher's Commentary

Take Heart
     January 28

     Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
--- Philippians 3:13–14.

     [Paul] cultivated a wise forgetfulness. (Classic Sermons on the Apostle Paul (Kregel Classic Sermons Series) )

     And what are some of the things that we ought to forget? We ought to forget our blunders. How many blunders we all make! Learn how to make them bridges over which we will span the chasms and go to better days.

     We are to learn how to forget our losses. In human life losses of all kinds come. No one is to whine and mope because losses come. We are to learn to get past them and to forget them.

     We are to learn how to forget life’s injuries. Refuse to let them rankle like poisons in the heart and thus vitiate every high thing that the spirit should hold most dear.

     We are to learn how to forget our successes. There is danger in success. A person who can bear success can bear anything. Easier far can the human spirit bear adversity than it can bear prosperity, for the human spirit is lifted up. If we do not learn what success is for, the day comes for our undoing and our downfall and our defeat.

     We are to learn how to forget our sorrows—and sooner or later these sorrows come to us, each and all. We are to take these sorrows to the great, refining, overruling Master and ask him so to dispose, so to rule and overrule in them and with them that we may come out of them all refined and disciplined, the better educated and more useful. You are to learn how to so have it woven into the warp and woof of your life that you will not be weaker and worse for the sorrow but will be richer and stronger and better because of such sorrow.

     We are to learn how to forget our sins. If Paul had not learned how to forget his sins he would have been crippled utterly. Paul consented to the death of Stephen. Paul persecuted the church. Paul was a ringleader in sin. Paul seemed to run the whole gamut of sin. He called himself the chief of sinners, and perhaps he was. When we look at the debit side of our lives do our hearts faint within us? Mine faints within me. But then the Master of life says, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
--- George W. Truett

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers

On This Day   January 28
     Here I Stand

     The apostle Paul, having stood alone before the Roman emperor, the most powerful man on earth, said, “When I was first put on trial, no one helped me … But the Lord stood beside me. He gave me … strength” (2 Tim 4:16-17).

     Centuries later, another stood before the greatest ruler on earth making a similar defense—and Luther, too, discovered that God gives unexplained courage at critical moments.

     Pope Leo had demanded that Martin Luther retract his teachings. Luther responded by burning the papal orders, and the impasse forced Emperor Charles V to convene an Imperial Congress in Worms, a German city on the Rhine, on January 28, 1521.

     Leo sent lawyers to discredit Luther, who determined to defend himself even at risk of life. “I will not flee, still less recant,” Luther said. “May the Lord Jesus strengthen me.” Luther left Wittenberg on the ten-day journey with three friends, riding in a rough two-wheel cart. Crowds gathered along the way, and Luther preached at every stop. But as he grew closer to Worms, suspense grew. His friends warned he would suffer the same fate as John Hus. “Though Hus was burned,” Luther replied, “the truth was not burned, and Christ still lives. … I shall go to Worms, though there were as many devils there as tiles on the roofs.”

     Luther’s arrival in Worms was heralded by city watchmen blowing horns, and thousands gathered. Stepping from his wagon, Luther whispered, “God will be with me.” Shortly, he stood before Emperor Charles V and the congress. The tension was thick as fog, and Luther, appearing to lose his nerve, mumbled and seemed near collapse. But the next day, fortified by prayer, he thundered his defense of the sufficiency of Scripture. “I cannot and will not recant!” he reportedly said. “Here I stand. God help me! Amen.” The congress erupted in confusion and was abruptly adjourned. Luther’s friends quickly spirited him to safety. Luther later said, “I was fearless, I was afraid of nothing; God can make one so desperately bold.”

     And such is the testimony of all those who stand alone for Christ in perilous times.

     The Lord will always keep me from being harmed by evil, and he will bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.
--- 2 Timothy 4:18a.

On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - January 28

     “Perfect in Christ Jesus.” --- Colossians 1:28.

     Do you not feel in your own soul that perfection is not in you? Does not every day teach you that? Every tear which trickles from your eye, weeps “imperfection”; every harsh word which proceeds from your lip, mutters “imperfection.” You have too frequently had a view of your own heart to dream for a moment of any perfection in yourself. But amidst this sad consciousness of imperfection, here is comfort for you—you are “perfect in Christ Jesus.” In God’s sight, you are “complete in him;” even now you are “accepted in the Beloved.” But there is a second perfection, yet to be realized, which is sure to all the seed. Is it not delightful to look forward to the time when every stain of sin shall be removed from the believer, and he shall be presented faultless before the throne, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing? The Church of Christ then will be so pure, that not even the eye of Omniscience will see a spot or blemish in her; so holy and so glorious, that Hart did not go beyond the truth when he said—

     “With my Saviour’s garments on,
     Holy as the Holy One.”

     Then shall we know, and taste, and feel the happiness of this vast but short sentence, “Complete in Christ.” Not till then shall we fully comprehend the heights and depths of the salvation of Jesus. Doth not thy heart leap for joy at the thought of it? Black as thou art, thou shalt be white one day; filthy as thou art, thou shalt be clean. Oh, it is a marvellous salvation this! Christ takes a worm and transforms it into an angel; Christ takes a black and deformed thing and makes it clean and matchless in his glory, peerless in his beauty, and fit to be the companion of seraphs. O my soul, stand and admire this blessed truth of perfection in Christ.

          Evening - January 28

     “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.” --- Luke 2:20.

     What was the subject of their praise? They praised God for what they had heard—for the good tidings of great joy that a Saviour was born unto them. Let us copy them; let us also raise a song of thanksgiving that we have heard of Jesus and his salvation. They also praised God for what they had seen. There is the sweetest music—what we have experienced, what we have felt within, what we have made our own—“the things which we have made touching the King.” It is not enough to hear about Jesus: mere hearing may tune the harp, but the fingers of living faith must create the music. If you have seen Jesus with the God-giving sight of faith, suffer no cobwebs to linger among the harp strings, but loud to the praise of sovereign grace, awake your psaltery and harp. One point for which they praised God was the agreement between what they had heard and what they had seen. Observe the last sentence—“As it was told unto them.” Have you not found the gospel to be in yourselves just what the Bible said it would be? Jesus said he would give you rest—have you not enjoyed the sweetest peace in him? He said you should have joy, and comfort, and life through believing in him—have you not received all these? Are not his ways ways of pleasantness, and his paths paths of peace? Surely you can say with the queen of Sheba, “The half has not been told me.” I have found Christ more sweet than his servants ever said he was. I looked upon his likeness as they painted it, but it was a mere daub compared with himself; for the King in his beauty outshines all imaginable loveliness. Surely what we have “seen” keeps pace with, nay, far exceeds, what we have “heard.” Let us, then, glorify and praise God for a Saviour so precious, and so satisfying.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     January 28

          O ZION, HASTE

     Mary Ann Thomson, 1834–1923

     May Your ways be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations. (Psalm 67:2)

     The Christian church is God’s appointed means of spreading the gospel around the world. A church that is not a missionary church will quench the Spirit of God and miss His blessing. God’s agenda for history is “that all nations might believe and obey Him” (
Romans 16:26). All too often, however, the church has allowed itself to become self-centered, merely maintaining the status quo and failing to respond actively to this biblical directive.

     That’s why we need missionary hymns like this one. Its author, Mary Ann Thomson, was born in London, England, but spent most of her life in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she was active in the Church of the Annunciation. She wrote a number of hymns and poems, this being the only one to survive, however. She wrote “O Zion, Haste” out of a stressful experience in 1868. One night, as she was watching her child who was ill with typhoid fever, the desire to write a missionary hymn pressed upon her. Some have felt that perhaps Mrs. Thomson had made a covenant with God that if he would spare her child, she would consecrate him to His service. The opening line of the final stanza, “give of thy sons to bear the message glorious,” could indicate this. May these words move us from lethargy to evangelism.

     O Zion, haste, thy mission high fulfilling, to tell to all the world that God is Light, that He who made all nations is not willing one soul should perish, lost in shades of night.
     Behold, how many thousands still are lying, bound in the darksome prison-house of sin, with none to tell them of the Savior’s dying, or of the life He died for them to win.
     Proclaim to every people, tongue and nation that God in whom they live and move is love: Tell how He stooped to save His lost creation, and died on earth that man might live above.
     Give of thy sons to bear the message glorious; give of thy wealth to speed them on their way; pour out thy soul for them in prayer victorious; and all thou spendest Jesus will repay.
     Refrain: Publish glad tidings, tidings of peace; tidings of Jesus, redemption, and release.

     For Today: Isaiah 52:7; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8; Romans 10:15; 16:26.

     Prayerfully consider how your church could have a greater impact on worldwide missions. At the right time, share your thoughts with the pastor and other leaders. Carry the urgency for missions with you with this hymn’s refrain ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

Book Of Common Prayer
     Sunday, January 28, 2018 | Epiphany

Fourth Sunday After Epiphany
Year 2

Psalms (Morning)     Psalm 24, 29
Psalms (Evening)     Psalm 8, 84
Old Testament     Genesis 18:16–33
New Testament     Galatians 5:13–25
Gospel     Mark 8:22–30

Index of Readings

Psalms (Morning)
Psalm 24, 29
24 A Psalm Of David.

1 The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein,
2 for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.

3 Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.
5 He will receive blessing from the LORD
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah

7 Lift up your heads, O gates!
And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
8 Who is this King of glory?
The LORD, strong and mighty,
the LORD, mighty in battle!
9 Lift up your heads, O gates!
And lift them up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is this King of glory?
The LORD of hosts,
he is the King of glory! Selah

29 A Psalm Of David.

1 Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.

3 The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD, over many waters.
4 The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.

5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.

7 The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire.
8 The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;
the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

9 The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth
and strips the forests bare,
and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

10 The LORD sits enthroned over the flood;
the LORD sits enthroned as king forever.
11 May the LORD give strength to his people!
May the LORD bless his people with peace!

Psalms (Evening)
Psalm 8, 84
8 To The Choirmaster: According To The Gittith. A Psalm Of David.

1 O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.

3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
7 all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

9 O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

84 To The Choirmaster: According To The Gittith. A Psalm Of The Sons Of Korah.

1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD of hosts!
2 My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.

3 Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
ever singing your praise! Selah

5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
6 As they go through the Valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
each one appears before God in Zion.

8 O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
9 Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of your anointed!

10 For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
12 O LORD of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you!

Old Testament
Genesis 18:16–33

16 Then the men set out from there, and they looked down toward Sodom. And Abraham went with them to set them on their way. 17 The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” 20 Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”

22 So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD. 23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” 26 And the LORD said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

27 Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. 28 Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” 29 Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” 30 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” 31 He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” 32 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” 33 And the LORD went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.

New Testament
Galatians 5:13–25

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

Mark 8:22–30

22 And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”

27 And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” 29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.

Book of Common Prayer

History of the World 24
Richard Bulliet    Columbia University

History of the World 25
Richard Bulliet    Columbia University

History of the World 26
Richard Bulliet    Columbia University

Mobilizing for Human Rights
Discussion    Columbia University

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Why Books Matter
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Racial Inequality in the Age of Obama
Frederick Harris    Columbia University

Socrates   Franceso de Angelis   
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What is Toleration
Ira Katznelson    Columbia University

Open Humanities Access
Carlos J. Alonso    Columbia University

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Question and Answer With Alistair
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