The FallGenesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
14 The LORD God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
but he shall rule over you.”
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
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.”
20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. 22 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
John the Baptist Prepares the Way
Matthew 3Matthew 3:1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’ ”
4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
The Baptism of Jesus
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Rebuilding the Altar
Ezra 3:1 When the seventh month came, and the children of Israel were in the towns, the people gathered as one man to Jerusalem. 2 Then arose Jeshua the son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel with his kinsmen, and they built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. 3 They set the altar in its place, for fear was on them because of the peoples of the lands, and they offered burnt offerings on it to the LORD, burnt offerings morning and evening. 4 And they kept the Feast of Booths, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number according to the rule, as each day required, 5 and after that the regular burnt offerings, the offerings at the new moon and at all the appointed feasts of the LORD, and the offerings of everyone who made a freewill offering to the LORD. 6 From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the LORD. But the foundation of the temple of the LORD was not yet laid. 7 So they gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the Sidonians and the Tyrians to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the grant that they had from Cyrus king of Persia.
Rebuilding the Temple
8 Now in the second year after their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak made a beginning, together with the rest of their kinsmen, the priests and the Levites and all who had come to Jerusalem from the captivity. They appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to supervise the work of the house of the LORD. 9 And Jeshua with his sons and his brothers, and Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together supervised the workmen in the house of God, along with the sons of Henadad and the Levites, their sons and brothers.
10 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD, according to the directions of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD,
“For he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”
And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.
The Lame Beggar HealedActs 3:1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. 4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
Peter Speaks in Solomon’s Portico11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.
17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
Why Doesn’t Mark Say Anything About Jesus’ Birth?
By J. Warner Wallace 12/11/2015
I’ve been examining the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ birth and responding to a number of skeptical objections related to the virgin conception. If the virgin conception was an historical event that was well known to the earliest Christians, why wasn’t it mentioned by Mark? Mark’s gospel is widely accepted as the first account of the life and ministry of Jesus. Why doesn’t it contain anything about the virgin conception? Does the absence of a birth narrative in Mark demonstrate that the entire story is a late fictional creation?
Silence Doesn’t Mean Denial
While it is true that Mark does not include a birth narrative, this does not mean that he was either unaware of the truth about Jesus or denied the virgin conception. Eyewitnesses often omit important details because they either (1) have other concerns they want to highlight with greater priority, or (2) presume that the issue under question is already well understood. The gospel of Mark exhibits great influence from the Apostle Peter. In fact, the outline of Mark’s Gospel is very similar to the outline of Peter’s first sermon at Pentecost. According to the Papias, Mark was Peter’s scribe; his gospel is brief and focused. Like Peter’s sermon in Chapter 2 of the Book of Act’s, Mark is focused only on the public life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. But Mark is not alone in omitting the birth narrative. John’s gospel is considered by scholars to be the last Gospel written. The prior three “synoptic Gospels” were already in circulation and the issue of the virgin conception had already been described in two of them. Yet John also omitted the birth narrative. Why? John clearly wanted to cover material that the other Gospel writers did not address; over 90% of the material in the Gospel of John is unique to the text. If John did not agree with the virgin conception as described in the Gospels of Matthew or Luke, he certainly had the opportunity to correct the matter in his own work. But John never does this; his silence serves as a presumption that the “virgin conception” has been accurately described by prior authors.
Brevity Doesn’t Mean Ignorance
It really shouldn’t surprise us that the earliest version of the life of Christ would be the shortest and most focused account. Something very similar happens when police officers are dispatched to a crime scene. The first radio broadcast to responding units is always incredibly brief, offering just the bare details needed to get officers rolling in the right direction, aware of the most important issues they may be about to face. The first broadcast is brief, focused on essentials and designed for a purpose. As units are closing in on their arrival at the scene, a second or third broadcast is offered in order to provide more detail, especially if a responding unit has a question that needs clarification. The Gospel of Mark is the first broadcast about the life of Jesus. As such, the Gospel is prioritized around the same public events that concerned Peter; the events that were most important in articulating the salvation that is offered through the cross.
J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of:
Advice for Another Year of Bible Reading
By Bruce Ware 1/1/2016
Most Christians are aware of the importance of personal reading of God’s word. After all, the Bible is the only final and absolute authority for our faith and practice, since it is the very revelation of God himself. Here is where we go to truly know who God is and how life is to be lived. How wise is the person who is committed to a diligent input of Scripture, and how great are the derived benefits.
But just how should our daily Bible reading be done? Are there any guidelines for making the best used of our time and gaining the most from our reading of God’s word? Here, then, are five guidelines that have helped me much over many years of reading Scripture. May God grant you wisdom as you approach a new year, and may your time in God’s word bear much fruit.
1. Commit yourself to consistent Bible reading.
Since the word of God written (Scripture) is the main instrument God has provided his people to know his character, to know his plans and purposes, to know his work in creation and redemption, to know ourselves, and to know how we are to live before him and others, it only stands to reason that we need regular time in God’s word for that word to impact our lives.
Consistency, rather than haphazardness, should mark our reading of God’s work. Of course, we all know that emergencies arise and life’s messes interrupt. But it is one thing to have a few pauses in an otherwise consistent Bible reading plan, and another simply to read only when it is convenient to do so. Because it is hard to exaggerate the importance of God’s word to the formation of our minds, hearts, and lives (2 Timothy 3:16–17), and because that word will only have its greatest potential impact as we read it regularly, please consider making consistency a mark of your Bible reading this year.
Why Naturalism is Simply Unbelievable
By Lenny Esposito 12/16/2014
Naturalism is simply unbelievable. I don't mean unbelievable in the fantastical sense, although I do think there's a lot of hand-waving that goes on to try and excise any supernatural explanation as to why we exist. I mean, the viewpoint is unbelievable in that its own assumptions destroy itself. It is illogical to hold to naturalism.
The naturalist wants us to believe that the natural world is all that exists; we came about through evolutionary processes and our minds are one of the products of that process. Given the survival of the fittest paradigm that rives evolution, the naturalist must also assert "What your beliefs are don't matter nearly as much as what the survival value of your actions are." In fact, they do this when discussing religion all the time. Religion isn't true, they would assert, but it served an evolutionary purpose.
To use an example, picture an overweight man who is running. Now, the man may believe he has a better chance at survival if he runs because he puts his body in better shape, reduces the chances of heart attacks, and is generally more fit for the tasks of survival. However, the man may equally believe that running is an act of worship to the life-god and it drives out the fat demons that plague much of his tribe. Either belief produces the same result: the man runs and the man has an increased chance of longevity. Either belief helps him survive equally well. It doesn't matter which is true on an evolutionary worldview because evolution is all about survivability.
Reason Offers No Evolutionary Advantage
Because all evolution cares about is the survival of the individual, reason alone offers no evolutionary advantage. In fact, evolutionary theory proves this. According to all New-Darwinian models, there was a time on the earth where there existed no rational thought whatsoever! Animals were primitive and they had no capacity to reason, yet they survived just fine. They mere responded to external stimuli and adjusted their behavior. They don't know why the water is here and not somewhere else; they simply desire water.
Lenny is an in-demand speaker, teaching at conferences, churches, and schools across the nation. He is a contributor to the popular Apologetics Study Bible for Students and his articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and the Southern California Christian Times. He has debated many topics on faith and reason and the rationality of the Christian worldview; his most recent debate being against well-known atheists and author Dr. Richard Carrier on the question "Does God Exist?"
Lenny is a pioneer in online ministry efforts when he began using the Web to reach others near its beginnings in 1995. He produces one of the top 16 apologetics podcasts according to Apologetics 315 and his site has been viewed millions of times by visitors from nearly every country in the world.
Lenny is a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society and the Evangelical Theological Society.
God Will Give You Something to Say
By John Piper 12/27/2016
I would like to encourage you to enjoy a particular experience of the ministry of the Holy Spirit promised by our Lord Jesus.
When he made this promise, he had in mind mainly the tense and dangerous moments when the adversaries of Christianity bring you before authorities and give you a chance to speak. For example, he said,
(Lk 12:11–12) 11 And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” ESV
Or later he said,
(Mt 10:19) 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. ESV
Perhaps something like this has happened to you. But most of us in the West have not yet encountered that kind of official arraignment for being a follower of Jesus.
Yes, It Does Apply to You
John Piper Books:
- Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture
- Don't Waste Your Life
- Desiring God, Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist
- When I Don't Desire God (Redesign): How to Fight for Joy
- A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness
- Future Grace, Revised Edition: The Purifying Power of the Promises of God
- When the Darkness Will Not Lift: Doing What We Can While We Wait for God--and Joy
- This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence
- Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God's Grace
- Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ (Revised Edition)
- Living in the Light: Money, Sex and Power
- The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God's Delight in Being God
- Taste and See: Savoring the Supremacy of God in All of Life
- A Camaraderie of Confidence: The Fruit of Unfailing Faith in the Lives of Charles Spurgeon, George Müller, and Hudson Taylor
- A Camaraderie of Confidence: The Fruit of Unfailing Faith in the Lives of Charles Spurgeon, George Müller, and Hudson Taylor
- Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions
- God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself
- Rethinking Retirement: Finishing Life for the Glory of Christ
- The Legacy of Sovereign Joy: God's Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin
- Doctrine Matters: Ten Theological Trademarks From a Lifetime of Preaching
- A Hunger for God (Redesign): Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer
- The Dangerous Duty of Delight: The Glorified God and the Satisfied Soul
- Battling Unbelief: Defeating Sin with Superior Pleasure
- Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry, Updated and Expanded Edition
- The Supremacy of God in Preaching
- Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (Redesign): A Response to Evangelical Feminism
- Risk Is Right: Better to Lose Your Life Than to Waste It
- Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ: The Cost of Bringing the Gospel to the Nations in the Lives of William Tyndale, Adoniram Judson, and John Paton (The Swans Are Not Silent)
- A Godward Heart: Treasuring the God Who Loves You
- The Roots of Endurance: Invincible Perseverance in the Lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon, and William Wilberforce
- Don't Waste Your Cancer
- Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian
- The Hidden Smile of God: The Fruit of Affliction in the Lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper, and David Brainerd
- Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully: The Power of Poetic Effort in the Work of George Herbert, George Whitefield, and C. S. Lewis
- Suffering and the Sovereignty of God
- Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist
- The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23
- Finally Alive
- A Godward Life: Seeing the Supremacy of God in All of Life
- Spectacular Sins (Redesign): And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ
- Pierced by the Word: Thirty-One Meditations for Your Soul
- God's Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards (With the Complete Text of The End for Which God Created the World)
- Life as a Vapor: Thirty-One Meditations for Your Faith
- Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God
- 50 Crucial Questions: An Overview of Central Concerns about Manhood and Womanhood
- What Jesus Demands from the World (Paperback Edition)
- What's the Difference?: Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible
- Contending for Our All: Defending Truth and Treasuring Christ in the Lives of Athanasius, John Owen, and J. Gresham Machen
- Finish the Mission: Bringing the Gospel to the Unreached and Unengaged
- John Calvin and His Passion for the Majesty of God
- A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer
- Does God Desire All to Be Saved?
- Preparing for Marriage: Help for Christian Couples
- The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent
- The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright
- The Satisfied Soul: Showing the Supremacy of God in All of Life
- Thinking. Loving. Doing.: A Call to Glorify God with Heart and Mind
- A Hunger for God (Redesign): Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer
- Quest for Joy (Pack of 25) (Proclaiming the Gospel)
- Ruth: Under the Wings of God
- Not a Day Care: The Devastating Consequences of Abandoning Truth
Seven Steps to Strengthen Prayer
By Bonnie McKernan 1/2/2017
My struggles with prayer run deep. The spiritual deserts in my life have always been accompanied by a parched prayer life. Eventually, I came to realize this was not only a symptom, but a cause. I was neglecting the very thing that would satisfy my weary, thirsty soul. I was ignoring the path that would not only lead me out of the desert, but keep me out of the wilderness in the first place.
I often fall short of my good intentions when I fail to view prayer as a discipline that needs to be learned and practiced and developed. We speak frequently of the importance of prayer, but often don’t know (or forget) the “hows” of prayer. Even Jesus’s own disciples had to ask Jesus how to pray (Luke 11:1). They saw something in the way he prayed so fervently and intimately to his Father that made them long to do the same. Lord, teach us to pray!
While it won’t be the same for everyone, seven specific actions have really helped me in my battle against a weak prayer life.
Preparing to Pray
1. Set prayer apart. The more we pray, the more we want to pray. To do this, you need to build it into the rhythm of your day any way you can: set alarms, leave notes, put it in your day planner. Prayer is a practice that requires discipline and perseverance, and we should own the cost. Prayer is the greatest act of our day, and we must fight for it. And not just in times of need. It matters how we train and prepare for the battle.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
7 I will tell of the decree:
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
1. The nature of man, in both parts of his soul--viz. intellect and will--cannot be better ascertained than by attending to the epithets applied to him in Scripture. If he is fully depicted (and it may easily be proved that he is) by the words of our Saviour, "that which is born of the flesh is flesh," (John 3:6), he must be a very miserable creature. For, as an apostle declares, "to be carnally minded is death," (Rom. 8:8), "It is enmity against God, and is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Is it true that the flesh is so perverse, that it is perpetually striving with all its might against God? that it cannot accord with the righteousness of the divine law? that, in short, it can beget nothing but the materials of death? Grant that there is nothing in human nature but flesh, and then extract something good out of it if you can. But it will be said, that the word flesh applies only to the sensual, and not to the higher part of the soul. This, however, is completely refuted by the words both of Christ and his apostle. The statement of our Lord is, that a man must be born again, because he is flesh. He requires not to be born again, with reference to the body. But a mind is not born again merely by having some portion of it reformed. It must be totally renewed. This is confirmed by the antithesis used in both passages. In the contrast between the Spirit and the flesh, there is nothing left of an intermediate nature. In this way, everything in man, which is not spiritual, falls under the denomination of carnal. But we have nothing of the Spirit except through regeneration. Everything, therefore, which we have from nature is flesh. Any possible doubt which might exist on the subject is removed by the words of Paul (Eph. 4:23), where, after a description of the old man, who, he says, "is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts," he bids us "be renewed in the spirit" of our mind. You see that he places unlawful and depraved desires not in the sensual part merely, but in the mind itself, and therefore requires that it should be renewed. Indeed, he had a little before drawn a picture of human nature, which shows that there is no part in which it is not perverted and corrupted. For when he says that the "Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart," (Eph. 4:17, 18), there can be no doubt that his words apply to all whom the Lord has not yet formed anew both to wisdom and righteousness. This is rendered more clear by the comparison which immediately follows, and by which he reminds believers that they "have not so learned Christ" these words implying that the grace of Christ is the only remedy for that blindness and its evil consequences. Thus, too, had Isaiah prophesied of the kingdom of Christ, when the Lord promised to the Church, that though darkness should "cover the earth, and gross darkness the people," yet that he should "arise" upon it, and "his glory" should be seen upon it (Isaiah 40:2). When it is thus declared that divine light is to arise on the Church alone, all without the Church is left in blindness and darkness. I will not enumerate all that occurs throughout Scripture, and particularly in the Psalms and Prophetical writings, as to the vanity of man. There is much in what David says, "Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity," (Ps. 62:10). The human mind receives a humbling blow when all the thoughts which proceed from it are derided as foolish, frivolous, perverse, and insane.
2. In no degree more lenient is the condemnation of the heart, when it is described as "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked," (Jer. 17:9). But as I study brevity, I will be satisfied with a single passage, one, however, in which as in a bright mirror, we may behold a complete image of our nature. The Apostle, when he would humble man's pride, uses these words: "There is none righteous no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes," (Rom. 3:10-18). Thus he thunders not against certain individuals, but against the whole posterity of Adam--not against the depraved manners of any single age, but the perpetual corruption of nature. His object in the passage is not merely to upbraid men in order that they may repent, but to teach that all are overwhelmed with inevitable calamity, and can be delivered from it only by the mercy of God. As this could not be proved without previously proving the overthrow and destruction of nature, he produced those passages to show that its ruin is complete.
Let it be a fixed point, then, that men are such as is here described, not by vicious custom, but by depravity of nature. The reasoning of the Apostle, that there is no salvation for man, save in the mercy of God, because in himself he is desperate and undone, could not otherwise stand. I will not here labour to prove that the passages apply, with the view of removing the doubts of any who might think them quoted out of place. I will take them as if they had been used by Paul for the first time, and not taken from the Prophets. First, then, he strips man of righteousness, that is, integrity and purity; and, secondly, he strips him of sound intelligence. He argues, that defect of intelligence is proved by apostasy from God. To seek Him is the beginning of wisdom, and, therefore, such defect must exist in all who have revolted from Him. He subjoins, that all have gone astray, and become as it were mere corruption; that there is none that does good. He then enumerates the crimes by which those who have once given loose to their wickedness pollute every member of their bodies. Lastly, he declares that they have no fear of God, according to whose rule all our steps should be directed. If these are the hereditary properties of the human race, it is vain to look for anything good in our nature. I confess indeed, that all these iniquities do not break out in every individual. Still it cannot be denied that the hydra lurks in every breast. For as a body, while it contains and fosters the cause and matter of disease, cannot be called healthy, although pain is not actually felt; so a soul, while teeming with such seeds of vice, cannot be called sound. This similitude, however, does not apply throughout. In a body however morbid the functions of life are performed; but the soul, when plunged into that deadly abyss, not only labours under vice, but is altogether devoid of good.
3. Here, again we are met with a question very much the same as that which was previously solved. In every age there have been some who, under the guidance of nature, were all their lives devoted to virtue. It is of no consequence, that many blots may be detected in their conduct; by the mere study of virtue, they evinced that there was somewhat of purity in their nature. The value which virtues of this kind have in the sight of God will be considered more fully when we treat of the merit of works. Meanwhile however, it will be proper to consider it in this place also, in so far as necessary for the exposition of the subject in hand. Such examples, then, seem to warn us against supposing that the nature of man is utterly vicious, since, under its guidance, some have not only excelled in illustrious deeds, but conducted themselves most honourably through the whole course of their lives. But we ought to consider, that, notwithstanding of the corruption of our nature, there is some room for divine grace, such grace as, without purifying it, may lay it under internal restraint. For, did the Lord let every mind loose to wanton in its lusts, doubtless there is not a man who would not show that his nature is capable of all the crimes with which Paul charges it (Rom. 3 compared with Ps. 14:3, &c). What? Can you exempt yourself from the number of those whose feet are swift to shed blood; whose hands are foul with rapine and murder; whose throats are like open sepulchres; whose tongues are deceitful; whose lips are venomous; whose actions are useless, unjust, rotten, deadly; whose soul is without God; whose inward parts are full of wickedness; whose eyes are on the watch for deception; whose minds are prepared for insult; whose every part, in short, is framed for endless deeds of wickedness? If every soul is capable of such abominations (and the Apostle declares this boldly), it is surely easy to see what the result would be, if the Lord were to permit human passion to follow its bent. No ravenous beast would rush so furiously, no stream, however rapid and violent, so impetuously burst its banks. In the elect, God cures these diseases in the mode which will shortly be explained; in others, he only lays them under such restraint as may prevent them from breaking forth to a degree incompatible with the preservation of the established order of things. Hence, how much soever men may disguise their impurity, some are restrained only by shame, others by a fear of the laws, from breaking out into many kinds of wickedness. Some aspire to an honest life, as deeming it most conducive to their interest, while others are raised above the vulgar lot, that, by the dignity of their station, they may keep inferiors to their duty. Thus God, by his providence, curbs the perverseness of nature, preventing it from breaking forth into action, yet without rendering it inwardly pure.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain Institutes of the Christian Religion
What Did God Say?
By Sinclair Ferguson
The root of legalism is almost as old as Eden, which explains why it is a primary, if not the ultimate, pastoral problem. In seeking to bring freedom from legalism, we are engaged in undoing the ancient work of Satan.
In Eden the Serpent persuaded Eve and Adam that God was possessed of a narrow and restrictive spirit bordering on the malign. After all, the Serpent whispered, “Isn’t it true that he placed you in this garden full of delights and has now denied them all to you?”
The implication was twofold.
It was intended to dislodge Eve from the clarity of God’s word (“Did God actually say . . . ?”). Later the attack focused on the authority of God’s word (“You will not surely die”). But it was more. It was an attack on God’s character. For the Serpent’s question carried a deeply sinister innuendo: “What kind of God would deny you pleasure and joy if he really loved you? He allows you nothing, and yet he demands that you obey him.”
Despite an initial struggle, Eve’s ears were soon closed off to God’s word. The Serpent’s tactic was to lead her into seeing and interpreting the world through her eyes (what she saw when she looked at the tree) rather than through her ears (what God had said about it). So her gaze was diverted from the superabundant plenty God had commanded our first parents to enjoy. The use of the verb9 is surely significant in this context: the enjoyment of plenty is the first element in the command; the prohibition of one tree is the second. The Serpent’s tactic was to cause a fixation on the one negative command: “Do not eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, lest you die.”
Now all Eve saw was a negative command. One small object near the eye can make all larger objects invisible. Now it was the sight of the forbidden tree blocking her vision of a garden abounding in trees. Now she could not see the forest for the tree. Now her eyes were on God the negative lawgiver and judge. In both mind and affections God’s law was now divorced from God’s gracious person. Now she thought God wanted nothing for her. Everything was a myopic, distorted “now.”
The entail of that theology is that if you are to receive anything from this misanthrope deity, then it must now be paid for and earned. By contrast the Father had actually said:
I am giving you everything in this garden. Go and enjoy yourselves. But just before you head off, I have given you all of this because I love you. I want you to grow and develop in your understanding and in your love for me. So this is the plan:
There is a tree here, “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” Don’t eat its fruit.
I know—you want to know why, don’t you?
Well, I have made you as my image. I have given you instincts to enjoy what I enjoy. So in one sense you naturally do what pleases me and simultaneously gives you pleasure too.
But I want you to grow in trusting and loving me just for myself, because I am who I am.
You can only really do that if you are willing to obey me, not because you are wired to, but because you want to show me that you trust and love me.
If you do that you will find that you grow stronger and that your love for me deepens.
Trust me, I know.
That’s why I have put that tree there. I so want you to be blessed that I am commanding you to eat and enjoy the fruit of all these trees. That’s a command! But I have another command. What I want you to do is one simple thing: don’t eat the fruit of that one tree.
I am not asking you to do that because the tree is ugly—actually it is just as attractive as the other trees. I don’t create ugly, ever!11 You won’t be able to look at the fruit and think, That must taste horrible. It is a fine-looking tree. So it’s simple. Trust me, obey me, and love me because of who I am and because you are enjoying what I have given to you. Trust me, obey me, and you will grow.
- 1 Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification
- 2 The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance
- 3 The Christian LIfe: A Doctrinal Introduction
- 4 In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life
- 5 Church History 101: The Highlights of Twenty Centuries
- 6 The Holy Spirit (Contours of Christian Theology)
- 7 Sermon on the Mount
- 8 By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me
- 9 From the Mouth of God
- 10 The Grace of Repentance (Redesign) (Today's Issues)
- 11 The Pundit's Folly: Chronicles of an Empty Life
- 12 Let's Study Philippians (Let's Study Series)
- 13 Discovering God's Will
- 14 Heart for God
- 15 Faithful God: An Exposition of the Book of Ruth
- 16 Children of the Living God
- 17 Name above All Names
- 18 Big Book of Questions & Answers: A Family Devotional Guide
- 19 Living for God's Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism
- 20 John Owen on the Christian Life
- 21 Man Overboard!: The Story of Jonah
- 22 Child in the Manger
- 23 The Preacher's Commentary - Vol. 21- Daniel
- 24 Ephesians (Let's Study)
- 25 Let's Study Mark (Let's Study Series)
- 26 Irenaeus of Lyons (Heroes of the Faith)
- 27 Ichthus: Jesus Christ, God's Son, the Saviour
- 28 The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction
- 29 Polycarp of Smyrna (Heroes of the Faith)
- 30 Grow in Grace
- 31 The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance
- 32 Ignatius of Antioch (Heroes of the Faith)
- 33 Deserted by God?
- 34 Big Book of Bible Truths 1
- 35 In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
This year invest what God has given you
1/3/2018 Bob Gass
‘Remember, each of us will stand personally before the Judgment Seat of God.’
(Ro 14:10) Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; ESV
Judgment day will be characterised by two things: rewards and regrets! Jesus highlights this in the story of three servants who were given talents to invest on behalf of their master. The first two invested well and were rewarded, while the third one buried his talent and was judged accordingly. The first two considered their options, crunched the numbers, took the plunge, and were willing to risk failure. As a result their boss said, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ (Matthew 25:21 NKJV). Now, God doesn’t reward foolishness. So before you make a move, talk it over with Him (see Proverbs 3:5-6). The third servant, however, said, ‘I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground’ (Matthew 25:25 NKJV). He made the most common and tragic mistake when it comes to giftedness: he failed to benefit his Master with his talent. Some invest their talents and give God credit, while others misuse theirs and give Him grief. Some honour Him with ‘fruit’, while others insult Him with excuses. And how does God feel about the latter? ‘Get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb’ (Matthew 25:29 MSG). Fear is the opposite of faith, and ‘without faith it is impossible to please [God]’ (Hebrews 11:6 KJV). So this year step out in faith; God won’t let you down. Take a risk; He won’t fail you. Even if you stumble on your way to success, He encourages you to envision the day when you’ll feel His hand on your shoulder and hear the words: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’
(Mt 25:21) His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master. ESV
(Pr 3:5–6) Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths. ESV
(Mt 25:25) so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ ESV
(Mt 25:29) For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. ESV
(Heb 11:6) And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. ESV
UCB The Word For Today
January 3, 2016
Second day of house sitting. Beautiful house, grand piano, walls covered with paintings, chandeliers … but I miss our little Lily decorated apartment. I like being surrounded by the things she creates, arranges, and decorates. It’s snowing. Blue jays have a monopoly on the birdfeeders. Waiting for a good football game.
From the very beginning, two thousand years ago, the followers of Jesus have always maintained that he took the tears of the world and made them his own, carrying them all the way to his cruel and unjust death to carry out God’s rescue operation; and that he took the joy of the world and brought it to new birth as he rose from the dead and thereby launched God’s new creation. … But it makes the point that the Christian faith endorses the passion for justice which every human being knows, the longing to see things put to rights. And it claims that in Jesus, God himself has shared this passion and put it into effect, so that in the end all tears may be dried and the world may be filled with justice and joy.
Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
by Bill Federer
Frederick the Great of Prussia called these ten days “the most brilliant in the world’s history.” After winning the Battle of Trenton, Christmas night, George Washington’s small force dodged General Cornwallis’ 8,000 man British army. Then one night, Washington left his campfires burning and snuck his army around the back of the British camp at Princeton, New Jersey. At daybreak, this day, January 3, 1777, Washington attacked, capturing three regiments of British troops. Enthusiasm swept America. Ezra Stiles, president of Yale College, stated: “Who but a Washington, inspired by Heaven, could have conceived the surprise move upon the enemy at Princeton?”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
When grace possesses the life,
it brings a threefold power.
It brings "redemption," the powers of liberation;
it brings "wisdom," the power of illumination;
it brings "understanding,"
the power of applying the illumination
to the difficulties of life.
--- John Henry Jowett
The marvel of the Redemptive Reality of God is that the worst and the vilest can never get to the bottom of His (God’s) love. Paul did not say that God separated him to show what a wonderful man He could make of him, but “to reveal his son in me.”
--- Oswald Chambers
Prayer will make a man cease from sin,
or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.
--- John Bunyon
God doth justify the believing man,
yet not for the worthiness of his belief,
but for his worthiness who is believed.
--- Richard Hooker A Learned Discourse of Justification
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
don’t go along with them.
11 Suppose they say, “Come with us:
we’ll ambush somebody and kill him,
we’ll waylay some harmless soul, just for fun;
12 we’ll swallow him alive, like Sh’ol,
whole, like those who descend to the pit;
13 we’ll find everything he has of value,
we’ll fill our homes with loot!
14 Throw in your lot with us;
we’ll share a common purse”—
15 my son, don’t go along with them,
don’t set foot on their path;
16 their feet run to evil,
they rush to shed blood.
17 For in vain is the net baited
if any bird can see it;
18 rather, they are ambushing themselves
to shed their own blood, waylaying themselves.
19 So are the ways of all greedy for gain—
it takes the lives of those who get it.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Clouds and darkness
Clouds and darkness are round about Him. --- Psalm 97:2
A man who has not been born of the Spirit of God will tell you that the teachings of Jesus are simple. But when you are baptized with the Holy Ghost, you find “clouds and darkness are round about Him.” When we come into close contact with the teachings of Jesus Christ we have our first insight into this aspect of things. The only possibility of understanding the teaching of Jesus is by the light of the Spirit of God on the inside. If we have never had the experience of taking our commonplace religious shoes off our common-place religious feet, and getting rid of all the undue familiarity with which we approach God, it is questionable whether we have ever stood in His presence. The people who are flippant and familiar are those who have never yet been introduced to Jesus Christ. After the amazing delight and liberty of realizing what Jesus Christ does, comes the impenetrable darkness of realizing Who He is.
Jesus said: “The words that I speak unto you,” not—‘the words I have spoken’—“they are spirit, and they are life.” The Bible has been so many words to us—clouds and darkness, then all of a sudden the words become spirit and life because Jesus re-speaks them to us in a particular condition. That is the way God speaks to us, not by visions and dreams, but by words. When a man gets to God it is by the most simple way of words.
My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Nietzsche had a word
for it. History discredits
his language. Ours
more quietly rusts
in autumnal libraries
of the spirit. Scolded
for small faults,
we see how violence in others
is secretly respected.
Do we amble pacifically
towards our extinction? The answers
from over the water
are blood-red. I wonder,
seeing the rock
split by green grass
as the atom, is this
the centre from which
nature will watch out
human folly, until
it is time to call back
to the small field civilization
began in the small
people the giants deposed?
The Poems of R.S. Thomas
Then in 4:3–4a came the sacrifices, or better, the offerings. The timing was: And in the process of time it came to pass. The Hebrew literally reads “at the end of days,” meaning “at a specific appointed time.” So already, this early in human history, there was a fixed time in which the offerings were to be offered. It was clearly a regularly prescribed time. This being so, this means that this was not the first time sacrifices were offered or even the first time that Cain offered a sacrifice. Previously, since Abel was the shepherd and Cain was the farmer, in order to have a blood-sacrifice, Cain would have had to purchase a sheep or a goat from his brother, Abel. However, this time, he chose not to do it that way, but Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering. The Hebrew word is minchah, which means “an offering” in general terms. Nevertheless, in Cain’s case, it was bloodless; and because it was bloodless, it was unacceptable. This is an example of an act of religion, but apart from faith. He was only going through the motions to try to discharge his duty. Although God later did accept grain offerings, even the grain offerings of the Mosaic Law always came in contact with blood. Therefore, what Cain offered was from the fruit of the ground; and there is no indication as to its being of the best quality, no indication even that it was of the first fruits. Bringing it unto Jehovah meant he brought it to a specific place, to a prescribed place; but there is no mention of an altar. So again, the place may well have been at the entrance to the Garden of Eden, where the presence of the Shechinah Glory was manifested. Then came the offering of Abel: And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock. Abel’s offering was different from Cain’s in two ways: It was a firstling, a firstborn; and it was a blood sacrifice. The text adds that Abel brought of the fat thereof, which was viewed as the best part (Lev. 3:16). For Abel, this sacrifice was an act of faith, to perform his spiritual duty. The mention of the fat shows that the issue was the sacrifice of blood. Popular relational theology tries to claim that the whole thing was an issue of attitude, that Cain had the wrong attitude but Abel had the right attitude. However, there is simply no indication of this in the text, and the thrust of Scripture is that the problem was a lack of blood, as shown in Hebrews: By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain (Heb. 11:4); Messiah’s blood that speaks better than that of Abel (Heb. 12:24). The clear emphasis here is on blood, not merely attitude. Both Cain and Abel were sinners; both were born after the Fall and outside the Garden of Eden; both had the same parents, the same upbringing, the same environment, and the same knowledge. However, Cain’s offering was not of faith, while Abel’s offering was an act of faith in response to revelation and knowledge.
The Book of Genesis
God responds. In verse 4b, God responds to Abel’s offering: And Jehovah had respect unto Abel and to his offering. He respected Abel’s faith, and He had respect for Abel’s offering, because it was of the prescribed type. It was a firstling, and it had blood. Just how God showed His acceptance, it does not say. According to Rashi, it was accepted by fire descending out of Heaven and consuming it. Although there is no indication of this in the text, it is clear that it was made obvious in some way. In verse 5a, God responds to Cain’s offering: He had not respect. God rejected Cain because Cain had no faith, and his lack of faith showed in the type of offering he offered. God had no respect for Cain’s offering because it was not the first-fruits and there was no blood involved.
Genesis 4:5b records the reaction of Cain: Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. Jude 11 mentions the way of Cain; and the way of Cain is rejecting God’s way and then becoming angry when God does not accept one’s own way to God.
The Book of Genesis
I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong. --- Ecclesiastes 9:11. KJV
Men might be swift, but they did not always win. ( Wings of the Morning, The (The Morrison Classic Sermon Series) ) Armies might be strong, but they did not always triumph. There were incalculable powers abroad, balancing, adjusting, compensating, so that turn where one would in human affairs, there were unexpected and dramatic outcomes. You may call that chance, or you may take it from the other side and call it God. But whatever you call it, the fact remains that the rearranging and revising power is there.
This is true of Jesus Christ, the Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief. I sometimes contrast the Man of Nazareth with the emperor who was reigning then, Tiberius. Tiberius was the most powerful person living, the ruler of all that was fairest in the world. There was no control to his power, no limit to his wealth, no barrier to his pleasures. On one of the most enchanting spots of earth he chose his home—a lovely island with a delicious climate. Wouldn’t you be happy if all that were yours? Yet Pliny calls him the most gloomy of souls. Now think of Christ with nowhere to lay his head, despised and rejected, jeered at, crucified. Pay attention to his words about “my joy,” “my peace” that the world cannot give and cannot take away. Who wins in that race for happiness and peace? Is it the mighty Caesar or the rejected Christ?
Let me suggest some of the moral values of this truth. First, it keeps us from discouragement and cheers us when the lights are dim. We can say in our weakness, I may still win my crown, for the battle is not always to the strong. Then, it weans us from pride and keeps us watchful, humble, and dependent. It is a strange world, rich in dramatic touches, and the battle is not always to the strong.
Lastly, it clears the ground for God and leaves a space to recognize him. If the strongest were sure of triumph in every battle there would be little room on the field for the divine. Whose is the arm that so upholds the weak that after the strife theirs is the cry of victory? So we return, we who were once so blind, with eyes that have been opened to see God, and now we know that just because he reigns, the battle is not always to the strong.
--- George H. Morrison
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Send Me to the Rough
David Brainard was a frail young man, tubercular, sickly, and easily depressed. He longed to reach the Indians of Colonial America, but his first venture to a tribe in Massachusetts was fraught with danger. Unknown to him, his every move was monitored by warriors intent on killing him. But as they raised their bows, they saw a rattlesnake slithering alongside him, lifting its head, flicking its tongue, preparing to strike. Suddenly the snake uncoiled and glided away. The warriors attributed Brainard’s safety to the “Great Spirit.”
But the incident didn’t lead to sustained evangelistic fruitfulness, and Brainard’s missionary work in 1743 saw little success. His despondency increased during Christmas. He wrote, I was very fatigued with my journey, wherein I underwent great hardships; much exposed and very wet by falling into the river. The next year was no better; he grew even more depressed.
On January 3, 1745, Brainard set aside the entire day for fasting and prayer, pleading for an outpouring of spiritual power. He claimed the promise in John 7: Have faith in me, and you will have life-giving waters flowing from deep inside you. …
Then he preached repeatedly from John 7, and the unfolding year proved the most fruitful of his ministry. His interpreter, an alcoholic named Tattamy, was converted. An immediate change seemed to transform Tattamy’s life and his translating of Brainard’s sermons. Scores of Indians were saved and baptized.
Brainard grew weaker, and in 1747 he died at age 29 in the home of Jonathan Edwards. But his story moved his generation—Henry Martyn, William Carey, Adoniram Judson—toward missions. His diary became one of the most powerful Christian books in early American history, containing such entries as this one: Here am I, send me; send me to the ends of the earth; send me to the rough, the savage pagans of the wilderness; send me from all that is called comfort on earth; send me even to death itself, if it be but in Thy service and to promote Thy kingdom.
On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and shouted, “If you are thirsty, come to me and drink! Have faith in me, and you will have life-giving water flowing from deep inside you, just as the Scriptures say.” Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit …
--- John 7:37-39a.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - January 3
“I will give thee for a covenant of the people.”
--- Isaiah 49:8.
Jesus Christ is himself the sum and substance of the covenant, and as one of its gifts. He is the property of every believer. Believer, canst thou estimate what thou hast gotten in Christ? “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Consider that word “God” and its infinity, and then meditate upon “perfect man” and all his beauty; for all that Christ, as God and man, ever had, or can have, is thine—out of pure free favour, passed over to thee to be thine entailed property forever. Our blessed Jesus, as God, is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent. Will it not console you to know that all these great and glorious attributes are altogether yours? Has he power? That power is yours to support and strengthen you, to overcome your enemies, and to preserve you even to the end. Has he love? Well, there is not a drop of love in his heart which is not yours; you may dive into the immense ocean of his love, and you may say of it all, “It is mine.” Hath he justice? It may seem a stern attribute, but even that is yours, for he will by his justice see to it that all which is promised to you in the covenant of grace shall be most certainly secured to you. And all that he has as perfect man is yours. As a perfect man the Father’s delight was upon him. He stood accepted by the Most High. O believer, God’s acceptance of Christ is thine acceptance; for knowest thou not that the love which the Father set on a perfect Christ, he sets on thee now? For all that Christ did is thine. That perfect righteousness which Jesus wrought out, when through his stainless life he kept the law and made it honourable, is thine, and is imputed to thee. Christ is in the covenant.
“My God, I am thine—what a comfort divine!
What a blessing to know that the Saviour is mine!
In the heavenly Lamb thrice happy I am,
And my heart it doth dance at the sound of his name.”
Evening - January 3
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” --- Luke 3:4.
The voice crying in the wilderness demanded a way for the Lord, a way prepared, and a way prepared in the wilderness. I would be attentive to the Master’s proclamation, and give him a road into my heart, cast up by gracious operations, through the desert of my nature. The four directions in the text must have my serious attention.
Every valley must be exalted. Low and grovelling thoughts of God must be given up; doubting and despairing must be removed; and self-seeking and carnal delights must be forsaken. Across these deep valleys a glorious causeway of grace must be raised.
Every mountain and hill shall be laid low. Proud creature-sufficiency, and boastful self-righteousness, must be levelled, to make a highway for the King of kings. Divine fellowship is never vouchsafed to haughty, highminded sinners. The Lord hath respect unto the lowly, and visits the contrite in heart, but the lofty are an abomination unto him. My soul, beseech the Holy Spirit to set thee right in this respect.
The crooked shall be made straight. The wavering heart must have a straight path of decision for God and holiness marked out for it. Double-minded men are strangers to the God of truth. My soul, take heed that thou be in all things honest and true, as in the sight of the heart-searching God.
The rough places shall be made smooth. Stumbling-blocks of sin must be removed, and thorns and briers of rebellion must be uprooted. So great a visitor must not find miry ways and stony places when he comes to honour his favoured ones with his company. Oh that this Evening the Lord may find in my heart a highway made ready by his grace, that he may make a triumphal progress through the utmost bounds of my soul, from the beginning of this year even to the end of it.
Morning and Evening
O GOD, OUR HELP IN AGES PAST
Isaac Watts, 1674–1748
Lord, You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or You brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting You are God. (Psalm 90:1, 2)
It has been wisely said that no thinking person ever regarded the beginning of a new year with indifference. Each of us faces many concerns and questions as we stand on the threshold of the unknown future.
The mystery of time is the subject of this hymn text, a paraphrase of Psalm 90. The hymn is considered by many to be one of the finest ever written and perhaps the best known of the 600 hymns by Isaac Watts, often called the “father of English hymnody.”
At an early age Isaac displayed unusual talent in writing poetic verse. As a young man he became increasingly concerned with the congregational singing in the English speaking churches. Only ponderous metrical Psalms were used until this time. To use any words other than the actual words of Scripture would have been considered an insult to God.
Challenged by his father to “write something better for us to sing,” young Watts began to create new versions of the Psalms with inspiring and expressive style. Eventually, at the early age of 25, he published an important hymnal titled The Psalms of David in the Language of the New Testament. In addition to “O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” several of Watts’ other paraphrases based on psalm settings are hymn texts still widely sung today. They include such favorites as “Joy to the World,” Psalm 98; and “Jesus Shall Reign,” Psalm 72.
After more than 250 years, Isaac Watts’ hymn is still a timely reminder of God’s faithfulness throughout the past and His sure promises for our future.
O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.
Under the shadow of Thy throne still may we dwell secure; sufficient is Thine arm alone, and our defense is sure.
Before the hills in order stood or earth received her frame, from everlasting Thou art God, to endless years the same.
Time, like an ever rolling stream, bears all its sons away; they fly, forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.
O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, be Thou our guide while life shall last, and our eternal home.
For Today: Psalm 33:20; 48:14; 90; Isaiah 26:4
Live confidently in the assurance that the One who has directed your steps to this moment of time is worthy of your complete trust for the days ahead.
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions