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Genesis 4     Matthew 4     Ezra 4     Acts 4


Genesis 4

Cain and Abel

Genesis 4:1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.” 2 And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. 3 In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”

8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 Then the LORD said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. 16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the LORD and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

17 Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. 18 To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech. 19 And Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. 20 Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. 22 Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah. 23 Lamech said to his wives:

“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for striking me.
24  If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold,
then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.”

25 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” 26 To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.


Matthew 4

The Temptation of Jesus

Matthew 4 1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,

“ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’

and

“ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ”

7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ ”

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

Jesus Begins His Ministry

12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

15  “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16  the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.”

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Jesus Calls the First Disciples

18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Jesus Ministers to Great Crowds

23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. 25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.


Ezra 4

Adversaries Oppose the Rebuilding

Ezra 4:1 Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the LORD, the God of Israel, 2 they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ houses and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us here.” 3 But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel said to them, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the LORD, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.”

4 Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build 5 and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.

6 And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.

The Letter to King Artaxerxes

7 In the days of Artaxerxes, Bishlam and Mithredath and Tabeel and the rest of their associates wrote to Artaxerxes king of Persia. The letter was written in Aramaic and translated. 8 Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king as follows: 9 Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their associates, the judges, the governors, the officials, the Persians, the men of Erech, the Babylonians, the men of Susa, that is, the Elamites, 10 and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Osnappar deported and settled in the cities of Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River. 11 (This is a copy of the letter that they sent.) “To Artaxerxes the king: Your servants, the men of the province Beyond the River, send greeting. And now 12 be it known to the king that the Jews who came up from you to us have gone to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are finishing the walls and repairing the foundations. 13 Now be it known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and the walls finished, they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll, and the royal revenue will be impaired. 14 Now because we eat the salt of the palace and it is not fitting for us to witness the king’s dishonor, therefore we send and inform the king, 15 in order that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. You will find in the book of the records and learn that this city is a rebellious city, hurtful to kings and provinces, and that sedition was stirred up in it from of old. That was why this city was laid waste. 16 We make known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls finished, you will then have no possession in the province Beyond the River.”

The King Orders the Work to Cease

17 The king sent an answer: “To Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe and the rest of their associates who live in Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River, greeting. And now 18 the letter that you sent to us has been plainly read before me. 19 And I made a decree, and search has been made, and it has been found that this city from of old has risen against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made in it. 20 And mighty kings have been over Jerusalem, who ruled over the whole province Beyond the River, to whom tribute, custom, and toll were paid. 21 Therefore make a decree that these men be made to cease, and that this city be not rebuilt, until a decree is made by me. 22 And take care not to be slack in this matter. Why should damage grow to the hurt of the king?”

23 Then, when the copy of King Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum and Shimshai the scribe and their associates, they went in haste to the Jews at Jerusalem and by force and power made them cease. 24 Then the work on the house of God that is in Jerusalem stopped, and it ceased until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.


Acts 4

Peter and John Before the Council

Acts 4:1 And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.

5 On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, 6 with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

     Some New Testament passages suggest that the apostle Paul was not an eloquent man either. We know from his own statements that, whether by choice or necessity, he did not come among the Corinthians “proclaiming . . . in lofty words or wisdom”; rather he came “in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God” (1 Cor 2:1-5). Paul’s only confidence was in God speaking with him, electrifying his words, as it were, when he spoke.
     It is significant, I believe, that those the Lord chose to bear his message and carry on his work were for the most part “uneducated and ordinary” people (Acts 4:13). The pattern seems to prove amply that in God’s selecting them there would be no mistake as to the source of their words and authority. God would use ordinary human beings and would dignify them by their association with him. But just as this is wholly suitable to his redemptive purposes, so it is wholly appropriate that everyone (especially the individuals involved) should be clear about the source of the power manifested.
     There must be no misallocation of glory, not because God is a cosmic egotist but because that would destroy the order that’s in the blessedness of life in Christ. It would direct us away from God. Hence Paul writes, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor 1:31). The success of the redemptive plan therefore requires that “not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth” (1 Cor 1:26). Moses and Paul, two of the people most responsible for the human authorship of the Bible, were, accordingly, weak with words so that they might have the best chance of clinging constantly to their support in God, who spoke in union with them, and so that they might unerringly connect their hearers with God.
   Dallas Willard - Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God

14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.

The Believers Pray for Boldness

23 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,

“ ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? 26  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’—

27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

They Had Everything in Common

32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.


ESV Study Bible


What I'm Reading

Back to “Populism” with Howard Snyder

By Scot McKnight 1/2/2017

     Howard Snyder has an independent mind and is not afraid to stand atop a political soapbox and shout out to the crowds to give him an ear. So here he is:

     Words like populist and elites are media shorthand that obscure rather than clarify. Each generation produces a fresh crop of such misleading labels that polarize rather than inform.

     Demagogues feast on such labels, turning them into fear-stoking propaganda. Wise and just leaders find ways to cut through the jargon and force people to think, to reconsider, to question themselves and the roots of their fears. This is much more difficult than appealing to anxiety and prejudice. And often quite unpopular.

     In U.S. history, no one understood this or practiced wise leadership better than Abraham Lincoln, who resisted bad populism. That’s why today most Americans and historians reckon Lincoln our greatest President. But that is now; at the time Lincoln paid the ultimate price.

     My point: the bastardization of the term and concept populism is wrong. If the United States, Western Europe, the Middle East, the Philippines, Korea (North and South), China, Central Africa, and other regions need anything, it is genuine populism!

Click here to go to source

     Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author or editor of more than fifty books, is the Julius R. Mantey Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL. Dr. McKnight has given interviews on radios across the nation, has appeared on television, and is regularly speaks at local churches, conferences, colleges, and seminaries in the USA and abroad. Dr. McKnight obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Nottingham (1986) and has been a professor for more than three decades.

Scot McKnight Books:

8 Ways To Turn On Your Brain When Reading The News

By Mary C. Tillotson 1/2/2017

     Here are questions to ask yourself and frames of mind to be in if you want to sort out what’s fact from what’s propaganda from any side of the political aisle.

     I’m in a graduate program studying how to teach English to speakers of other languages, and the nature of the program makes us all sensitive to the difficulties immigrants experience. I was a few minutes late to class the evening of the violent attacks at Ohio State, and I walked in on a conversation about diversity, racism, and fear-mongering.

     My classmates shared various perspectives. Some teach at schools with minority students, others are immigrants themselves, and most are well-traveled. I mostly listened. I heard a lot of valid points. Our professor said she was astounded when she found out how many people get their news from Facebook (of all places!) and she wondered how people could learn how to think critically and determine fact from opinion.

     I had a hard time believing lack of critical thinking was a big problem until another student said we live in a time when race relations are worse than they ever have been, and everyone just nodded. Having grown up seeing old photographs of drinking fountains labeled “white” and “colored” and learning about the horrors of the antebellum South, I was stunned. There is a huge difference between “needs improvement” and “never been worse.”

     With this in mind, I give you eight tips for thinking critically about the news.

Click here to go to source

     Mary C. Tillotson is a freelance writer who lives in Michigan.

Archaeologista Excited To Unearth Two New Fragments In The Cave Of Skulls

By Core Spirit

     The Dead Sea Scrolls are a set of nearly 1,000 manuscripts in Hebrew, Aramaic, and ancient Greek, which contain some of the oldest known versions of the Hebrew Bible and are said to be one of the greatest archaeological finds in history.

     Now, two more pieces of Dead Sea Scrolls and some textile wrapped around a bundle of beads have been found in the Cave of the Skulls in the Judean Desert near the Dead Sea.

     The scroll fragments have yet to be deciphered because the writing on them is so faint, but it is possible that they will add new, previously unknown information about the life of Jesus.

     Researchers from Hebrew University and the Israel Antiquities Authority say they still are unsure whether the writing is in Hebrew, Aramaic or a completely different dialect altogether.

     The pieces of papyrus are about 2 by 2 cm (0.78 by 0.78 of an inch) and others are fragmentary. Some have writing, some do not have discernible writing, says Haartez in an article about the find.

Click here to go to source

     Core Spirit

Trust in God More than Medical Technology

By Robert Cutillo 1/2/2017

     The patient, an elderly woman visiting her family for an extended stay from another country, had been experiencing pain in her leg for several months. One night the pain was unbearable, so her family took her to the emergency room. The physician, wanting to investigate if compression of a nerve in her back was causing the pain in her leg, ordered a CAT scan. The powerful images that looked inside her body revealed nothing unusual in her back but saw something in a completely different place. Though the findings, called “incidentalomas,” were small and nonspecific, the word abnormal appeared on the report. In these situations, the fear of something bad may be generated by the doctor, the patient, or both. In this case, the medical system reacted with fear, which ultimately led to three additional studies and a painful biopsy before all were assured this was nothing bad.

     Besides the thousands of dollars spent to confirm “normal,” one other casualty of “too much” in this case was the patient’s actual concerns. In the pursuit of a normal test, the patient’s ongoing pain was completely neglected. Her final reaction to high-tech medical care revealed her frustration: “I’m going back to my own country, where at least the doctors listen to the patient instead of looking at tests.”

     We can only be grateful for the powerful technology we have. Yet because the United States has more of it than any other country, we who have access to it are challenged to restrain our tendency to use it. But it’ll always be difficult to use wisely as long as the world is as bad as we fear.

     If only we could depend on something more than the power of our thinking and the tools we possess to stand between us and disaster.

     Embracing Contingency | We’re outside the garden now; we’ve eaten of the tree, and there’s no going back. We know too much to return to its innocence and safety. Our world is scary and seemingly random, but the more we attempt to control the chaos, the more we fear what remains outside our control. Unfortunately, at one level the world of Genesis beyond chapter 3 confirms our fears.

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     Dr. Robert “Bob” Cutillo, M.D., is an associate faculty at Denver Seminary, where he teaches on health and culture, an assistant clinical professor in the department of family medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and a physician at Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. He has worked for many years in faith-based health care for the uninsured and under-served. His current interest is in the connection between idols in medicine and injustice in health care.

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 3

Save Me, O My God
3 A Psalm Of David, When He Fled From Absalom His Son.

1 O LORD, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
2 many are saying of my soul,
“There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah

3 But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
4 I cried aloud to the LORD,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah

5 I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.
6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.

7 Arise, O LORD!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.

8 Salvation belongs to the LORD;
your blessing be on your people! Selah

The Holy Bible: ESV Reformation Study Bible, Condensed Edition (2017) - Black, Genuine Leather. (2016). (ESV). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

In Europe and the US, Elites Who Live by Lies Despise the Little People Who Don’t

By John Zmirak 1/2/2017

     Kevin Crehan is dead at 35. He perished as an enemy of the British state, the victim of de facto judicial murder. Crehan was in prison for a tasteless prank: offended perhaps by the aggressive demands of immigrant Muslims in Britain for the imposition of sharia law, Crehan left a bacon sandwich on the front steps of a mosque. For that he was sentenced to one year in a prison full of violent Muslim criminals who knew about his prank, with no protective custody. (The cause of his death is still unclear.)

     In a bitter twist, Julian Lambert, the judge who sentenced Crehan for his crime, in 2015 gave a sentence of only two years to a member of a pedophile rape gang that preyed on toddlers and a baby. So in 2017, that baby rapist will be a free man, while Kevin Crehan, Englishman, sleeps in the English earth.

     Alexander Solzhenitsyn didn’t live to see this travesty, but a close reading of his works would have allowed you to predict it. The Gulag Archipelago, a masterful work of memory, exposed a vast empire of falsehood, injustice, and cruelty — all carefully masked by puffed-up rationalizations and defended by Western intellectuals who lived comfortably far from its labor camps and psychiatric prisons.

     Solzhenitsyn’s book with a deft stroke exposed the messianic cult of Marxism, and doomed the Soviet system. Shortly before Solzhenitsyn was expelled from his native country, he begged his fellow citizens to engage in a simple, prophetic act of resistance: to “live not by lies.”

     By contrast, the de facto leader of the European Union, Germany’s Angela Merkel, took to the airwaves for New Year’s to deliver the opposite message, to repeat the governing lie which guides EU elites, and demand that Germans live by it. The woman who single-handedly delivered the continent of Europe to the tender mercies of rape mobs, who flooded its cities with unemployable foreigners who flock to extremist mosques and are infiltrated by ISIS, addressed her bewildered citizens. As Breitbart reports:

Click here to go to source

     Per Amazon, John Zmirak received his B.A. from Yale University in 1986, then his M.F.A. in screenwriting and fiction and his Ph.D. in English in 1996 from Louisiana State University. His focus was the English Renaissance, and the novels of Walker Percy. He taught composition at LSU and screenwriting at Tulane University, and written screenplays for and with director Ronald Maxwell (Gods & Generals and Gettysburg). He was elected alternate delegate to the 1996 Republican Convention, representing Pat Buchanan. He has been Press Secretary to pro-life Louisiana Governor Mike Foster, and a reporter and editor at "Success" magazine and "Investor's Business Daily," among other publications. His essays, poems, and other works have appeared in "First Things," "The Weekly Standard," "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution," "USA Today," "FrontPage Magazine," "The American Conservative," "The South Carolina Review," "The Atlantic," "Modern Age," "The Intercollegiate Review," "The New Republic," "Commonweal," and "The National Catholic Register," among other venues. He has contributed to "American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia" and "The Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought." From 2000-2004 he served as Senior Editor of "Faith & Family Magazine" and a reporter at "The National Catholic Register." He works now as an editor for several publishing companies.

John Zmirak Books:

Who Wrote The Gospels

By Timothy Paul Jones 1/2/2017

     Open your Bible to the table of contents and take a look at the list of books in the New Testament. There, you’ll find the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John leading the list.

     Your first reply might be, Because their names are on the books!—and you would be correct. These four names have appeared on the manuscripts of these four Gospels for well over a thousand years.

     But these names may not have been present on the original manuscripts of the Gospels.

     In fact, when it comes to who wrote the Gospels, some scholars are quite convinced that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John couldn’t possibly have been the authors of these four books. According to one such scholar,

Click here to go to source

     My name is Timothy Paul Jones, and I love living with my wife and four daughters in the city of Louisville. Over the past two decades, I’ve had the privilege of leading several congregations as a pastor and in associate ministry roles. Now, I serve as a professor and associate vice president at one of the largest seminaries in the world, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Here, I invest my time in mentoring a rising generation of God-called ministers of the gospel. I also serve as a pastor at the Midtown congregation of Sojourn Community Church and write books in the fields of apologetics and family ministry. A few of these books include the award-winning How We Got the Bible and Christian History Made Easy. My past scholarly research has focused on the psychology of faith and on factors that influence faith formation in Christian households. Currently, my focus has turned toward the reliability of the New Testament Gospels. In addition to earning a doctor of philosophy degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, I’ve earned a bachelor’s degree in biblical literature and a master of divinity with an emphasis in church history and New Testament studies.

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     4. The objection, however, is not yet solved. For we must either put Cataline on the same footing with Camillus, or hold Camillus to be an example that nature, when carefully cultivated, is not wholly void of goodness. I admit that the specious qualities which Camillus possessed were divine gifts, and appear entitled to commendation when viewed in themselves. But in what way will they be proofs of a virtuous nature? Must we not go back to the mind, and from it begin to reason thus? If a natural man possesses such integrity of manners, nature is not without the faculty of studying virtue. But what if his mind was depraved and perverted, and followed anything rather than rectitude? Such it undoubtedly was, if you grant that he was only a natural man. How then will you laud the power of human nature for good, if, even where there is the highest semblance of integrity, a corrupt bias is always detected? Therefore, as you would not commend a man for virtue whose vices impose upon you by a show of virtue, so you will not attribute a power of choosing rectitude to the human will while rooted in depravity (see August. lib. 4, Cont. Julian). Still, the surest and easiest answer to the objection is, that those are not common endowments of nature, but special gifts of God, which he distributes in divers forms, and, in a definite measure, to men otherwise profane. For which reason, we hesitate not, in common language, to say, that one is of a good, another of a vicious nature; though we cease not to hold that both are placed under the universal condition of human depravity. All we mean is that God has conferred on the one a special grace which he has not seen it meet to confer on the other. When he was pleased to set Saul over the kingdom, he made him as it were a new man. This is the thing meant by Plato, when, alluding to a passage in the Iliad, he says, that the children of kings are distinguished at their birth by some special qualities--God, in kindness to the human race, often giving a spirit of heroism to those whom he destines for empire. In this way, the great leaders celebrated in history were formed. The same judgment must be given in the case of private individuals. But as those endued with the greatest talents were always impelled by the greatest ambitions (a stain which defiles all virtues and makes them lose all favour in the sight of God), so we cannot set any value on anything that seems praiseworthy in ungodly men. We may add, that the principal part of rectitude is wanting, when there is no zeal for the glory of God, and there is no such zeal in those whom he has not regenerated by his Spirit. Nor is it without good cause said in Isaiah, that on Christ should rest "the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord," (Isa. 11:2); for by this we are taught that all who are strangers to Christ are destitute of that fear of God which is the beginning of wisdom (Ps. 111:10). The virtues which deceive us by an empty show may have their praise in civil society and the common intercourse of life, but before the judgment-seat of God they will be of no value to establish a claim of righteousness.

5. When the will is enchained as the slave of sin, it cannot make a movement towards goodness, far less steadily pursue it. Every such movement is the first step in that conversion to God, which in Scripture is entirely ascribed to divine grace. Thus Jeremiah prays, "Turn thou me, and I shall be turned," (Jer. 31:18). Hence, too, in the same chapter, describing the spiritual redemption of believers, the Prophet says, "The Lord has redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he," (Jer. 31:11); intimating how close the fetters are with which the sinner is bound, so long as he is abandoned by the Lord, and acts under the yoke of the devil. Nevertheless, there remains a will which both inclines and hastens on with the strongest affection towards sin; man, when placed under this bondage, being deprived not of will, but of soundness of will. Bernard says not improperly, that all of us have a will; but to will well is proficiency, to will ill is defect. Thus simply to will is the part of man, to will ill the part of corrupt nature, to will well the part of grace. Moreover, when I say that the will, deprived of liberty, is led or dragged by necessity to evil, it is strange that any should deem the expression harsh, seeing there is no absurdity in it, and it is not at variance with pious use. It does, however, offend those who know not how to distinguish between necessity and compulsion. Were any one to ask them, Is not God necessarily good, is not the devil necessarily wicked, what answer would they give? The goodness of God is so connected with his Godhead, that it is not more necessary to be God than to be good; whereas the devil, by his fall, was so estranged from goodness, that he can do nothing but evil. Should any one give utterance to the profane jeer (see Calvin Adv. Pighium), that little praise is due to God for a goodness to which he is forced, is it not obvious to every man to reply, It is owing not to violent impulse, but to his boundless goodness, that he cannot do evil? Therefore, if the free will of God in doing good is not impeded, because he necessarily must do good; if the devil, who can do nothing but evil, nevertheless sins voluntarily; can it be said that man sins less voluntarily because he is under a necessity of sinning? This necessity is uniformly proclaimed by Augustine, who, even when pressed by the invidious cavil of Celestius, hesitated not to assert it in the following terms: "Man through liberty became a sinner, but corruption, ensuing as the penalty, has converted liberty into necessity," (August. lib. de Perf. Justin). Whenever mention is made of the subject, he hesitates not to speak in this way of the necessary bondage of sin (August. de Nature et Gratia, et alibi). Let this, then, be regarded as the sum of the distinction. Man, since he was corrupted by the fall, sins not forced or unwilling, but voluntarily, by a most forward bias of the mind; not by violent compulsion, or external force, but by the movement of his own passion; and yet such is the depravity of his nature, that he cannot move and act except in the direction of evil. If this is true, the thing not obscurely expressed is, that he is under a necessity of sinning. Bernard, assenting to Augustine, thus writes: "Among animals, man alone is free, and yet sin intervening, he suffers a kind of violence, but a violence proceeding from his will, not from nature, so that it does not even deprive him of innate liberty," (Bernard, Sermo. super Cantica, 81). For that which is voluntary is also free. A little after he adds, "Thus, by some means strange and wicked, the will itself, being deteriorated by sin, makes a necessity; but so that the necessity, in as much as it is voluntary, cannot excuse the will, and the will, in as much as it is enticed, cannot exclude the necessity." For this necessity is in a manner voluntary. He afterwards says that "we are under a yoke, but no other yoke than that of voluntary servitude; therefore, in respect of servitude, we are miserable, and in respect of will, inexcusable; because the will, when it was free, made itself the slave of sin." At length he concludes, "Thus the soul, in some strange and evil way, is held under this kind of voluntary, yet sadly free necessity, both bond and free; bond in respect of necessity, free in respect of will: and what is still more strange, and still more miserable, it is guilty because free, and enslaved because guilty, and therefore enslaved because free." My readers hence perceive that the doctrine which I deliver is not new, but the doctrine which of old Augustine delivered with the consent of all the godly, and which was afterwards shut up in the cloisters of monks for almost a thousand years. Lombard, by not knowing how to distinguish between necessity and compulsion, gave occasion to a pernicious error. [167]

6. On the other hand, it may be proper to consider what the remedy is which divine grace provides for the correction and cure of natural corruption. Since the Lord, in bringing assistance, supplies us with what is lacking, the nature of that assistance will immediately make manifest its converse--viz. our penury. When the Apostle says to the Philippians, "Being confident of this very thing, that he which has begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ," (Phil. 1:6), there cannot be a doubt, that by the good work thus begun, he means the very commencement of conversion in the will. God, therefore, begins the good work in us by exciting in our hearts a desire, a love, and a study of righteousness, or (to speak more correctly) by turning, training, and guiding our hearts unto righteousness; and he completes this good work by confirming us unto perseverance. But lest any one should cavil that the good work thus begun by the Lord consists in aiding the will, which is in itself weak, the Spirit elsewhere declares what the will, when left to itself, is able to do. His words are, "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them," (Ezek. 36:26, 27). How can it be said that the weakness of the human will is aided so as to enable it to aspire effectually to the choice of good, when the fact is, that it must be wholly transformed and renovated? If there is any softness in a stone; if you can make it tender, and flexible into any shape, then it may be said, that the human heart may be shaped for rectitude, provided that which is imperfect in it is supplemented by divine grace. But if the Spirit, by the above similitude, meant to show that no good can ever be extracted from our heart until it is made altogether new, let us not attempt to share with Him what He claims for himself alone. If it is like turning a stone into flesh when God turns us to the study of rectitude, everything proper to our own will is abolished, and that which succeeds in its place is wholly of God. I say the will is abolished, but not in so far as it is will, for in conversion everything essential to our original nature remains: I also say, that it is created anew, not because the will then begins to exist, but because it is turned from evil to good. This, I maintains is wholly the work of God, because, as the Apostle testifies, we are not "sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves," (2 Cor. 3:5). Accordingly, he elsewhere says, not merely that God assists the weak or corrects the depraved will, but that he worketh in us to will (Phil. 2:13). From this it is easily inferred, as I have said, that everything good in the will is entirely the result of grace. In the same sense, the Apostle elsewhere says, "It is the same God which worketh all in all," (I Cor. 12:6). For he is not there treating of universal government, but declaring that all the good qualities which believers possess are due to God. In using the term "all," he certainly makes God the author of spiritual life from its beginning to its end. This he had previously taught in different terms, when he said that there is "one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him," (1 Cor. 8:6); thus plainly extolling the new creation, by which everything of our common nature is destroyed. There is here a tacit antithesis between Adam and Christ, which he elsewhere explains more clearly when he says, "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them," (Eph. 2:10). His meaning is to show in this way that our salvation is gratuitous because the beginning of goodness is from the second creation which is obtained in Christ. If any, even the minutest, ability were in ourselves, there would also be some merit. But to show our utter destitution, he argues that we merit nothing, because we are created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has prepared; again intimating by these words, that all the fruits of good works are originally and immediately from God. Hence the Psalmist, after saying that the Lord "has made us," to deprive us of all share in the work, immediately adds, "not we ourselves." That he is speaking of regeneration, which is the commencement of the spiritual life, is obvious from the context, in which the next words are, "we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture," (Psalm 100:3). Not contented with simply giving God the praise of our salvation, he distinctly excludes us from all share in it, just as if he had said that not one particle remains to man as a ground of boasting. The whole is of God.

7. But perhaps there will be some who, while they admit that the will is in its own nature averse to righteousness, and is converted solely by the power of God, will yet hold that, when once it is prepared, it performs a part in acting. This they found upon the words of Augustine, that grace precedes every good work; the will accompanying, not leading; a handmaid, and not a guide (August. ad Bonifac. Ep. 106). The words thus not improperly used by this holy writer, Lombard preposterously wrests to the above effect (Lombard, lib. 2, Dist. 25). But I maintain, that as well in the words of the Psalmist which I have quoted, as in other passages of Scripture, two things are clearly taught--viz. that the Lord both corrects, or rather destroys, our depraved will, and also substitutes a good will from himself. In as much as it is prevented by grace, I have no objection to your calling it a handmaid; but in as much as when formed again, it is the work of the Lord, it is erroneous to say, that it accompanies preventing grace as a voluntary attendant. Therefore, Chrysostom is inaccurate in saying, that grace cannot do any thing without will, nor will any thing without grace (Serm. de Invent. Sanct. Crucis); as if grace did not, in terms of the passage lately quoted from Paul, produce the very will itself. The intention of Augustine, in calling the human will the handmaid of grace, was not to assign it a kind of second place to grace in the performance of good works. His object merely was to refute the pestilential dogma of Pelagius, who made human merit the first cause of salvation. As was sufficient for his purpose at the time, he contends that grace is prior to all merit, while, in the meantime, he says nothing of the other question as to the perpetual effect of grace, which, however, he handles admirably in other places. For in saying, as he often does, that the Lord prevents the unwilling in order to make him willing, and follows after the willing that he may not will in vain, he makes Him the sole author of good works. Indeed, his sentiments on this subject are too clear to need any lengthened illustration. "Men," says he, "labour to find in our will something that is our own, and not God's; how they can find it, I wot not," (August. de Remiss. Peccat., lib. 2 c. 18). In his First Book against Pelagius and Celestius, expounding the saying of Christ, "Every man therefore that has heard, and has learned of the Father, cometh unto me," (John 6:45), he says, "The will is aided not only so as to know what is to be done, but also to do what it knows." And thus, when God teaches not by the letter of the Law, but by the grace of the Spirit, he so teaches, that every one who has learned, not only knowing, sees, but also willing, desires, and acting, performs.

8. Since we are now occupied with the chief point on which the controversy turns, let us give the reader the sum of the matter in a few, and those most unambiguous, passages of Scripture; thereafter, lest any one should charge us with distorting Scripture, let us show that the truth, which we maintain to be derived from Scripture, is not unsupported by the testimony of this holy man (I mean Augustine). I deem it unnecessary to bring forward every separate passage of Scripture in confirmation of my doctrine. A selection of the most choice passages will pave the way for the understanding of all those which lie scattered up and down in the sacred volume. On the other hand, I thought it not out of place to show my accordance with a man whose authority is justly of so much weight in the Christian world. It is certainly easy to prove that the commencement of good is only with God, and that none but the elect have a will inclined to good. But the cause of election must be sought out of man; and hence it follows that a right will is derived not from man himself, but from the same good pleasure by which we were chosen before the creation of the world. Another argument much akin to this may be added. The beginning of right will and action being of faith, we must see whence faith itself is. But since Scripture proclaims throughout that it is the free gift of God, it follows, that when men, who are with their whole soul naturally prone to evil, begin to have a good will, it is owing to mere grace. Therefore, when the Lord, in the conversion of his people, sets down these two things as requisite to be done--viz. to take away the heart of stone, and give a heart of flesh, he openly declares, that, in order to our conversion to righteousness, what is ours must be taken away, and that what is substituted in its place is of himself. Nor does he declare this in one passage only. For he says in Jeremiah "I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever;" and a little after he says, "I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me," (Jer. 32:39, 40). Again, in Ezekiel, "I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh," (Ezek. 11:19). He could not more clearly claim to himself, and deny to us, everything good and right in our will, than by declaring, that in our conversion there is the creation of a new spirit and a new heart. It always follows, both that nothing good can proceed from our will until it be formed again, and that after it is formed again in so far as it is good, it is of God, and not of us.

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

The Guy with the Mic Doesn’t Speak for the Room

By Glen Scrivener 1/3/2018

     I love preaching to students, and I get dozens of opportunities each year on university campuses across the UK. Usually I’m invited as a guest of the university’s Christian Union, their strategy to reach fellow students based on four cornerstones: deep friendships, personal invitations, free lunches, and, when it comes to talk titles, unashamed “trolling.” I absolutely love Christian Unions, and I heartily endorse three of these four foundations.

     The trolling part involves talk titles that, in the interests of “engaging the difficult questions” end up delivering the hapless speaker—occasionally me—before an audience of undergraduates to address the issue of why God is such a genocidal maniac/homophobic bigot/hell-loving kill-joy, and so on. As I’m about to address the assembled students, it always occurs to me that 90 percent of the audience would have shown up just for the sandwich. Nonetheless, I step up to the plate and speak to the topic because I’m polite enough to do what the Christian Union tells me and contrarian enough to enjoy the argument.

     Guy With The Mic | During one outreach the Christian Union organized a lunch around the topic: “Does God Hate Women?” The students had the wisdom to bench me for this talk and invited a woman who spoke to the subject brilliantly. So there I was in the audience, doing what every evangelist does in such circumstances (mentally stealing every one of her illustrations), and after 20 minutes of winsome gospeling, the floor was thrown open to questions.

     At this point the president of the Atheists and Secular Humanists Society stood up, grabbed the microphone, and began an interrogation that lasted the allotted 15 minutes. The speaker did excellently, answering with Scriptures, wisdom, grace, and humor. The subjects veered from women, to slaves, to homosexuality, to hell, to Old Testament war, to transphobia. She kept smiling, kept answering with grace, but all the while the shoulders of everyone in the room rose steadily until no one had any neck left. At last a poor student had to get up, cut off the atheist, and close the meeting, sheepishly inviting inquirers to a meeting that night.

     As the music played and we began to let our shoulders descend from around our ears, I turned to my neighbor Mark, a 19-year-old economics student. “What did you make of that?” I asked. He was quiet for a bit. Then he said, “Oh I wasn’t listening to that guy. It’s just . . . my grandfather died last month, and I’ve just been wondering what it’s all about. What do you reckon?” And we were off.

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     Glen Scrivener is an evangelist and author of several books, including Four Kinds of Christmas: Which Are You?. Glen also directs the charity Speak Life, which released a four-episode evangelistic mini-film, Meet the Nativity, in the weeks leading up to Christmas 2017.

3 2 1: The Story of God, the World and You
Love Story
Prescriptions Dispensed in the Community: Statistics for 1996 to 2006 England
Prescription Cost Analysis: 2006
The King's English Year Long Devotional
King's English: October - December
The King's English: April - June
The King's English: July - September


  • Surviving the Dragon
  • Good Right
  • Clinical Ethics

#1 Arjia Rinpoche    Villanova University

 

#2 Joseph DesJardins    Villanova University

 

#3 Philip Boyle    Villanova University

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

UCB The Word For Today
     Keys to Bible study (1)
     1/4/2018    Bob Gass

     ‘Your commands are boundless.’

(Ps 119:96) 96 I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad. ESV

     The psalmist wrote, ‘To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless.’ What does that mean? It means each time you read a Scripture you’ll see something different in it. It’s like shining light on a diamond. Each time you turn it slightly, you see another facet of its beauty. That’s why the Bible is different from any other book you’ll ever read. You’ll learn things about God from personal experience and from listening to the thoughts and experiences of others, but you’ll get to know Him better through the reading of His Word than any other way. You can study the same Scripture over and over again, dig into it, leave it for three or four months|, and when you come back to it there is much more to find. The key is this: stick with it! There’s no limit to the number of questions you can ask, no limit to the observations you can make, and no limit to the applications you can make. So don’t give up! The best attitude to have in Bible study is the one Jacob had when he wrestled with the angel of the Lord: ‘I will not let You go unless You bless me!’ (Genesis 32:26 NKJV). As a result God gave him a new name, a new nature, a new walk, and a new future. Bible study has no shortcuts; it takes effort. But if you’re diligent and patient you’ll reap great rewards. Once you’ve felt the joy and satisfaction that comes from finding a great spiritual truth on your own, and applying it to your life, you’ll never approach Bible study the same way again.

Gen 10-12
Matt 4

UCB The Word For Today

IMHO
     January 4, 2016

     We’re up on Parrett Mountain Road waiting for the ice to melt.

     I love scripture, not like a scholar, not like a doctor who knows all the functions of the human body, but simply as a man who feels closer to the Lord when I’m reading scripture. Scripture helps me center when I’m being pulled one way or another, tossed from one emotion to another. I am, after all, a double minded man. I tell God I love Him, but look too much at darkness, darkness in the world, darkness in me. I know I cannot think about two things at once so I make it a point to read or think about scripture even more when shadows begin to gather and dogs begin to howl.

     Is there any magic protection in scripture? Well, Joab fled to the Tent of the Lord and grasped the horns of the altar, but it did not keep Benaiah from carrying out Solomon’s (David’s) command to kill him. (1 Kings 2:28) David's death command to Solomon reminds me of the movie Godfather. Vito instructs his son Michael what to do when Vito dies. During the baptism of his sister’s newest child Michael orders the simultaneous murders of the leaders of the New York Mafia's other Dons.

     Life is ugly because we do not live it God's way. Scripture is knowledge, but it is not wisdom without the Holy Spirit. Those who belong to the Lord are no better than those who do not believe. We all sin. Only God can keep us from ourselves.


American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Called the “Father of American Medicine,” he signed the Declaration of Independence, was Surgeon General of the Continental Army, and was a staff member of the Pennsylvania Hospital, where he opened the first free medical clinic. His name was Benjamin Rush, and he was born this day, January 4, 1745. Rush also founded a Bible Society, a Sunday School Union and a Society for the Abolition of Slavery. Dr. Benjamin Rush stated: “The only foundation for… education in a republic is… religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object… of all republican governments.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike?
May we not be of one heart,
though we are not of one opinion?
Without all doubt, we may.
Herein all the children of God may unite,
notwithstanding these smaller differences.
--- from a sermon in the Works of John Wesley

Where can the purest principles of morality be learned so clearly or so perfectly as from the New Testament?
--- Joseph Story (James Madison appointed him the youngest Justice on the Supreme Court)

The Bible characters never fell on their weak points but on their strong ones; unguarded strength is double weakness (The Place of Help).
--- Gordon MacDonald


For in the cross of Christ, as in a splendid theatre, the incomparable goodness of God is set before the whole world. The glory of God shines, indeed, in all creatures on high and below, but never more brightly than in the cross ....
If it be objected that nothing could be less glorious than Christ’s death..., I reply that in that death we see a boundless glory which is concealed from the ungodly. --- John Calvin   Calvin’s St John

... from here, there and everywhere


Proverbs 1:20-33
     by D.H. Stern

20     Wisdom calls aloud in the open air
and raises her voice in the public places;
21     she calls out at streetcorners
and speaks out at entrances to city gates:
22     “How long, you whose lives have no purpose,
will you love thoughtless living?
How long will scorners find pleasure in mocking?
How long will fools hate knowledge?
23     Repent when I reprove—
I will pour out my spirit to you,
I will make my words known to you.
24     Because you refused when I called,
and no one paid attention when I put out my hand,
25     but instead you neglected my counsel
and would not accept my reproof;
26     I, in turn, will laugh at your distress,
and mock when terror comes over you—
27     yes, when terror overtakes you like a storm
and your disaster approaches like a whirlwind,
when distress and trouble assail you.
28     Then they will call me, but I won’t answer;
they will seek me earnestly, but they won’t find me.
29     Because they hated knowledge
and did not choose the fear of ADONAI,
30     they refused my counsel
and despised my reproof.
31     So they will bear the consequences of their own way
and be overfilled with their own schemes.
32     For the aimless wandering of the thoughtless will kill them,
and the smug overconfidence of fools will destroy them;
33     but those who pay attention to me will live securely,
untroubled by fear of misfortune.”


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


                Why cannot I follow thee now?

     Peter said unto Him, Lord, why cannot I follow Thee now? --- John 13:37.

     There are times when you cannot understand why you cannot do what you want to do. When God brings the blank space, see that you do not fill it in, but wait. The blank space may come in order to teach you what sanctification means; or it may come after sanctification to teach you what service means. Never run before God’s guidance. If there is the slightest doubt, then He is not guiding. Whenever there is doubt—don’t.

     In the beginning you may see clearly what God’s will is—the severance of a friendship, the breaking off of a business relationship, something you feel distinctly before God is His will for you to do, never do it on the impulse of that feeling. If you do, you will end in making difficulties that will take years of time to put right. Wait for God’s time to bring it round and He will do it without any heartbreak or disappointment. When it is a question of the providential will of God, wait for God to move.

     Peter did not wait on God, he forecast in his mind where the test would come, and the test came where he did not expect it. “I will lay down my life for Thy sake.” Peter’s declaration was honest but ignorant. “Jesus answered him … The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied Me thrice.” This was said with a deeper knowledge of Peter than Peter had of himself. He could not follow Jesus because he did not know himself, or of what he was capable. Natural devotion may be all very well to attract us to Jesus, to make us feel His fascination, but it will never make us disciples. Natural devotion will always deny Jesus somewhere or other.


My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition

Observation
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

                Observation

  Recalling adventures:
One person, he thinks,
in every century or so
came within hail.
I answered by standing
aside, watching him
as he passed. I
am the eternal quarry,
moving at thought's
speed, following
the hunger, arriving
before him. They
put down their prayers'
bait, and swallow it
themselves. Somewhere
between word and deed
are the equations
I step over. Why
do they stare out
with appalled minds
at the appetite
of their lenses?
It is where I feed,
too, waiting for them
to catch up, bounded
only by an inability
to be overtaken.

The Poems of R.S. Thomas

Hebrew Calendar
     Jewish Calendar

     The Hebrew calendar (ha'luach ha'ivri), or Jewish calendar, is a lunisolar calendar used today predominantly for Jewish religious observances. It determines the dates for Jewish holidays and the appropriate public reading of Torah portions, yahrzeits (dates to commemorate the death of a relative), and daily Psalm reading, among many ceremonial uses. In Israel, it is an official calendar for civil purposes and provides a time frame for agriculture.

     Originally the Hebrew calendar was used by Jews for all daily purposes, but following the conquest of Jerusalem by Pompey in 63 BCE (see also Iudaea province), Jews began additionally following the imperial civil calendar, which was decreed in 45 BCE, for civic matters such as the payment of taxes and dealings with government officials.

     The Hebrew calendar has evolved over time. For example, until the Tannaitic period, the months were set by observation of a new crescent moon, with an additional month added every two or three years to keep Passover in the spring, again based on observation of natural events, namely the ripening of barley to reach the stage of "aviv" (nearly ripened crop). Through the Amoraic period and into the Geonic period, this system was displaced by mathematical rules. The principles and rules appear to have been settled by the time Maimonides compiled the Mishneh Torah.

     Because of the roughly eleven-day difference between twelve lunar months and one solar year, the length of the Hebrew calendar year varies in a repeating 19-year Metonic cycle of 235 lunar months, with an intercalary lunar month added according to defined rules every two or three years, for a total of 7 times per 19 years. Seasonal references in the Hebrew calendar reflect its development in the region east of the Mediterranean and the times and climate of the Northern Hemisphere. The Hebrew calendar year is longer by about 6 minutes and 25+25/57 seconds than the present-day mean solar year, so that every 224 years, the Hebrew calendar will fall a full day behind the modern solar year, and about every 231 years it will fall a full day behind the Gregorian calendar year.

     The present counting method for years use the Anno Mundi epoch (Latin for "in the year of the world", abbreviated AM or A.M. and also referred to as the Hebrew era. Hebrew year 5770 began on 19 September 2009 and ended on 8 September 2010. Hebrew year 5771 (a leap year) began on 9 September 2010 and ends on 28 September 2011.


Wikipedia

Take Heart
     January 4



     The God of all grace… make you perfect.
--- 1 Peter 5:10. KJV

     The word that Peter uses for “make you perfect” is the same word [that] is used for mending the nets. ( The Weaving of Glory (Morrison Classic Sermon Series, The) ) It is as if Peter had said, “The God of grace, whatever else he may do, will mend your nets for you.”

     Nets are often broken through encountering some jagged obstacle—caught by some obstruction in the deep and, clearing themselves free of it, are torn. It may be a piece of wreckage in the sea. It may be the sharp edge of some familiar reef that has been swept clear of its seaweed by the storm. But whatever it is, the net drags over it, is caught and torn, and, tearing itself free, it gapes disfigured like some wounded thing.

     Are there no human lives like that? Maybe a hidden and surprising sin does it, maybe a sudden and overwhelming sorrow; it may be the ruin of a cherished friendship or the wreckage of a love that meant the world or some swift insight into another’s baseness where we dreamed there was sincerity. In such an hour as that the net is torn. There is a tearing of the very heartstrings. Faith is shattered, and God is but a name, and life seems the shallowest of delusions. For always, when we lose our faith in people, there falls a shadow on our faith in God, so that the very stars seem to have no master, and goodness seems only the mockery of a dream.

     The torn net entails missing the riches that are at hand on every side. And that was the pity of the useless net—all that was precious was so near at hand and yet might have been a thousand miles away.

     We have sinned, and we have sinned greatly. We have done our very best to spoil our lives. We have wasted time and squandered opportunity and been unloving and utterly unworthy. Thanks be to God, in spite of all that—and of things that may be darker than that—the broken net is going to be mended. He forgives us completely, he is pledged to save us completely. Deeper than our deepest need are the infinite depths of his compassion. It is in such a faith that we give him our lives, which are so torn and ragged, assured that his grace will be sufficient for us and his power made perfect in our weakness. God’s hands are powerful and can grasp tremendously when the wind is high and the waves are raging. But [his hands], too, with a delicacy infinite and with tenderness, can mend the broken net on life’s shore.
--- George H. Morrison


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

On This Day   January 4
     The Tongue Screw

     Travel brochures of the Netherlands tell of windmills, dikes, and boys named Hans with their silver skates. But the years 1531 to 1578 were not so peaceful. Hundreds of Protestants were slaughtered, including a young man named Hans.

     Hans Bret supported his widowed mother by working in a bakery in Antwerp. The two belonged to a Protestant group there, and in his spare time Hans studied the Bible and taught new converts in the church, preparing them for baptism. One Evening a knock sounded on the bakery door. Hans opened it to find a delegation of officers. The house was surrounded and Hans was arrested. For the next several months, authorities alternately questioned and tortured him. From his dark isolation hole, Hans managed to smuggle letters to his mother.

     From him alone we expect our strength to withstand these cruel wolves, so that they have no power over our souls. They are really more cruel than wolves—they are not satisfied with our bodies, tearing at them; but they seek to devour and kill our souls.

     Hans’s treatment worsened, and when intense torture failed to break his spirit, he was sentenced to the stake. Early on Saturday, January 4, 1577, the executioner came to Hans’s cell and ordered him to stick out his tongue. Over it he clamped an iron tongue screw, twisting it tightly with a vise grip. Then he seared the end of Hans’s tongue with a red-hot iron so that the tongue would swell and couldn’t slip out of the clamp. The officials didn’t want Hans preaching at his execution. The young man was taken by wagon to the marketplace, secured to a post with winding chains, and burned alive.

     In the crowd, another Hans watched in horror—Hans de Ries, Bret’s pastor and friend. After the ashes cooled, he sifted through them and retrieved a keepsake—the tongue screw that had fallen from Bret’s consumed body. Shortly after, Hans de Ries married Hans Bret’s mother, and the tongue screw became a symbol of faithfulness that has passed from generation to generation.

  Each generation will announce to the next   your wonderful and powerful deeds.   I will keep thinking about your marvelous glory   and your mighty miracles.   Everyone will talk about your fearsome deeds,   and I will tell all nations how great you are.   ---
Psalm 145:4-6.

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - January 4

     “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” --- 2 Peter 3:18.

     “Grow in grace”—not in one grace only, but in all grace. Grow in that root-grace, faith. Believe the promises more firmly than you have done. Let faith increase in fulness, constancy, simplicity. Grow also in love. Ask that your love may become extended, more intense, more practical, influencing every thought, word, and deed. Grow likewise in humility. Seek to lie very low, and know more of your own nothingness. As you grow downward in humility, seek also to grow upward —having nearer approaches to God in prayer and more intimate fellowship with Jesus. May God the Holy Spirit enable you to “grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour.” He who grows not in the knowledge of Jesus, refuses to be blessed. To know him is “life eternal,” and to advance in the knowledge of him is to increase in happiness. He who does not long to know more of Christ, knows nothing of him yet. Whoever hath sipped this wine will thirst for more, for although Christ doth satisfy, yet it is such a satisfaction, that the appetite is not cloyed, but whetted. If you know the love of Jesus—as the hart panteth for the water-brooks, so will you pant after deeper draughts of his love. If you do not desire to know him better, then you love him not, for love always cries, “Nearer, nearer.” Absence from Christ is hell; but the presence of Jesus is heaven. Rest not then content without an increasing acquaintance with Jesus. Seek to know more of him in his divine nature, in his human relationship, in his finished work, in his death, in his resurrection, in his present glorious intercession, and in his future royal advent. Abide hard by the Cross, and search the mystery of his wounds. An increase of love to Jesus, and a more perfect apprehension of his love to us is one of the best tests of growth in grace.

          Evening - January 4

     “And Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him.” --- Genesis 42:8.

     This Morning our desires went forth for growth in our acquaintance with the Lord Jesus; it may be well to-night to consider a kindred topic, namely, our heavenly Joseph’s knowledge of us. This was most blessedly perfect long before we had the slightest knowledge of him. “His eyes beheld our substance, yet being imperfect, and in his book all our members were written, when as yet there was none of them.” Before we had a being in the world we had a being in his heart. When we were enemies to him, he knew us, our misery, our madness, and our wickedness. When we wept bitterly in despairing repentance, and viewed him only as a judge and a ruler, he viewed us as his brethren well beloved, and his bowels yearned towards us. He never mistook his chosen, but always beheld them as objects of his infinite affection. “The Lord knoweth them that are his,” is as true of the prodigals who are feeding swine as of the children who sit at the table.

     But, alas! we knew not our royal Brother, and out of this ignorance grew a host of sins. We withheld our hearts from him, and allowed him no entrance to our love. We mistrusted him, and gave no credit to his words. We rebelled against him, and paid him no loving homage. The Sun of Righteousness shone forth, and we could not see him. Heaven came down to earth, and earth perceived it not. Let God be praised, those days are over with us; yet even now it is but little that we know of Jesus compared with what he knows of us. We have but begun to study him, but he knoweth us altogether. It is a blessed circumstance that the ignorance is not on his side, for then it would be a hopeless case for us. He will not say to us, “I never knew you,” but he will confess our names in the day of his appearing, and meanwhile will manifest himself to us as he doth not unto the world.


Morning and Evening: A New Edition of the Classic Devotional Based on The Holy Bible, English Standard Version

Amazing Grace
     January 4

          GUIDE ME, O THOU GREAT JEHOVAH

     William Williams, 1717–1791

     Since You are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of Your name lead and guide me. (Psalm 31:3)

     The need for daily guidance is one of the believer’s greatest concerns. How easily our lives can go astray without the assurance of divine leadership. Today’s featured text is one of the great hymns of the church on this subject. It is a product of the revival movement that swept through Wales during the 18th century. This revival was led by a 24-year-old Welsh preacher, Howell Harris, who stirred the land with his fervent evangelistic preaching and his use of congregational singing.

     One of the lives touched by Harris’ ministry was 20-year-old William Williams. Young Williams, the son of a wealthy Welsh farmer, was preparing to become a medical doctor. But, upon hearing the stirring challenge by evangelist Howell Harris, Williams dedicated his life to God and the Christian ministry. William Williams, like Harris, decided to take all of Wales as his parish and for the next 43 years traveled 100,000 miles on horseback, preaching and singing the Gospel in his native tongue. He became known as the “sweet singer of Wales.”

     The symbolic imagery of this hymn is drawn wholly from the Bible. The general setting is the march of the Israelites from Egypt to Canaan. Although the Israelites’ sin and unbelief kept them from their destination for 40 years, God provided for their physical needs with a new supply of manna each day.

     Twice during the Hebrews’ years of wandering, they became faint because of lack of water. At the command of God, Moses struck a large rock with his wooden staff. Out of it flowed-a pure, crystalline stream that preserved their lives. God also continued to guide them with a pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.

   Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah, pilgrim thru this barren land;
   I am weak, but Thou art mighty—Hold me with Thy pow’rful hand:
   Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven, feed me till I want no more.
   Open now the crystal fountain, whence the healing stream doth flow;
   Let the fire and cloudy pillar lead me all my journey through;
   Strong Deliverer, strong Deliverer, be Thou still my strength and shield.
   When I tread the verge of Jordan, bid my anxious fears subside;
   Bear me thru the swelling current; land me safe on Canaan’s side:
   Songs of praises, songs of praises, I will ever give to Thee.


     For Today: Psalm 16:11; Psalm 32:8; Isaiah 58:11; Romans 8:14

     Claim God’s promises for your life in even the small decisions you will be called upon to make this day. Then, begin to praise Him.

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

Book Of Common Prayer
     Thursday, January 4, 2018 | Christmas


January 4
Year 2

Psalms (Morning)     Psalm 85, 87
Psalms (Evening)     Psalm 89:1–29 or Psalm 136 (If today is Saturday)
Old Testament     Joshua 3:14–4:7
New Testament     Ephesians 5:1–20
Gospel     John 9:1–12, 35–38

Index of Readings

Psalms (Morning)
Psalm 85, 87

85 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of The Sons Of Korah.

1 LORD, you were favorable to your land;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
2 You forgave the iniquity of your people;
you covered all their sin. Selah
3 You withdrew all your wrath;
you turned from your hot anger.

4 Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
and put away your indignation toward us!
5 Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
6 Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
7 Show us your steadfast love, O LORD,
and grant us your salvation.

8 Let me hear what God the LORD will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints;
but let them not turn back to folly.
9 Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,
that glory may dwell in our land.

10 Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness springs up from the ground,
and righteousness looks down from the sky.
12 Yes, the LORD will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness will go before him
and make his footsteps a way.

87 A Psalm Of The Sons Of Korah. A Song.

1 On the holy mount stands the city he founded;
2 the LORD loves the gates of Zion
more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.
3 Glorious things of you are spoken,
O city of God. Selah

4 Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon;
behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Cush—
“This one was born there,” they say.
5 And of Zion it shall be said,
“This one and that one were born in her”;
for the Most High himself will establish her.
6 The LORD records as he registers the peoples,
“This one was born there.” Selah

7 Singers and dancers alike say,
“All my springs are in you.”

Psalms (Evening)
Option A
Psalm 89:1–29

1 I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever;
with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.
2 For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever;
in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.”
3 You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn to David my servant:
4 ‘I will establish your offspring forever,
and build your throne for all generations.’ ” Selah

5 Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD,
your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones!
6 For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD?
Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD,
7 a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones,
and awesome above all who are around him?
8 O LORD God of hosts,
who is mighty as you are, O LORD,
with your faithfulness all around you?
9 You rule the raging of the sea;
when its waves rise, you still them.
10 You crushed Rahab like a carcass;
you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.
11 The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours;
the world and all that is in it, you have founded them.
12 The north and the south, you have created them;
Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name.
13 You have a mighty arm;
strong is your hand, high your right hand.
14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;

steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.
15 Blessed are the people who know the festal shout,
who walk, O LORD, in the light of your face,
16 who exult in your name all the day
and in your righteousness are exalted.
17 For you are the glory of their strength;
by your favor our horn is exalted.
18 For our shield belongs to the LORD,
our king to the Holy One of Israel.

19 Of old you spoke in a vision to your godly one, and said:
“I have granted help to one who is mighty;
I have exalted one chosen from the people.
20 I have found David, my servant;
with my holy oil I have anointed him,
21 so that my hand shall be established with him;
my arm also shall strengthen him.
22 The enemy shall not outwit him;
the wicked shall not humble him.
23 I will crush his foes before him
and strike down those who hate him.
24 My faithfulness and my steadfast love shall be with him,
and in my name shall his horn be exalted.
25 I will set his hand on the sea
and his right hand on the rivers.
26 He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father,
my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’
27 And I will make him the firstborn,
the highest of the kings of the earth.
28 My steadfast love I will keep for him forever,
and my covenant will stand firm for him.
29 I will establish his offspring forever
and his throne as the days of the heavens.

OR
Option B
(If today is Saturday)
Psalm 136

136 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

4 to him who alone does great wonders,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
5 to him who by understanding made the heavens,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
6 to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
7 to him who made the great lights,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
8 the sun to rule over the day,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
9 the moon and stars to rule over the night,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
11 and brought Israel out from among them,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
12 with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
13 to him who divided the Red Sea in two,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
14 and made Israel pass through the midst of it,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
15 but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
16 to him who led his people through the wilderness,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

17 to him who struck down great kings,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
18 and killed mighty kings,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
19 Sihon, king of the Amorites,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
20 and Og, king of Bashan,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
21 and gave their land as a heritage,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
22 a heritage to Israel his servant,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

23 It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
24 and rescued us from our foes,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
25 he who gives food to all flesh,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

26 Give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

Old Testament
Joshua 3:14–4:7

14 So when the people set out from their tents to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, 15 and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), 16 the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho. 17 Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan.

4 When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, 2 “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, 3 and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’ ” 4 Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. 5 And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, 6 that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ 7 then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.”

New Testament
Ephesians 5:1–20

5 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Gospel
John 9:1–12, 35–38

9 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”3 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

The Book of Common Prayer


Poetry in the Proverbs
John Hutchinson   Biola University





The Prophet Jonah   
David Talley   Biola University






The Prophet Micah   
David Talley   Biola University





Introduction to Minor Prophets   
David Talley   Biola University






The Prophet Nehemiah   
David Talley   Biola University





Lining Up Your Wants & Needs with Christ   
Rick Bee   Biola University






Future Finances 1
Rick Bee   Biola University





Future Finances 2
Rick Bee   Biola University






Planning for the Hard Times
Rick Bee   Biola University





Budgeting
Rick Bee   Biola University






Spiritual Disciplines: Power to Resolve Conflict
Timothy Muehlhoff   Biola University





How to Have a Difficult Conversation
Timothy Muehlhoff   Biola University