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Genesis 5     Matthew 5     Ezra 5     Acts 5


Adam’s Descendants to Noah

Genesis 5:1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. 2 Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. 3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. 4 The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters. 5 Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died.

6 When Seth had lived 105 years, he fathered Enosh. 7 Seth lived after he fathered Enosh 807 years and had other sons and daughters. 8 Thus all the days of Seth were 912 years, and he died.

9 When Enosh had lived 90 years, he fathered Kenan. 10 Enosh lived after he fathered Kenan 815 years and had other sons and daughters. 11 Thus all the days of Enosh were 905 years, and he died.

12 When Kenan had lived 70 years, he fathered Mahalalel. 13 Kenan lived after he fathered Mahalalel 840 years and had other sons and daughters. 14 Thus all the days of Kenan were 910 years, and he died.

15 When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he fathered Jared. 16 Mahalalel lived after he fathered Jared 830 years and had other sons and daughters. 17 Thus all the days of Mahalalel were 895 years, and he died.

18 When Jared had lived 162 years, he fathered Enoch. 19 Jared lived after he fathered Enoch 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 20 Thus all the days of Jared were 962 years, and he died.

21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. 22 Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.

25 When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he fathered Lamech. 26 Methuselah lived after he fathered Lamech 782 years and had other sons and daughters. 27 Thus all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died.

28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son 29 and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” 30 Lamech lived after he fathered Noah 595 years and had other sons and daughters. 31 Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died.

32 After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth.


The Sermon on the Mount

Matthew 5:1  Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

The Beatitudes

2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


Salt and Light

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.


Christ Came to Fulfill the Law

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Anger

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

Lust

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Divorce

31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Oaths

33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

Retaliation

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Love Your Enemies

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.


Rebuilding Begins Anew (480–440 BCE)

Ezra 5:1 Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. 2 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.

3 At the same time Tattenai the governor of the province Beyond the River and Shethar-bozenai and their associates came to them and spoke to them thus: “Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?” 4 They also asked them this: “What are the names of the men who are building this building?” 5 But the eye of their God was on the elders of the Jews, and they did not stop them until the report should reach Darius and then an answer be returned by letter concerning it.

Tattenai’s Letter to King Darius

6 This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai the governor of the province Beyond the River and Shethar-bozenai and his associates, the governors who were in the province Beyond the River, sent to Darius the king. 7 They sent him a report, in which was written as follows: “To Darius the king, all peace. 8 Be it known to the king that we went to the province of Judah, to the house of the great God. It is being built with huge stones, and timber is laid in the walls. This work goes on diligently and prospers in their hands. 9 Then we asked those elders and spoke to them thus: ‘Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?’ 10 We also asked them their names, for your information, that we might write down the names of their leaders. 11 And this was their reply to us: ‘We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the house that was built many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and finished. 12 But because our fathers had angered the God of heaven, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house and carried away the people to Babylonia. 13 However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, Cyrus the king made a decree that this house of God should be rebuilt. 14 And the gold and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple that was in Jerusalem and brought into the temple of Babylon, these Cyrus the king took out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered to one whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor; 15 and he said to him, “Take these vessels, go and put them in the temple that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be rebuilt on its site.” 16 Then this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and from that time until now it has been in building, and it is not yet finished.’ 17 Therefore, if it seems good to the king, let search be made in the royal archives there in Babylon, to see whether a decree was issued by Cyrus the king for the rebuilding of this house of God in Jerusalem. And let the king send us his pleasure in this matter.”


Ananias and Sapphira

Acts 5:1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.

7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” 9 But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

Many Signs and Wonders Done

12 Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

The Apostles Arrested and Freed

17 But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy 18 they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” 21 And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.

Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22 But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, 23 “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside.” 24 Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. 25 And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” 26 Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.

27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. 34 But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, 40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.


ESV Study Bible


What I'm Reading

Disappointed By Christmas

By Samuel James 12/27/2016

     I’ve heard several people say the days and weeks after Christmas are one of the sadder and more melancholy times of the year for them. True for me as well. My parents have told me that when I was younger they watched as I emotionally primed myself for Christmas Day, only to seem sad and distant after the last present had been opened. Eventually they realized my mood had nothing to do with gifts; rather, I was “crashing,” reentering reality’s orbit after weeks of fantasy. Christmas didn’t let me down; my own hope did.

     For many of us, the symbols and sounds of Christmas unleash an intense kind of longing. Sometimes we may not even articulate what this longing is for, but we feel it nonetheless. In American culture, Christmas is often talked about like an all-healing euphoric experience; advertisements and literature often acknowledge that the “holiday season” is a particularly good time to be happy, or childlike, or charitable, or even just alive. By the week after Thanksgiving, when the Christmas carols start to swell in our car radios and colored trees beam into the lengthening fall evenings, many begin to feel this inarticulate hope throbbing, like the memory of something long forgotten.

     It’s no wonder then that for many of us, the days after Christmas inspire a dour kind of “Was that all?” True, sometimes our Christmas is difficult, or lonely, or sad. Sometimes its just not what we expected. But for me, I think what has disappointed me is not the holiday itself. It’s my hope for it. The reality didn’t “live up” to my expectations because it was never supposed to; the expectation was the point. And now, it’s gone.

     The realization that it’s possible to get exactly what you want and yet feel that hope has betrayed you is one of life’s milestones. We are all born believing that what really stands between us and joy is not getting what we want. We have to be taught otherwise, and many never are. We have to be taught that peace and satisfaction are not the same thing, and then we even have to be taught that sometimes the two are opposed to each other. None of this comes naturally, because natural human nature does not discern it.

     To feel disappointed by Christmas is to plunge headfirst into the truth that we are made for something even greater than hope. For the Christian, the hope of Christmas is not formless and void. It has a shape, a color, and a name. It has blood and sinew. The hope of Christmas is not even the numinous experience we feel when we hear “O Holy Night” or see Gerard van Honthorst’s manger scene. In other words, the hope of Christmas is not hope at all. It’s a Savior, a Savior whose bloody birth stank of manger in a real place at a real time. To hope in some ethereal Christmas ebullience is not the same as to hope in Jesus of Nazareth. This is why the apostle Paul went out of his way to say that if the baby in the manger hasn’t actually been crucified and actually raised from the dead, then Christianity is an idiocy so extreme that we who name it should be pitied more than anyone.

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     Samuel D. James is associate acquisitions editor for Crossway Books.

Death, The New Year And The Hope of Christ

By Matt Foreman 1/2/2017

     2016 was a sobering year for our celebrity-driven culture. A recent CNN article reminded us of the many well known individuals that we lost over the course of the last year. More names have been added just in this past week. More than usual, it seems that many of these celebrities and artists lost in 2016 were icons of culture--a part of people's personal identities and memories. Social media has provided an unprecedented forum for shared grief and lament. (On a humorous note, one man even started a Go Fund Me page to " protect Betty White from 2016".)

     From a biblical perspective, these social laments don't go far enough; and, sadly they seem to miss the point altogether. 2016 has not been all that unusual of a year--although it may have been more providentially jarring for some. People are shocked by tragedy and tragedies are supposed to be shocking. But tragedies are not surprises. They are reminders. Tragedies help to awaken us out of an illusion of what is not to what is actually the norm in this world. There is nothing more normal to history than evil and death. It is not strange. It is tragically normal.

     I heard someone once say that people in this world are like people in prison who pretend most of their lives that they are not in prison. And every once in a while when tragedy strikes, they are forced to come out and stare at the bars and be reminded of what is real.

     Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a Christmas letter from prison during WWII in which he said, "A prison cell like this is a good analogy for Advent. One waits, hopes, does this or that--ultimately negligible things--the door is locked and can only be opened from the outside."

     So what is the biblical lesson and answer in the face of a tragic reality? Can Christianity offer any hope in the New Year in the face of death? To the surprise of many, the Christian answer does not sugar-coat reality. The Christian Gospel has always been set in the midst of tragedy--from the cradle to the cross.

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     Matt Foreman is the pastor of Faith Reformed Baptist Church.  Matt is a graduate of Furman University and Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He currently serves as the Chairman of the General Assembly for the Reformed Baptist Network, as secretary for the RBN Missions Committee, and as lecturer in Practical Theology at Reformed Baptist Seminary. Matt also writes music for worship; some of which be found here. Matt and his wife, MaryScott, have four children: Katy (2002), Darsie (2004), Liam (2007), and Molly (2010).

This Ancient Hebrew Discovery is About to Rewrite History as We Know it

By Tsivya Fox 12/30/16

     “And Pharaoh called Yosef’s name Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Poti-phera priest of On. And Yosef went out over the land of Egypt.” Genesis 41:45 (The Israel Bible™)

     After years of intense study, Dr. Douglas Petrovich has gathered sufficient evidence to claim that the ancient Israelites took Egyptian hieroglyphics and transformed it into a writing system of 22 alphabetic letters which correspond to the widely recognized Hebrew alphabet used today.

     Archaeologist, epigrapher and professor of ancient Egyptian studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada, Dr. Petrovich used Hebrew and the Bible to translate inscriptions found on 18 ancient stone slabs. His findings have truly rocked Bible critics to the core.

     “Judaism has always believed that ‘God looked into the Hebrew Bible and created the world’ making Hebrew the oldest known language,” noted Roni Segal, academic adviser for The Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, an online language academy specializing in Biblical Hebrew, to Breaking Israel News. “However, to find an archaeologist making a similar claim is fascinating.

     It is generally accepted that hieroglyphics are one of the oldest forms of written communication. Following Petrovich’s study of the inscribed Egyptian stone slabs, he asserted that the writings are actually an early form of Hebrew. He believes that the stones recall the Bible’s descriptions about the Israelites living in Egypt and concludes that they transformed Egyptian hieroglyphics into Hebrew more than 3,800 years ago.

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     Tsivya Fox is head of client relations for Breaking Israel News. A native of New York, Tsivya fell in love with Israel when she was an exchange student at Haifa University. She has a Master's in Education from Queens College. Tsivya made aliya on the first Nefesh B'Nefesh flight in 2002. She enjoys following how world events brings to light the words of the prophets.

Why Is Repentance Important?

By Mike Mobley

     Repentance isn’t one of those popular topics to discuss for most people. In fact, a lot of followers of Christ (me included) often push this subject to the back of the line behind other current trending ones. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that we don’t want to offend people or “judge” them. Are we more concerned with how we might offend others or if we are offending God? Are we really loving others if we are content as they continue to sin? Why is repentance important?

     All throughout the Bible we see people being called to repentance. God, Jesus, Paul, the Prophets, etc. all were involved in clearly communicating to others to repent. Repentance is not just believing in God (even the demons believe, James 2:19), but rather as we believe and make a decision to trust and follow Christ, we will repent (turn from) our old ways. We will begin to live as new creations and let the old pass away (2 Corinthians 5:17). If repentance is not involved in the life of a believer, then that person is not a believer. It’s impossible to decide to follow Christ and not turn from old sinful ways.

(2 Pe 3:9) The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. ESV

     God’s desire is that we all would reach repentance. He’s not slow. He does not delay. He knows exactly what He’s doing and His character more and more in the Bible reveals just how much He loves us. He is patient towards all of us and shows His great mercy as we continue to fall short each day.

     “God hasn’t held off lighting the match for eternal fire because He finds our sins tolerable but rather because He is patient in giving sinners an opportunity for repentance before the burning begins.” – Mark Driscoll, A Call To Resurgence

     Being Too Hard On Repentance | You may have experienced this scene for yourself, but imagine a bullhorn and someone in your face screaming, REPENT. Well, that sure is one way of preaching repentance to others, but probably won’t be the most effective way.

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     Saved by Grace through Faith. In love with Jesus, His Glory, and obviously my beautiful wife Joelle, daughter Peyton, and son Matthew! Seeking Him in everything to glorify Him and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Online & Communications Minister at 121 Community Church.

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 4

Answer Me When I Call
4 To The Choirmaster: With Stringed Instruments. A Psalm Of David.

1 Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!

2 O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah
3 But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself;
the LORD hears when I call to him.

4 Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
5 Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the LORD.

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

The Miracle That Saves the World

By Michael Sacasas 1/2/2017

     “Hannah Arendt is preeminently the theorist of beginnings,” according to Margaret Canovan in her Introduction to Arendt’s The Human Condition. “Reflections on the human capacity to start something new pervade her thinking,” she adds.

     I’ve been thinking about this theme in Arendt’s work, particularly as the old year faded and the new one approached. Arendt spoke of birth and death, natality and morality, as the “most general condition of human existence.” Whereas most Western philosophy had taken its point of departure from the fact of our mortality, Arendt made a point of emphasizing natality, the possibility of new beginnings.

     “The most heartening message of The Human Condition, 2nd Edition,” Canovan writes,

     is its reminder of human natality and the miracle of beginning. In sharp contrast to Heidegger’s stress on our mortality, Arendt argues that faith and hope in human affairs come from the fact that new people are continually coming into the world, each of them unique, each capable of new initiatives that may interrupt or divert the chains of events set in motion by previous actions.”

     This is, indeed, a heartening message. One that we need to take to heart in these our own darkening days. Below are a three key paragraphs in which Arendt develops her understanding of the importance of natality in human affairs.

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     Michael Sacasas | I read, think, write, and talk about technology, usually in that order. Director of the Center for the Study of Ethics and Technology.

     Hannah Arendt Books by Hannah Arendt:

The Origins of Totalitarianism
Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (Penguin Classics)
The Human Condition, 2nd Edition
Crises of the Republic: Lying in Politics; Civil Disobedience; On Violence; Thoughts on Politics and Revolution
The Life of the Mind (Combined 2 Volumes in 1) (Vols 1&2)
On Revolution (Penguin Classics)
Between Past and Future (Penguin Classics)

How to Stop Praying the Same Old Things

By Don Whitney 2015

     It doesn’t take long before rote prayers fragment your attention span and freeze your heart.

     Editor's note: We are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to "pray without ceasing." The problem for many of us is that prayer can become a boring exercise of, in the words of Don Whitney, "praying the same old things about the same old things." In this article Whitney describes how praying through Scripture can revolutionize your prayer life and lift it from the rut of mindless repetition.

     "Empty phrases" are ruinous in any area of spirituality, but especially in prayer. Jesus warned, "But when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words" (Matthew 6:7).

     Such "empty phrases" can result from insincerity or repetition. That is, we might pray meaningless, vacuous words because either our hearts or minds are far away.

     One of the reasons Jesus prohibited the mindless repetition of prayers is because that's exactly the way we're prone to pray. Although I don't recite intentionally memorized prayers, my own tendency is to pray basically the same old things about the same old things. And it doesn't take long before such prayers fragment the attention span and freeze the heart of prayer.

Click here to go to source

[1] By Roger Steer - Spiritual Secrets of George Muller (An Omf Book) (1992-12-16) [Paperback].

Other Books by Roger Steer:

J. Hudson Taylor: A Man In Christ (Missionary Life Stories)
George Müller: Delighted in God (History Maker)
Jesus Rising in the East: The Extraordinary Story of the Church in Modern China (Christianity Today Essentials Book 3)
Radical Discipleship
Guarding the Holy Fire: The Evangelicalism of John R.W. Stott, J.I. Packer, and Alister McGrath
Letter to an Influential Atheist by Roger Steer (2003-07-01)

     Don Whitney has been Professor of Biblical Spirituality and Associate Dean at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY since 2005. Biography

Donald S. Whitney Books:

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     9. With this view, likewise the prayers of the saints correspond. Thus Solomon prays that the Lord may "incline our hearts unto him, to walk in his ways, and keep his commandments" (1 Kings 8:58); intimating that our heart is perverse, and naturally indulges in rebellion against the Divine law, until it be turned. Again, it is said in the Psalms, "Incline my heart unto thy testimonies," (Ps. 119:36). For we should always note the antithesis between the rebellious movement of the heart, and the correction by which it is subdued to obedience. David feeling for the time that he was deprived of directing grace, prays, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me," (Ps. 51:10). Is not this an acknowledgment that all the parts of the heart are full of impurity, and that the soul has received a twist, which has turned it from straight to crooked? And then, in describing the cleansing, which he earnestly demands as a thing to be created by God, does he not ascribe the work entirely to Him? If it is objected, that the prayer itself is a symptom of a pious and holy affection, it is easy to reply, that although David had already in some measure repented, he was here contrasting the sad fall which he had experienced with his former state. Therefore, speaking in the person of a man alienated from God, he properly prays for the blessings which God bestows upon his elect in regeneration. Accordingly, like one dead, he desires to be created anew, so as to become, instead of a slave of Satan, an instrument of the Holy Spirit. Strange and monstrous are the longings of our pride. There is nothing which the Lord enjoins more strictly than the religious observance of his Sabbath, in other words resting from our works; but in nothing do we show greater reluctance than to renounce our own works, and give due place to the works of God. Did not arrogance stand in the way, we could not overlook the clear testimony which Christ has borne to the efficacy of his grace. "I," said he, "am the true vine, and my Father is the husband man." "As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me," (John 15:1, 4). If we can no more bear fruit of ourselves than a vine can bud when rooted up and deprived of moisture, there is no longer any room to ask what the aptitude of our nature is for good. There is no ambiguity in the conclusion, "For without me ye can do nothing." He says not that we are too weak to suffice for ourselves; but, by reducing us to nothing, he excludes the idea of our possessing any, even the least ability. If, when engrafted into Christ, we bear fruit like the vine, which draws its vegetative power from the moisture of the ground, and the dew of heaven, and the fostering warmth of the sun, I see nothing in a good work, which we can call our own, without trenching upon what is due to God. It is vain to have recourse to the frivolous cavil, that the sap and the power of producing are already contained in the vine, and that, therefore, instead of deriving everything from the earth or the original root, it contributes something of its own. Our Saviour's words simply mean, that when separated from him, we are nothing but dry, useless wood, because, when so separated, we have no power to do good, as he elsewhere says, "Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted, shall be rooted up," (Mt. 15:13). Accordingly, in the passage already quoted from the Apostle Paul, he attributes the whole operation to God, "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure," (Phil. 2:13). The first part of a good work is the will, the second is vigorous effort in the doing of it. [168] God is the author of both. It is, therefore, robbery from God to arrogate anything to ourselves, either in the will or the act. Were it said that God gives assistance to a weak will, something might be left us; but when it is said that he makes the will, every thing good in it is placed without us. Moreover, since even a good will is still weighed down by the burden of the flesh, and prevented from rising, it is added, that, to meet the difficulties of the contest, God supplies the persevering effort until the effect is obtained. Indeed, the Apostle could not otherwise have said, as he elsewhere does, that "it is the same God which worketh all in all," (1 Cor. 12:6); words comprehending, as we have already observed (sec. 6), the whole course of the spiritual life. For which reason, David, after praying, "Teach me thy way, O Lord, I will walk in thy truths" adds, "unite my heart to fear thy name," (Ps. 86:11); by these words intimating, that even those who are well-affected are liable to so many distractions that they easily become vain, and fall away, if not strengthened to persevere. And hence, in another passage, after praying, "Order my steps in thy word," he requests that strength also may be given him to carry on the war, "Let not any iniquity have dominion over me," (Ps. 119:133). In this way, the Lord both begins and perfects the good work in us, so that it is due to Him, first, that the will conceives a love of rectitude, is inclined to desire, is moved and stimulated to pursue it; secondly, that this choice, desire, and endeavour fail not, but are carried forward to effect; and, lastly, that we go on without interruption, and persevere even to the end.

10. This movement of the will is not of that description which was for many ages taught and believed--viz. a movement which thereafter leaves us the choice to obey or resist it, but one which affects us efficaciously. We must, therefore, repudiate the oft-repeated sentiment of Chrysostom, "Whom he draws, he draws willingly;" insinuating that the Lord only stretches out his hand, and waits to see whether we will be pleased to take his aid. We grant that, as man was originally constituted, he could incline to either side, but since he has taught us by his example how miserable a thing free will is if God works not in us to will and to do, of what use to us were grace imparted in such scanty measure? Nay, by our own ingratitude, we obscure and impair divine grace. The Apostle's doctrine is not, that the grace of a good will is offered to us if we will accept of it, but that God himself is pleased so to work in us as to guide, turn, and govern our heart by his Spirit, and reign in it as his own possession. Ezekiel promises that a new spirit will be given to the elect, not merely that they may be able to walk in his precepts, but that they may really walk in them (Ezek. 11:19; 36:27). And the only meaning which can be given to our Saviour's words, "Every man, therefore, that has heard and learned of the Father, cometh unto me," (John 6:45), is, that the grace of God is effectual in itself. This Augustine maintains in his book De Prædestinatione Sancta. This grace is not bestowed on all promiscuously, according to the common brocard (of Occam, if I mistake not), that it is not denied to any one who does what in him lies. Men are indeed to be taught that the favour of God is offered, without exception, to all who ask it; but since those only begin to ask whom heaven by grace inspires, even this minute portion of praise must not be withheld from him. It is the privilege of the elect to be regenerated by the Spirit of God, and then placed under his guidance and government. Wherefore Augustine justly derides some who arrogate to themselves a certain power of willing, as well as censures others who imagine that that which is a special evidence of gratuitous election is given to all (August. de Verbis Apost. Serm. 21). He says, "Nature is common to all, but not grace;" and he calls it a showy acuteness "which shines by mere vanity, when that which God bestows, on whom he will is attributed generally to all." Elsewhere he says, "How came you? By believing. Fear, lest by arrogating to yourself the merit of finding the right way, you perish from the right way. I came, you say, by free choice, came by my own will. Why do you boast? Would you know that even this was given you? Hear Christ exclaiming, No man comets unto me, except the Father which has sent me draw him.' " And from the words of John (6:44), he infers it to be an incontrovertible fact, that the hearts of believers are so effectually governed from above, that they follow with undeviating affection. "Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him" (I John 3:9). That intermediate movement which the sophists imagine, a movement which every one is free to obey or to reject, is obviously excluded by the doctrine of effectual perseverance. [169]

11. As to perseverance, it would undoubtedly have been regarded as the gratuitous gift of God, had not the very pernicious error prevailed, that it is bestowed in proportion to human merit, according to the reception which each individual gives to the first grace. This having given rise to the idea that it was entirely in our own power to receive or reject the offered grace of God, that idea is no sooner exploded than the error founded on it must fall. The error, indeed, is twofold. For, besides teaching that our gratitude for the first grace and our legitimate use of it is rewarded by subsequent supplies of grace, its abettors add that, after this, grace does not operate alone, but only co-operates with ourselves. As to the former, we must hold that the Lord, while he daily enriches his servants, and loads them with new gifts of his grace, because he approves of and takes pleasure in the work which he has begun, finds that in them which he may follow up with larger measures of grace. To this effect are the sentences, "To him that has shall be given." "Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things," (Mt. 25:21, 23, 29; Luke 19:17, 26). But here two precautions are necessary. It must not be said that the legitimate use of the first grace is rewarded by subsequent measures of grace, as if man rendered the grace of God effectual by his own industry, nor must it be thought that there is any such remuneration as to make it cease to be the gratuitous grace of God. I admit, then, that believers may expect as a blessing from God, that the better the use they make of previous, the larger the supplies they will receive of future grace; but I say that even this use is of the Lord, and that this remuneration is bestowed freely of mere good will. The trite distinction of operating and co-operating grace is employed no less sinistrously than unhappily. Augustine, indeed, used it, but softened it by a suitable definition--viz. that God, by co-operating, perfects what he begins by operating,--that both graces are the same, but obtain different names from the different manner in which they produce their effects. Whence it follows, that he does not make an apportionment between God and man, as if a proper movement on the part of each produced a mutual concurrence. All he does is to mark a multiplication of grace. To this effect, accordingly, he elsewhere says, that in man good will precedes many gifts from God; but among these gifts is this good will itself. (August. Enchiridion ad Laurent. cap. 32). Whence it follows, that nothing is left for the will to arrogate as its own. This Paul has expressly stated. For, after saying, "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do," he immediately adds, "of his good pleasure," (Phil. 2:13); indicating by this expression, that the blessing is gratuitous. As to the common saying, that after we have given admission to the first grace, our efforts co-operate with subsequent grace, this is my answer:--If it is meant that after we are once subdued by the power of the Lord to the obedience of righteousness, we proceed voluntarily, and are inclined to follow the movement of grace, I have nothing to object. For it is most certain, that where the grace of God reigns, there is also this readiness to obey. And whence this readiness, but just that the Spirit of God being everywhere consistent with himself, after first begetting a principle of obedience, cherishes and strengthens it for perseverance? If, again, it is meant that man is able of himself to be a fellow-labourer with the grace of God, I hold it to be a most pestilential delusion.

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



  • Living in Love
  • God's Forgiveness
  • Clinical Ethics

#1 John Hutchinson   Biola University

 

#2 John Hutchinson   Biola University

 

#3 Hill and Kerry    Villanova University

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

UCB The Word For Today
     Keys to Bible study (2)
     1/5/2018    Bob Gass

     ‘Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.’

(Ps 119:18) 18 Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. ESV

     Here are some helpful keys to getting more out of your Bible study time: 1) Ask questions. The more questions you ask, the more you’ll get out of it. Who was this written to? What was the situation the writer was facing? What was the main message the author was trying to get through to them? As you ask these questions you’ll begin to discover things you’ve overlooked or never seen before. The psalmist was a meditator and an in-depth studier of God’s Word. That’s why he prayed, ‘Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.’ 2) Write down the answers. The purpose of asking questions is to get answers. Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators, used to say, ‘Thoughts disentangle themselves as they pass through the lips and fingertips.’ So have your notebook handy and write down the nuggets of truth God gives you. If you don’t, you’ll lose them. 3) Don’t just discover it, do it! Evangelist D.L. Moody said, ‘The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives.’ James wrote, ‘Do not merely listen to the word…Do what it says’ (James 1:22 NIV 2011 Edition). Ask yourself, ‘What attitudes do I need to change? What do I need to stop doing, or start doing? What do I need to believe, or stop believing? What relationships do I need to work on? What ministry should I be having to others?’ Don’t go to your Bible with the attitude of finding some truth nobody’s ever seen before, or something to impress others with. Find out what God is saying to you.

Gen 13-15
Matt 5:1-26

UCB The Word For Today

IMHO
     January 5, 2016

     We finally got to leave for home about 11:30 this morning. We had to creep down Parrett Mtn. Rd. about 5 mph, but we made it. Earl and Peggy were very warm and friendly as they extended to us the greatest hospitality, but it was great to get home. Lily missed a couple of days of work so we will have to be careful, but right now we’re just glad to be home.

     When I think about how much God loves us it breaks my heart that I am not more appreciative. I tell God several times a day that I love Him. I thank God for my bride, (His daughter), my family and the health we all enjoy. I am grateful that we all walk in health. I am blessed. I know I am blessed so why am I occasionally overwhelmed by the darkness and discouragement within me?


     The next few hours were tragic and brutal. Jesus wrestled in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, with the darkness which he felt caving in upon him while he waited for arrest. The chief priests did what one might have expected: carried out a quick, quasi-legal procedure—enough to frame a charge of seditious talk against the Temple and ultimately of blasphemy. This could be conveniently translated, for the benefit of the Roman governor, into a charge of sedition against Rome. The Roman governor was weak and indecisive; the priests, manipulative. Jesus went to his death on a charge of which he was innocent—actual rebellion against Rome—but of which most of his contemporaries were guilty, at least in intention. Barabbas, a rebel leader, went free in his stead. A centurion, looking up at his thousandth victim, saw and heard something he hadn’t expected and muttered that maybe this man was God’s Son after all. The meaning of the story is found in every detail, as well as in the broad narrative. The pain and tears of all the years were met together on Calvary. The sorrow of heaven joined with the anguish of earth; the forgiving love stored up in God’s future was poured out into the present; the voices that echo in a million human hearts, crying for justice, longing for spirituality, eager for relationship, yearning for beauty, drew themselves together into a final scream of desolation.

     Nothing in all the history of paganism comes anywhere near this combination of event, intention, and meaning. Nothing in Judaism had prepared for it, except in puzzling, shadowy prophecy. The death of Jesus of Nazareth as the king of the Jews, the bearer of Israel’s destiny, the fulfillment of God’s promises to his people of old, is either the most stupid, senseless waste and misunderstanding the world has ever seen, or it is the fulcrum around which world history turns.

     Christianity is based on the belief that it was and is the latter.


Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Raised by an elderly white couple after his mother was kidnapped following the Civil War, he began school in Neosho, Missouri, and graduated from Iowa State College of Agriculture. Booker T. Washington recruited him to teach at Tuskegee Institute, where he introduced hundred of uses for the peanut, soybean and sweet potato, revolutionizing the South’s economy. His name was George Washington Carver, and he died this day, January 5, 1943. Turning down offers to work for Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, George Washington Carver said: “My purpose alone must be God’s purpose - to increase the welfare and happiness of His people.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


In Israel, in order to be a realist
you must believe in miracles.
--- Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion
In a CBS-TV interview


True godliness does not turn men out of the world,
but enables them to live better in it
and excites their endeavors to mend it.
--- William Penn

Slander is worse than cannibalism.
--- John Chrysostom

We are experiencing a reality based on a thin veneer of lies and illusions. A world where greed is our God and wisdom is sin, where division is key and unity is fantasy, where the ego-driven cleverness of the mind is praised, rather than the intelligence of the heart.
--- Bill Hicks

... from here, there and everywhere


Proverbs 2:1-5
     by D.H. Stern

1     My son, if you will receive my words
and store my commands inside you,
2     paying attention to wisdom
inclining your mind toward understanding—
3     yes, if you will call for insight
and raise your voice for discernment,
4     if you seek it as you would silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure— br /> 5     then you will understand the fear of ADONAI
and find knowledge of God.


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


                The afterwards of the life of power

     Whither I go, thou canst not follow Me now; but thou shalt follow Me afterwards. --- John 13:36.

     “And when He had spoken this, He saith unto him, Follow Me.” Three years before, Jesus had said—“Follow Me,” and Peter had followed easily, the fascination of Jesus was upon him, he did not need the Holy Spirit to help him to do it. Then he came to the place where he denied Jesus, and his heart broke. Then he received the Holy Spirit, and now Jesus says again—“Follow Me.” There is no figure in front now saving the Lord Jesus Christ. The first “Follow Me” had nothing mystical in it, it was an external following; now it is a following in internal martyrdom (cf. John 21:18).

     Between these times Peter had denied Jesus with oaths and curses, he had come to the end of himself and all his self-sufficiency; there was not one strand of himself he would ever rely upon again, and in his destitution he was in a fit condition to receive an impartation from the risen Lord. “He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” No matter what changes God has wrought in you, never rely upon them, build only on a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, and on the Spirit He gives.

     All our vows and resolutions end in denial because we have no power to carry them out. When we have come to the end of ourselves, not in imagination but really, we are able to receive the Holy Spirit. “Receive ye the Holy Ghost”—the idea is that of invasion. There is only one lodestar in the life now, the Lord Jesus Christ.


My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition

Patterns
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

                Patterns

  The old men ask
for more time, while the young
waste it. And the philosopher
smiles, knowing there is none
there. But the hero stands
sword drawn at the looking-glass
of his mind, aiming at that
anonymous face over his shoulder.

The Poems of R.S. Thomas

Teacher's Commentary
     Sermon On The Mount

     Matthew 5–7 contains Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount.” In the context of Matthew’s argument that Christ is the expected Messiah-King, this sermon takes on special importance. In giving His moral teaching, Jesus announced as mankind’s destined Ruler the lifestyle to be adopted by all who submit to Him.

     In this particular study of Matthew 5 we focus on the Beatitudes—a series of “blessed are” or “happy are” statements. The issues explored by Jesus deal with the basic values which human beings adopt and live by. Jesus’ point is that the values of this world do not lead to blessing. Instead blessing comes through living by values which the world despises, but which God holds dear.

     Blessed. Both Old and New Testaments speak of the “blessed.” In the Old Testament, and especially the Psalms, the “blessed are” statements describe qualities in a person which bring him or her God’s blessing. Here in Matthew the Greek word is makarios, which means “happy.” Is there a difference? Yes. The Old Testament describes blessings that will come to the godly person, and emphasizes material goods. Jesus focused on the present state of persons who adopt values and attitudes which permit them to know, now, the inner touch of God in their present lives.

     Matthew tells us that, after Jesus’ baptism, “Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near’ ” (4:17). Book after book has been written exploring Jesus’ “kingdom” emphasis, puzzling over the exact thrust of all His words.

     God as King over all. All agree that the Bible pictures God as King over all His creation. In this sense God is sovereign, marking out the course of cultures and the process of the ages. In a universal sense, everything and all times are to be viewed as God’s kingdom: a realm over which He exercises control.

     It is also true that the Old Testament brings another focus to God’s kingly rule. God in a special way rules over Israel: He is Israel’s true King (Deut. 33:5; 1 Sam. 12:12), and Israel is His kingdom (1 Chron. 17:14; 28:5). In a distinctive sense, God involved Himself in the control and direction of Israel’s destiny.

     When we read in the New Testament that Christ is “Head over everything for the church, which is His body” (Eph. 1:22–23), we have a parallel to the Old Testament emphasis. The rule of God extends over all—but finds special focus in His concern for His own.

     God’s future reign. A reading of the Old Testament makes it plain that there is more involved in talk of a kingdom than God’s overarching rule. God promised through the prophets that a day would come when He will set up an everlasting kingdom on earth, and personally rule from Zion (Isa. 24:23; Micah 4:6; Zech. 14:9–17). Daniel and Isaiah added their descriptions: the King will be God, and yet of David’s line. When the Messiah comes, the rule of God will find visible and overwhelming expression as God openly exercises His once-hidden power.

     It was this kingdom the Jews expected and yearned for. And it was this kingdom which is described in the prophecies which Matthew relates to Jesus.

     So we can hardly doubt what Jesus’ listeners pictured in their minds when Jesus announced the good news that the kingdom was at hand. His listeners were sure He meant the eschatological expression of the rule of God. They thought “kingdom of heaven” must mean God’s revelation of His power and goodness through Messiah’s righteous, endless rule.

     Near? It is here that many hesitate. Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven was “near.” Yet, 2,000 years have fled since that announcement, and the visible earthly kingdom Jesus’ hearers expected has not come. So some have stepped back, and denied the Old Testament vision. They have tried to make the “kingdom of heaven” simply another affirmation that God is in charge, after all.

     But why then did Jesus say that the kingdom was finally “near”? Why the urgency? Why, if God has always exercised that kind of rule? Clearly some other aspect of the kingdom than God’s universal rule must be drawing near.

     Particularly significant is the Greek word translated “near.” It can mean “at hand,” or “has arrived.” Was Jesus’ announcement of the kingdom an affirmation that in His own coming, God’s kingly action was already breaking in uniquely on time and space?

     Usually we think of “kingdom” as a place. The “kingdom of Liechtenstein” is geographically defined: a tiny bit of land. Certainly the Old Testament picture of God’s ultimate kingdom does involve a place: Palestine is the center from which the Messiah will rule, and the whole earth will be His kingdom’s limitless extent. However, in rabbinic literature, kingdom emphasis is not on a place but on action! “The kingdom of heaven” speaks of that divine action which breaks into our universe and marks out events as God’s accomplishment.

     No wonder Jesus taught His disciples to pray and say:

     Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.      --- Matthew 6:10

     Jesus’ disciples, then and now, are to look to God to act on earth just as He acts in heaven itself, to bring His will to pass.

     On the other hand, Jesus also was announcing that the kingdom had arrived! In the personal presence of Jesus on earth, God had acted to take a hand in human affairs. In Jesus, God was already bringing to humankind His final gift of deliverance, and dominion.


The Teacher's Commentary

From The Blue Parakeet
     Dr. Scot McKnight

     How do we apply Jesus' moral expectations? In particular, how do we apply the kinds of moral demands of Jesus we find in the Sermon on the Mount? We should be marked by a righteousness that (greatly surpasses the righteousness of the Pharisees and teachers of the law (Matthew 5:20); we should avoid anger because Jesus teaches that anger is murderous (5:21-22); married folk should avoid lusting after others sexually because Jesus teaches that lust is adulterous (5:27-30); and we should, apart from the one singular exception in sexual infidelity, neither divorce nor remarry (5:31-32). To put all of this in one attractive container, we should be "perfect ... as your heavenly Father is perfect" (5:48). Even the disciples wondered if words like these were too much to handle; when Jesus said something similar sometime later, his best followers blurted out: "It is better nor to marry!" (19:10).

     How do we apply words like those in the Sermon on the Mount today? Let's look at the different approaches in the history of the church to just one saying in this sermon: "Be perfect" (Matthew 5:48). What have we done with this statement of Jesus?

     Sorne say Jesus is exaggerating, raising the standard higher than we can achieve, but if we strive for it we'll do better than we are now.

     Others say that "being perfect" is what our moral life will be like in the eternal kingdom, and Jesus is teaching the final and eternal ethic God designs for us.

     Still others suggest that "being perfect" forces us to look inside to our heart of hearts to see our sinfulness.

     Yet others think Jesus means exactly what he says: he expects us to be perfect.

     One more; some think "perfect" actually means "whole" or "mature," so that being whole and mature is what Jesus really wants.

     We will probably not agree on how to read the word "perfect" in Matthew 5:48, but I hope this little section gets us to think harder about how we are reading the Bible. We are not trying to resolve all these issues. Instead, we are intent on demonstrating that we apply some of what Jesus says and we choose not to apply other things Jesus has said. In other words, there is some adopting and adapting involved even with the sayings of Jesus. If there are two choices --totally literal or discerning a pattern -- most of us will choose the latter every time.

     By now I hope you are a bit unnerved about what I have said. This Chapter is intended to provoke in order to get you to think together about how you are actually reading the Bible. Some of you may want to turn back to a much more literal, take-it-all-or-nothing approach, but I'm guessing most of you are now becoming aware that you do in fact adopt and adapt. What we must now discover is this: What principles do we use to adopt and adapt the Bible?

The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible

Theophilus
     What about the name?

     The name Theophilus occurs frequently from the third century B.C. on for both Jews and Greeks. It is clear that the etymology of the name was not forgotten when the name was given.

     “a friend of God”; Cadbury, “Preface of Luke,” 507

     The many attempts at identifying Theophilus, either under that name, or assuming it is a pseudonym, are pure speculation. A symbolic significance for the name cannot be entirely ruled out. Much about
Luke-Acts would well suit Cornelius-like readers.

Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 35a, Luke 1:1-9:20

How the priests were divided
     twenty-four courses

     The priests were divided into twenty-four courses, each of which provided in turn priestly service in the temple for one week, twice in the year. The earlier pre-exilic divisions (1 Chr 24:7–18) were apparently reconstituted out of the four divisions that returned from exile (Ezra 2:36–39; 10:18–22). The word Luke uses for these courses is found in the LXX (The Septuagint, Greek translation of the OT) of 1 Chr 23:6 and is also found in a first-century-b.c.

A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition

     The division of Abijah is the eighth of the courses (special dignities were attached to the first of the courses [Zahn, 63 n 52], but there is no reason to think beyond that of a ranking of the courses). Goulder and Sanderson [1957] 17) note that the following course in
1 Chr 24:10 is that of Jeshua (=Jesus).

Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 35a, Luke 1:1-9:20

Eugene Peterson
     The Greeting

Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you! --- Luke 1:28.

My mail carrier, driving his stubby white
Truck, trimmed in blue and red, wingless
But wheeled,
     commissioned by the civil service
Daily delivers the Gospel every Advent.

This Gabriel, uniformed in gabardine,
Unsmiling descendant
     of his dazzling original,
Under the burden of greetings is stoical
But prompt: annunciations
     at ten each Morning.

One or two or three a day at first;
By the second week momentum’s up,
My mail box is stuffed, each card stamped

With the glory at a cost
     of only twenty-five cents,
(Bringing the news that God is here with us)
First class, personally hand addressed.

The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction

Take Heart
     January 5



     Some time later the brook dried up. --- 1 Kings 17:7.

     The failure of the waters was meant, first, to deepen the prophet [Elijah’s] sense of kinship. (The Weaving of Glory (Morrison Classic Sermon Series, The) ) He was drawn into a new communion with Israel in the very hour that Cherith ceased to flow. There had been no rain, and the whole land was parched—and all the time, in the little vale of Cherith, the coolness and murmuring of the stream. It was very comfortable, and it was very happy, but it is not thus that Jehovah makes his prophets. What people have got to suffer they must suffer. What people have to endure they must endure. And so, that he might be a brother among brothers and feel his kinship with his suffering nation, some time later the brook dried up.

     That is still the secret of the failing brook—not because God is angry; it is because our Father wants us to be a family. One touch of nature makes us all akin, even if it is only a touch of common thirst, and there is many a brook that the Almighty dries so that we may cease from our pride and realize our kinship. There is no sympathy so deep and strong as the sympathy that springs out of a common suffering. Exclude a person from what others have to bear and you exclude him or her from the family heritage.

     There are things, then, that it is hard to lose, but in God’s sight it may be good to lose them. We grow more loving, more sympathetic, and more kind; life is fuller and richer and warmer than it once was. We were very superior and exclusive once, and the common people were odiously common—but some time later the brook dried up.
--- George H. Morrison


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

On This Day   January 5
     Pillar Piety

     As the church grew institutionally during its first centuries, those flooding through its doors were not always of high caliber. In reaction, a number of Christians withdrew to a life of poverty, chastity, and separation. Monastic forms developed, and sometimes rivalry arose among monks concerning self-denial. Simeon seems to have won the contest.

     He was born about 390 to a shepherd’s family in Cilicia. He kept flocks as a boy, but when thirteen he was moved by listening to the Beatitudes. He left home to join a cloister but was soon dismissed because of his acts of self-torture. Simeon moved to the Syrian desert and lived with an iron chain on his feet before having himself buried up to the neck for several months.

     When crowds flocked to view his acts of perceived holiness, Simeon determined to escape the distractions by living atop a pillar. His first column was six feet high, but soon he built higher ones until his permanent abode towered sixty feet above ground.

     The tiny perch wouldn’t allow for comfort, but a railing and a rope kept Simeon from falling while asleep. Disciples took his food and removed his waste by ladder. The rope eventually became embedded in his flesh, rotted, and teemed with worms. When worms fell from his sores, Simeon would pick them up and replace them, saying, “Eat what God has given you.”

     Simeon lived atop his pole for thirty years, exposed to blistering heat, driving rain, and chilling frost. But if his motive was crowd avoidance, he failed. Huge numbers came to gawk at him, and Simeon preached to them daily, stressing the importance of prayer, selflessness, and justice. He settled disputes between neighbors and persuaded lenders to reduce their interest.

     He was likened to a candle on a candlestick.

     He died at age 69, but his example created a fashion of pillar hermits lasting over a thousand years. His name has been remembered throughout church history on January 5—in western tradition the Feast Day of Saint Simeon Stylites.

     You would have to leave this world to get away from everyone who is immoral or greedy or who cheats or worships idols.
--- 1 Corinthians 5:10.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - January 5

     “And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.” --- Genesis 1:4.

     Light might well be good since it sprang from that fiat of goodness, “Let there be light.” We who enjoy it should be more grateful for it than we are, and see more of God in it and by it. Light physical is said by Solomon to be sweet, but Gospel light is infinitely more precious, for it reveals eternal things, and ministers to our immortal natures. When the Holy Spirit gives us spiritual light, and opens our eyes to behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, we behold sin in its true colours, and ourselves in our real position; we see the Most Holy God as he reveals himself, the plan of mercy as he propounds it, and the world to come as the Word describes it. Spiritual light has many beams and prismatic colours, but whether they be knowledge, joy, holiness, or life, all are divinely good. If the light received be thus good, what must the essential light be, and how glorious must be the place where he reveals himself. O Lord, since light is so good, give us more of it, and more of thyself, the true light.

     No sooner is there a good thing in the world, than a division is necessary. Light and darkness have no communion; God has divided them, let us not confound them. Sons of light must not have fellowship with deeds, doctrines, or deceits of darkness. The children of the day must be sober, honest, and bold in their Lord’s work, leaving the works of darkness to those who shall dwell in it for ever. Our Churches should by discipline divide the light from the darkness, and we should by our distinct separation from the world do the same. In judgment, in action, in hearing, in teaching, in association, we must discern between the precious and the vile, and maintain the great distinction which the Lord made upon the world’s first day. O Lord Jesus, be thou our light throughout the whole of this day, for thy light is the light of men.

          Evening - January 5

     “And God saw the light.” --- Genesis 1:4.

     This Morning we noticed the goodness of the light, and the Lord’s dividing it from the darkness, we now note the special eye which the Lord had for the light. “God saw the light”—he looked at it with complacency, gazed upon it with pleasure, saw that it “was good.” If the Lord has given you light, dear reader, he looks on that light with peculiar interest; for not only is it dear to him as his own handiwork, but because it is like himself, for “He is light.” Pleasant it is to the believer to know that God’s eye is thus tenderly observant of that work of grace which he has begun. He never loses sight of the treasure which he has placed in our earthen vessels. Sometimes we cannot see the light, but God always sees the light, and that is much better than our seeing it. Better for the judge to see my innocence than for me to think I see it. It is very comfortable for me to know that I am one of God’s people—but whether I know it or not, if the Lord knows it, I am still safe. This is the foundation, “The Lord knoweth them that are his.” You may be sighing and groaning because of inbred sin, and mourning over your darkness, yet the Lord sees “light” in your heart, for he has put it there, and all the cloudiness and gloom of your soul cannot conceal your light from his gracious eye. You may have sunk low in despondency, and even despair; but if your soul has any longing towards Christ, and if you are seeking to rest in his finished work, God sees the “light.” He not only sees it, but he also preserves it in you. “I, the Lord, do keep it.” This is a precious thought to those who, after anxious watching and guarding of themselves, feel their own powerlessness to do so. The light thus preserved by his grace, he will one day develop into the splendour of noonday, and the fulness of glory. The light within is the dawn of the eternal day.


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

Amazing Grace
     January 5

          HOW FIRM A FOUNDATION

     1787 “K”—in Rippon’s Selection of Hymns,

     So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6).

     A believer’s stability for this life, as well as his confidence for eternity, rests solely on the written promises of God’s Word. The direction of the living God for our lives is very definite. It is found in a firm foundation—the written revelation: “Thus saith the Lord.”

     In the first stanza the sure foundation of the Christian faith is established as being the Word of God. This challenging question is posed: What more can God do than provide His very Word as a completed revelation of Himself to man? The succeeding verses personalize precious promises from His Word:

   Verse Two—Isaiah 41:10—“Fear thou not, for I am with thee, be not dismayed, for I am thy God …”
   Verse Three—
Isaiah 43:2—“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee …”
   Verse Four—
2 Corinthians 12:9—“My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness …”
   Verse Five—
Hebrews 13:5—“I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee …”

     The authorship of the text has always been a mystery to hymnologists. Its first appearance was in 1787 in Selection of Hymns, published by Dr. John Rippon, pastor of the Carter’s Lane Baptist Church in London. He was one of the most popular and influential dissenting ministers of his time.

   How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word! What more can He say than to you He hath said—To you, who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
   “Fear not, I am with thee—O be not dismayed, for I am thy God, I will still give thee aid; I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, upheld by my gracious, omnipotent hand.
   “When thru the deep waters I call thee to go, the rivers of woe shall not thee overflow; for I will be with thee thy troubles to bless, and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
   “When thru fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply; the flame shall not hurt thee—I only design thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
   “The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose, I will not, I will not desert to his foes; that soul, tho all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never—no, never—no, never forsake.”


     For Today: Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; Psalm 36:1; Psalm 118:6, 7; Hebrews 13:5, 6.

     Plant your feet firmly on the “thus saith the Lords” and live life confidently in that strength. Carry this musical message with you ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

Book Of Common Prayer
     Friday, January 5, 2018 | Christmas


January 5
Year 2

On the same date: Eve of Epiphany

Psalms (Morning)     Psalm 2, 110:1–5 (6–7)
Old Testament     Jonah 2:2–9
New Testament     Ephesians 6:10–20
Gospel     John 11:17–27, 38–44

Index of Readings

Psalms (Morning)
Psalm 2, 110:1–5 (6–7)

2 Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”

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.

1 The LORD says to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”

2 The LORD sends forth from Zion
your mighty scepter.
Rule in the midst of your enemies!
3 Your people will offer themselves freely
on the day of your power,
in holy garments;
from the womb of the morning,
the dew of your youth will be yours.
4 The LORD has sworn
and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever
after the order of Melchizedek.”

5 The Lord is at your right hand;
he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.

[     6 He will execute judgment among the nations,
filling them with corpses;
he will shatter chiefs
over the wide earth.
7 He will drink from the brook by the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.     ]

Old Testament
Jonah 2:2–9
2 saying,

“I called out to the LORD, out of my distress,
and he answered me;
out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
and you heard my voice.
3 For you cast me into the deep,
into the heart of the seas,
and the flood surrounded me;
all your waves and your billows
passed over me.
4 Then I said, ‘I am driven away
from your sight;
yet I shall again look
upon your holy temple.’
5 The waters closed in over me to take my life;
the deep surrounded me;
weeds were wrapped about my head
6 at the roots of the mountains.
I went down to the land
whose bars closed upon me forever;
yet you brought up my life from the pit,
O LORD my God.
7 When my life was fainting away,
I remembered the LORD,
and my prayer came to you,
into your holy temple.
8 Those who pay regard to vain idols
forsake their hope of steadfast love.
9 But I with the voice of thanksgiving
will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.
Salvation belongs to the LORD!”

New Testament
Ephesians 6:10–20

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Gospel
John 11:17–27, 38–44

17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.4 Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”


The Book of Common Prayer: And Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church

Book Of Common Prayer
     Epiphany | On The Same Date | Vigil


Epiphany

Eve Of Epiphany
Years 1 & 2

On the same date: January 5

Psalms (Evening)     Psalm 29, 98
Old Testament     Isaiah 66:18–23
New Testament     Romans 15:7–13

Index of Readings

Psalms (Evening)
Psalm 29, 98

Psalm 29
A Psalm of David.

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

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

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

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

9 The voice of the LORD causes the oaks to whirl,
and strips the forest bare;
and in his temple all say, “Glory!”

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

Psalm 98
A Psalm.

1 O sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
have gotten him victory.
2 The LORD has made known his victory;
he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the victory of our God.

4 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
5 Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre,
with the lyre and the sound of melody.
6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD.

7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who live in it.
8 Let the floods clap their hands;
let the hills sing together for joy
9 at the presence of the LORD, for he is coming
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.

Old Testament
Isaiah 66:18–23

18 For I know their works and their thoughts, and I am coming to gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and shall see my glory, 19 and I will set a sign among them. From them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Put, and Lud—which draw the bow—to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the nations. 20 They shall bring all your kindred from all the nations as an offering to the LORD, on horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and on mules, and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the LORD, just as the Israelites bring a grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD. 21 And I will also take some of them as priests and as Levites, says the LORD.

22 For as the new heavens and the new earth,
which I will make,
shall remain before me, says the LORD;
so shall your descendants and your name remain.
23 From new moon to new moon,
and from sabbath to sabbath,
all flesh shall come to worship before me,
says the LORD.

New Testament
Romans 15:7–13

7 Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

“Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,
and sing praises to your name”;
10 and again he says,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”;
11 and again,
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples praise him”;
12 and again Isaiah says,
“The root of Jesse shall come,
the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
in him the Gentiles shall hope.”

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.


The Book of Common Prayer: And Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church



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