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Genesis 9-10     Matthew 9     Ezra 9     Acts 9



Genesis 9

Genesis 9 1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 2 The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.

6  “Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.


7 And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.”

8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

Noah’s Descendants

18 The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed.

20 Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. 21 He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. 22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. 23 Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. 24 When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,

“Cursed be Canaan;
a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”


26 He also said,

“Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem;
and let Canaan be his servant.
27  May God enlarge Japheth,
and let him dwell in the tents of Shem,
and let Canaan be his servant.”


28 After the flood Noah lived 350 years. 29 All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died.


Genesis 10

Nations Descended from Noah

Genesis 10 1 These are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Sons were born to them after the flood.

Professor William Albright said that Genesis 10 “stands absolutely alone in ancient literature, without a remote parallel, even among the Greeks, where we find the closest approach to a distribution of peoples in genealogical framework […] the Table of Nations remains an astonishingly accurate document.”

2 The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. 3 The sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah. 4 The sons of Javan: Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. 5 From these the coastland peoples spread in their lands, each with his own language, by their clans, in their nations.

6 The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. 7 The sons of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca. The sons of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan. 8 Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.” 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. 11 From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and 12 Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city. 13 Egypt fathered Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, 14 Pathrusim, Casluhim (from whom the Philistines came), and Caphtorim.

15 Canaan fathered Sidon his firstborn and Heth, 16 and the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, 17 the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, 18 the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites. Afterward the clans of the Canaanites dispersed. 19 And the territory of the Canaanites extended from Sidon in the direction of Gerar as far as Gaza, and in the direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha. 20 These are the sons of Ham, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations.

21 To Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the elder brother of Japheth, children were born. 22 The sons of Shem: Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram. 23 The sons of Aram: Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash. 24 Arpachshad fathered Shelah; and Shelah fathered Eber. 25 To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided, and his brother’s name was Joktan. 26 Joktan fathered Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, 27 Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, 28 Obal, Abimael, Sheba, 29 Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab; all these were the sons of Joktan. 30 The territory in which they lived extended from Mesha in the direction of Sephar to the hill country of the east. 31 These are the sons of Shem, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations.

32 These are the clans of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, in their nations, and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.


Matthew 1

Jesus Heals a Paralytic

Matthew 9 1 And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. 2 And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” 3 And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 7 And he rose and went home. 8 When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

Jesus Calls Matthew

9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

A Question About Fasting

14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. 17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”

A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed

18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. 20 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, 21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” 22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. 23 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, 24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26 And the report of this went through all that district.

Jesus Heals Two Blind Men

27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” 28 When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” 29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” 30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.” 31 But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.

Jesus Heals a Man Unable to Speak

32 As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. 33 And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” 34 But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.”

The Harvest Is Plentiful, the Laborers Few

35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”



Ezra 9

Ezra Prays About Intermarriage (480–440 BCE)

Ezra 9 1 After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. 2 For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost.” 3 As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled. 4 Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, gathered around me while I sat appalled until the evening sacrifice. 5 And at the evening sacrifice I rose from my fasting, with my garment and my cloak torn, and fell upon my knees and spread out my hands to the LORD my God, 6 saying:

“O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. 7 From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt. And for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been given into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as it is today. 8 But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant and to give us a secure hold within his holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our slavery. 9 For we are slaves. Yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant us some reviving to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us protection in Judea and Jerusalem.

10 “And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken your commandments, 11 which you commanded by your servants the prophets, saying, ‘The land that you are entering, to take possession of it, is a land impure with the impurity of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations that have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness. 12 Therefore do not give your daughters to their sons, neither take their daughters for your sons, and never seek their peace or prosperity, that you may be strong and eat the good of the land and leave it for an inheritance to your children forever.’ 13 And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, seeing that you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserved and have given us such a remnant as this, 14 shall we break your commandments again and intermarry with the peoples who practice these abominations? Would you not be angry with us until you consumed us, so that there should be no remnant, nor any to escape? 15 O LORD, the God of Israel, you are just, for we are left a remnant that has escaped, as it is today. Behold, we are before you in our guilt, for none can stand before you because of this.”


The Conversion of Saul

Acts 9:1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.

Saul Proclaims Jesus in Synagogues

For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.

Saul Escapes from Damascus

23 When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.

Saul in Jerusalem

26 And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him. 30 And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.

The Healing of Aeneas

32 Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years, who was paralyzed. 34 And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose. 35 And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.

Dorcas Restored to Life

36 Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. 37 In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” 39 So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. 40 But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then, calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43 And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner.

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Two Things Nearly Everyone Believes About the Universe

By J. Warner Wallace 7/15/2017

     My new book, God's Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe, is set to release on August 1st. In this book, I examine the universe as a “crime scene” and investigate eight different pieces of evidence through the filter of a simple investigative question: “Can the evidence ‘in the room’ be explained by staying ‘in the room’? This question is key to determining whether a death scene is a crime scene, and I typically play a game I call “inside or outside the room” whenever I am trying to determine if a death is, in fact, a murder. If, for example, there is a victim in the room with a gunshot injury lying next to a handgun, but the doors are locked from the inside, all the DNA and fingerprints in the room come back to the victim, the gun is registered to the victim and there are no signs of an outside intruder, this is simply the scene of a suicide or accidental death. If, however, there exist fingerprints or DNA of an unknown suspect, the gun does not belong to the victim, and there are even bloody footprints leading outside the room, I’ve got to reconsider the cause of this death. When the evidence in the room cannot be explained by staying inside the room and is better explained by a cause outside the room, there’s a good chance I’ve got a murder. When this is the case, my investigation must shift direction. I must now begin to search for an external intruder. I think you’ll find this investigative approach applicable as you examine the case for God’s existence. If all the evidence “inside the room” of the universe can be explained by staying “inside the room”, there’s no need to invoke an ‘external’ cause. If, on the other hand, the best explanation for the evidence “inside the room” is a cause “outside the room”, we’ll need to shift our attention as we search for an “external” intruder.

     There are eight distinct pieces of evidence (in four separate categories) that must be explained when examining the attributes of our universe. These divergent categories of evidence all point to the same reasonable inference. The first category involves cosmological evidence. One important attribute of the universe is simply its origin. This first piece of evidence is critical to understanding the very nature of the cosmos and has been examined deeply by atheists and theists alike. As it turns out, nearly everyone agrees on two evidential inferences related to the origin of our universe:

     The Universe Came In To Existence From Nothing | The evidence for the beginning of our universe is cumulative, diverse and substantial. The “stuff” of the universe (all space, time, and matter) came into existence from nothing, and all the evidence scientists have examined so far points to this reasonable conclusion. “Big Bang” cosmology is described as the “Standard Cosmological Model” for a reason: the vast majority of physicists and scientist accept this model as an accurate description of the beginning of the universe:

     “Almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the Big Bang.” – Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose

     “With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is now no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.” – Alexander Vilenkin

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

Should We Legislate Morality?

By Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. 7/8/2015

     One objection to Christian involvement in law and politics is that it is somehow wrong to “legislate morality.” Given the heat generated by the same-sex controversy, this epithet is often hurled at Christians who dissent on the Supreme Court ruling and who do not support laws of this kind. These objections, however, have no force.

     Consider the nature of civil law. Through the threat of force, these laws constrain or require actions. They are not suggestions, but imperatives. Such laws are not akin to scientific laws which describe the patterns found in nature. Civil laws prescribe behaviors. Some moral standard or moral vision lies behind all civil laws. They do not appear out of nothing, and they are not morally neutral. As R. J. Rushdoony wrote in Institutes of Biblical Law, “It must be recognized that in any culture the source of law is the god of that society.” A god rewards and punishes, forbids and requires, and defines morality. Since civil law is the last word in adjudicating human affairs, the source of that law is deemed the final authority, even if it is not.

     American civil law ought to be rooted in and consistent with the Constitution, which itself is based on a philosophy of natural law or natural rights. That is, there is a law above the law to which the law should conform as much as possible in a fallen world. This powerful idea is found in the Declaration of Independence.

     We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

     Governments are instituted to secure rights given by the Creator. Governments do not create rights by their dicta. The American vision for law is based on the Judeo-Christian worldview—however imperfectly applied.

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     Per Amazon | Douglas R. Groothuis (PhD, Philosophy, University of Oregon) is professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary in Denver, Colorado. He has also been a visiting professor or adjunct faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary (Colorado Springs extension), Metropolitan State College of Denver, Westminster Theological Seminary (California campus), University of Oregon, New College Berkeley and Seattle Pacific University. His articles have been published in professional journals such asReligious Studies, Sophia, Theory and Research in Education, Philosophia Christi, Themelios, Think: A Journal of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, Christian Scholar's Review, Inquiry and Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. He has written several books, including Truth Decay, In Defense of Natural Theology (coeditor), Unmasking the New Age, Jesus in an Age of Controversy, Deceived by the Light, The Soul in Cyberspace, and, in the Wadsworth Philosophers Series, On Pascal and On Jesus

Douglas Groothuis Books:

Popular Atheist Blogger, Leah Libresco, Converts to Christianity

By James Bishop 1/6/2017

     By James Bishop| Leah Libresco is a writer and school systems analyst based in Washington D.C. She is also a writer for the Huffington Post and graduated from Yale University in 2011 with a B.A. in political science (1).

     Libresco, a popular former atheist blogger at the website Patheos, recounts a remarkable worldview transition from atheism to Christianity, and specifically Catholicism (2).

     As the motto of Pathos goes the site intends to host “the conversation on faith,” however a large chunk of it is dominated by atheists and their arguments against religion. It was with this crowd that Libresco had a popular following and readership.

     Libresco, having been brought up in an atheist household, was exposed to a particular non-religious setting from a young age, “I grew up on Long Island, where most of the people I knew were non-religious Jews. So, religion was so far from most of our minds…” (3). And as she explains, “There wasn’t really a time when I wasn’t an atheist. My parents are both atheists, so that’s how I was raised.”

     What added so flavour to Libresco’s previous atheistic orientation was that she had a Catholic boyfriend; she explains that she “was dating a nice Catholic boy, and we’d have arguments” (4). These arguments were specifically worldview arguments involving a Christianity versus atheism tussle.

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     James is a graduate from Vega School of Brand Leadership specialising in Multimedia Design and Brand Communications. He is currently enrolled at Cornerstone Institute studying Theology and majoring in Psychology. His theological interests encompass comparative religion and the links between science and religion.

Ten Basic Facts about the NT Canon that Every Christian Should Memorize: #1: “The New Testament Books are the Earliest Christian Writings We Possess”

By Michael J. Kruger 1/21/2013

     This new blog series is designed to help the lay believer learn some basic facts about the New Testament canon—the kind of facts that might be helpful in a conversation with a skeptic or inquisitive friend. The first of these facts is one that is so basic that it is often overlooked. It is simply that the New Testament books are the earliest Christian writings we possess.

     One of the most formidable challenges in any discussion about the New Testament canon is explaining what makes these 27 books unique. Why these and not others? There are many answers to that question, but in this blog post we are focusing on just one: the date of these books. These books stand out as distinctive because they are earliest Christian writings we possess and thus bring us the closest to the historical Jesus and to the earliest church. If we want to find out what authentic Christianity was really like, then we should rely on the writings that are the nearest to that time period.

     This is particularly evident when it comes to the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These are the only gospel accounts that derive from the first century. Sure, there are a few scholars have attempted to put the Gospel of Thomas in the first century, but this has not met with much success. After all the scholarly dust has settled, even critics agree that these four are the earliest accounts of Jesus that we possess.

     Now, a few qualifications are in order. First, it should be noted that there are disagreements about the dating of some New Testament books. Some critical scholars have argued that some New Testament books are forgeries written in the second century. Meanwhile, other scholars have defended the authenticity (and first-century date) of these books. This is a debate that we cannot delve into here. However, even if these debated books are left aside in our discussions, we can still affirm that the vast majority of the New Testament writings (including the four gospels) still remain the earliest Christian writings we possess.

     Second, some may point out that 1 Clement is a Christian writing that dates to the first century, and it is not included in the New Testament canon. True, but the consensus date for 1 Clement is c.96 A.D. This date is later than all our New Testament books. The only possible exception is Revelation which is dated, at the latest, around 95-96 A.D. But, some date Revelation earlier. Even so, this does not affect the macro point we are making here.

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     Michael J. Kruger, President and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC.  For more on my background and research interests, see here. Michael J. Kruger Books

Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate
A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized
The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture's Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity
The Early Text of the New Testament

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 6

O LORD, Deliver My Life
6 To The Choirmaster: With Stringed Iinstruments; Accoring To The Sheminith. A Psalm Of David.

1 O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath.
2 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing;
heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled.
3 My soul also is greatly troubled.
But you, O LORD—how long?

4 Turn, O LORD, deliver my life;
save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
5 For in death there is no remembrance of you;
in Sheol who will give you praise?

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Who’s really to blame for our email addiction?

By Naomi Schaefer Riley 1/7/2017

     “Employees physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work. They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash — like a dog,” Benoit Hamon told the BBC. And the French, by the way, are tired of living like animals.

     Hamon, a socialist member of the French parliament, was among those who passed a law last week that would give employees “the right to disconnect.” From now on, companies with more than 50 employees will have to allow workers to go home in the evenings or on weekends without having to check in electronically. As Hamon notes, “The texts, the messages, the e-mails — they colonize the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down.”

     Finding some time away from the constant buzz of work, a balance between career and personal life — who could object? According to a 2015 survey commissioned by Adobe Systems, workers estimated that they spend 3.2 hours devoted to work e-mails. Before going to work in the morning and before going to bed at night, even when they are on vacation, employees cannot get off of their devices. And it’s taking its toll on their emotional health. A study by psychologists at the University of British Columbia found that workers who checked e-mail throughout the day were significantly more stressed than those who only checked three times per day.

     Some economists even suggest that the slowdown in the productivity of US workers has actually coincided with the rise of e-mails. People seem more busy, but what are they actually getting accomplished? A 2008 study by scholars at Ghent University found that task-switching like the kind we do when we stop working on a project in order to check e-mail reduces our working memory, which makes us less efficient in the tasks we are supposed to be doing. Scholars at the University of California found that it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on task after being distracted. In some cases they found that workers who expected to receive a lot of e-mails during the day worked faster. But working faster also contributed to making more mistakes.

     The intention of French lawmakers is not the issue. They want to make life better for workers. But like the French 35-hour workweek, says Bernard Vivier, who runs the Higher Institute of Work, this law is going to create as many problems as it will solve.“Of course your boss shouldn’t send you e-mails on a Sunday when you’re at lunch, enjoying a leg of lamb and a good Bordeaux,” he joked on NPR. “It’s so French to throw a law at every kind of problem.”

Click here to go to source

     New York Post columnist. Author.

When Your Goodness Goes Splat

By Tim Challies 1/7/2016

     At some point, each one of us becomes proud of our goodness. We become proud of a good thing we have done. We boast, even if only in our own minds, about the purity of an action, the extent of a sacrifice, the value of a gift. We elevate this good act as if it could be held before God as evidence that we aren’t really all that bad, or that we are working our way back toward goodness. We elevate it as if it is worthy of his attention, his favor.

     These considerations of our goodness never come about in isolation. When we think about our own goodness, we always compare ourselves to others. It’s not that we are good by any objective standard; we are good compared to the parent, the neighbor, the stranger, the criminal. We choose our comparisons carefully.

     Michael Kruger uses a helpful illustration to describe the futility of this kind of boasting, and he illustrates using the Grand Canyon. Imagine that you and I travel together to Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. We park and walk for a little while, and before we know it we are standing on the rim, on the edge, of one of the world’s natural wonders.

     As we stand there, we get the idea to have a fun and friendly little competition between ourselves. We decide to see who can jump the farthest, who can make it to the far rim, or at least who can make it closest. You guess that you can make it all the way across. You back up a little bit, get a running start, and sprint off the edge. You are even better than you thought and make it nearly fourteen feet! Then, of course, you plummet to the bottom of the canyon and go splat. I take my running start and do even better with a tremendous fifteen-foot jump. Then I, too, hurtle to the bottom, my moment of triumph ending with a crunch.

     If God’s standard of holiness is as wide as the Grand Canyon—eighteen miles wide at its widest point—it hardly matters whether I end up at ten, twelve, or fifteen feet. No matter how far I jump, I will still fall far, far short of the mark. It matters even less whether I can jump farther than you, because your jump and my jump both lead to an ugly end. These attempts to meet or match God’s standard of holiness leads only to death. All of our goodness goes splat.

Click here to go to source

     I began my web site in 2002 and have been writing there daily since 2003. It is my place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things I’ve discovered in my online travels.

Tim Challies Books:

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     6. In those actions, which in themselves are neither good nor bad, and concern the corporeal rather than the spiritual life, the liberty which man possesses, although we have above touched upon it (supra, Chap. 2 sect. 13-17), has not yet been explained. Some have conceded a free choice to man in such actions; more, I suppose, because they were unwilling to debate a matter of no great moment, than because they wished positively to assert what they were prepared to concede. While I admit that those who hold that man has no ability in himself to do righteousness, hold what is most necessary to be known for salvation, I think it ought not to be overlooked that we owe it to the special grace of God, whenever, on the one hand, we choose what is for our advantage, and whenever our will inclines in that direction; and on the other, whenever with heart and soul we shun what would otherwise do us harm. And the interference of Divine Providence goes to the extent not only of making events turn out as was foreseen to be expedient, but of giving the wills of men the same direction. If we look at the administration of human affairs with the eye of sense, we will have no doubt that, so far, they are placed at man's disposal; but if we lend an ear to the many passages of Scripture which proclaim that even in these matters the minds of men are ruled by God, they will compel us to place human choice in subordination to his special influence. Who gave the Israelites such favour in the eyes of the Egyptians, that they lent them all their most valuable commodities? (Exod. 11:3). They never would have been so inclined of their own accord. Their inclinations, therefore, were more overruled by God than regulated by themselves. And surely, had not Jacob been persuaded that God inspires men with divers affections as seemeth to him good, he would not have said of his son Joseph (whom he thought to be some heathen Egyptian), "God Almighty give you mercy before the man," (Gen. 43:14). In like manner, the whole Church confesses that when the Lord was pleased to pity his people, he made them also to be pitied of all them that carried them captives (Ps. 106:46). In like manner, when his anger was kindled against Saul, so that he prepared himself for battle, the cause is stated to have been, that a spirit from God fell upon him (1 Sam. 11:6). who dissuaded Absalom from adopting the counsel of Ahithophel, which was wont to be regarded as an oracle? (2 Sam. 17:14). Who disposed Rehoboam to adopt the counsel of the young men? (1 Kings 12:10). Who caused the approach of the Israelites to strike terror into nations formerly distinguished for valour? Even the harlot Rahab recognised the hand of the Lord. Who, on the other hand, filled the hearts of the Israelites with fear and dread (Lev. 26:36), but He who threatened in the Law that he would give them a nn "trembling heart"? (Deut. 28:65).

7. It may be objected, that these are special examples which cannot be regarded as a general rule. They are sufficient, at all events, to prove the point for which I contend--viz. that whenever God is pleased to make way for his providence, he even in external matters so turns and bends the wills of men, that whatever the freedom of their choice may be, it is still subject to the disposal of God. That your mind depends more on the agency of God than the freedom of your own choice, daily experience teaches. Your judgment often fails, and in matters of no great difficulty, your courage flags; at other times, in matters of the greatest obscurity, the mode of explicating them at once suggests itself, while in matters of moment and danger, your mind rises superior to every difficulty. [176] In this way, I interpret the words of Solomon, "The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them," (Prov. 20:12). For they seem to me to refer not to their creation, but to peculiar grace in the use of them, when he says, "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord as the rivers of water; he turneth it whithersoever he will," (Prov. 21:1), he comprehends the whole race under one particular class. If any will is free from subjection, it must be that of one possessed of regal power, and in a manner exercising dominion over other wills. But if it is under the hand of God, ours surely cannot be exempt from it. On this subject there is an admirable sentiment of Augustine, "Scripture, if it be carefully examined, will show not only that the good wills of men are made good by God out of evil, and when so made, are directed to good acts, even to eternal life, but those which retain the elements of the world are in the power of God, to turn them whither he pleases, and when he pleases, either to perform acts of kindness, or by a hidden, indeed, but, at the same time, most just judgment to inflict punishment," (August. De Gratia et Lib. Arb. ad Valent. cap. 20).

8. Let the reader here remember, that the power of the human will is not to be estimated by the event, as some unskilful persons are absurdly wont to do. They think it an elegant and ingenious proof of the bondage of the human will, that even the greatest monarchs are sometimes thwarted in their wishes. But the ability of which we speak must be considered as within the man, not measured by outward success. In discussing the subject of free will, the question is not, whether external obstacles will permit a man to execute what he has internally resolved, but whether, in any matter whatever, he has a free power of judging and of willing. If men possess both of these, Attilius Regulus, shut up in a barrel studded with sharp nails, will have a will no less free than Augustus Caesar ruling with imperial sway over a large portion of the globe. [177]

__________________________________________________________________

[171] The French adds, "dont on doute communement;" on which doubts are commonly entertained.

[172] The French adds, "Car quand nous voyons des voleurs, qui ont commis quelque meurtre ou larrecin, nous ne doutons point de leur imputer la faute, et de les condamner."--For when we see robbers who have committed some murder or robbery, we hesitate not to impute the blame to them, and condemn them.

[173] The French adds, "se retractant de l'autre sentence;" retracting the other sentiment.

[174] Ezek. 7:26; Psalm 107:40; Job 12:20, 24; Isiah 63:17; Exod. 4:21; 7:3; 10:1; 3:19.

[175] Isa. 5:26; 7:18; Ezek. 12:13; 17:20; Jer. 2:.23; Isa. 10:15.

[176] The French adds, "D'où procede cela sinon que Dieu besongne tant d'une part que d'autre?"--Whence this, but that God interferes thus far in either case?

[177] The French is simply, "Car si cela pouvoit etre en l'homme, il ne seroit par moins libre enfermé en un prison que dominant par toute la terre." If that could be in man, he would be no less free shut up in a prison than ruling all the earth.

__________________________________________________________________

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



  • Discipleship in 3-D, Part One
  • ... Part Two
  • All In, Part One


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Richard Milhous Nixon was born this day, January 9, 1913. A Lieutenant Commander in the Navy during WWII, he was a Congressman, Senator, and Vice-President under Eisenhower. He lost his first presidential race to John F. Kennedy by the smallest margin ever in a presidential election. He served as America’s 37th President before resigning. In his Inaugural Address, President Nixon stated: “No man can be fully free while his neighbor is not…. This means black and white together as one nation, not two…. What remains is… to insure… that as all are born equal in dignity before God, all are born equal in dignity before man.”

American Minute

A Testament Of Devotion
     Thomas R. Kelly

     America’s entry into the war stirred him to volunteer his services as a Quaker, first in canteen duty with the Y.M.C.A. and then in work with German prisoners of war in England where he spent from June 1917 to February 1918. The happy and moving experiences with the German prisoners drew him to a concern for the German people that was never to desert him. He took his Bachelor of Divinity degree at the Seminary in 1919. One of his colleagues there has forgotten any details of Thomas Kelly's years at the Seminary except that he was the gayest, heartiest one of them all and that when there was any fun going, he could usually be found at the center of it.

     At that period the Macy household, a Congregational clergyman's family, was an institution at the Hartford Theological Seminary. The father was him­ self a graduate of the Seminary, the son was a student there, and the daughters enjoyed high favor among the Seminary students. It was in his Seminary years that Thomas Kelly met Lael Macy. With an offer to return to his old college at Wilmington, Ohio, as a teacher of the Bible, he married her on the next day after his graduation in 1919. The war and the years of study had modified the mission goal, but the interest in Japan and the Far East continued. He spent two years at Wilmington College but he was restless to be on. In spite of the price that it would exact from him and from his loyal wife at that stage of his career, it was decided that he should prepare himself to teach philosophy and he was resolved that it must be a broad and a comprehensive enough philosophy to fathom Eastern as well as Western culture. He returned to Hartford Theological Seminary and spent three years with Professor A. L. Gillett giving himself to the study of philosophy. In June 1924 he secured his Ph.D. degree with a thesis on the place of value judgments in Lotze's philosophy.


A Testament of Devotion

Lean Into God
     Compilation by RickAdams7


Compromise with the world
leads to unbalanced conduct
and immature character. --- W. W. Wiersbe

Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies.
At the end all his disciples deserted him.
On the Cross he was utterly alone,
surrounded by evildoers and mockers.
For this cause he had come,
to bring peace to the enemies of God.

So the Christian, too,
belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life
but in the thick of foes.
There is his commission, his work.

'The kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies.
And he who will not suffer this
     does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ;
he wants to be among friends,
to sit among roses and lilies,
not with the bad people but the devout people.
O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ!
If Christ had done what you are doing
who would ever have been spared' (Luther).
--- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A Christian is a person who, when getting to the end of his/her rope, ties a knot and determines to hang on, realizing that human extremity now becomes God’s opportunity.
--- Unknown

... from here, there and everywhere


Proverbs 3:1-4
     by D.H. Stern

1     My son, don’t forget my teaching,
keep my commands in your heart;
2     for they will add to you many days,
years of life and peace.

3     Do not let grace and truth leave you—
bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4     Then you will win favor and esteem
in the sight of God and of people.


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


                Intercessory introspection

     And I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless. ---
1 Thessalonians 5:23.

     “Your whole spirit …” The great mystical work of the Holy Spirit is in the dim regions of our personality which we cannot get at. Read the 139th Psalm; the Psalmist implies—‘Thou art the God of the early Mornings, the God of the late at nights, the God of the mountain peaks, and the God of the sea; but, my God, my soul has further horizons than the early Mornings, deeper darkness than the nights of earth, higher peaks than any mountain peaks, greater depths than any sea in nature—Thou Who art the God of all these, be my God. I cannot reach to the heights or to the depths; there are motives I cannot trace, dreams I cannot get at—my God, search me out.’

     Do we believe that God can garrison the imagination far beyond where we can go? “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin’ —if that means in conscious experience only, may God have mercy on us. The man who has been made obtuse by sin will say he is not conscious of sin. Cleansing from sin is to the very heights and depths of our spirit if we will keep in the light as God is in the light, and the very Spirit that fed the life of Jesus Christ will feed the life of our spirits. It is only when we are garrisoned by God with the stupendous sanctity of the Holy Spirit, that spirit, soul and body are preserved in unspotted integrity, undeserving of censure in God’s sight, until Jesus comes. We do not allow our minds to dwell as they should on these great massive truths of God.


My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition

Covenanters
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

                Covenanters

1
          Jesus

He wore no hat, but he produced, say
from up his sleeve, an answer
to their question about
the next life. It is here,
he said, tapping his forehead
as one would to indicate
an idiot. The crowd frowned
and took up stones
to punish his adultery
with the truth. But he, stooping
to write on the ground, looked
sideways at them, as they withdrew
each to the glass-house of his own mind.

          Mary

Model of models;
virgin smile over
he ageless babe,

my portrait is in
the world's galleries:
motherhood without

a husband; chastity
my complexion. Cradle
of flesh for one

not born of the flesh.
Alas, you painters
of a half-truth, the

poets excel you.
They looked in under
my lids and saw

as through a stained glass
window the hill
the infant must climb,

the crookedness of
the kiss he appended
to his loving epistle.

          Joseph

I knew what I knew.
She denied it.
I went with her
on the long journey.
My seed, was the star
that the wise men
followed. Their gifts were no good
to us. I taught him
the true trade: to go
with the grain.
     He left me
for a new master
who put him to the fashioning
of a cross for himself.

          Lazarus

That imperious summons! Spring's
restlessness among dry
leaves. He stands at the grave's
entrance and rubs death from his eyes,

while thought's fountain recommences
its play, watering the waste ground
over again for the germination
of the blood's seed,
     where roses should blow.

          Judas Iscariot

picked flowers stole birds' eggs
like the rest was his mother's
fondling passed under the tree
he would hang from without
realizing looked through the branches
saw only the cloud face
of God and the sky mirroring
the water he was brought up by

was a shrewd youth with a talent
for sums became treasurer
to the disciplines was genuinely
hurt by a certain extravagance
in the Master went out of his own
free will to do that which lie had to do.

          Paul

Wrong question, Paul. Who am I,
Lord? is what you should have asked.
And the answer, surely, somebody
who it is easy for us to kick against.
There were some matters
     you were dead right
about. For instance, I like you
on love. But marriage -- I could have thought
too many had been burned in that fire
for your contrast to hold.
     Still, you are the mountain
the teaching of the carpenter of Nazareth
congealed into. The theologians
have walked around you for centuries
and none of them scaled you.
     Your letters remain
unanswered, but survive the recipients
of them. And we,
     pottering among the foot-hills
of their logic, find ourselves staring
across deep crevices at conclusions at which
the living Jesus
     would not willingly have arrived.

The Poems of R.S. Thomas

Dreams
     Dictionary Of Jesus And The Gospels

     A sequence of thoughts or images occurring during sleep. Dreams have been the subject of intense interest and critical reflection from time immemorial. Modern concepts of dreams are indebted to Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), who established the basic principles which guide modern dream research. Scripture, however, nowhere reflects an interest in the psycho analysis of dreams.

     The major references to dreams in the Bible, including the Gospels, are those instances in which dreams functioned as vehicles of divine revelation. These references appear in three major clusters: the early patriarchal period (Gen 20–41), the life of Daniel (
Dan 1–7), and the infancy narrative of Matthew’s Gospel (Mt 1–2; see Birth of Jesus). As it was commonly held in the ancient world, the Jews believed that God communicated his will through dreams (Num 12:6: “I [the LORD] speak to him in dreams” [NIV]).

     The references to dreams in the Gospels are limited to the six occurrences in Matthew. Significantly, each occurrence concerns the person of Jesus. Through dreams Mary’s conception was explained to Joseph (1:20); the wise men were warned not to return to Herod (2:12); Joseph was told to flee with his family to Egypt (2:13); Joseph was warned against settling in Judea (2:22); and Pontius Pilate’s wife was convicted on Jesus’ account (27:19). That all of these accounts are from the hand of the Evangelist is suggested by the use of the stereotypical phrase kat˒ onar, “in a dream,” occurring in each of these passages.

     These dreams recorded in Matthew are of two basic subtypes. The dreams of the infancy narrative were given for guidance and were clearly supernatural, while the source of the dream of Pilate’s wife is less clear; it may point to disturbed mental activity, or it may have been a supernatural sign of Jesus’ righteousness. In Matthew, however, the dream of Pilate’s wife plays no less important a role than those of Joseph and the wise men. The concerns are essentially the same in both subtypes: questions of destiny, security, personal well-being, etc. Hence, the dream of Pilate’s wife serves to reinforce with the others the basic Matthean theme that Jesus is God’s chosen one. The very fact that we should be given a glimpse of her emotional torment, a torment so severe that she felt it necessary to interrupt her husband while he was sitting “on the judge’s seat” (
27:19), clearly reinforces Matthew’s stress on Jesus’ innocence and the treachery of his opposition.

     The details of the dreams in the infancy narrative follow a relatively meaningful sequence. One can argue that these details play an important part in the purpose of Matthew to show the divine care exercised in the life of Jesus. First there was God’s directive that Joseph take Mary as his wife and thus establish a home with a father and mother in which Jesus would be protected from the charge of illegitimacy (
1:19–23). This is followed by a dream in which the wise men who worshiped Jesus as “king” are instructed to return to their country, without first reporting back to Herod (2:12). There can be little doubt that Matthew intends thereby to show God’s particular provision for the infant Jesus in the face of life-threatening danger.

     This theme of divine protection extends to the third nativity dream, recorded in
2:13. In commanding the holy family to seek refuge from Herod in a Roman province of some one million Jews, God takes sovereign action to preserve the infant from the massacre in Bethlehem and (potentially) in other towns of Judea. In addition, it was the function of this dream to make possible the fulfillment of Hosea 11:1, cited in Matthew 2:15: “Out of Egypt I called my son” (NIV). In Matthew’s chronicling of the events surrounding the nativity of Jesus, there can be little doubt that this prediction-fulfillment motif anticipates the opposition to Jesus throughout his life, culminating in his death in Jerusalem under the eyes of another Herod.

     The final two revelatory dreams, recounted in 2:19–23, continue the theme of divine preservation. Joseph is informed that the enemies of Jesus are dead and that he is to return “to the land of Israel” (2:20). But since Joseph was probably intent on raising the child in Bethlehem, the city of David, he was guided by a fifth and final dream to settle instead in despised Galilee. Once again, Scripture is fulfilled: By settling the family in Galilee Joseph ensures that Jesus will be called (pejoratively) “a Nazarene” (2:23).

     From Matthew’s perspective, then, Jesus, the new born child of Mary, is himself the King of the Jews. Accordingly, asserts Matthew, through dreams God intervenes in human history to make known his divine purposes for this child and to protect him.

     A final issue is raised by the fact that an “angel of the Lord” is mentioned in connection with four of the five dreams in the infancy narrative (1:20, 24; 2:13, 19). It is not clear whether we are to think merely of angels or more specifically of a manifestation of Yahweh. The lack of precise data with regard to the identity of this figure has given rise to various conclusions. Without question the angel of the Lord is to be identified in some way with God, yet he appears to be distinguished from God. Perhaps the best view is to see the angel of the Lord as a self-manifestation of Yahweh in a form that would communicate his presence and concern to those to whom he appeared.


Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (IVP Bible Dictionary)

Take Heart
     January 9



     Give thanks in all circumstances. --- 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

     Be thankful to God for everything that is pleasant. (Sermons and Addresses) We so often speak about the religious benefits of affliction that we are in danger of overlooking the other side. It is a religious duty to enjoy every rightful pleasure of earthly existence. He who gave us these bodies desires that we should find life a pleasure.

     We work best at what we enjoy. The young should enjoy what they are studying. [But] it is possible that by well-guided efforts they should learn to relish studies to which they were at first disinclined. I sometimes hear young married people say, “We are going to set up housekeeping, and then we can have what we like.” I sometimes reply, “Yes, you may, but what is far more important and interesting—you will be apt to like what you have.” To have what we like is, for the most part, an impossible dream; to like what we have is a possibility and not only a duty but a high privilege.

     Be thankful to God for everything that is painful. That may be stating the matter too strongly. Notice that the apostle does not say, “For every circumstance give thanks”; he says, “Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:18). That, surely, need not seem impossible. We may always be thankful that the situation is no worse. With some persons it has been worse. Let us always bless the Lord that, but for his special mercies, it would be worse with us today.

     An unpublished anecdote about President Madison [relates that] the venerable ex-president suffered from many diseases and took a variety of medicines. A friend sent him a box of vegetable pills of his own production and begged to be informed whether they helped. In due time came back one of those carefully written and often felicitous notes for which Mr. Madison and Mr. Jefferson were both famous: “My dear friend, I thank you very much for the box of pills. I have taken them all, and while I cannot say that I am better since taking them, it is quite possible that I might have been worse if I had not taken them, and so I beg you to accept my sincere acknowledgments.” Really, my friends, this is not a mere pleasantry. There is always something, known or unknown, but for which our condition might have been worse. And that something constitutes an occasion for gratitude.
--- John A. Broadus


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

On This Day   January 9
     The Peculiar Preacher

     The Lord gives each of us a unique personality, and his choicest servants have sometimes been, well, peculiar. “Uncle” Bob Sheffey was among them.

     Sheffey was born on Independence Day, 1820. When his mother died, an aunt in Abingdon, Virginia, took him in. There, over Greenway’s Store, he was converted on January 9, 1839. He was 19. Feeling the call to preach, he dropped out of college and started through the Virginia hills as a Methodist circuit rider preaching the Gospel.

     He did it oddly. For example, one day he was called to a cabin on Wolfe Creek. He had previously tried to win this family to Christ, but without success. As he rode up this time, things were different. A member had been bitten by a rattlesnake. There seemed little hope. Entering the house, Sheffey sank to his knees and prayed, “O Lord, we do thank thee for rattlesnakes. If it had not been for a rattlesnake they would not have called on You. Send a rattlesnake to bite Bill, one to bite John, and send a great big one to bite the old man!”

     He is well-remembered for prayers like that. An acquaintance said, “Brother Sheffey was the most powerful man in prayer I ever heard, but he couldn’t preach a lick.” Once, encountering moonshiners in the mountains, he dismounted, knelt, and offered a long prayer for God to “smash the still into smithereens.” He rose, smoothed his trousers, and continued his journey. A heavy tree fell on the still, wrecking it. The owner rebuilt it, and Sheffey prayed again. This time a flash flood did the job.

     His prayers were honest, down-to-earth, and plain-spoken—even routine prayers like grace at meals. Once, being entertained in a neighborhood home, he was asked to offer thanks. Sheffey, who loved chicken-and-dumplings, said, “Lord, we thank Thee for this good woman; we thank Thee for this good dinner—but it would have been better if the chicken had dumplings in it. Amen.”

     Robert Sheffey’s unorthodox prayers and sermons ushered many mountaineers into the kingdom and earned him the title the Peculiar Preacher.

     Each of you has been blessed with one of God’s many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others. So use your gift well. If you have the gift of speaking, preach God’s message. If you have the gift of helping others, do it with the strength that God supplies.
--- 1 Peter 4:10-11.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - January 9

     “I will be their God.” --- Jeremiah 31:33.

     Christian! here is all thou canst require. To make thee happy thou wantest something that shall satisfy thee; and is not this enough? If thou canst pour this promise into thy cup, wilt thou not say, with David, “My cup runneth over; I have more than heart can wish”? When this is fulfilled, “I am thy God”, art thou not possessor of all things? Desire is insatiable as death, but he who filleth all in all can fill it. The capacity of our wishes who can measure? but the immeasurable wealth of God can more than overflow it. I ask thee if thou art not complete when God is thine? Dost thou want anything but God? Is not his all-sufficiency enough to satisfy thee if all else should fail? But thou wantest more than quiet satisfaction; thou desirest rapturous delight. Come, soul, here is music fit for heaven in this thy portion, for God is the Maker of Heaven. Not all the music blown from sweet instruments, or drawn from living strings, can yield such melody as this sweet promise, “I will be their God.” Here is a deep sea of bliss, a shoreless ocean of delight; come, bathe thy spirit in it; swim an age, and thou shalt find no shore; dive throughout eternity, and thou shalt find no bottom. “I will be their God.” If this do not make thine eyes sparkle, and thy heart beat high with bliss, then assuredly thy soul is not in a healthy state. But thou wantest more than present delights—thou cravest something concerning which thou mayest exercise hope; and what more canst thou hope for than the fulfilment of this great promise, “I will be their God”? This is the masterpiece of all the promises; its enjoyment makes a heaven below, and will make a heaven above. Dwell in the light of thy Lord, and let thy soul be always ravished with his love. Get out the marrow and fatness which this portion yields thee. Live up to thy privileges, and rejoice with unspeakable joy.

          Evening - January 9

     “Serve the Lord with gladness.” --- Psalm 100:2.

     Delight in divine service is a token of acceptance. Those who serve God with a sad countenance, because they do what is unpleasant to them, are not serving him at all; they bring the form of homage, but the life is absent. Our God requires no slaves to grace his throne; he is the Lord of the empire of love, and would have his servants dressed in the livery of joy. The angels of God serve him with songs, not with groans; a murmur or a sigh would be a mutiny in their ranks. That obedience which is not voluntary is disobedience, for the Lord looketh at the heart, and if he seeth that we serve him from force, and not because we love him, he will reject our offering. Service coupled with cheerfulness is heart-service, and therefore true. Take away joyful willingness from the Christian, and you have removed the test of his sincerity. If a man be driven to battle, he is no patriot; but he who marches into the fray with flashing eye and beaming face, singing, “It is sweet for one’s country to die,” proves himself to be sincere in his patriotism. Cheerfulness is the support of our strength; in the joy of the Lord are we strong. It acts as the remover of difficulties. It is to our service what oil is to the wheels of a railway carriage. Without oil the axle soon grows hot, and accidents occur; and if there be not a holy cheerfulness to oil our wheels, our spirits will be clogged with weariness. The man who is cheerful in his service of God, proves that obedience is his element; he can sing,

   “Make me to walk in thy commands,
   ’Tis a delightful road.”


     Reader, let us put this question—do you serve the Lord with gladness? Let us show to the people of the world, who think our religion to be slavery, that it is to us a delight and a joy! Let our gladness proclaim that we serve a good Master.


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

Amazing Grace
     January 9

          PRAYER IS THE SOUL’S SINCERE DESIRE

     James Montgomery, 1771–1854

     Men ought always to pray, and not to faint. (Luke 18:1 KJV)

     Living a life without prayer is like building a house without nails. --- Unknown

     Prayer is releasing the energies of God. For prayer is asking God to do what we cannot do ourselves. --- Selected

     Except for Charles Wesley or Isaac Watts, no writer has made a greater contribution to English hymnody than the author of this text, James Montgomery. He wrote more than 400 hymns, many of which are still in popular use: “Stand Up and Bless the Lord,” “Angel From the Realms of Glory,” “In the Hour of Trial,” and “According to Thy Gracious Word.”

     Though trained for the ministry, Montgomery spent his lifetime as a journalist and newspaper editor. He became widely known for his writings and poetry, yet when once asked, “Which of your poems will live?” he replied, “None, sir, except a few of my hymns.” His words were prophetic. It is by his hymns that Montgomery is remembered, rather than by his more classic poetry.

     Many have acclaimed this hymn as one of the finest definitions and descriptions of prayer to be found in short form. Such colorful metaphors as “hidden fire,” “a sign,” “a falling tear,” “an upward glance,” “vital breath,” and “native air” describe in poetic language the mystic meaning of prayer—understood by experience, yet often difficult to express in words. Perhaps those terms will lead you to a new appreciation for the “soul’s sincere desire.”

     Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed, the motion of a hidden fire that trembles in the breast.
     Prayer is the burden of a sigh, the falling of a tear, the upward glancing of an eye when none but God is near.
     Prayer is the simplest form of speech that infant lips can try; prayer, the sublimest strains that reach the Majesty on high.
     Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath, the Christian’s native air; his watchword at the gates of death: He enters heav’n with prayer.
     O Thou by whom we come to God, the Life, the Truth, the Way! The path of prayer Thyself hast trod: Lord, teach us how to pray!


     For Today: Matthew 6:5–8; Luke 11:1–4; Colossians 4:2, 12; 1 Thessalonians 5:17.

     Reflect on the importance of prayer in your daily life. Determine to make an even greater use of this spiritual power throughout the day. Use this musical reminder ---

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