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Joshua 3     Psalm 126-128     Isaiah 63     Matthew 11


Joshua 3

Israel Crosses the Jordan

Joshua 3 Then Joshua rose early in the morning and they set out from Shittim. And they came to the Jordan, he and all the people of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over. 2 At the end of three days the officers went through the camp 3 and commanded the people, “As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it. 4 Yet there shall be a distance between you and it, about 2,000 cubits[a] in length. Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.” 5 Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” 6 And Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on before the people.” So they took up the ark of the covenant and went before the people.

7 The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. 8 And as for you, command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, ‘When you come to the brink of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’” 9 And Joshua said to the people of Israel, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God.” 10 And Joshua said, “Here is how you shall know that the living God is among you and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites. 11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth[b] is passing over before you into the Jordan. 12 Now therefore take twelve men from the tribes of Israel, from each tribe a man. 13 And when the soles of the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off from flowing, and the waters coming down from above shall stand in one heap.”

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


Psalm 126

Restore Our Fortunes, O Lord

Psalm 126 A Song of Ascents.

1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad.

4 Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like streams in the Negeb!
5 Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!
6 He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him.


Psalm 127

Unless the Lord Builds the House

Psalm 127 A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.

1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
2 It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.

3 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one's youth.
5 Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.


Psalm 128

Blessed Is Everyone Who Fears the Lord

Psalm 128 A Song of Ascents.

1 Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,
who walks in his ways!
2 You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.

3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.
4 Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
who fears the Lord.

5 The Lord bless you from Zion!
May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life!
6 May you see your children's children!
Peace be upon Israel!


Isaiah 63

The Lord's Day of Vengeance

Isaiah 63

Who is this who comes from Edom,
in crimsoned garments from Bozrah,
he who is splendid in his apparel,
marching in the greatness of his strength?
“It is I, speaking in righteousness,
mighty to save.”

2 Why is your apparel red,
and your garments like his who treads in the winepress?

3 “I have trodden the winepress alone,
and from the peoples no one was with me;
I trod them in my anger
and trampled them in my wrath;
their lifeblood spattered on my garments,
and stained all my apparel.
4 For the day of vengeance was in my heart,
and my year of redemption had come.
5 I looked, but there was no one to help;
I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold;
so my own arm brought me salvation,
and my wrath upheld me.
6 I trampled down the peoples in my anger;
I made them drunk in my wrath,
and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.”

The Lord's Mercy Remembered

7 I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord,
the praises of the Lord,
according to all that the Lord has granted us,
and the great goodness to the house of Israel
that he has granted them according to his compassion,
according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
8 For he said, “Surely they are my people,
children who will not deal falsely.”
And he became their Savior.
9 In all their affliction he was afflicted,
and the angel of his presence saved them;
in his love and in his pity he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.

10 But they rebelled
and grieved his Holy Spirit;
therefore he turned to be their enemy,
and himself fought against them.
11 Then he remembered the days of old,
of Moses and his people.
Where is he who brought them up out of the sea
with the shepherds of his flock?
Where is he who put in the midst of them
his Holy Spirit,
12 who caused his glorious arm
to go at the right hand of Moses,
who divided the waters before them
to make for himself an everlasting name,
13 who led them through the depths?
Like a horse in the desert,
they did not stumble.
14 Like livestock that go down into the valley,
the Spirit of the Lord gave them rest.
So you led your people,
to make for yourself a glorious name.

Prayer for Mercy

15 Look down from heaven and see,
from your holy and beautiful habitation.
Where are your zeal and your might?
The stirring of your inner parts and your compassion
are held back from me.
16 For you are our Father,
though Abraham does not know us,
and Israel does not acknowledge us;
you, O Lord, are our Father,
our Redeemer from of old is your name.
17 O Lord, why do you make us wander from your ways
and harden our heart, so that we fear you not?
Return for the sake of your servants,
the tribes of your heritage.
18 Your holy people held possession for a little while;
our adversaries have trampled down your sanctuary.
19 We have become like those over whom you have never ruled,
like those who are not called by your name.


Matthew 11

Messengers from John the Baptist

Matthew 11 1 When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.

2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. 9 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written,

“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way before you.’

11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,

17 “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

Woe to Unrepentant Cities

20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Come to Me, and I Will Give You Rest

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

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Don’t Retire; We Need You

By Alex Chediak 10/1/2009

     You may have heard that retirement can kill you. Men and women die of boredom, for lack of intellectual challenge, or from the deafening silence that can accompany a spouse’s death. Depressed saving accounts may represent another motivation to stay gainfully employed. Even if times were better, you might simply prefer staying active in your career, maintaining a position of influence that you’ve worked hard to reach.

     It is lawful to seek fruitfulness with one’s skills and talents. Yet there are better reasons than financial stability and longevity for remaining engaged with the world. There is the unique opportunity to reap eternal dividends by investing in younger Christians. “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life” (Prov. 16:31). Years lived to the glory of God produce practical,

biblical wisdom and unshakable confidence that God’s nearness is better than a large house and a picket fence, that the awaiting joys of heaven are better than any earthly promotion, and that drawing closer to God amidst painful trials is both tougher and more joy-filled than caving in to spiritual complacency.

     Perhaps you approach your latter years with a measure of regret over grievous sins. God can restore the years eaten by the locusts (Joel 2:25). He can use you to warn others that the pleasures of sin are deceitful — that there is nothing more pleasant than a God-mastered life, from childhood to God-appointed death. Don’t believe the lie that past failures guarantee future fruitlessness. Join with those who petition the Lord, “do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come” (Ps. 71:18).

     Perhaps your children are out of the home or you’re at a place financially where you can afford to work less. As one a generation behind you, looking to your example and guidance, I entreat you: Give yourself structure so that hours aren’t frittered away in passive consumption of television. Fight the cynicism that often accompanies the loss of physical or mental acuity. Make war with the temptation to spend time entirely in a familiar, comfortable circle of same-aged peers. In considering those who come behind you, start with your adult children (or grandchildren) and the younger adults in your church. Invite couples and families over for meals (and yes, they should be inviting you, but often are overwhelmed with transitions or small children). Get to know of their struggles, particularly newly married couples transitioning from their single years into marriage and then child-raising. These are often trying times fraught with unexpected challenges. Many Christians entering marriages today lack role models for parenting, for adjusting to motherhood, or for balancing a new career with family and church. Even those who are blessed to have Christian parents can learn precious lessons from other older Christians; Timothy had a godly lineage, but he needed a Paul (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15). Your relationships will invariably lend you moral authority if you are intentionally observant and considerate. As they do, offer specific forms of exhortation. Balance advising with simply relating; avoid the twin dangers of relational detachment and micromanagement. Most young adult Christians long for older godly mentors with whom they can enjoy transparent, authentic friendship, so that it is neither unnatural nor embarrassing to call upon them in a time of deep need.

     Not having a Christian father, I remember with fondness the summer just before I was married. I lived in Nevada with an almost-retired couple in their early 60s. They had left behind their entire family in Minnesota — grown children, grandchildren, and twenty-plus years of memories. Spending their sunset years in Nevada due to a work transfer, they invested countless hours in younger Christians at their church and made crucial investments in my life as I considered marriage and my own calling.

     Maybe you’re thinking this makes sense for pastors — after all, this stuff is in their job description. But you don’t have to be a gifted communicator to care deeply for those around you. Pray by name for the younger generations of Christians in your church, and let them know you are doing so. Authentic love is hard to hide, no matter how poorly you think you communicate.

     With regard to your adult children, let your legacy be that of a godly, loving example. But avoid the temptation to display that love in the form of lavish financial assistance, which can either usurp God-assigned responsibility or create unhealthy lifestyle temptations. Maybe your twenty-four year old son has finished college and is comfortable living at home and working odd jobs. Part of Christian love is calling him to embrace manhood, steadily pursuing his gifts into promising employment so that he can eventually support a wife and children. Likewise, be aware that leaving a large inheritance can tempt your children to a worldly, unearned expansion of lifestyle that chokes Christian character and diminishes trust in God.

     The psalmist teaches us that numbering our days is part of gaining a heart of wisdom (Ps. 90:12). You know this truth more deeply than most twenty- and thirty-somethings. We have much to gain from your influence. So whether you remain retired from your career or not, please don’t retire from the next generation: we need you.

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     Dr. Alex Chediak is associate professor of engineering and physics at California Baptist University. He is author of Preparing Your Teens for College, and his blog can be read at AlexChediak.com.

Teenage Rebellion

By Keith Mathison 10/1/2009

     Let’s do a quick word association test. What is the first thing that comes into your mind when you see or hear the word teenager? Sadly, for many, the first words that come to mind are entirely negative. The word teenager brings to their mind other words such as lazy, apathetic, irresponsible, rude, know-it-all, and so on. Most people today have very low expectations for teenagers in general, and too many have low expectations for their own teenagers in particular. Teenagers themselves recognize these low expectations, and many live down to them — sleeping in and sliding by. Not all teenagers, however, are so complacent.

     Alex and Brett Harris are twin brothers who grew up in the Pacific Northwest. They have a challenge for teenagers and have put it in a book titled Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations, a book written by teenagers for teenagers. The subtitle of the book sums up the challenge: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations. The ideas behind this book first began to take shape on the Harris brothers’ popular Christian blog The Rebelution (a combination of the words “rebellion” and “revolution” intended to communicate the idea of rebelling against rebellion). In short, Alex and Brett want teenagers to see these years of their life not as a vacation from responsibility but as the training ground for their future.

     In Part One, Alex and Brett encourage teenagers to rethink their understanding of this part of their life. They first describe the experiences that caused them to begin thinking about these issues and ultimately led to the Rebelution blog. They also include a helpful chapter entitled “The Myth of Adolescence,” showing that the concept (of adolescence) itself is a recent invention and that the spread of this idea into the wider culture has had some very negative consequences. In the next chapter they propose “A Better Way” of thinking about the teen years and summarize the five kinds of “hard things” that are the subject of the chapters in Part Two of the book.

     The first kind of “hard thing” teenagers are challenged to do involves those things that take them out of their comfort zones — new things. The Harris brothers use numerous examples of real young men and women who have stepped out into unfamiliar waters and succeeded, sometimes after several attempts. The second type of “hard thing” involves doing things that go beyond what is expected or required. The challenge here is to get past complacency and strive for excellence in all things. Doing things that are too big to do alone is the focus of the next chapter. Here the Harris brothers challenge their fellow teenagers to collaborate with others in order to achieve the truly extraordinary.

     At the opposite end of the spectrum are those things that are “hard” simply because they do not seem to make much of an immediate impact. Doing the dishes and keeping one’s room clean seem so insignificant compared to launching a website or writing a book, but as the Harris brothers demonstrate, faithfully doing the small “hard things” have important long-term effects on a person’s character.

     The fifth kind of “hard thing” involves taking a stand even when it is unpopular. The problem of peer pressure is a problem for all people, not only teenagers, but it is a particularly difficult problem during these years. The Harris brothers offer teenagers helpful encouragement to persevere.

     The final chapters of the book encourage teens to put what they have read into practice and offer a number of examples of teenagers who have done just that. The book concludes with an explanation of the gospel, explaining that no one is saved by doing hard things but by faith alone in Christ alone.

     Do Hard Things is the kind of book many adults will wish they themselves had read as a teenager. However, even though the book’s primary audience is teenagers, much of what is written therein remains relevant for adults as well. All of us, young and old alike, should strive for excellence and faithfulness in all that we do.

     It is very encouraging to read a book by two young men who have realized that these years of their lives should not be defined by the culture around them, but by the Word of God. It is even more encouraging to discover that they are not alone and that many other young men and women are rejecting what the world says they should be doing with these years and striving for much greater things.

     If you know a teenager, or have a child or grandchild who is a teenager, give them this book as a gift.

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Per Amazon, Keith A. Mathison (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary; PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is dean of the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine at Ligonier Ministries. He is editor of When Shall These Things Be: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism and associate editor of The Reformation Study Bible. He lives in Lake Mary, Florida, with his wife and children.

Keith Mathison Books:

Semper Reformanda

By Michael Horton 10/1/2009

     If you’ve been in Protestant circles for very long, whether conservative or liberal, you may have heard the phrase “reformed and always reforming” or sometimes just “always reforming.” I hear it a lot these days, especially from friends who want our Reformed churches to be more open to moving beyond the faith and practice that is confessed in our doctrinal standards. Even in Reformed circles of late, various movements have arisen that challenge these standards. How can confessions and catechisms written in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries guide our doctrine, life, and worship in the twenty-first? Liberal Protestants frequently invoked this phrase to justify their captivity to the spirit of the age, but some conservative Protestants also use it to encourage a broader definition of what it means to be Reformed.

     But where did this phrase come from? Its first appearance was in a 1674 devotional by Jodocus van Lodenstein, who was an important figure in Dutch Reformed pietism — a movement known as the Dutch Second Reformation. According to these writers, the Reformation reformed the doctrine of the church, but the lives and practices of God’s people always need further reformation.

     Van Lodenstein and his colleagues were committed to the teaching of the Reformed confession and catechism; they simply wanted to see that teaching become more thoroughly applied as well as understood. However, here is his whole phrase: “The church is reformed and always [in need of] being reformed according to the Word of God.” The verb is passive: the church is not “always reforming,” but is “always being reformed” by the Spirit of God through the Word. Although the Reformers themselves did not use this slogan, it certainly reflects what they were up to; that is, if one quotes the whole phrase!

     Each clause is crucial. First, the church is Reformed, and this should be written with a capitalized “R.” If it is true that Jesus rose from the dead two millennia ago in Palestine, then it is just as true in our time and place. The ecumenical creeds confess the faith that we all share across a multitude of cultures and eras. Similarly, the Reformed standards (such as the Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster Confession and Catechisms) summarize what Reformed Christians believe to be the clear teaching of God’s Word. Churches will always be changing in significant ways depending on their time and place, but these communal ways of confessing Christ remain faithful summaries of “the faith once and for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

     Our forebears who invoked this phrase had in mind the consolidation of catholic and evangelical Christianity embodied in the Reformed confessions and catechisms. There is a reason that this wing of the Reformation called itself “Reformed.” Unlike the Anabaptists, Reformed churches understood themselves as a continuing branch of the catholic church. At the same time, the Reformed wanted to reform everything “according to the Word of God.” Not only our doctrine but our worship and life must be determined by Scripture and not by human whim or creativity.

     Interestingly, it is a mainline Presbyterian theologian, Anna Case-Winters, who brings attention to what she calls “our misused motto.” Winters points out that “in the 16th-century context the impulse it reflected was neither liberal nor conservative, but radical, in the sense of returning to the ‘root.’” This was reflected in the rallying cry, sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone). The Reformation had no interest in “change” as an end in itself. As Calvin argued in his treatise “The Necessity of Reforming the Church,” the Reformers were charged with innovation when in fact it was the medieval church’s innovative distortions of Christian faith and worship that required a recovery of apostolic Christianity. Rome pretended to be “always the same,” but it had accumulated a host of doctrines and practices that were unknown to the ancient church, much less to the New Testament.

     Some people today leave out the “Reformed” part or at least interpret it as “reformed” (little “r”): the church is “always being reformed according to the Word of God.” This means that to be Reformed is simply to be reformed and to be reformed is simply to be biblical. All who base their beliefs on the Bible are therefore “reformed,” regardless of whether their interpretations are consistent with the common confessions of the Reformed churches. However, this runs counter to the original intention of the phrase. Doubtless there are many beliefs and practices that Reformed believers share in common with non-Reformed believers committed to God’s Word. We must always remain open to correction from our brothers and sisters in other churches who have interpreted the Bible differently. Nevertheless, Reformed churches belong to a particular Christian tradition with its own definitions of its faith and practice. We believe that our confessions and catechisms faithfully represent the system of doctrine found in Holy Scripture. We believe that to be Reformed is not only to be biblical; to be biblical is to be Reformed. As important as it is to keep “Reformed” in the phrase, an even more dangerous omission is often found among more liberal Protestants who also leave out the “according to the Word of God” clause. And usually it is “always reforming,” instead of “always being reformed.” In this view, the church is the active party, determining its own doctrine, worship, and discipline in the light of ever-changing cultural contexts. Progressivism becomes an end in itself and the church becomes a mirror of the world.

     Yet those of us in confessional Reformed churches must also beware of forgetting that our doctrinal standards are subordinate to the Word of God. Christ’s church was reformed by God’s Word in the Reformation and post-Reformation era. It was brought back to God’s Word and the fruit of that great work of the Spirit continues to guide us through our confessions and catechisms. And yet the church is not only Reformed; it is always in need of being reformed. Like our personal sanctification, our corporate faithfulness is always flawed. We don’t need to move beyond the gains of the Reformation, but we do need further reformation. But here is where the last clause kicks in: “always being reformed according to the Word of God.”

     It is not because the culture is always changing and we need to be up with the times, but because we are always in need of being re-oriented to the Word that stands over us, individually and collectively, that the church can never stand still. It must always be a listening church. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). Personally and corporately, the church comes into being and is kept alive by hearing the gospel. The church is always on the receiving end of God’s good gifts as well as His correction. The Spirit does not lead us apart from the Word but directs us back to Christ as He is revealed in Scripture. We always need to return to the voice of our Shepherd. The same gospel that creates the church sustains and renews it. Our personal conformity to the Word that Paul commands in Romans 12 is never completed in this life, and the same is true of the church in this present age.

     This perspective keeps us from making tradition infallible but equally from imbibing the radical Protestant obsession with starting from scratch in every generation. When God’s Word is the source of our life, our ultimate loyalty is not to the past as such or to the present and the future, but to “that Word above all earthly pow’rs,” to borrow from Luther’s famous hymn. Neither behind us nor ahead of us, but above us, reigns our sovereign Lord over His body in all times and places. When we invoke the whole phrase — “the church Reformed and always being reformed according to the Word of God” — we confess that we belong to the church and not simply to ourselves and that this church is always created and renewed by the Word of God rather than by the spirit of the age.

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     Dr. Michael S. Horton is J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California, editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine.

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Why Is Justification So Important?

By Keith Mathison 11/1/2009

     During the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century, there were few things more precious to believers than the recovery of the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ alone. Centuries of semi-Pelagian (and Pelagian) growth were dragged into the light and revealed as the deadly poison they were, and despite fierce opposition, the glorious gospel of grace began to be proclaimed again from pulpits across Europe. As the truth spread, resistance increased, and untold numbers of the faithful suffered persecution and even death rather than renounce or compromise this essential biblical doctrine.

     Five hundred years later, how many of us who count ourselves heirs of these courageous men and women truly believe that this is a doctrine worth dying for? How many of us even know what the fundamental elements of the doctrine of justification are? Would we be able to recognize a heretical version of this doctrine if we saw it? Many professing evangelicals in our day, whether expressing it in so many words or not, speak and act as if the Reformers were making a mountain out of a molehill — as if the doctrine of justification is really not that important.

     If the Reformation has floundered in any way, it is largely due to the fact that we have lost sight of the importance of what was restored. It has been said that familiarity breeds contempt. We have heard the words “justification by faith alone” so many times that they have lost their meaning and import. Perhaps the words have become little more than a slogan to us. Perhaps we are able to think and talk about this doctrine (if we think and talk about it at all) without being driven to our knees praising God, in which case we are not really thinking that hard about it at all. Many of us need to go back and relearn the meaning and importance of this precious biblical teaching. A good place to start would be with a classic work by James Buchanan entitled The Doctrine of Justification [Proxy].

     James Buchanan (1804–1870) was both a minister and Reformed theologian. He was ordained in the Church of Scotland in 1827 but joined the Free Church in 1843. He served as a minister in the church until 1845 when he was appointed to teach apologetics at the New College in Edinburgh. In 1847, he was appointed to the chair of systematic theology in the same college and held that position until 1868. Among his works are books on affliction, the Holy Spirit, modern atheism, and apologetics. His most well-known work, however, is his defense of the Reformed doctrine of justification, first published in 1867.

     When Banner of Truth reprinted Buchanan’s book in 1961, it had been for almost one hundred years the only full-scale treatment of the doctrine in English. Thankfully, that situation has changed since 1961, and several full-scale books on the doctrine have been published in English, including R.C. Sproul’s Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification and J.V. Fesko’s Justification: Understanding the Classic Reformed Doctrine. Although these works deal with more contemporary issues and debates surrounding the doctrine of justification, Buchanan’s book should not be ignored.

     The chapters of Buchanan’s book were originally the Cunningham Lectures for 1866 at New College, Edinburgh. They are not dry as many such lectures can be, however. It is probably because Buchanan had been a preacher that these lectures exhibit his passion for truth rather than a detached abstract approach. Following a short introductory essay and brief biography of the author, the book is divided into two parts. The first seven chapters survey the history of the doctrine of justification. Buchanan traces the doctrine through the Old and New Testaments before looking at its development from the early church to the nineteenth century. Among his most helpful information is his survey in chapter six of the doctrines of various post-Reformation Protestant groups and individuals. Here he looks at the teaching of groups as diverse as the Socinians, Arminians, and Quakers. He also surveys Amyraldianism and neonomianism before jumping into an evaluation of the Marrow Controversy.

     Part Two of the book is Buchanan’s point-by-point exposition of the doctrine of justification. Here, in eight chapters, he explains and defends the Reformed doctrine as set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. These chapters are theology in the best sense of the word — biblical, precise, pious, and practical. The biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone is as precious today as it has always been. I urge any who do not understand what the Bible teaches on the subject or why it is so important to read this book.

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Per Amazon, Keith A. Mathison (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary; PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is dean of the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine at Ligonier Ministries. He is editor of When Shall These Things Be: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism and associate editor of The Reformation Study Bible. He lives in Lake Mary, Florida, with his wife and children.

Keith Mathison Books:

“Science” vs. Science

By David Robertson 11/1/2009

     The door opened and a middle-aged man appeared. “Hi, I’m from the local church and….” “Don’t waste your time,” he interrupted, “I’ve no time for religion, I believe in science.” “Really? Are you a scientist?” “No.” “Have you studied science?” “No.” “So why do you have faith in science?” Silence.

     The conversation is an all too typical consequence of a modern Western myth that science and religion are polar opposites and that those who have a scientific background and knowledge will de facto avoid faith. In the mid-nineteenth century science was largely dominated by “amateurs,” including many clergymen. After the appearance of Darwin’s The Origin of Species some people (though not Darwin himself) saw an opportunity to use “science” as a weapon against religion. From the days of Thomas Huxley until the modern day atheist “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” (Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett and Harris), the myth has been carefully nurtured that Christianity and science are fundamentally opposed. Sadly, some Christians have bought into this myth and have helped foster the perceived science/religion divide. As a result, there are many people who unthinkingly accept this myth and, in a classic case of what Tim Keller would rightly call a “defeater” belief, they do not even consider the gospel. It is a scenario I come across often in pastoral and outreach work; so, how do we deal with it?

     First, at a practical level, I introduce people to the many scientists who are in my congregation. As a city congregation with a substantial student population, we are blessed with many students who study science, and many people whose jobs are science-based. We even have several post-doctoral research scientists who are at the top of their respective fields. If science and religion are opposed, then why are these scientists to be found every Sunday worshiping Jesus? The response that Dawkins and others will give is that they are simply “compartmentalizing.” In other words, they know that their science and faith cannot be reconciled and so they just put them in different compartments. Our atheist friends come to this conclusion, not because they ask or have any evidence for this, but because they have to. They start with the conclusion and try to make the facts fit into their predetermined viewpoint. But as good Calvinists we are not allowed to compartmentalize. We affirm with Kuyper that there is not one inch of the universe of which Christ does not say, “It is mine.” We do all things for the glory of God — including science. And that is why we encourage those believers who have the interest and the abilities to be involved in science as a God-given calling.

     Second, I point people to the history of science and to the impossibility of there being any modern science without theistic and, indeed, Christian presuppositions. The original founders of the Royal Society in London were basically puritans who believed, along with Newton, that there were two books of the revelation of God — creation and the Bible. All modern science is based upon the notion that the universe is ordered and can be studied. This is so often assumed that people forget that the assumption itself is a belief that is founded upon a monotheistic view of the universe. The ancient Greeks believed in many gods operating in a chaotic universe. The Christian believes that God brought order out of the chaos and therefore that that order can be studied. This is the philosophical basis of all modern science, without which it could not exist.

     Then I look at the current state of science. Recent scientific discoveries have once again demonstrated the glory of God in the heavens. Perhaps the greatest example of this is the discovery of the fine-tuning of the universe. The consequences of this are phenomenal — either one believes that we are incredibly “lucky” or that someone designed our designed universe, or, if you are really desperate to avoid God, you invent the “multiverse theory,” which speculates, without any empirical evidence, that the universe is one of billions of universes that just happens to provide the fine-tuning for life.

     Finally, I would point out that it is the philosophy of scientism rather than the practice of science that is the problem. The philosophy of scientism, that only the material exists, is anti-Christian and, ironically, it is also anti-scientific because it is not an empirically provable scientific theory. The Bible is not a scientific textbook and it would be foolish to look for things to prove in the Bible from science (as though the Bible were subject to our current limited understanding). But the presuppositions and teachings of the Bible are, as we would expect them to be, completely compatible with the practice and knowledge of science. As John Lennox from Oxford University points out in his wonderful God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?: “Far from science having buried God, not only do the results of science point towards his existence, but the scientific enterprise is validated by his existence. Inevitably, of course, not only those of us who do science, but all of us, have to choose the presupposition with which we start. There are not many options — essentially just two. Either human intelligence ultimately owes its origin to mindless matter; or there is a Creator. It is strange that some people claim that it is their intelligence that leads them to prefer the first to the second.”

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     Rev. David A. Robertson is minister of St. Peter’s Free Church in Dundee, Scotland.

David Robertson Books:

Joshua 3; Psalms 126-128; Isaiah 63; Matthew 11

By Don Carson 7/1/2018

     The first verse of Psalm 127 is often quoted today: “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” In an age of overpopulation, we less often cite verse 3: “Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.” We may gain some helpful perspective by observing four things.

     First, in Hebrew the Psalm deploys a couple of word plays that are lost in English, and these plays give pointers as to how to read the Psalm. The word house (Ps. 127:1) can refer to a building. By extension, this is then applied to the city in a metaphorical sense (Ps. 127:1b -3). More importantly, house can also refer to a household, built up in this case by the blessing of children (Ps. 127:3-5). Moreover, builders and sons sound very similar in Hebrew.

     Second, this suggests that the unifying theme through the superficially disparate parts of the Psalm is that in every sphere of life only the blessing and provision of God can bring about a successful outcome. At the most mechanical level of building a house, this is true. God gives strength to the workers; he sustains them in life; he restrains himself from sending a catastrophic storm that would tear the structure down; countless surprises may be avoided (unsafe concrete, a quagmire under the topsoil, “accidents” that take out workers, and countless more).

     The same principle is true in the basic defensive operation of watching over a city wall, or defending a nation with a radar system: if God sustains you, your defense will suffice, and if he does not, then no matter how professional and expensive it is, it will prove inadequate. In the home, procreation is a “natural” function, but in a providentially ordered world, children are an inheritance from the Lord. The lesson to be learned is not passivity, but trust and rest, a godly lowering of frenzied labor (Ps. 127:2).

     Third, Psalm 127 stands among the songs of ascent precisely because the pilgrimage up to Jerusalem in observance of the covenantally prescribed feasts provides an excellent occasion to reflect on God’s gracious provision in every area of life (compare also Ps. 128).

     Fourth, alone among the songs of ascent this one is ascribed to Solomon. Sadly, Solomon is a figure whose great wisdom was sometimes not followed in his own life: his own building program, both physical and metaphorical, became foolish (1 Kings 9:10-19), his kingdom a ruin (1 Kings 11:11-13; see the October 8 meditation), and his household — not least his multiplied pagan marriages — a systematic denial of the claims of the living God (1 Kings 11:1-9). How important to ask God for the grace to live up to what we understand!

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Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).

Don Carson Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 69

Save Me, O God
69 To The Choirmaster: According To Lilies. Of David.

29 But I am afflicted and in pain;
let your salvation, O God, set me on high!
30 I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
31 This will please the LORD more than an ox
or a bull with horns and hoofs.
32 When the humble see it they will be glad;
you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
33 For the LORD hears the needy
and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.

34 Let heaven and earth praise him,
the seas and everything that moves in them.
35 For God will save Zion
and build up the cities of Judah,
and people shall dwell there and possess it;
36 the offspring of his servants shall inherit it,
and those who love his name shall dwell in it.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     17. Then, again, when they ask us what faith for several years followed our baptism, that they may thereby prove that our baptism was in vain, since it is not sanctified unless the word of the promise is received with faith, our answer is, that being blind and unbelieving, we for a long time did not hold the promise which was given us in baptism, but that still the promise, as it was of God, always remained fixed, and firm, and true. Although all men should be false and perfidious, yet God ceases not to be true (Rom. 3:3, 4); though all were lost, Christ remains safe. We acknowledge, therefore, that at that time baptism profited us nothing, since in us the offered promise, without which baptism is nothing, lay neglected. Now, when by the grace of God we begin to repent, we accuse our blindness and hardness of heart in having been so long ungrateful for his great goodness. But we do not believe that the promise itself has vanished, we rather reflect thus: God in baptism promises the remission of sins, and will undoubtedly perform what he has promised to all believers. That promise was offered to us in baptism, let us therefore embrace it in faith. In regard to us, indeed, it was long buried on account of unbelief; now, therefore, let us with faith receive it. Wherefore, when the Lord invites the Jewish people to repentance, he gives no injunction concerning another circumcision, though (as we have said) they were circumcised by a wicked and sacrilegious hand, and had long lived in the same impiety. All he urges is conversion of heart. For how much soever the covenant might have been violated by them, the symbol of the covenant always remained, according to the appointment of the Lord, firm and inviolable. Solely, therefore, on the condition of repentance, were they restored to the covenant which God had once made with them in circumcision, though this which they had received at the hand of a covenant-breaking priest, they had themselves as much as in them lay polluted and extinguished.

18. But they seem to think the weapon which they brandish irresistible, when they allege that Paul rebaptised those who had been baptised with the baptism of John (Acts 19:3, 5). For if, by our confession, the baptism of John was the same as ours, then, in like manner as those who had been improperly trained, when they learned the true faith, were rebaptised into it, ought that baptism which was without true doctrine to be accounted as nothing, and hence we ought to be baptised anew into the true religion with which we are now, for the first time, imbued? It seems to some that it was a foolish imitator of John, who, by a former baptism, had initiated them into vain superstition. This, it is thought, may be conjectured from the fact, that they acknowledge their entire ignorance of the Holy Spirit, an ignorance in which John never would have left his disciples. But it is not probable that the Jews, even though they had not been baptised at all, would have been destitute of all knowledge of the Spirit, who is celebrated in so many passages of Scripture. Their answer, therefore, that they knew not whether there was a Spirit, must be understood as if they had said, that they had not yet heard whether or not the gifts of the Spirit, as to which Paul questioned them, were given to the disciples of Christ. I grant that John's was a true baptism, and one and the same with the baptism of Christ. But I deny that they were rebaptised (see Calv. Instruct. adv. Anabapt.). What then is meant by the words, "They were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus"? Some interpret that they were only instructed in sound doctrine by Paul; but I would rather interpret more simply, that the baptism of the Holy Spirit, in other words, the visible gifts of the Holy Spirit, were given by the laying on of hands. These are sometimes designated under the name of baptism. Thus, on the day of Pentecost, the apostles are said to have remembered the words of the Lord concerning the baptism of the Spirit and of fire. And Peter relates that the same words occurred to him when he saw these gifts poured out on Cornelius and his family and kindred. There is nothing repugnant to this interpretation in its being afterwards added, "When Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them" (Acts 19:6). For Luke does not narrate two different things, but follows the form of narrative common to the Hebrews, who first give the substance, and then explain more fully. This any one may perceive from the mere context. For he says, "When they heard this they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them." In this last sentence is described what the nature of the baptism was. But if ignorance vitiates a former, and requires to be corrected by a second baptism, the apostles should first of all have been rebaptised, since for more than three full years after their baptism they had scarcely received any slender portion of purer doctrine. Then so numerous being the acts of ignorance which by the mercy of God are daily corrected in us, what rivers would suffice for so many repeated baptisms?

19. The force, dignity, utility, and end of the sacrament must now, if I mistake not, be sufficiently clear. In regard to the external symbol, I wish the genuine institution of Christ had been maintained as fit to repress the audacity of men. As if to be baptised with water, according to the precept of Christ, had been a contemptible thing, a benedicion, or rather incantation, was devised to pollute the true consecration of water. There was afterwards added the taper and chrism, while exorcism [623] was thought to open the door for baptism. Though I am not unaware how ancient the origin of this adventitious farrago is, still it is lawful for me and all the godly to reject whatever men have presumed to add to the institution of Christ. When Satan saw that by the foolish credulity of the world his impostures were received almost without objection at the commencement of the gospel, he proceeded to grosser mockery: hence spittle and other follies, to the open disgrace of baptism, were introduced with unbridled licence. [624] From our experience of them, let us learn that there is nothing holier, or better, or safer, than to be contented with the authority of Christ alone. How much better, therefore, is it to lay aside all theatrical pomp, which dazzles the eyes of the simple, and dulls their minds, and when any one is to be baptised to bring him forward and present him to God, the whole Church looking on as witnesses, and praying over him; to recite the Confession of Faith, in which the catechumen has been instructed, explain the promises which are given in baptism, then baptise in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and conclude with prayer and thanksgiving. In this way, nothing which is appropriate would be omitted, and the one ceremony, which proceeded from its divine Author, would shine forth most brightly, not being buried or polluted by extraneous observances. Whether the person baptised is to be wholly immersed, and that whether once or thrice, or whether he is only to be sprinkled with water, is not of the least consequence: churches should be at liberty to adopt either, according to the diversity of climates, although it is evident that the term baptise means to immerse, and that this was the form used by the primitive Church. [625] [626]

20. It is here also pertinent to observe, that it is improper for private individuals to take upon themselves the administration of baptism; for it, as well as the dispensation of the Supper, is part of the ministerial office. For Christ did not give command to any men or women whatever to baptise, but to those whom he had appointed apostles. And when, in the administration of the Supper, he ordered his disciples to do what they had seen him do (he having done the part of a legitimate dispenser), he doubtless meant that in this they should imitate his example. The practice which has been in use for many ages, and even almost from the very commencement of the Church, for laics to baptise, in danger of death, when a minister could not be present in time, cannot, it appears to me, be defended on sufficient grounds. Even the early Christians who observed or tolerated this practice were not clear whether it were rightly done. This doubt is expressed by Augustine when he says, "Although a laic have given baptism when compelled by necessity, I know not whether any one can piously say that it ought to be repeated. For if it is done without any necessity compelling it, it is usurpation of another's office; but if necessity urges, it is either no fault, or a venial one" (August. Cont. Epist. Parmen. Lib. 2 c. 13). With regard to women, it was decreed, without exception, in the Council of Carthage (cap. 100), that they were not to presume to baptise at all. But there is a danger that he who is sick may be deprived of the gift of regeneration if he decease without baptism! By no means. Our children, before they are born, God declares that he adopts for his own when he promises that he will be a God to us, and to our seed after us. In this promise their salvation is included. None will dare to offer such an insult to God as to deny that he is able to give effect to his promise. How much evil has been caused by the dogma, ill expounded, that baptism is necessary to salvation, few perceive, and therefore think caution the less necessary. For when the opinion prevails that all are lost who happen not to be dipped in water, our condition becomes worse than that of God's ancient people, as if his grace were more restrained than under the Law. In that case, Christ will be thought to have come not to fulfil, but to abolish the promises, since the promise, which was then effectual in itself to confer salvation before the eighth day, would not now be effectual without the help of a sign.

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


  • Lecture 23
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#1 Dr. Andy Snider | The Master's Seminary

 

#2 Dr. Andy Snider | The Master's Seminary

 

#3 Dr. Andy Snider | The Master's Seminary

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     2/1/2013    In Christ

     Repetitio mater studiorum est. “Repetition is the mother of all learning.” The Apostle Paul understood this. Under the inspiration and superintendence of the Holy Spirit, Paul constantly repeated the foundational truths of biblical doctrine, and he did so not only within each of his epistles but sometimes within the same sentence. The clearest example of this is found in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians. As he unfolds the glorious mystery of our salvation, Paul reiterates the phrase “in Christ” or “in Him” continually throughout the first chapter, and nearly ten times in verse 3–14, which is one long sentence in the original language. Several years ago as I preached through Ephesians chapter 1, I explained to our congregation that if they were only to remember one truth from our study of Ephesians, that it should be the phrase “in Christ,” which is a shorthand way of remembering one of the most foundational aspects of salvation—our union with Christ.

     The believer’s union with Christ has long been a neglected doctrine in many churches, yet it is a central doctrine in Scripture. God’s Word teaches us that we are chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world and that we are united to Christ by God’s justifying grace alone through our faith alone because of the atoning death of Christ alone (John 15:4–7; 1 Cor. 15:22; 2 Cor. 12:2; Gal. 3:28; Eph. 1:4, 2:10; Phil. 3:9; 1 Thess. 4:16; 1 John 4:13). The nature of this union is not only that we are in Christ but that He is in us (John 6:56; Rom. 8:10; 2 Cor. 13:5; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 3:17; Col. 1:27). The theological implications of our union with Christ are astounding, and it is Christ Jesus Himself who taught us what they are. In John 15, Jesus said: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (v. 5). At the root of our sanctification is our union with Christ. As branches, we bear fruit precisely because we are united to Christ the vine, and we are connected to the vine because of the work of God the Father, who is “the vinedresser” (15:1). Moreover, in His high-priestly prayer, Jesus expressed the profound union He has with believers, saying, “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (17:23). In this glorious prayer, Jesus reveals the absolute majesty of this doctrine when He expresses that our union with Him—the eternal Logos, the Son of God, the second person of the Godhead, God with us—has the direct implication that, in Christ, the Father loves us as He loves His only begotten Son. And since we are united to Christ, we are united with Him in His death, and, therefore, we shall also be united with Him in His resurrection (Rom. 6:5).

     click here for article source

     Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Teddy Roosevelt and Rough Riders charged up Cuba’s San Juan Hill and captured it this day, July 1, 1898. After eight hours of heavy fighting over fifteen hundred Americans lay dead or wounded. Just four months prior the U.S. ship Maine was blown up in Havana’s Harbor. Roosevelt resigned as Assistant Secretary of the Navy and organized the first volunteer cavalry, made up of polo riders, cowboys and even Indians. After the battle, President McKinley wrote: “At a time… of the… glorious achievements of the… military… at Santiago de Cuba, it is fitting that we should pause and… bow before the throne of divine grace.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

Darkness cannot put out the Light.
It can only make God brighter.
--- Author Unknown
Pray Something, Say Something, Do Something: Daily Journal

No God,
no peace.
Know God,
know peace.
--- Author Unknown
Peace, Be Still: Prayers and Affirmations

In the New Testament everything centres in the Cross. The Cross did not happen to Jesus: He came on purpose for it.
--- Oswald Chambers
The Life: A Journey with God (Design for Discipleship 2.0)

By faith we are conquerors of all things and hold within our hearts a promise of tomorrow. --- Dave Chaltas
Mourning in the Mountains

... from here, there and everywhere


The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
     PART III / Verses 3–6
     CHAPTER 16 / “With All Your Heart
     and All Your Soul and All Your Might”


     “With All Your Heart”

     In the psychology of both Bible and Talmud, the heart is regarded as a complex organ, the seat both of the intellect and of emotion and attitude (as in colloquial usage today). The expressions, a “good heart” and a “bad heart,” refer not to cardiological conditions, but to our moral-cognitive disposition. In rabbinic writing, the heart is the locus of two dramatically conflicting tendencies or impulses, one urging us toward good actions, the other toward evil. Each of these urges is called a yetzer, from the root y-tz-r, to create, probably because a human being, as a creation (YeTZuR) of God (the YoTZeR), possesses the right and duty to choose between these two warring urges, the Good Urge (yetzer ha-tov) and the Evil Urge (yetzer ha-ra). Indeed, the whole moral enterprise of human life can be described as an ongoing contest between these urges—the good and the evil, the constructive and the destructive, the noble and the malevolent.

     In one of the most well-known commentaries of the Rabbis, the Sifre1 applies this duality to the verse commanding us to love God “with all your heart,” interpreting the double bet of the Hebrew word for heart, levavkha, as indicating that we are to love God not only with our Good Urge, our moral instincts, but also with our yetzer ha-ra, our Evil Urge. (2)

(2)     See the beginning of chapter 12.

     What does it mean to love God with our yetzer ha-ra? To a contemporary person, this idea has immediate resonance. It anticipates Freud’s well-known theory of sublimation, that is, the redirection of the id’s libidinal forces from their erotic goals to more culturally and socially useful ones, such as the creation of art, technology, and literature. Although it is doubtful that Freud ever heard of the Sifre, his theory echoes in modern form an idea at least 2,000 years old, modified with his own particular stamp on it. For Jewish tradition, this interpretation of “with all your heart” is not merely a homiletic bon mot noteworthy for its charm. Rather, it represents a major tendency within the Jewish tradition’s psychology of the soul.

     Commenting on God’s words uttered after the creation of man, “and God saw everything that He had made, and behold it was very good” (
Gen. 1:31), the Midrash (Genesis Rabbah, 9:9) explains:

     “And behold it was … good” refers to the Good Urge; “and behold it was very good” refers to the Evil Urge. But can the Evil Urge be considered “very good”? Astonishing! But [what this means is that] if not for the Evil Urge a man would not build a house or marry a woman or sire children or engage in business.

     Thus our midrash teaches that our destructive powers, in their primal origin, not only have the capacity to be redirected for constructive purposes, but indeed are far more potent than the positive ethical and moral dispositions innate within human nature. The good is good, but the evil—used for the good—is even better: in fact, it is very good. This approach was later to be developed more fully in Hasidism. (3) But this rabbinic theory of sublimation represents only one traditional approach to the problem of internal evil. The more normative “classical” approach takes an altogether different tack: we act to fight evil and attempt to destroy it.

(3)     It is worth noting that this conception became the cornerstone of Hasidism’s view of evil in the world. Indeed, the Baal Shem Tov often spoke of evil as “a seat for the good” or as “a vehicle for the good,” i.e., a means to a good, or greater good. See my Religious Thought of Hasidism, chap. 15. Developing and expanding on his predecessor’s theme, R. Zadok Hakohen explicitly identifies evil as contingent and relative:
          One must not think of all the potencies implanted in the Jewish soul that they are evil and that one must strive for their opposites, for there is no quality that does not possess some dimension of the good as well. But one must use it in accordance with the will of God; for if it does not accord with His will, then even the good qualities are evil. That is why King Saul was punished for exercising compassion. R. Zadok cites our midrash as a source for his conclusion that evil is not intrinsic and “real” and that the convertibility of good and evil depends ultimately on intention and context. This highly optimistic vision of human nature found in hasidic thought, so characteristic of the whole of the hasidic world-view, presents us with a fairly simple theodicy—simple, that is, as long as we do not examine too closely the empirical record of history, particularly of the middle of the twentieth century, which raises many troubling problems.

     In an attempt to integrate these two traditional views of evil, R. Shneur Zalman (4) proposes that there are two types of righteous persons, the tzaddik gamur (“the completely righteous person”) and the benoni (“the intermediate person”). The former has attained such a high moral-spiritual plane that he has successfully extirpated every remnant of evil from within himself, converting it to the good. In contrast, the latter, though utterly sinless, nonetheless harbors the desire to sin, so that he must endlessly struggle with it.

(4)     Tanya, 1:27.

     According to R. Shneur Zalman’s typology, the tzaddik gamur and the benoni differ as well in the way they approach evil within themselves. The benoni strives to conquer his negative impulses, to cast them away with both hands, in an effort R. Shneur Zalman calls itkafia, the suppression of the yetzer ha-ra. For the benoni, the battle is never over. With dogged persistence, the yetzer ha-ra keeps on returning to its task. (One recalls the Talmud’s comment that the yetzer ha-ra is like a fly and R. Israel Salanter’s interpretation—that just as a fly keeps on returning, no matter how often you chase it away, so too does the yetzer ha-ra.) R. Shneur Zalman counsels the benoni not to be discouraged by the rigors of this endless battle, for this effort in itself is pleasing to the Creator.

     The tzaddik gamur, however, approaches the internal evil of man differently. He follows the path not of itkafia but of it’hapkha, of conversion or sublimation: rather than suppress or banish the powers of the yetzer, he exploits them for the good. R. Shneur Zalman calls it “the conversion from bitter to sweet and from dark to light.” The yetzer ha-ra is thereby transformed into a positive and constructive force, which, of course, is certainly pleasing to the Holy One. (5)

(5)     I recall a lecture by my late teacher, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, o.b.m., in which he explained the Mishnah (Avot 4:1), “Who is mighty? He who suppresses his passions.” He avers that this is a minimalist, not a maximalist position. The higher achievement is not the suppression (kibbush) but the sanctification (kiddush) of the yetzer. These terms are analogous, respectively, to R. Shneur Zalman’s itkafia and it’hapkha.

     R. Shneur Zalman adds a note of caution to his elaboration of these two approaches to evil. The spiritual standards he establishes to qualify as a benoni—a person of only middling righteousness—are so high, so demanding, that it is the rare individual in a generation who can attain them; those expected of a tzaddik gamur are clearly out of the reach of most mortals. Thus, the it’hapkha method is appropriate only for the rare saint; the rest of us who hope some day to attain even spiritual mediocrity should be happy simply to attempt to practice itkafia. For when it’hapkha is attempted by someone unqualified, it can lead to dangerous results, namely, falling even deeper into the clutches of sin instead of overpowering it. This fear is not unrealistic. Indeed, such antinomian, even diabolical reversals of character are well documented in history.

     All these interpretations, beginning with that of the Sifre, assume an undifferentiated striving or potency at the root of the human psyche—what Freud called the libido—that activates the constructive impulse (yetzer ha-tov), but more often the destructive impulse (yetzer ha-ra). Because both impulses originate in a common source, it is possible, albeit with great effort, to convert one form of striving into the other. This conception assumes that the Evil Urge derives not from any objective, external evil but from an internal, intrinsic need or desire that has become corrupted because in its expression it violates the divine norm. For our grasping nature, our lust and insatiable appetites, are not innately bad; they can be directed or redirected to constructive ends. But if these drives are expressed untrammeled and unguided by our moral sense or our submission to divinely revealed norms, they are evil—in a relative, not in an absolute or ontological sense.


  The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     3. Upon Herod's saying this, he was interrupted by the confusion he was in; but ordered Nicolaus, one of his friends, to produce the evidence against Antipater. But in the mean time Antipater lifted up his head, [for he lay on the ground before his father's feet,] and cried out aloud, "Thou, O father, hast made my apology for me; for how can I be a parricide, whom thou thyself confessest to have always had for thy guardian? Thou callest my filial affection prodigious lies and hypocrisy! how then could it be that I, who was so subtle in other matters, should here be so mad as not to understand that it was not easy that he who committed so horrid a crime should be concealed from men, but impossible that he should be concealed from the Judge of heaven, who sees all things, and is present every where? or did not I know what end my brethren came to, on whom God inflicted so great a punishment for their evil designs against thee? And indeed what was there that could possibly provoke me against thee? Could the hope of being king do it? I was a king already. Could I suspect hatred from thee? No. Was not I beloved by thee? And what other fear could I have? Nay, by preserving thee safe, I was a terror to others. Did I want money? No; for who was able to expend so much as myself? Indeed, father, had I been the most execrable of all mankind, and had I had the soul of the most cruel wild beast, must I not have been overcome with the benefits thou hadst bestowed upon me? whom, as thou thyself sayest, thou broughtest [into the palace]; whom thou didst prefer before so many of thy sons; whom thou madest a king in thine own lifetime, and, by the vast magnitude of the other advantages thou bestowedst on me, thou madest me an object of envy. O miserable man! that thou shouldst undergo this bitter absence, and thereby afford a great opportunity for envy to arise against thee, and a long space for such as were laying designs against thee! Yet was I absent, father, on thy affairs, that Sylleus might not treat thee with contempt in thine old age. Rome is a witness to my filial affection, and so is Caesar, the ruler of the habitable earth, who oftentimes called me Philopater. 47 Take here the letters he hath sent thee, they are more to be believed than the calumnies raised here; these letters are my only apology; these I use as the demonstration of that natural affection I have to thee. Remember that it was against my own choice that I sailed [to Rome], as knowing the latent hatred that was in the kingdom against me. It was thou, O father, however unwillingly, who hast been my ruin, by forcing me to allow time for calumnies against me, and envy at me. However, I am come hither, and am ready to hear the evidence there is against me. If I be a parricide, I have passed by land and by sea, without suffering any misfortune on either of them: but this method of trial is no advantage to me; for it seems, O father, that I am already condemned, both before God and before thee; and as I am already condemned, I beg that thou wilt not believe the others that have been tortured, but let fire be brought to torment me; let the racks march through my bowels; have no regard to any lamentations that this polluted body can make; for if I be a parricide, I ought not to die without torture." Thus did Antipater cry out with lamentation and weeping, and moved all the rest, and Varus in particular, to commiserate his case. Herod was the only person whose passion was too strong to permit him to weep, as knowing that the testimonies against him were true.

     4. And now it was that, at the king's command, Nicolaus, when he had premised a great deal about the craftiness of Antipater, and had prevented the effects of their commiseration to him, afterwards brought in a bitter and large accusation against him, ascribing all the wickedness that had been in the kingdom to him, and especially the murder of his brethren; and demonstrated that they had perished by the calumnies he had raised against them. He also said that he had laid designs against them that were still alive, as if they were laying plots for the succession; and [said he] how can it be supposed that he who prepared poison for his father should abstain from mischief as to his brethren? He then proceeded to convict him of the attempt to poison Herod, and gave an account in order of the several discoveries that had been made; and had great indignation as to the affair of Pheroras, because Antipater had been for making him murder his brother, and had corrupted those that were dearest to the king, and filled the whole palace with wickedness; and when he had insisted on many other accusations, and the proofs for them, he left off.

     5. Then Varus bid Antipater make his defense; but he lay along in silence, and said no more but this, "God is my witness that I am entirely innocent." So Varus asked for the potion, and gave it to be drunk by a condemned malefactor, who was then in prison, who died upon the spot. So Varus, when he had had a very private discourse with Herod, and had written an account of this assembly to Caesar, went away, after a day's stay. The king also bound Antipater, and sent away to inform Caesar of his misfortunes.

     6. Now after this it was discovered that Antipater had laid a plot against Salome also; for one of Antiphilus's domestic servants came, and brought letters from Rome, from a maid-servant of Julia, [Caesar's wife,] whose name was Acme. By her a message was sent to the king, that she had found a letter written by Salome, among Julia's papers, and had sent it to him privately, out of her good-will to him. This letter of Salome contained the most bitter reproaches of the king, and the highest accusations against him. Antipater had forged this letter, and had corrupted Acme, and persuaded her to send it to Herod. This was proved by her letter to Antipater, for thus did this woman write to him: "As thou desirest, I have written a letter to thy father, and have sent that letter, and am persuaded that the king will not spare his sister when he reads it. Thou wilt do well to remember what thou hast promised when all is accomplished."

     7. When this epistle was discovered, and what the epistle forged against Salome contained, a suspicion came into the king's mind, that perhaps the letters against Alexander were also forged: he was moreover greatly disturbed, and in a passion, because he had almost slain his sister on Antipater's account. He did no longer delay therefore to bring him to punishment for all his crimes; yet when he was eagerly pursuing Antipater, he was restrained by a severe distemper he fell into. However, he sent all account to Caesar about Acme, and the contrivances against Salome; he sent also for his testament, and altered it, and therein made Antipas king, as taking no care of Archelaus and Philip, because Antipater had blasted their reputations with him; but he bequeathed to Caesar, besides other presents that he gave him, a thousand talents; as also to his wife, and children, and friends, and freed-men about five hundred: he also bequeathed to all others a great quantity of land, and of money, and showed his respects to Salome his sister, by giving her most splendid gifts. And this was what was contained in his testament, as it was now altered.

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)

Proverbs 20:13-14
     by D.H. Stern

13     If you love sleep, you will become poor;
keep your eyes open, and you’ll have plenty of food.

14     “Really bad stuff!” says the buyer [to the seller];
then he goes off and brags [about his bargain].


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 inevitable penalty

     Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou have paid the uttermost farthing. --- Matthew 5:26.

     “There is no heaven with a little of hell in it.” God is determined to make you pure and holy and right; he will not allow you to escape for one moment from the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit. He urged you to come to judgment right away when He convicted you, but you did not; the inevitable process began to work and now you are in prison, and you will only get out when you have paid the uttermost farthing. ‘Is this a God of mercy, and of love?’ you say. Seen from God’s side, it is a glorious ministry of love. God is going to bring you out pure and spotless and undefiled; but He wants you to recognize the disposition you were showing—the disposition of your right to yourself. The moment you are willing that God should alter your disposition, His re-creating forces will begin to work. The moment you realize God’s purpose, which is to get you rightly related to Himself and then to your fellow men, He will tax the last limit of the universe to help you take the right road. Decide it now—‘Yes, Lord, I will write that letter to-night’; ‘I will be reconciled to that man now.’

     These messages of Jesus Christ are for the will and the conscience, not for the head. If you dispute the Sermon on the Mount with your head, you will blunt the appeal to your heart.

     ‘I wonder why I don’t go on with God!’ Are you paying your debts from God’s standpoint? Do now what you will have to do some day. Every moral call has an ‘ought’ behind it.


My Utmost for His Highest

A Welsh Testament
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


                A Welsh Testament

All right, I was Welsh. Does it matter?
I spoke a tongue that was passed on
To me in the place I happened to be,
A place huddled between grey walls
Of cloud for at least half the year.
My word for heaven was not yours.
The word for hell had a sharp edge
Put on it by the hand of the wind
Honing, honing with a shrill sound
Day and night. Nothing that Glyn Dwr
Knew was armour against the rain's
Missiles. What was descent from him?

Even God had a Welsh name:
We spoke to him in the old language;
He was to have a peculiar care
For the Welsh people. History showed us
He was too big to be nailed to the wall
Of a stone chapel, yet still we crammed him
Between the boards of a black book.

Yet men sought us despite this.
My high cheek-bones, my length of skull
Drew them as to a rare portrait
By a dead master. I saw them stare
From their long cars, as I passed knee-deep
In ewes and wethers. I saw them stand
By the thorn hedges, watching me string
The far flocks on a shrill whistle.
And always there was their eyes; strong
Pressure on me: You are Welsh, they said;
Speak to us so; keep your fields free
Of the smell of petrol, the loud roar
Of hot tractors; we must have peace
And quietness.

          Is a museum
Peace? I asked. Am I the keeper
Of the heart's relics, blowing the dust
In my own eyes? I am a man;
I never wanted the drab role
Life assigned me, an actor playing
To the past's audience upon a stage
Of earth and stone; the absurd label
Of birth, of race hanging askew
About my shoulders. I was in prison
Until you came; your voice was a key
Turning in the enormous lock
Of hopelessness. Did the door open
To let me out or yourselves in?


Thomas, R. S.

Selected poems, 1946-1968

Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     D’RASH


     Through the last several decades, movies have become more and more grisly. This is due to an increasing tolerance of—and even taste for—violence, combined with modern film technology that makes such scenes possible. The villain is brutally decapitated while riding atop a subway car; a police officer goes on a bloody rampage after his partner is killed (or his daughter raped, or his wife murdered); the victim of a murder returns as a ghost or a raven, wreaking vengeance on his attackers through cruel and savage torture.

     We watch these movies and complain about the violence. We protest—“How awful!”—while paying exorbitant prices in record numbers to see these films. Hollywood agrees on a rating system for movies so that younger children will not be exposed to the blood and gore. Yet the “R” rating often assures an increased audience and more exposure.

     Our own mouths say “How awful,” but our own ears hear only the explosion of bombs and the ricochet of bullets. Our own mouths say “We live in violent times,” while our own ears listen to the tape-recording of show times for the newest movie release. Our own mouths ask, “Where did those children learn how to act like this?” as our own ears are attuned to our children’s hunger (and ours) for bigger, better, more graphic depictions of violence.

     Won’t our ears hear what our own mouths say?

     ANOTHER D’RASH

     iconoclast n., fr. the Gk., image + break
1. one opposed to the religious use of images
2. one who attacks widely accepted ideas

     This famous Midrash comes to tell us not only who Abraham was but also who we should strive to be. The first Hebrew was an iconoclast, in both senses of the word. Abraham broke his father’s idols because he came to the realization that there was but one God in the world, and that God had no physical body or form. But that idea, and the willingness to act on it, would have made Abraham only a religious zealot. He was, in fact, much more. He was a prophet as well, a man who served as the conscience of his society. He had a vision of what was right and what was wrong, and he had the courage to stand up and point a finger at anyone who he felt was on the wrong path—be it Terah, his father; or God. Abraham was not afraid to smash the idols in Terah’s shop, and he was not afraid to challenge God’s plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah by asking, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” (
Genesis 18:25)

     When the Rabbis investigated the meaning of the word “Hebrew,” one of their explanations focused on Abraham’s iconoclasm: “He stood on one side (עֵבֶר/eiver) and the rest of the world stood on the other side.” This is what Abraham was about—standing apart, finding his own way, and challenging the beliefs of everyone else. This is what it means to be a Hebrew: to stand on the other side, not trying to conform and fit in but finding one’s own way, no matter how lonely that way might be.

     The end of the midrashic tale about Abraham is interesting. Terah turns his son in to Nimrod, king of Ur. Nimrod is not willing to tolerate anyone who deviates from the accepted beliefs, and he sentences Abraham to death in a fiery furnace. Meanwhile, Abraham’s brother Haran is forced to make a choice: support his brother, or support his king. Haran equivocates, wanting to wait and see how the trial by ordeal will turn out before he takes a stand. When Abraham miraculously emerges unscathed from the furnace, Haran declares his support for his brother. Outraged, Nimrod has Haran thrown into the fire, where he perishes. Thus, the premature death of Haran in Ur (which in Hebrew can also mean “fire”).

     Some of us may not be cut out to be iconoclasts like Abraham. At the very least, we need to “let our ears hear” what the iconoclasts among us have to say.

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Nahum 2:1–13God Is Judge: How Nineveh Will Fall
     W. W. Wiersbe

     "In 612 B.C., the Medes and the Babylonians united to attack Nineveh, and the Lord used them to judge the evil city. This chapter is a vivid description of what happened as seen by Nahum in the vision God gave him.

     The invaders appear (
Nahum 2:1–4). The guards on the walls of the city see the army advancing and the officers issue orders and encourage their soldiers. You can almost hear the sharp commands: “Guard the fortress, watch the road, brace yourself, marshal all your strength!” (v. 1, NIV) Above all the noise, the voice of the Lord is heard as He speaks to Israel and Judah and assures them that they will be restored and reunited. (v.2) (“Jacob” probably refers to Judah, the Southern Kingdom, and Israel refers to the Northern Kingdom that was dispersed by Assyria in 722–721 B.C. Since this promise has not been fulfilled, its fulfillment awaits the return of Christ when He will establish His kingdom and restore the splendor of the Jewish nation.)

     The invading army is formidable with its manpower, armor, weapons, and chariots (
vv. 3–4). Already their shields are red with blood. The chariots look like flames of fire as they dash here and there in the streets of the city, and the soldiers find it easy to slaughter the defenseless people.

     The city is captured (
Nahum 2:5–10). “He” in verse 5 refers to the king of Assyria who had plotted against the Lord and His people (1:9). He gathers his best officers and gives them orders to protect the wall, but they are too late. They stumble like drunks instead of marching like heroes. The leaders were sure their fortress was impregnable, but their defenses proved to be their undoing.

     The Khoser River flowed through the city, so the invaders damned it up and then released the water so that it destroyed part of the wall and some of the buildings. It was a simple matter for the Medes and Babylonians to enter the city and take control. But they can’t take credit for the victory; it was decreed by God that the city be destroyed and the inhabitants be killed or taken captive (
2:7). The invaders were but God’s instruments to execute His will.

     First, the soldiers line up the prisoners to march them off to their own lands where they’ll become slaves. Nahum compares the exodus to water draining out of a pool. Then the soldiers begin looting this fabulously wealthy city, and the people watch with dismay. “Hearts melt, knees give way, bodies tremble, every face grows pale” (
v. 10, NIV). Nineveh is being treated the way she treated others; her sins had found her out.

     The captive leaders are taunted (
Nahum 2:11–13). Speaking on behalf of God, the prophet has the last word. As the Assyrian captives are marched away, leaders and common citizens, and the city’s treasures carried off by their captors, Nahum taunts the Ninevites by contrasting their present plight with their former glory.

     The image of the lion was often used by the Assyrians in their art and architecture. Visit the Assyrian room in any large museum and you will see huge statues of lions. But even more, the Assyrians acted like lions as they stalked their prey and completely devoured their captives. “Where is the lions’ den now?” Nahum asks as the city is destroyed. “Where is all your prey, the treasures you ruthlessly took from others?” Lions will normally take to their lair enough food for themselves and their cubs, but the Assyrians amassed wealth beyond measure, far more than they needed, and they did it at the cost of human lives.

     No wonder the Lord announced, “I am against you” (
v. 13). Over a century before, the Lord had sent Jonah to warn Nineveh, and when the city repented, He withdrew His hand of judgment. But now their time was up and the end had come. Assyria would be left with no weapons, no leaders, and no victories to be announced by their messengers. Instead, Assyria’s enemies would hear the voice of couriers announcing peace because Assyria had been defeated (1:15

Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship (The BE Series Commentary)

Take Heart
     July 1

     In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished.
--- Galatians 5:11.

     The Cross was an offense to the Jews because it obliterated national distinctions. (George H. Morrison, “The Offense of the Cross”) It leveled those social barriers that were of such untold worth in Jewish eyes. They had had the bittersweet privilege of being lonely, and, being lonely, they had been ennobled; they were a chosen nation. The covenants were theirs, theirs were the promises. The knowledge of the one true God was theirs, [and] there rose in the Jewish mind a certain contempt for all the other human nations. They had no envy of the art of Greece. They were not awed by the majesty of Rome. Greeks and Romans were but Gentiles.

     Then came the Cross. It leveled all distinctions; it burst through all barriers of nationality. There was neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, but all were one in Christ. Let wild savages from the farthest west come to the cross of Christ pleading for mercy, and they had nothing less to do, and nothing more, than the proudest Jew who was a child of Abraham. One feels the insult of it all, how it left the Jews defenseless. All they had clung to was gone, their vineyard walls were shattered. And this tremendous leveling of distinctions—to the proud, reserved, and lonely people—was no small part of the offense of Calvary.

     I would not have you imagine that Christ disregards all personal distinctions. If I sent you away harboring the thought that all who come to Christ get the same treatment, I would have done him an unutterable wrong. In everything he did, Christ was original, yet in no sphere was he so strikingly original as in the way he handled those who came to him. There is always some touch, some word, some discipline that tells of an individual understanding. But in spite of all that and recognizing that, this is the “scandal” of the Cross, that there every distinction is obliterated, and people must be saved as lost or not at all.

     The brightest heart here needs pardon and peace with God in Christ as much as the wildest prodigal in Glasgow. Accept it. It is freely offered you. Say, “You, O Christ, are all I need.” And then, just as the wilderness will blossom, so will the offense of the Cross become its glory.
--- George H. Morrison


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

On This Day
     No Vacancy  July 1



     A snug, private hotel room is a welcome site for traveling salesmen after a long day. But imagine arriving at your hotel only to find it so full that rooms had to be shared. That happened on September 14, 1898, at the Central Hotel of Boscobel, Wisconsin. John Nicholson arrived at 9 P.M. to find every room taken. The clerk suggested he share room 19 with a stranger, Samuel Hill.

     Before crawling into bed, Nicholson opened his Bible. At age 19 he had promised his dying mother he would read the Bible every night. Hill, asleep in the next bed, awoke. “Mr. Hill,” said Nicholson, “you will pardon me if I keep the light on just a little longer; I make it a practice to read from the Word of God and have a little chat with him before I retire.”

     “Read it aloud,” said Hill, jumping up. “I’m a Christian, too.” Nicholson read John 15 and the two knelt for prayer. They stayed up until 2 A.M. discussing the needs of traveling Christians.

     Nicholson and Hill bumped into each other again in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. They soon announced plans for an association of Christian salesmen, setting the first meeting for July 1, 1899. Only three showed up—Nicholson, Hill, and William Knights. The men nonetheless launched their organization to mobilize Christian travelers for encouragement, evangelism, and service. They decided to call themselves after the Old Testament character Gideon who was “willing to do whatever God asked.”

     Since all the early Gideons were traveling men, the question arose as to how they could be witnesses in the hotels where they spent so much time. Someone suggested the Gideons encourage every hotel they patronize to furnish a Bible for its patrons. At a 1907 Chicago meeting, someone went so far as to suggest Gideons place Bibles in all the rooms of the hotels. The idea was adopted, the first distribution of Bibles occurring at the Superior Hotel in Iron Mountain, Montana, in 1908. Since then over 750 million copies of Scripture have been distributed in over 170 nations.

     Gideon said, “When we get to the enemy camp, spread out and surround it. Then wait for me to blow a signal on my trumpet. As soon as you hear it, blow your trumpets and shout, ‘Fight for the LORD! Fight for Gideon!’ ”
--- Judges 7:17-18.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - July 1

     “In summer and in winter shall it be.” --- Zechariah 14:8.

     The streams of living water which flow from Jerusalem are not dried up by the parching heats of sultry midsummer any more than they were frozen by the cold winds of blustering winter. Rejoice, O my soul, that thou art spared to testify of the faithfulness of the Lord. The seasons change and thou changest, but thy Lord abides evermore the same, and the streams of his love are as deep, as broad and as full as ever. The heats of business cares and scorching trials make me need the cooling influences of the river of His grace; I may go at once and drink to the full from the inexhaustible fountain, for in summer and in winter it pours forth its flood. The upper springs are never scanty, and blessed be the name of the Lord, the nether springs cannot fail either. Elijah found Cherith dry up, but Jehovah was still the same God of providence. Job said his brethren were like deceitful brooks, but he found his God an overflowing river of consolation. The Nile is the great confidence of Egypt, but its floods are variable; our Lord is evermore the same. By turning the course of the Euphrates, Cyrus took the city of Babylon, but no power, human or infernal, can divert the current of divine grace. The tracks of ancient rivers have been found all dry and desolate, but the streams which take their rise on the mountains of divine sovereignty and infinite love shall ever be full to the brim. Generations melt away, but the course of grace is unaltered. The river of God may sing with greater truth than the brook in the poem ---

     “Men may come, and men may go,
     But I go on for ever.”


     How happy art thou, my soul, to be led beside such still waters! never wander to other streams, lest thou hear the Lord’s rebuke, “What hast thou to do in the way of Egypt to drink of the muddy river?”


          Evening - July 1

     "The voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day." --- Genesis 3:8.

     My soul, now that the cool of the day has come, retire awhile and hearken to the voice of thy God. He is always ready to speak with thee when thou art prepared to hear. If there be any slowness to commune it is not on his part, but altogether on thine own, for he stands at the door and knocks, and if his people will but open he rejoices to enter. But in what state is my heart, which is my Lord’s garden? May I venture to hope that it is well trimmed and watered, and is bringing forth fruit fit for him? If not, he will have much to reprove, but still I pray him to come unto me, for nothing can so certainly bring my heart into a right condition as the presence of the Sun of Righteousness, who brings healing in his wings. Come, therefore, O Lord, my God, my soul invites thee earnestly, and waits for thee eagerly. Come to me, O Jesus, my well-beloved, and plant fresh flowers in my garden, such as I see blooming in such perfection in thy matchless character! Come, O my Father, who art the Husbandman, and deal with me in thy tenderness and prudence! Come, O Holy Spirit, and bedew my whole nature, as the herbs are now moistened with the Evening dews. O that God would speak to me. Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth! O that he would walk with me; I am ready to give up my whole heart and mind to him, and every other thought is hushed. I am only asking what he delights to give. I am sure that he will condescend to have fellowship with me, for he has given me his Holy Spirit to abide with me for ever. Sweet is the cool twilight, when every star seems like the eye of heaven, and the cool wind is as the breath of celestial love. My Father, my elder Brother, my sweet Comforter, speak now in lovingkindness, for thou hast opened mine ear and I am not rebellious.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     July 1

          HE KEEPS ME SINGING

     Words and Music by Luther B. Bridgers, 1884–1948

     If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have obeyed My Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:10–11)

     Joy is the flag which is flown
     from the castle of the heart
     when the King is in residence there.
--- Unknown


     Joy should be one of the chief characteristics of our Christian faith. In the New Testament the word chara is used 53 times to mean “joy.” Only a joyful exuberant Christian is a worthy representative of the transforming power of Christ’s Gospel. But what is spiritual joy? It is much more than mere laughter or even happiness. It is a life that is at rest in the Lord, regardless of life’s circumstances. Such a life cannot help but have a strong impact on nonbelievers. If there were more singing Christians, there would be more Christians.

     Often our finest and most effective songs are sung during the midnight experiences of life. It is easy to sing when all is well. But to sing when all is dark requires the indwelling presence of Christ. Luther Bridgers, a Methodist pastor and evangelist from Georgia, is believed to have written both words and music for this joyful hymn in 1910, following the death of his wife and three sons in a fire at the home of his wife’s parents while he was away conducting revival meetings in Kentucky.

     There’s within my heart a melody—Jesus whispers sweet and low, “Fear not, I am with thee—peace, be still,” in all of life’s ebb and flow.

     All my life was wrecked by sin and strife. Discord filled my heart with pain; Jesus swept across the broken strings, stirred the slumb’ring chords again.

     Feasting on the riches of His grace, resting ’neath His shelt’ring wing, always looking on His smiling face—That is why I shout and sing.

     Tho sometimes He leads thru waters deep, trials fall across the way, tho sometimes the path seem rough and steep, see His feet-prints all the way.

     Soon He’s coming back to welcome me far beyond the starry sky; I shall wing my flight to worlds unknown; I shall reign with Him on high.

     Chorus: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus—Sweetest name I know, fills my ev’ry longing, keeps me singing as I go.


     For Today: Psalm 40:3; Proverbs 29:6; Isaiah 12:3, 5; 52:9; Acts 16:25; Ephesians 5:19.

     Determine to live with a singing spirit; be a truly “praising Christian.” Carry this musical testimony with you as a help, knowing that ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)


     Sect. LXXII. — TO this point pertain all those words which are spoken concerning the hope and expectation, that those things which we hope for will certainly come to pass. For the pious do not hope because of these words themselves, nor do they expect such things because they hope for them. So also the wicked by the words of threatening, and of a future judgment, are only terrified and cast down that they might cease and abstain from sin, and not become proud, secure, and hardened in their sins.

     But if Reason should here turn up her nose and say — Why does God will these things to be done by His words, when by such words nothing is effected, and when the will can turn itself neither one way nor the other? Why does He not do what He does without the Word, when He can do all things without the Word? For the will is of no more power, and does no more with the Word, if the Spirit to move within be wanting; nor is it of less power, nor does it do less without the Word, if the Spirit be present, seeing that, all depends upon the power and operation of the Holy Spirit.

     I answer: Thus it pleaseth God — not to give the Spirit without the Word, but through the Word; that He might have us as workers together with Him, while we sound forth in the Word without, what He alone works by the breath of His Spirit within, wheresoever it pleaseth Him; which, nevertheless, He could do without the Word, but such is not His will. And who are we that we should inquire into the cause of the divine will? It is enough for us to know, that such is the will of God; and it becomes us, bridling the temerity of reason, to reverence, love, and adore that will. For Christ, (Matt. xi. 25-26,) gives no other reason why the Gospel is hidden from the wise, and revealed unto babes, than this: — So it pleased the Father! In the same manner also, He might nourish us without bread; and indeed He has given a power which nourishes us without bread, as Matt. iv. 4, saith, “Man doth not live by bread alone, but by the Word of God:” but yet, it hath pleased Him to nourish us by His Spirit within, by means of the bread, and instead of the bread used without.

     It is certain, therefore, that merit cannot be proved from the reward, at least out of the Scriptures; and that, moreover, “Free-will” cannot be proved from merit, much less such a “Free-will” as the Diatribe set out to prove, that is, ‘which of itself cannot will any thing good!’ And even if you grant merit, and add to it, moreover, those usual similitudes and conclusions of reason, such as, ‘it is commanded in vain,’ ‘the reward is promised in vain,’ ‘threatenings are denounced in vain,’ if there be no “Free-will:” all these, I say, if they prove any thing, prove this: — that “Free-will” can of itself do all things. But if it cannot of itself do all things, then that conclusion of reason still remains — therefore, the precepts are given in vain, the promises are made in vain, and the threatenings are denounced in vain.

     Thus, the Diatribe is perpetually arguing against itself, as often as it attempts to argue against me. For God alone by His Spirit works in us both merit and reward, but He makes known and declares each, by His external Word, to the whole world; to the intent that, His power and glory and our impotency and vileness might be proclaimed even among the wicked, the unbelieving, and the ignorant, although those alone who fear God receive these things into their heart, and keep them faithfully; the rest despise them.


The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library


Here I am, Lord     
Donna Thoennes   Biola University






Theology I Lecture 08
Dr. Andy Snider | The Master's Seminary





Theology I Lecture 09
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Dr. Andy Snider | The Master's Seminary






Remaining Faithful
Jonathan Uyboco | Biola University





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Dr. Andy Snider | The Master's Seminary





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Dr. Andy Snider | The Master's Seminary





Theology I Lecture 22
Dr. Andy Snider | The Master's Seminary