Deliver Me, O Lord, from Evil MenPsalm 140 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
1 Deliver me, O Lord, from evil men;
preserve me from violent men,
2 who plan evil things in their heart
and stir up wars continually.
3 They make their tongue sharp as a serpent's,
and under their lips is the venom of asps. Selah
4 Guard me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked;
preserve me from violent men,
who have planned to trip up my feet.
5 The arrogant have hidden a trap for me,
and with cords they have spread a net;
beside the way they have set snares for me. Selah
6 I say to the Lord, You are my God;
give ear to the voice of my pleas for mercy, O Lord!
7 O Lord, my Lord, the strength of my salvation,
you have covered my head in the day of battle.
8 Grant not, O Lord, the desires of the wicked;
do not further their[b] evil plot, or they will be exalted! Selah
9 As for the head of those who surround me,
let the mischief of their lips overwhelm them!
10 Let burning coals fall upon them!
Let them be cast into fire,
into miry pits, no more to rise!
11 Let not the slanderer be established in the land;
let evil hunt down the violent man speedily!
12 I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted,
and will execute justice for the needy.
13 Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name;
the upright shall dwell in your presence.
Give Ear to My VoicePsalm 141 A Psalm of David.
1 O Lord, I call upon you; hasten to me!
Give ear to my voice when I call to you!
2 Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!
3 Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;
keep watch over the door of my lips!
4 Do not let my heart incline to any evil,
to busy myself with wicked deeds
in company with men who work iniquity,
and let me not eat of their delicacies!
5 Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness;
let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head;
let my head not refuse it.
Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds.
6 When their judges are thrown over the cliff,
then they shall hear my words, for they are pleasant.
7 As when one plows and breaks up the earth,
so shall our bones be scattered at the mouth of Sheol.
8 But my eyes are toward you, O God, my Lord;
in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!
9 Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me
and from the snares of evildoers!
10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
while I pass by safely.
You Are My RefugePsalm 142 A Maskil of David, when he was in the cave. A Prayer.
1 With my voice I cry out to the Lord;
with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord.
2 I pour out my complaint before him;
I tell my trouble before him.
3 When my spirit faints within me,
you know my way!
In the path where I walk
they have hidden a trap for me.
4 Look to the right and see:
there is none who takes notice of me;
no refuge remains to me;
no one cares for my soul.
5 I cry to you, O Lord;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”
6 Attend to my cry,
for I am brought very low!
Deliver me from my persecutors,
for they are too strong for me!
7 Bring me out of prison,
that I may give thanks to your name!
The righteous will surround me,
for you will deal bountifully with me.
My Soul Thirsts for YouPsalm 143 A Psalm of David.
1 Hear my prayer, O Lord;
give ear to my pleas for mercy!
In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!
2 Enter not into judgment with your servant,
for no one living is righteous before you.
3 For the enemy has pursued my soul;
he has crushed my life to the ground;
he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.
4 Therefore my spirit faints within me;
my heart within me is appalled.
5 I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that you have done;
I ponder the work of your hands.
6 I stretch out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah
7 Answer me quickly, O Lord!
My spirit fails!
Hide not your face from me,
lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
8 Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.
9 Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord!
I have fled to you for refuge.
10 Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God!
Let your good Spirit lead me
on level ground!
11 For your name's sake, O Lord, preserve my life!
In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!
12 And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies,
and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul,
for I am your servant.
My Rock and My FortressPsalm 144 Of David.
1 Blessed be the Lord, my rock,
who trains my hands for war,
and my fingers for battle;
2 he is my steadfast love and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield and he in whom I take refuge,
who subdues peoples under me.
3 O Lord, what is man that you regard him,
or the son of man that you think of him?
4 Man is like a breath;
his days are like a passing shadow.
5 Bow your heavens, O Lord, and come down!
Touch the mountains so that they smoke!
6 Flash forth the lightning and scatter them;
send out your arrows and rout them!
7 Stretch out your hand from on high;
rescue me and deliver me from the many waters,
from the hand of foreigners,
8 whose mouths speak lies
and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.
9 I will sing a new song to you, O God;
upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you,
10 who gives victory to kings,
who rescues David his servant from the cruel sword.
11 Rescue me and deliver me
from the hand of foreigners,
whose mouths speak lies
and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.
12 May our sons in their youth
be like plants full grown,
our daughters like corner pillars
cut for the structure of a palace;
13 may our granaries be full,
providing all kinds of produce;
may our sheep bring forth thousands
and ten thousands in our fields;
14 may our cattle be heavy with young,
suffering no mishap or failure in bearing;
may there be no cry of distress in our streets!
15 Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall!
Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!
Great Is the LORDPsalm 145 A SONG OF PRAISE. OF DAVID.
1 I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
2 Every day I will bless you
and praise your name forever and ever.
3 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.
4 One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
5 On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
6 They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
and I will declare your greatness.
7 They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
8 The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 The LORD is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.
10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD,
and all your saints shall bless you!
11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
and tell of your power,
12 to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
[The LORD is faithful in all his words
and kind in all his works.]
14 The LORD upholds all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works.
18 The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.
20 The LORD preserves all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.
21 My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD,
and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
By Keith Mathison 4/1/2010
When I moved to central Florida in 1992, I was told that this part of the state had not been directly hit by a hurricane since the fifties. We were hit by the outer edges of some hurricanes and tropical storms on occasion, but nothing major. All of that changed in 2004 when this one small part of the state was hit by not one, but three strong hurricanes in the short space of six weeks. Hurricane Charley hit us the evening of August 13. Three weeks later we were hit by Hurricane Frances. Three weeks after that we were hit by Hurricane Jeanne. It was not a pleasant time to live in this part of Florida.
There was one side effect of the 2004 hurricane season that I probably should have expected but did not, and that was the effect it would have on our local meteorologists. As the 2005 hurricane season approached, some of them lost their minds. If I may be permitted a bit of hyperbole, the typical weather report that year could be paraphrased as such: “A tropical depression has formed off the coast of Africa. It is probably going to turn into a major hurricane. It is probably going to hit us, and we are probably all going to die.” They seemed to have one goal — to create a perpetual state of fear and anxiety. I stopped watching after a few weeks of this and asked my wife to let me know if and when we needed to board up the windows or evacuate.
Those who have watched or read the news over the last several years have likely noticed this tendency regardless of where you live. Watch the news long enough and a monologue begins to develop in your mind: “The economy will soon collapse, hampering our war against the terrorists who are on the verge of attacking us again. The only thing that may stop them is a pandemic of bird flu, swine flu, or the black plague, but this pandemic will only affect those of us who haven’t already succumbed to the dire effects of global warming. Stay tuned for a report on what popular food product has been shown to cause cancer in lab rats and chimpanzees.”
How do we deal with all of this media-induced paranoia, fear, and anxiety? An example from church history proves instructive. Saint Augustine (354–430) lived at a time of great fear and anxiety. His world changed dramatically in A.D. 410 when the barbarian Alaric entered Rome. This was the beginning of the end for the western half of the Roman Empire. As refugees fled to northern Africa, bringing all manner of ominous reports, Augustine was forced to deal with the issues as many were going so far as to blame the fall of Rome on Christianity. His classic work City of God (Penguin Classics) was written to respond to the crisis. One of my favorite quotes from this book addresses the fearfulness of his readers. He encourages Christians who are surrounded by danger on every side, saying: “Among the daily chances of this life every man on earth is threatened in the same way by innumerable deaths, and it is uncertain which of them will come to him. And so the question is whether it is better to suffer one in dying or to fear them all in living” (bk. 1, chap. 11). These are the words of one who trusts the sovereignty of God. Augustine knew there was no point in being constantly fearful about all of the dangers surrounding him. He knew God was in control and that not a single hair could fall from his head apart from God’s will.
The world is fearful and anxious, but it is fearful and anxious about the wrong things. The world is fearful about the economy. The world is fearful about retirement accounts. The world is fearful about natural disasters and man-made disasters. The world is fearful of terrorism, and the world is fearful of disease. The world, however, is not fearful of God. Jesus tells us that we are not to fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead we are to fear God who can destroy both (Matt. 10:28). The wrath of God makes all other objects of the world’s fears seem like nothing in comparison. A truly fearful thing is to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10:31).
Those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ, however, have nothing to fear from man, or from anything else for that matter. Those who trust Christ have nothing to fear from hurricanes, diseases, economic collapse, war, famine, or even death. All of these things are under the control of our sovereign Father in heaven. Of course, this is easy enough for us to say, but we all too easily take our eyes off of God and dwell on the dangers surrounding us.
Is there anything we can do to fight worldly fear and anxiety? I believe Paul provides one important clue by contrasting fear with prayer. He writes: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6–7). A neglect of prayer almost always results in a corresponding rise in our fear and anxiety. This is no coincidence. Prayer is an act of faith in God, and faith in God leads to the peace of God.
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:
- 1 Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope
- 2 The Shape of Sola Scriptura
- 3 Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper
- 4 From Age to Age: The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology
- 5 Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God?
- 6 A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture
- 7 Not a Chance: God, Science, and the Revolt against Reason
- 8 When Shall These Things Be?: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism
Something New Under the Sun
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 4/1/2010
Imagine, if you would, that you are the most powerful person in the world. Now imagine that you are also the richest person in the world. Would your life be fundamentally different? Would everything that is now ordinary about your life become extraordinary? Not according to the wisest man in the world. King Solomon reigned in Israel at the peak of its power. Israel was at that time a world power, her borders swelling. Solomon likewise enjoyed the wealth of Croesus (the grossly rich Greek king). No one on the planet was as wealthy as Solomon. Better than all this, however, he was gifted by the God of heaven and earth with wisdom. In that wisdom, and in light of experiencing every pleasure, every distraction that the world had to offer, he spoke this heavy nugget: “There is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9).
The brave new world, under the flashing lights and tinkling bells, is the same world it has always been. Such does not mean, of course, that we ought not be on our guard amidst swirling cultural change. We are called, after all, to discern the times. That, however, is precisely the point. We can only grasp the winds of change when we are tied to the mast of the permanent things. To walk steady in the midst of shifting sands we do not seek to better understand the sand. Instead we long to have our feet set upon the Rock. Then, and only then, will we sing a new song.
That the brave new world is the timid old world does mean, therefore, that we must hold on to the old truths. No matter how swiftly technology may be changing, it will not change these realities — that we, in ourselves, are sinners at war with God Himself. No matter how slippery the culture’s conception of truth, the truth is He sent His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life. No matter how dizzying the world becomes, He still has the whole world in His hands. And no matter how overtly the culture rebels against its rightful king, we are to be of good cheer, remembering that He has already overcome the world.
His victory, however, is not merely the cause of our good cheer; it also rightly informs our strategy. If the wheels really were coming off the world, if these dazzling changes really were something new under the sun, then we could understand the temptation to change course, to adapt, to contextualize, to go with the flow. If, however, Jesus reigns now, if He sends His Spirit in power across the globe, if He wields His Word as a two-edged sword, then we can stay with the program. We can continue, for all authority has been given to Him in heaven and on earth. By this authority He has ordered us to go and make disciples of the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that He has commanded us. We can live in faith, remembering that He is with us even as we walk through Vanity Fair — even to the end of the age.
C.S. Lewis was not only a lay theologian but was also a scholar of English literature. During the height of the Second World War, he penned an essay in which he asked why, in the midst of such a titanic struggle between good and evil, anyone would “waste” time studying literature. He then explained that those who refused to think on matters of culture will not end up with no culture but with bad culture. Culture is inevitable, both in war and in peace. No one can set it aside for a time to deal with the important stuff. In like manner, if we believe that the broader culture is so much background noise, we will not steer clear of it but will buy into it. Those who ignore culture are doomed to repeat it.
If we don’t, for the sake of the gospel, adjust for the culture, and we don’t, for the sake of the gospel, ignore the culture, what do we do? We seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. We build a culture around and upon the lordship of Christ over all things. We live our lives, as much as is possible, in peace and quietness with all men, which is, at one and the same time, the very power of His assault on the gates of hell. As we refuse to get frantic and adopt the pace of the broader culture but instead live simple, gospel-infused lives; as we raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; as we hunger and thirst after righteousness; as we meditate day and night on His law and rejoice day and night over His grace; suddenly the world slows down. Our hearts are calmed. We are still, and we know that He is God.
There is nothing new under the sun. But every day, more and new things are being brought under the Son. The mustard seed is growing. The leaven is working through the lump. That Rock, unhewn by human hands, is expanding across the globe, and the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is covering the earth as water covers the sea.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
Making Molehills Out of Mountains
By R.C. Sproul 5/1/2010
The crisis regarding the doctrine of justification that provoked the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century has not yet been resolved. Thus, the Reformation is by no means over. The dispute over justification that split the church back then threatens to fracture contemporary, evangelical Christianity. At issue during the Reformation was the relationship of justification to sanctification. It was a question of the order of salvation. The difference is not a tempest in a teapot; it’s one by which salvation itself is defined.
The Roman Catholic Church depended upon the Latin fathers who understood the doctrine of justification against the background of the Latin word iustificare. It is this word from which we get our English word justify, literally, “to make righteous.” However, the actual Greek term that is used in the New Testament means “to declare righteous.” What, then, is the difference? In the Protestant understanding of the New Testament, justification occurs when God declares that a person is just. That declaration takes place the moment a person puts his or her faith in Christ. Sanctification is the process that follows justification by which those who have been declared just by God are actually conformed to the image of Christ. But the glorious good news of the gospel is that we don’t have to wait until we become just in order to be counted just by God.
Catholics argued in the sixteenth century and have continued to argue, as recently as the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 1994, that God will declare a person just only when that person has achieved inherent righteousness. True, that righteousness cannot be gained apart from grace, apart from faith, or apart from Christ. But with the help of these means of grace, the Catholic argues, that righteousness may and must be attained before God will make His declaration that a person is just. That is why, according to Rome, if a person dies with imperfections or impurities still present in his soul, before he can go to heaven, he must first go to purgatory, where his abiding imperfections are purged away. That time in purgatory could last millions of years in order for the cleansing necessary to bring about total purity. What was anathema to Rome about Martin Luther’s teaching, among other things, was his famous formula defining justification as bringing sinners into a state whereby we are simul iustus et peccator — at the same time just and sinner. We are just by virtue of God declaring us just in Christ, but we still struggle with abiding sin.
Another way of looking at the difference between the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification and the classic Protestant doctrine is the difference between what may be called “analytical” justification and “synthetic” justification.
An analytical statement is true by definition. For example, we may say that “a bachelor is an unmarried man.” In that statement, there is nothing in the predicate that isn’t contained in the subject. However, if we say, “the bachelor is a poor man,” poorness is not automatically contained within the notion of bachelorhood, and so we have added something to the concept of bachelorhood by mentioning poverty. This something that is added makes this a synthetic statement. For Rome, justification occurs only when under analysis God sees that a person is inherently just. In the Protestant view, our justification is synthetic because God judges us not on the basis of our own righteousness, but on the basis of a righteousness that has been added to us by faith, namely, the righteousness of Christ.
When we argue that justification is by faith alone, we mean that all that is necessary in order for a person to receive all of the benefits of Christ’s redeeming work is the presence of actual saving faith. Rome agrees that faith is necessary for justification, as well as grace and Christ, but Catholics struggle with the term alone. They do not believe that justification is by faith alone but by faith plus works (the works of satisfaction that are a necessary ingredient of the sacrament of penance). Rome believes that justification is by grace plus merit — the merit that is gained by doing works of satisfaction — by Christ plus a person’s own righteousness. Again, we can’t have that righteousness without the presence of faith, grace, and Christ. Nevertheless, in the final analysis, that righteousness is truly the person’s own righteousness.
The ultimate issue between Rome and the Reformation is the issue of the ground of justification. Luther rightly argued that the basis of our justification is our connection to “an alien righteousness” — a righteousness that, properly speaking, is not our own but belongs to someone else. It is a righteousness that Luther spoke of as extra nos — apart from us. That righteousness, of course, is the righteousness of Christ that is imputed to all who believe in Him.
In our own day, a full-scale assault has been launched within evangelicalism against the classical doctrine of justification by faith alone. Arguments are raised attacking the concept of imputation and the concept of Christ’s achieving of His own righteousness through His active obedience to the Mosaic law and serving as our representative as the second and final Adam. These issues are being debated strenuously even now within the bounds of evangelical seminaries, particularly in light of the influence of the British New Testament scholar N.T. Wright, who, while rejecting both the Roman Catholic and the Reformation views of justification, has particularly raised issues about imputation.
This crisis again confronts the church with what Luther once called “the issue upon which the church stands or falls.” Without the doctrine of justification by faith alone, the gospel is not merely compromised, it is lost altogether. And in the place of the good news comes the bad news: that before we can ever enter our heavenly rest, we must, with whatever means of grace are available, reach the point, either in this world or in purgatory, where we attain a pure righteousness that is inherent in us. If I have to wait for that in order to enter into my rest, I cannot imagine anything other than an eternity of restlessness.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
By Robert Norris 5/1/2010
Doctrine is the necessary basis for a sound spiritual life, and defective doctrine almost inevitably leads to a distorted spiritual life. Nowhere is this truth more evident than in understanding the relationship between the old covenant law and the gospel, which is a theological issue with enormous practical implications. Its importance was recognized by Martin Luther, who could write that “whoever knows well this art of distinguishing between Law and Gospel, him place at the head and call him a doctor of Holy Scripture.” The gospel always demonstrates that God’s perfect law and His love were fulfilled on the cross of Christ. To lose the balance will always lead to spiritual deformity because, if either “law” or “love” is absent from the life of God’s people, the gospel will fail to operate in its God-intended way.
The Reformed community, following John Calvin, has put significant emphasis upon the Law and its three uses: pedagogical, civil, and didactic. Pedagogically, it teaches us our sin, thus showing us our helplessness to keep it and revealing our sin. Its civil use restrains sin as it outlines the reality of punishment that follows if we break it. Its third use is didactic in that the Law urges believers into good works and therefore has a sanctifying use in the life of the Christian.
Calvin was aware of the temptation to confuse the first and the third uses of the Law. According to its first use, the Law is contrary to faith and should serve to drive us to despair of our own righteousness; the Law at the same time is a revelation of God’s holy will, and the Christian obeys it out of gratitude. The result of confusing the first and third uses of the Law has profound implications for the lives of individuals and churches. Yet that happens almost unnoticed. The reason such a substitution often goes unchallenged is that while the foundational truths of the gospel are all held sacrosanct, the gospel itself is not understood or integrated into the lifeblood of the church.
When law is substituted for the gospel in preaching, while the content of a sermon may be wholly orthodox, it will have a doubly negative effect. It will provide some members of the congregation with a religious cushion to their consciences. They will find it a sermon that announces a law that in large measure they have kept. Because they are doing right and it makes them feel good, even as they condemn “sins” that are not their own, they will hear from the pulpit exactly what they are looking for, a reassurance that everything is all right with them. In fact, their religion effectively keeps them from relying on Christ for their real salvation and sanctification because the Christian life is reduced to a carefully constructed code of behavior. At the same time, there will be some who hear the Law sounded and will find themselves defeated because, though they are Christians, they are all too aware of their own secret but persistent sins. As a consequence, their whole experience is to live with a secret shame that never permits them to enjoy their salvation. Instead, they are haunted by the fear that others will find out what they are really like and either reject them or denounce them as hypocrites.
There is also a loss of spiritual power and dynamism in the Christian life because grace is spoken of without being experienced. The result is that Christians become compelled to service in their own strength, believing, albeit unconsciously, that their continued acceptance before God is based upon their performance in overcoming temptation. This wearies Christians because the performancebased life will always bring strain and fear of failure, as well as guilt when failure becomes real, which is inevitable while we remain in the flesh. Instead of the sight of Christ sacrificing Himself in love to redeem us, we become impelled by a moral demand that serves to make us both hard and tired at the same time. Congregations can then become unwelcoming in their ethos, as there developes a concentration upon behavior.
Perhaps what is even more damaging is that our repentance before the Lord becomes focused upon the trivial issues, as if any sin is trivial! Instead of dealing with the deep issues of human idolatry that are ever the challenges of the human heart, we become focused upon the single sins that beset our hearts. We never deal with the thing that causes us to lose the sense of true fellowship with God that has been procured for us by His grace at Calvary. We lose the sense of gratitude and become trapped by the sense of obedience to a moral code instead of being drawn by the love of Christ, who bled and died for us. In fact, as the apostle Paul reminds the Galatians, we change the privilege of being sons into the experience of slaves (Gal. 4).
Gospel repentance motivates men and women to trust Christ without the fear of rejection, for it calls us to understand that our sins violate the love that paid the cost so that we would never be rejected. It shows us Christ, who is the draw of our hearts and the center of our devotion and adoration, thus establishing Him and His work as the true heart of the soul and the church.
Christ & Sexual Sin
By John Freeman 5/1/2010
Homosexuality has embraced our culture and our culture has embraced homosexuality. It’s part of the fallen nature of things, and fallen man has always been an expert at creating ingenuous ways to celebrate his brokenness.
Homosexuality is one of those topics that draws vibrant reactions. Complex issues of the heart usually do. Christians are in a sort of no-man’sland here. Suggesting that homosexuality is sinful can appear, to the world, as uneducated, rude, and stupid. On the other hand, suggesting that God loves and forgives sinners who struggle with homosexuality and that we should do the same may appear compromising and wishy-washy.
While we can oppose the advancement of this movement by vocalizing our concerns and participating in the political process, for the Christian a far deeper response to homosexuality and the gay community is needed. In such a heated debate, Christians have a responsibility to represent Christ to a fallen world in four ways.
Patiently Listen: “Let every person be quick to hear” (James 1:19). I don’t mean just to look for loopholes or a chance to criticize or find fault. We must listen so as to get to or gain the “heart thrust” of what a person is saying. This is hard work and an art — a skill to be learned. It’s not natural. It takes practice. Listen to what moves other people. Listen for where their passions lie, what they value, what their experience has been (especially with other Christians), and what they fear.
The more you understand a person’s point of view, the more you can profit from it. Why do they think that way? What events led up to their adopting that worldview? What’s been their experience of Christianity — of other Christians or the church? What wounds from their family of origin and from other people lie festering in the background? As adults, we’re usually a composite of all this.
Personally Repent: “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans? … No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:1–5). Only a redeemed sinner, knowing he stands condemned apart from Christ, can reach a sinner who doesn’t know he needs redeeming. What’s your motivation? Is it to reach lost people with the enduring love that has found you out — that has exposed you as a cut-throat and depraved sinner? Is it your own awareness that, at heart, you’re a sham, misfit, counterfeit, and phony? Or is it to make a nice, neat little package of this messy aspect of life? Are you concerned about making a complex world seem simple? Where are you walking in hypocrisy? Do you really care about homosexuals — or only want them to shut up and disappear? Luke 7:47 says that “he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
Gently Instruct: “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone … correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Tim. 2:22–25). Is the Holy Spirit instructing us as we seek to instruct others? Do we pray for Christlikeness as we seek to correct others? Are our unloving and impatient hearts a hindrance to the gospel message? It should always be the truths of Scripture, not our demeanor or presentation of it, that people reject.
Talking to those who are blind to the reality of their hearts but who live in a world that applauds their sin is both a privilege and a challenge. They are victims of their own sin and the lies and sin of others; therefore, they’re caught. But they’re also accountable before a holy God. We must represent both aspects of the truth as we share Christ.
Mercifully Pursue and Then Engage the Heart: “Have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 22–23). God calls us to be neither reclusive nor rude, but to move boldly into confusing, high-stakes situations with the gospel of God’s mercy. We bring the gospel where it is most needed: to the vocally anti-Christian progay activist; to the mild-mannered clergy who says the love of Jesus means affirming homosexuality as God’s gift; to the quietly confused and scared teenager who fears he’s gay and there’s no other option. Showing mercy means practically caring for people. It means being patiently and persistently available to help those who live in a fallen world.
As we do this, we’re able to move into other people’s worlds. Engaging people by asking good questions, respectfully, is an important part of this. I once stopped a protester who was marching at a gay rally and subsequently had a two-hour conversation that ended with this man thanking me for stopping him to speak with him — in spite of the fact that I shared the gospel with him! I listened and engaged his heart, and that was infectious to him. Listening, asking questions, and engaging people with respect, even if we have fundamental differences, gets people into their story quicker than anything else.
Jesus was the master of all that I’ve just spoken about (though He was in no need of repentance). We should be too. His methods are the most under-utilized and missed aspects of evangelism.
A Literate Ministry
By T. David Gordon 5/1/2010
Consider, if you will, how difficult (and sometimes annoying) it is when you encounter computergenerated voice menus when you make telephone calls. The emphasis is almost always on the wrong syllable, the monotonic and a-rhythmic cadence is unnatural, and one would not care to listen to more than small amounts of it. If the present trends continue, all public speech may sound similar to this in the future.
In both 2004 and 2007, the National Endowment for the Arts released studies tracing the rise of aliteracy (not illiteracy) in the United States: the phenomenon of people who have the ability to read but choose not to. The second report said:
“The story the data tell is simple, consistent, and alarming. Although there has been measurable progress in recent years in reading ability at the elementary school level, all progress appears to halt as children enter their teenage years. There is a general decline in reading among teenage and adult Americans. Most alarming, both reading ability and the habit of regular reading have greatly declined among college graduates.”
To be an effective preacher, a certain kind of literacy is a necessity. But first, let me say what kind of literacy is not necessary. A sermon need not be flowery or “eloquent” in a manner that calls attention to its art; to the contrary, any sermonic habit, device, or art that calls attention to the style rather than the message is a liability, not an asset. This point was made ably a century ago both by Bishop J.C. Ryle and by the southern American theologian Robert Lewis Dabney.
Both Ryle and Dabney objected to the kinds of rhetorical ornamentation that caused people to notice the preacher’s style more than the message, and each suggested that such artifice necessarily intrudes upon earnestness and/or sincerity, which are hallmarks of all good preaching. So a minister need not and should not be literate in the showy, ostentatious, or obviously literary sense. A minister needs to be literate, however, in two other senses. To understand the Holy Scriptures, he must be literate in biblical content, history, and language. To communicate effectively, he must be literate in literature.
Expository Literacy: All true Christian preaching is expository. The minister’s words cannot be judged to be God’s proclaimed Word unless his words are manifestly derived from some text of Holy Scripture. Therefore, ministers need to be literate at reading texts carefully. Their preaching may be true, their exhortations proper, and their warnings appropriate, but if they are not based upon sound exposition of Scripture, all the hearer knows is the minister’s opinion. He has no way of knowing that the minister’s opinion is also God’s opinion. Such literacy is hard work and involves intricate questions of history, grammar, syntax, rhetoric, and even figures of speech. Moses Stuart, one of the early professors at Andover Seminary, recognized that expository literacy was utterly necessary for a minister: “How can we … listen to prophets and apostles, speaking Hebrew and Greek, without much learning and study? It is plainly impossible.”
In a culture such as ours, where even college graduates read very little, the NEA’s warnings about the culture are especially acute to the church. If we read little, and especially if we do not read ancient or difficult texts carefully, we are not likely to succeed in an expository calling.
Literary Literacy: Some readers of Tabletalk are familiar with the Levi P. Stone Lectures given annually at Princeton Seminary for over a century. In 1940, they were given by Charles Grosvenor Osgood, and later published as Poetry as a Means of Grace. Osgood did not argue that poetry was a “means of grace” in the technical, theological sense; rather, he argued that a minister’s usefulness in the pulpit would be determined in a substantial way by the poetry he would (or would not) read for the remainder of his life. Such reading, he argued, would have a profound influence on style (though not because a particular poet’s style would be imitated), but also on his perceptiveness and his vigor.
I cannot here reproduce everything Osgood said in his lectures, but I should remind that he gave the lectures fifteen years before the advent of commercial television. Sixty years before the NEA published its concerns regarding aliteracy, long before there were any serious cultural competitors with books, Osgood commended a life of poetry reading for those who wished to communicate well. One can only imagine what he would say today about our shallow vision, our infantile diction, our poorly-composed thoughts, or our pre-occupation with the trivial. Reading poetry cultivates both our sensibility of the significant and our instinctive appreciation and use of the aural properties of our language, since poets devote themselves to that very thing. Osgood’s counsel is more apt in our generation than it was in his. Ministers today, even more than in his generation, would do well to cultivate their literary sensibilities.
T. David Gordon Books:
By Don Carson 7/10/2018
(see the meditations for June 22, 25, and 27), we note that the psalm is an acrostic poem. In the first section, all the verses begin with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet; in the second section, all the verses begin with the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet; and so on for twenty-two sections, corresponding to the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. But there are seven other acrostic psalms in the Psalter. In these, however, just one verse is devoted to each letter (Pss. 9-10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 145). Five of the eight, including this last one (Ps. 145), are ascribed to David.
In most Hebrew manuscripts of this psalm, there is no verse for the Hebrew letter corresponding to our N. But most of the ancient translations supply the missing verse, and now one Hebrew manuscript with an N-verse has shown up as well, so most modern versions squeeze in the extra lines (verse 13b in the NIV). So what we have in this psalm is the last of David’s compositions preserved in the book of Psalms, a veritable alphabet of praise.
There are certain themes that receive special emphasis in this psalm.
(1) Although many of David’s psalms focus on his own experiences, or sometimes on the joys and sorrows of the Israelite nation, here the horizon expands to take in God’s universal kingdom (Ps. 145:13a), his universal care for all living creatures in his universe — not least providing them with the food they need (Ps. 145:15-16). None of this denies that this is still a fallen world, of course. Creatures sometimes starve; they grow old and die. Yet we see teeming life, and this life survives and thrives by God’s gracious provision.
(2) There is a wonderful mingling of God’s glory with God’s compassion. “The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made” (Ps. 145:8-9). That is why the entire created order praises him (145:10). At the same time, God’s people are the first to talk about his “mighty acts and the glorious splendor” of his kingdom, the sheer glory of his kingdom (Ps. 145:11-12).
(3) Not only is God’s greatness beyond human fathoming (Ps. 145:3), the account of God’s greatness and goodness is passed on from one generation to another (Ps. 145:4), as others celebrate God’s “abundant goodness” and joyfully sing of his righteousness (Ps. 145:7). Indeed, as we read his words and utter our own “Amen!” our generation receives this glorious communication from three thousand years ago, jointly committed to speaking of God’s mighty acts and to meditating on his wonderful works (Ps. 145:4-5).
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 | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 73God Is My Strength and Portion Forever
73 A Psalm Of Asaph.
23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
27 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28 But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
24. This infamous falsehood cannot be completely wiped away without
disposing of another charge. They give out that we are so wedded to
human reason, that we attribute nothing more to the power of God than
the order of nature admits, and common sense dictates.  From these
wicked calumnies, I appeal to the doctrine which I have delivered,--a
doctrine which makes it sufficiently clear that I by no means measure
this mystery by the capacity of human reason, or subject it to the laws
of nature. I ask, whether it is from physics we have learned that
Christ feeds our souls from heaven with his flesh, just as our bodies
are nourished by bread and wine? How has flesh this virtue of giving
life to our souls? All will say, that it is not done naturally. Not
more agreeable is it to human reason to hold that the flesh of Christ
penetrates to us, so as to be our food. In short, every one who may
have tasted our doctrine, will be carried away with admiration of the
secret power of God. But these worthy zealots fabricate for themselves
a miracle, and think that without it God himself and his power vanish
away. I would again admonish the reader carefully to consider the
nature of our doctrine, whether it depends on common apprehension, or
whether, after having surmounted the world on the wings of faith, it
rises to heaven. We say that Christ descends to us, as well by the
external symbol as by his Spirit, that he may truly quicken our souls
by the substance of his flesh and blood. He who feels not that in these
few words are many miracles, is more than stupid; since nothing is more
contrary to nature than to derive the spiritual and heavenly life of
the soul from flesh, which received its origin from the earth, and was
subjected to death, nothing more incredible than that things separated
by the whole space between heaven and earth should, notwithstanding of
the long distance, not only be connected, but united, so that souls
receive aliment from the flesh of Christ. Let preposterous men, then,
cease to assail us with the vile calumny, that we malignantly restrict
the boundless power of God. They either foolishly err, or wickedly lie.
The question here is not, What could God do? but, What has he been
pleased to do? We affirm that he has done what pleased him, and it
pleased him that Christ should be in all respects like his brethren,
"yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15). What is our flesh? Is it not that which
consists of certain dimensions? is confined within a certain place? is
touched and seen? And why, say they, may not God make the same flesh
occupy several different places, so as not to be confined to any
particular place, and so as to have neither measure nor species? Fool!
why do you require the power of God to make a thing to be at the same
time flesh and not flesh? It is just as if you were to insist on his
making light to be at the same time light and darkness. He wills light
to be light, darkness to be darkness, flesh to be flesh. True, when he
so chooses, he will convert darkness into light, and light into
darkness: but when you insist that there shall be no difference between
light and darkness, what do you but pervert the order of the divine
wisdom? Flesh must therefore be flesh, and spirit spirit; each under
the law and condition on which God has created them. Now, the condition
of flesh is, that it should have one certain place, its own dimensions,
its own form. On that condition, Christ assumed the flesh, to which, as
Augustine declares (Ep. ad Dardan.), he gave incorruption and glory,
but without destroying its nature and reality.
25. They object that they have the word by which the will of God has been openly manifested; that is if we permit them to banish from the Church the gift of interpretation, which should throw light upon the word. I admit that they have the word, but just as the Anthropomorphites of old had it, when they made God corporeal; just as Marcion and the Manichees had it when they made the body of Christ celestial or phantastical. They quoted the passages, "The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven" (1 Cor. 15:47): Christ "made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:7). But these vain boasters think that there is no power of God unless they fabricate a monster in their own brains, by which the whole order of nature is subverted. This rather is to circumscribe the power of God, to attempt to try, by our fictions, what he can do. From this word, they have assumed that the body of Christ is visible in heaven, and yet lurks invisible on the earth under innumerable bits of bread. They will say that this is rendered necessary, in order that the body of Christ may be given in the Supper. In other words, because they have been pleased to extract a carnal eating from the words of Christ, carried away by their own prejudice, they have found it necessary to coin this subtlety, which is wholly repugnant to Scripture. That we detract, in any respect, from the power of God, is so far from being true, that our doctrine is the loudest in extolling it. But as they continue to charge us with robbing God of his honour, in rejecting what, according to common apprehension, it is difficult to believe, though it had been promised by the mouth of Christ; I answer, as I lately did, that in the mysteries of faith we do not consult common apprehension, but, with the placid docility and spirit of meekness which James recommends (James 1:21), receive the doctrine which has come from heaven. Wherein they perniciously err, I am confident that we follow a proper moderation. On hearing the words of Christ, this is my body, they imagine a miracle most remote from his intention; and when, from this fiction, the grossest absurdities arise, having already, by their precipitate haste, entangled themselves with snares, they plunge themselves into the abyss of the divine omnipotence, that, in this way, they may extinguish the light of truth.  Hence the supercilious moroseness. We have no wish to know how Christ is hid under the bread: we are satisfied with his own words, "This is my body." We again study, with no less obedience than care, to obtain a sound understanding of this passage, as of the whole of Scripture. We do not, with preposterous fervour, rashly, and without choice, lay hold on whatever first presents itself to our minds; but, after careful meditation, embrace the meaning which the Spirit of God suggests. Trusting to him, we look down, as from a height, on whatever opposition may be offered by earthly wisdom. Nay, we hold our minds captive, not allowing one word of murmur, and humble them, that they may not presume to gainsay. In this way, we have arrived at that exposition of the words of Christ, which all who are moderately versant in Scripture know to be perpetually used with regard to the sacraments. Still, in a matter of difficulty, we deem it not unlawful to inquire, after the example of the blessed Virgin, "How shall this be?" (Luke 1:34).
26. But as nothing will be more effectual to confirm the faith of the pious than to show them that the doctrine which we have laid down is taken from the pure word of God, and rests on its authority, I will make this plain with as much brevity as I can. The body with which Christ rose is declared, not by Aristotle, but by the Holy Spirit, to be finite, and to be contained in heaven until the last day. I am not unaware how confidently our opponents evade the passages which are quoted to this effect. Whenever Christ says that he will leave the world and go away (John 14:2, 28), they reply, that that departure was nothing more than a change of mortal state. Were this so, Christ would not substitute the Holy Spirit, to supply, as they express it, the defect of his absence, since he does not succeed in place of him, nor, on the other hand, does Christ himself descend from the heavenly glory to assume the condition of a mortal life. Certainly the advent of' the Spirit and the ascension of Christ are set against each other, and hence it necessarily follows that Christ dwells with us according to the flesh, in the same way as that in which he sends his Spirit. Moreover, he distinctly says that he would not always be in the world with his disciples (Mt. 26:11). This saving, also, they think they admirably dispose of, as if it were a denial by Christ that he would always be poor and mean, or liable to the necessities of a fading life. But this is plainly repugnant to the context, since reference is made not to poverty and want, or the wretched condition of an earthly life, but to worship and honour. The disciples were displeased with the anointing by Mary, because they thought it a superfluous and useless expenditure, akin to luxury, and would therefore have preferred that the price which they thought wasted should have been expended on the poor. Christ answers, that he will not be always with them to receive such honour. No different exposition is given by Augustine, whose words are by no means ambiguous. When Christ says, "Me ye have not always," he spoke of his bodily presence. In regard to his majesty, in regard to his providence, in regard to his ineffable and invisible grace, is fulfilled what he said: "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Mt. 28:20); but in regard to the flesh which the Word assumed--in regard to that which was born of the Virgin--in regard to that which was apprehended by the Jews, nailed to the tree, suspended on the cross, wrapt in linen clothes, laid in the tomb, and manifested in the resurrection,--"Me ye have not always." Why? Since he conversed with his disciples in bodily presence for forty days, and, going out with them, ascended, while they saw but followed not. He is not here, for he sits there, at the right hand of the Father. And yet he is here: for the presence of his majesty is not withdrawn. Otherwise, as regards the presence of his majesty, we have Christ always; while, in regard to his bodily presence, it was rightly said, "Me ye have not always." In respect of bodily presence, the Church had him for a few days: now she holds him by faith, but sees him not with the eye (August. Tract. in Joann. 50). Here (that I may briefly note this) he makes him present with us in three ways--in majesty, providence, and ineffable grace; under which I comprehend that wondrous communion of his body and blood, provided we understand that it is effected by the power of the Holy Spirit, and not by that fictitious enclosing of his body under the element, since our Lord declared that he had flesh and bones which could be handled and seen. Going away, and ascending, intimate, not that he had the appearance of one going away and ascending, but that he truly did what the words express. Some one will ask, Are we then to assign a certain region of heaven to Christ? I answer with Augustine, that this is a curious and superfluous question, provided we believe that he is in heaven.
27. What? Does not the very name of ascension, so often repeated, intimate removal from one place to another? This they deny, because by height, according to them, the majesty of empire only is denoted. But what was the very mode of ascending? Was he not carried up while the disciples looked on? Do not the Evangelists clearly relate that he was carried into heaven? These acute Sophists reply, that a cloud intervened, and took him out of their sight, to teach the disciples that he would not afterwards be visible in the world. As if he ought not rather to have vanished in a moment, to make them believe in his invisible presence, or the cloud to have gathered around him before he moved a step. When he is carried aloft into the air, and the interposing cloud shows that he is no more to be sought on earth, we safely infer that his dwelling now is in the heavens, as Paul also asserts, bidding us look for him from thence (Phil. 3:20). For this reason, the angels remind the disciples that it is vain to keep gazing up into heaven, because Jesus, who was taken up, would come in like manner as they had seen him ascend. Here the adversaries of sound doctrine escape, as they think, by the ingenious quibble, that he will come in visible form, though he never departed from the earth, but remained invisible among his people. As if the angels had insinuated a two-fold presence, and not simply made the disciples eye-witnesses of the ascent, that no doubt might remain. It was just as if they had said, By ascending to heaven, while you looked on, he has asserted his heavenly power: it remains for you to wait patiently until he again arrive to judge the world. He has not entered into heaven to occupy it alone, but to gather you and all the pious along with him.
28. Since the advocates of this spurious dogma are not ashamed to honour it with the suffrages of the ancients, and especially of Augustine, how perverse they are in the attempt I will briefly explain. Pious and learned men have collected the passages, and therefore I am unwilling to plead a concluded cause: any one who wishes may consult their writings. I will not even collect from Augustine what might be pertinent to the matter,  but will be contented to show briefly, that without all controversy he is wholly ours. The pretence of our opponents, when they would wrest him from us, that throughout his works the flesh and blood of Christ are said to be dispensed in the Supper--namely, the victim once offered on the cross, is frivolous, seeing he, at the same time, calls it either the eucharist or sacrament of the body. But it is unnecessary to go far to find the sense in which he uses the terms flesh and blood, since he himself explains, saying (Ep. 23, ad Bonif.) that the sacraments receive names from their similarity to the things which they designate; and that, therefore, the sacrament of the body is after a certain manner the body. With this agrees another well-know passage, "The Lord hesitated not to say, This is my body, when he gave the sign" (Cont. Adimant. Manich. cap. 12). They again object that Augustine says distinctly that the body of Christ falls upon the earth, and enters the mouth. But this is in the same sense in which he affirms that it is consumed, for he conjoins both at the same time. There is nothing repugnant to this in his saying that the bread is consumed after the mystery is performed: for he had said a little before, "As these things are known to men, when they are done by men they may receive honour as being religious, but not as being wonderful" (De Trinit. Lib. 3 c. 10). His meaning is not different in the passage which our opponents too rashly appropriate to themselves--viz. that Christ in a manner carried himself in his own hands, when he held out the mystical bread to his disciples. For by interposing the expression, in a manner, he declares that he was not really or truly included under the bread. Nor is it strange, since he elsewhere plainly contends, that bodies could not be without particular localities, and being nowhere, would have no existence. It is a paltry cavil that he is not there treating of the Supper, in which God exerts a special power. The question had been raised as to the flesh of Christ, and the holy man professedly replying, says, "Christ gave immortality to his flesh, but did not destroy its nature. In regard to this form, we are not to suppose that it is everywhere diffused: for we must beware not to rear up the divinity of the man, so as to take away the reality of the body. It does not follow that that which is in God is everywhere as God" (Ep. ad Dardan.). He immediately subjoins the reason, "One person is God and man, and both one Christ, everywhere, inasmuch as he is God, and in heaven, inasmuch as he is man." How careless would it have been not to except the mystery of the Supper, a matter so grave and serious, if it was in any respect adverse to the doctrine which he was handling? And yet, if any one will attentively read what follows shortly after, he will find that under that general doctrine the Supper also is comprehended, that Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, and also Son of man, is everywhere wholly present as God, in the temple of God, that is, in the Church, as an inhabiting God, and in some place in heaven, because of the dimensions of his real body. We see how, in order to unite Christ with the Church, he does not bring his body out of heaven. This he certainly would have done had the body of Christ not been truly our food, unless when included under the bread. Elsewhere, explaining how believers now possess Christ, he says, "You have him by the sign of the cross, by the sacrament of baptism, by the meat and drink of the altar" (Tract. in Joann. 50). How rightly he enumerates a superstitious rite, among the symbols of Christ's presence, I dispute not; but in comparing the presence of the flesh to the sign of the cross, he sufficiently shows that he has no idea of a twofold body of Christ, one lurking concealed under the bread, and another sitting visible in heaven. If there is any need of explanation, it is immediately added, "In respect of the presence of his majesty, we have Christ always: in respect of the presence of his flesh, it is rightly said, Me ye have not always.'" They object that he also adds, "In respect of ineffable and invisible grace is fulfilled what was said by him, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.'" But this is nothing in their favour. For it is at length restricted to his majesty, which is always opposed to body, while the flesh is expressly distinguished from grace and virtue. The same antithesis elsewhere occurs, when he says that "Christ left the disciples in bodily presence, that he might be with them in spiritual presence." Here it is clear that the essence of the flesh is distinguished from the virtue of the Spirit, which conjoins us with Christ, when, in respect of space, we are at a great distance from him. He repeatedly uses the same mode of expression, as when he says, "He is to come to the quick and the dead in bodily presence, according to the rule of faith and sound doctrine: for in spiritual presence he was to come to them, and to be with the whole Church in the world until its consummation. Therefore, this discourse is directed to believers, whom he had begun already to save by corporeal presence, and whom he was to leave in coporeal absence, that by spiritual presence he might preserve them with the Father." By corporeal to understand visible is mere trifling, since he both opposes his body to his divine power, and by adding, that he might "preserve them with the Father," clearly expresses that he sends his grace to us from heaven by means of the Spirit.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
12/1/2013 Not a Simple Matter
About ten years ago I had breakfast with one of the finest Old Testament scholars of our generation. A confessional Presbyterian, he has fought many battles for doctrinal orthodoxy and biblical fidelity, and since the 1970s has written numerous articles in theological journals, has authored several books (some of which are now considered modern classics), and has taught in some of the most doctrinally faithful seminaries in America. At that breakfast, one of the men who was with us asked the esteemed scholar to explain his view of the millennium and to identify which millennial position he affirmed. I will never forget his immediate response. He said, “It’s not that simple.” He went on to explain why it is not a simple answer and why we must first understand the more foundational biblical concept of kingdom before we can begin to properly understand the inauguration, continuation, and consummation of the kingdom of Jesus Christ and the millennial language of Revelation chapter 20.
In Revelation 20, we encounter John’s vision as he records it according to the superintendence of the Holy Spirit: “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while” (vv. 1–3). The millennium and the binding of Satan have been the source of controversy for almost two thousand years. The interpretation of this chapter, the only place in the Bible that speaks explicitly of a thousand-year reign of Christ, is made particularly difficult because it is found within a book that is filled with imagery, symbolism, and allusions to Old Testament prophetic and apocalyptic texts. Well-meaning Christians, therefore, have interpreted the millennium of Revelation 20 in a number of different ways, and all of those views cannot be right.
If you are among the many Christians who find it difficult to understand eschatology (the doctrine of last things) and have found yourself in a quandary in the millennial maze, you are not alone. Even some of the church’s greatest scholars, past and present, have admitted their own struggle to understand the Bible’s teaching on the last things and the millennium. It is not a simple matter. Nevertheless, it is a biblical matter and therefore an important matter, one we should never stop studying as we continually strive to rightly divide the Word of Truth for our edification and for God’s glory as we eagerly anticipate the return of our conquering King, Jesus Christ, when we will see Him and reign with Him coram Deo, before His face forever.
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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)
by Bill Federer
He intentionally fired into the air, but his political rival, Aaron Burr, took deadly aim and fatally shot him in a duel this day, July 11, 1804. Born in the West Indies, he fought in the Revolution and served as aide-de-camp to General Washington. He helped write the Constitution and convinced the states to ratify it by writing The Federalist Papers. His name was Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury. He wrote: “Let an association be formed … ‘The Christian Constitutional Society,’ its object … first: The support of Christian religion; second: The support of the United States.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
“Though I am always in haste,
I am never in a hurry.”
--- John Wesley
The Works of John Wesley, 3rd Edition (7 Volumes)
If we have not quiet in our minds,
outward comfort will do no more for us
than a golden slipper on a gouty foot.
--- John Bunyan
The Complete Works of John Bunyan: With an Introduction (Classic Reprint)
Not all the blood of beasts on Jewish altars slain
Could give the guilty conscience peace, or wash away the stain.
But Christ, the heav’nly Lamb, takes all our sins away;
A sacrifice of nobler name and richer blood than they.
--- Isaac Watts
Hymns and Spiritual Songs - Scholar's Choice Edition
The aim and final reason for all music should be nothing else but the glory of God and the refreshment of the spirit.
--- J. S. Bach
The Healing Energies of Music
Among the daily chances of this life every man on earth is threatened in the same way by innumerable deaths, and it is uncertain which of them will come to him. And so the question is whether it is better to suffer one in dying or to fear them all in living.
... from here, there and everywhere
CHAPTER 17 / The Torah, the Heart,
The Midrash then points out that this first paragraph of the Shema contains no mention of earthly reward for the observance of the commandments, in contradistinction to the second paragraph of the Shema, which is replete with such promises of worldly success and security. Moreover, the first paragraph demands that we love God “with all your might,” a condition that is not repeated in the second paragraph. The Midrash explains that the second paragraph speaks of obedience to the commandments (and thus presumably refers to study of the Written Law), whereas the first concerns, in addition, study of the Oral Law, “for whoever loves wealth and pleasure cannot study the Oral Law, for it requires much suffering and lack of sleep, and one must wear himself out and wither away over it. That is why its reward is in the world-to-come.…”
One senses here the combined complaint and conceit of the Talmudist who suffers not only the pain of self-denial but also the pangs of intellectual creativity. One senses as well as a rather disdainful attitude toward students of Scripture as opposed to students of Talmud. Indeed, study of the latter is far more demanding of the analytical and dialectical skills of the student. Most important, however, is the clear message that the whole enterprise of Talmud study would never be undertaken were it not for the student’s love for the Author of the Torah. Otherwise, the relentless scholarly struggle and the sacrifice of worldly pleasures would hardly be worthwhile.
“And You Shall Teach Them Diligently to Your Children”
Ve’shinantam, generally translated as “you shall teach them (i.e., the words of the Torah) diligently to your children,” derives from a Hebrew word meaning “sharp” or “acute.” (12) This diligence characterizes a teacher who seeks not merely to stuff quantities of information into a student’s head, but who trains him in the intricacies of reasoning, who teaches him an approach to dialectical thinking, and who introduces him to the joys of intellectual and spiritual activity. (13)
(12) See Ibn Ezra, ad loc, who refers to Prov. 25:18, ḥetz shanun, “a sharp arrow.”
(13) See also Kiddushin 30a, where other interpretations are suggested, relating to the individual (adult) student, that he should be methodical in his study and remember the material so that if he is asked for the law, he should not hesitate but should be prepared to answer immediately and clearly. (The source for this talmudic text is the Sifre to Va-et’ḥanan, 9.)
To whom does “your children” refer? Not necessarily to one’s own children, maintains the Sifre, but to one’s students as well: “Even as one’s students are called his children, so is he called their father.” (14) Thus, while it is certainly meritorious to teach Torah to one’s own children, the mitzvah extends to all Jewish children.
(14) Sifre to Va-et’ḥanan, 9.
What if we fail to give our children a Jewish education? According to the Zohar, the Shema contains within it, in the form of hints, all of the Ten Commandments. (15) Accordingly, we read elsewhere in the Zohar literature:
(15) Zohar III, 268a.
A man must teach his son Torah, as it is written, “and you shall teach them diligently to the children”; and if he does not teach him Torah and mitzvot, it is as if he had made a graven image for him, and he is in violation of “you shall not make a graven image,” etc. (16)
(16) Raya Mehemna to Yitro, 93a.
Further on in the same text we read that an ignoramus in Jewish tradition is suspect of violating all commandments—not only the “ritual” ones, but the ethical precepts as well, from murder to immorality and idolatry. Hence, not teaching a child Torah is tantamount to making an idol for him.
Furthermore, to raise a child, no matter how lovingly, without exposing him or her to the spiritual wealth of the Torah and the moral discipline of the mitzvot implies that, for this parent, the child is seen as an end in himself: the parent’s love for that child exists outside the context of any transcendent good or sacred dimension. In effect, the child himself has become a pessel or icon, for to absolutize any person, thing, or value is a form of idolatry. As my late and revered teacher, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, often taught, idolatry is more than merely bowing to a graven image. For were idolatry no more than such religious fetishism, the prophets’ attacks on Jewish idol worship would be both superfluous and irrelevant for us today. But they are not, because idolatry is far more than the physical act of bowing to and worshiping a statue. Rather, it means placing at the center of our values anything, anyone, any value other than God. Whether it is a graven image, science, pleasure, power, money, or a beloved individual, whatever displaces God from the center of our value system is an act of idolatry. True monotheism means to acknowledge that God is absolute and that all else is relative. If we absolutize the relative, we stand guilty of idolatry. So it is when we love our children without acknowledgment of their Creator, who alone confers value upon human beings and activities.
The historical record detailing how Jews have treated their children, loving and caring for them, has earned them the envy and admiration of the world. Indeed, when it was standard practice in some parts of the ancient world to dispose of unwanted children by exposing them to the elements and abandoning them, Jews eschewed such practices. One who disposed of his children in this way was judged guilty of murder, for children, as human beings, were the property of the Creator; even their parents had no absolute rights over them. But this loving and nurturing attitude has always been tied in with a passion for continuing the Jewish tradition. Thus, to care for one’s children means providing them with a truly Jewish education. Without such higher goals, parenting is incomplete.
In reciting and listening—and thereby assenting—to the Shema’s message to teach the words of Torah diligently to our children, we reissue in contemporary and indeed timeless fashion our rejection of idolatry. And we can feel more confident that we will continue to be “a wise and understanding people,” a “People of the Book,” who remain devoted to making intellectual, cultural, and spiritual contributions to all humankind.
The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
Thanks to Meir Yona
The History Of The Spurious Alexander. Archelaus Is Banished And Glaphyra Dies, After What Was To Happen To Both Of Them Had Been Showed Them In Dreams.
1. In the meantime, there was a man, who was by birth a Jew, but brought up at Sidon with one of the Roman freed-men, who falsely pretended, on account of the resemblance of their countenances, that he was that Alexander who was slain by Herod. This man came to Rome, in hopes of not being detected. He had one who was his assistant, of his own nation, and who knew all the affairs of the kingdom, and instructed him to say how those that were sent to kill him and Aristobulus had pity upon them, and stole them away, by putting bodies that were like theirs in their places. This man deceived the Jews that were at Crete, and got a great deal of money of them for traveling in splendor; and thence sailed to Melos, where he was thought so certainly genuine, that he got a great deal more money, and prevailed with those that had treated him to sail along with him to Rome. So he landed at Dicearchia, [Puteoli,] and got very large presents from the Jews who dwelt there, and was conducted by his father's friends as if he were a king; nay, the resemblance in his countenance procured him so much credit, that those who had seen Alexander, and had known him very well, would take their oaths that he was the very same person. Accordingly, the whole body of the Jews that were at Rome ran out in crowds to see him, and an innumerable multitude there was which stood in the narrow places through which he was carried; for those of Melos were so far distracted, that they carried him in a sedan, and maintained a royal attendance for him at their own proper charges.
2. But Caesar, who knew perfectly well the lineaments of Alexander's face, because he had been accused by Herod before him, discerned the fallacy in his countenance, even before he saw the man. However, he suffered the agreeable fame that went of him to have some weight with him, and sent Celadus, one who well knew Alexander, and ordered him to bring the young man to him. But when Caesar saw him, he immediately discerned a difference in his countenance; and when he had discovered that his whole body was of a more robust texture, and like that of a slave, he understood the whole was a contrivance. But the impudence of what he said greatly provoked him to be angry at him; for when he was asked about Aristobulus, he said that he was also preserved alive, and was left on purpose in Cyprus, for fear of treachery, because it would be harder for plotters to get them both into their power while they were separate. Then did Caesar take him by himself privately, and said to him, "I will give thee thy life, if thou wilt discover who it was that persuaded thee to forge such stories." So he said that he would discover him, and followed Caesar, and pointed to that Jew who abused the resemblance of his face to get money; for that he had received more presents in every city than ever Alexander did when he was alive. Caesar laughed at the contrivance, and put this spurious Alexander among his rowers, on account of the strength of his body, but ordered him that persuaded him to be put to death. But for the people of Melos, they had been sufficiently punished for their folly, by the expenses they had been at on his account.
3. And now Archelaus took possession of his ethnarchy, and used not the Jews only, but the Samaritans also, barbarously; and this out of his resentment of their old quarrels with him. Whereupon they both of them sent ambassadors against him to Caesar; and in the ninth year of his government he was banished to Vienna, a city of Gaul, and his effects were put into Caesar's treasury. But the report goes, that before he was sent for by Caesar, he seemed to see nine ears of corn, full and large, but devoured by oxen. When, therefore, he had sent for the diviners, and some of the Chaldeans, and inquired of them what they thought it portended; and when one of them had one interpretation, and another had another, Simon, one of the sect of Essens, said that he thought the ears of corn denoted years, and the oxen denoted a mutation of things, because by their ploughing they made an alteration of the country. That therefore he should reign as many years as there were ears of corn; and after he had passed through various alterations of fortune, should die. Now five days after Archelaus had heard this interpretation he was called to his trial.
4. I cannot also but think it worthy to be recorded what dream Glaphyra, the daughter of Archelaus, king of Cappadocia, had, who had at first been wife to Alexander, who was the brother of Archelaus, concerning whom we have been discoursing. This Alexander was the son of Herod the king, by whom he was put to death, as we have already related. This Glaphyra was married, after his death, to Juba, king of Libya; and, after his death, was returned home, and lived a widow with her father. Then it was that Archelaus, the ethnarch, saw her, and fell so deeply in love with her, that he divorced Mariamne, who was then his wife, and married her. When, therefore, she was come into Judea, and had been there for a little while, she thought she saw Alexander stand by her, and that he said to her; "Thy marriage with the king of Libya might have been sufficient for thee; but thou wast not contented with him, but art returned again to my family, to a third husband; and him, thou impudent woman, hast thou chosen for thine husband, who is my brother. However, I shall not overlook the injury thou hast offered me; I shall [soon] have thee again, whether thou wilt or no." Now Glaphyra hardly survived the narration of this dream of hers two days.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
but ADONAI weighs the heart.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The spiritual saint
That I may know Him. --- Phil. 3:10.
The initiative of the saint is not towards self-realization, but towards knowing Jesus Christ. The spiritual saint never believes circumstances to be haphazard, or thinks of his life as secular and sacred; he sees everything he is dumped down in as the means of securing the knowledge of Jesus Christ. There is a reckless abandonment about him. The Holy Spirit is determined that we shall realize Jesus Christ in every domain of life, and He will bring us back to the same point again and again until we do. Self-realization leads to the enthronement of work; whereas the saint enthrones Jesus Christ in his work. Whether it be eating or drinking or washing disciples’ feet, whatever it is, we have to take the initiative of realizing Jesus Christ in it. Every phase of our actual life has its counterpart in the life of Jesus. Our Lord realized His relationship to the Father even in the most menial work. “Jesus knowing … that He was come from God, and went to God; … took a towel, … and began to wash the disciples feet.”
The aim of the spiritual saint is “that I may know Him.” Do I know Him where I am to-day? If not, I am failing Him. I am here not to realize myself, but to know Jesus. In Christian work the initiative is too often the realization that something has to be done and I must do it. That is never the attitude of the spiritual saint, his aim is to secure the realization of Jesus Christ in every set of circumstances he is in.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Poet's Address To The Businessmen
At the last crumbfall,
The set of glasses,
The moist eye,
I rise to speak
Of things irrelevant:
The poem shut,
In the mind's rock;
The growth of winter
In the thick wood
Of history; music
We might have heard
In the heart's cloisters.
I speak of wounds
Not dealt us; blows
That left no bruises
On the white table
Cloth. Forgive me
The tongue's failure,
In all this leanness
Of time, to arrive
Nearer the bone.
Selected poems, 1946-1968
Faith: Affirm the Will of God
W. W. Wiersbe
This is one of the greatest confessions of faith found anywhere in Scripture. Habakkuk has faced the frightening fact that his nation will be invaded by a merciless enemy. The prophet knows that many of the people will go into exile and many will be slain. The land will be ruined, and Jerusalem and the temple will be destroyed. Yet he tells God that he will trust Him no matter what happens! Listen to his confession of faith.
“I will wait patiently on the Lord” (Hab. 3:16). If Habakkuk had depended on his feelings, he would never have made this great confession of faith. If Habakkuk looked ahead, he saw a nation heading for destruction, and that frightened him. When he looked within, he saw himself trembling with fear, and when he looked around, he saw everything in the economy about to fall apart. But when he looked up by faith, he saw God, and all his fears vanished. To walk by faith means to focus on the greatness and glory of God.
One of the marks of faith is a willingness to wait patiently for the Lord to work. “Whoever believes will not act hastily” (Isa. 28:16, NKJV). When we run ahead of God, we get into trouble. Abraham learned that lesson when he married Hagar and fathered Ishmael (Gen. 16), and so did Moses when he tried to deliver the Jews by his own hand (Ex. 2). “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength” (Isa. 3:15).
Habakkuk could wait quietly because he knew that God was at work in the world (Hab. 1:5), and he had prayed that God’s work would be kept alive and strong (3:2). When you know that God is working in your life, you can afford to wait quietly and let Him have His way. Furthermore, God had commanded him to wait (2:3), and “God’s commandments are God’s enablements.” No matter what we see and no matter how we feel, we must depend on God’s promises and not allow ourselves to “fall apart.” “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him” (Ps. 37:7).
Over the years, I’ve often leaned on three verses that have helped me wait patiently on the Lord. “Stand still”
(Ex. 14:13), “Sit still” (Ruth 3:18), and “Be still” (Ps. 46:10). Whenever we find ourselves getting “churned up” within, we can be sure that we need to stop, pray, and wait on the Lord before we do some stupid thing.
“I will rejoice in the Lord” (Hab. 3:17–18). By the time Babylon was through with the land of Judah, there wouldn’t be much of value left (2:17). Buildings would be destroyed, treasures would be plundered, and farms and orchards would be devastated. The economy would fall apart and there would be little to sing about. But God would still be on His throne, working out His divine purposes for His people (Rom. 8:28). Habakkuk couldn’t rejoice in his circumstances, but he could rejoice in his God!
The prophet’s testimony here reminds us of Paul’s admonitions to Christians today: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thes. 5:16–18, NKJV). Habakkuk discovered that God was his strength (Hab. 3:19) and song as well as his salvation (see Isa. 12:1–2; Ex. 15:2; Ps. 118:14); and therefore he had nothing to fear.
It’s one thing to “whistle in the dark” and try to bolster our courage, and quite something else to sing about the eternal God who never fails. Though his lips were trembling and his legs were shaking (Hab. 3:16, NIV), the prophet burst into song and worshiped his God. What an example for us to follow! It reminds us of our Lord before He went to the cross (Mark 14:26), and Paul and Silas in the Philippian dungeon (Acts 16:19–34). God can give us “songs in the night”
(Pss. 42:8; 77:6; Job 35:10) if we’ll trust Him and see His greatness.
“I will rely on the Lord” (Hab. 3:19). If my legs were shaking and my heart pounding, I’d find a safe place to sit down and relax, but Habakkuk began to bound up the mountain like a deer! Because of his faith in the Lord, he was able to stand and be as sure-footed as a deer; he was able to run swiftly and go higher than he’d ever gone before. This is one reason why the Lord permits us to go through trials: they can draw us nearer to Him and lift us above the circumstances so that we walk on the heights with him.
God made us for the heights. If He allows us to go into the valley, it’s so we might wait on Him and mount up with eagles’ wings (Isa. 40:30–31). “He made him to ride on the high places of the earth” (Deut. 32:13). This is what David experienced when he was being chased by his enemies and by Saul: “It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of deer, and sets me on my high places” (Ps. 18:32–33).
The great British expositor G. Campbell Morgan said, “Our joy is in proportion to our trust. Our trust is in proportion to our knowledge of God.” (The Westminster Pulpit: The Preaching of G. Campbell Morgan (10 Volume Set) ) As the hymn paraphrase of this passage puts it:
Though vine nor fig-tree neither
Their wonted fruit shall bear;
Though all the fields should wither,
Nor flocks nor herds be there;
Yet God the same abiding,
His praise shall tune my voice;
For while in Him confiding,
I cannot but rejoice.
Habakkuk teaches us to face our doubts and questions honestly, take them humbly to the Lord, wait for His Word to teach us, and then worship Him no matter how we feel or what we see.
God doesn’t always change the circumstances, but He can change us to meet the circumstances. That’s what it means to live by faith.
Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship (The BE Series Commentary)
Once in a while we might meet a fellow
Who wants us to think he’s totally pure.
But not long after his very first “Hello”
You find he’s a cheat and a liar for sure.
“I’m your best friend who would save you from hell!”
Quoting the Good Book he speaks to your heart.
(His Bible was swiped from a cheap motel!
What first seemed so sweet is really quite tart.)
He’d sell a used car “owned by a lady
Who drove it on Sundays, only to church!”
The car’s a lemon, and he’s quite shady:
When you have trouble, you’re left in the lurch.
“Caveat Emptor” are words that aren’t new:
When in the market it’s “Buyer Beware.”
If you’re not careful this crook will get you.
A trap he has set, it’s you he’ll ensnare.
Consider the pig, whose feet look kosher—
The Torah requires split hooves for the Jew—
But come near and examine it closer;
You’ll find its cud the swine doesn’t chew.
Don’t be fooled by what’s on the outside,
Just be careful of the guy with a scam.
Those who assure you they’re kosher inside,
May be as kosher as the average ham.
Josh went off to a university halfway across the country. Other than summer camp, it was his first time away from home by himself. The first days of college were a nightmare. Josh was homesick and lonely. He had always had a hard time in new social situations. He was overwhelmed by the university-level courses. After two weeks, he wanted to call his parents and ask permission to come back home. But he knew they would be disappointed and upset with him if he quit so soon.
One day, as he sat by himself in the cafeteria, a young woman wearing a Jewish star around her neck came up to him. “You’re Josh, right?” she asked. Surprised, he simply nodded. “You’re in my English Lit class. My name’s Rachel.” And they talked. And for the first time since arriving on campus, Josh had made a friend. They ate lunch together a couple of times and hung out at the library, studying.
The next Friday afternoon, Josh got a call from Rachel. “I’m going to Shabbat services tomorrow. Do you want to come?” Josh had never been into religion that much, certainly not since his Bar Mitzvah. But the idea of spending time with Rachel was attractive. He agreed to go. Services weren’t at the Hillel House; instead they were held in a home just off campus. Josh was amazed at how friendly everyone was. People asked his name and listened intently as he told them about himself. When he opened up about having had a pretty rough time making the adjustment to college life, they agreed and shared some of the very same feelings. As services began, Josh was handed a tallit and a yarmulke. He followed along in the service, feeling a real sense of “being home” when they sang the Sh’ma, Aleinu, and “Adon Olam” with the very same tunes he remembered from his own synagogue.
When the rabbi delivered his sermon, Josh felt as if it were meant personally for him. It was about a little child who got separated from his parents and wandered around crying, feeling lost and abandoned. At the moment of deepest despair, the child’s father suddenly appeared, as if out of nowhere. He picked up the child and gave him a big hug. The rabbi concluded: “At one time or another, each of us is like that lost little child. Waiting for our father to appear and save us. Fortunately, our Father has appeared—in the person of Yeshua, who is here to save us.” Josh didn’t quite understand the rabbi’s final point, but by the time services had ended and Kiddush was put out, he had forgotten to ask.
All week long, Josh looked forward to attending services again and to the warmth that the service and the congregation offered him. During the second week’s sermon, Josh was again deeply moved by the rabbi’s words, and again deeply puzzled by the closing references to Yeshua. During the Kiddush, Josh was warmly greeted by the rabbi. “I love your RS Thomas, Rabbi,” Josh said. “But I’m stumped by something. Who is this Yeshua that you speak about all the time?”
The rabbi smiled and put his arm on Josh’s shoulder. “Yeshua is our savior. He is the son of God, who died on the cross for our sins … so that we might achieve salvation. Yeshua is the Hebrew name for Jesus.”
At that instant, two powerful emotions clashed in Josh: He was angry because they tricked him by pretending to be Jews, when it turns out they were really Christians. But he was at peace, because he felt that he belonged there. These people made him feel at home. And safe. And saved.
In the next days, these two emotions struggled within, and for, Josh’s soul.
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake.
--- Psalm 106:8.
God can save you [for his name’s sake] notwithstanding the most grievous provocations that till now you have been guilty of and the greatest impediments that you have laid in the way. (Ralph Erskine, “God’s Great Name, the Ground and Reason of Saving Great Sinners,” preached at Carnock, July 18, 1730, before the administration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, downloaded from Fire and Ice, Puritan and Reformed Writings, at www.puritanRS Thomas.com, accessed Aug. 21, 2001.)
He can save for his name’s sake, notwithstanding gross darkness and fearful ignorance. “It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God’ ” (John 6:45).
He can save for his name’s sake, notwithstanding long refusals, resisting many calls, and slighting many opportunities “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people” (Rom. 10:21). After all these refusals, he is yet standing with open arms to receive all comers.
He can save for his name’s sake notwithstanding unparalleled wickedness. What if there is no sinner like you? Nevertheless, he can save for his name’s sake—because there is no Savior like him. If your unbelieving heart suggests there is no salvation for you, let Micah 7:18 be an answer: “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin?”
In a word, he can save for his name’s sake, notwithstanding the highest mountains of sin or misery that seem to be in the way, notwithstanding hardness of heart and innumerable plagues of heart, atheism, unbelief, deadness, and security. The God who works for his name’s sake can take away the heart of stone and give the heart of flesh, can out of stones raise up children for Abraham. He can save, for his name’s sake, notwithstanding nameless maladies, nameless objections that no minister in the world can mention, far less remove. Maybe the obstacles in the way of your salvation are out of human sight, but they are in God’s sight, and the omniscient God who knows them is the omnipotent God who can remove them and save for his name’s sake.
But some poor soul may think, I doubt his will. Why? Why is God now telling you what he can do except to remove your bad thoughts of him and to manifest his goodwill toward you—he is more willing to save than you are willing to be saved. If you are willing, you are more than welcome to him for all the salvation he can work for you. It is his will to save you, notwithstanding of thousands and millions of objections in the way.
--- Ralph Erskine
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
The Homemade Rope July 11
The growth of the Korean Church, among the greatest legacies of modern Christianity, came at a cost. The first Catholic missionaries were persecuted in the 1700s, and the first Protestant missionary, Carl Gutzlaff, stayed only a month in 1832. The next, Robert Thomas, arrived in 1876 to become the first Protestant martyr there. Finally, on July 11, 1886, missionary Horace Underwood secretly administered the first Protestant baptism on Korean soil to Mr. Toh Sa No.
But was Mr. No really the first convert?
In his book What in the world is God doing?: The new face of missions Dr. Ted Engstrom relates a story told him by a veteran Korean Christian. In the early 1880s three Korean workmen, laboring in China, heard the Gospel and embraced the Lord Jesus. The three soon conspired about getting the message of Christ into their own country, an action forbidden by the government. Since the Korean and Chinese alphabets were similar, they decided to smuggle in a copy of the Chinese Bible. They drew straws to see who would have the privilege of bringing the Gospel into Korea.
The first man buried the Bible in his belongings and headed toward the border, a journey of many days by footpath. There he was searched, found out, and killed. Word reached the others that their friend was dead. The second man tore pages from his Bible and hid the separate pages throughout his luggage. He, too, made the long trip to the border only to be searched and beheaded.
The third man grew more determined than ever to succeed. He ingeniously tore his Bible apart page by page, folding each page into a tiny strip. He wove the strips into a rope and wrapped his baggage in his homemade rope. When he came to the border, the guards asked him to unwrap his belongings. Finding nothing amiss, they admitted him.
The man arrived home, untied the rope, and ironed out each page. He reassembled his Bible and began to preach Christ wherever he went. And when the missionaries of the 1880s fanned into the country, they found the seed already sown and the firstfruits appearing.
Our LORD, you are eternal!
Your word will last as long as the heavens.
You remain faithful in every generation,
And the earth you created will keep standing firm.
Brutal enemies are waiting to ambush and destroy me,
But I obey your rules.
--- Psalm 119:89,90,95.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - July 11
“After that ye have suffered awhile, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” --- 1 Peter 5:10.
You have seen the arch of heaven as it spans the plain: glorious are its colours, and rare its hues. It is beautiful, but, alas, it passes away, and lo, it is not. The fair colours give way to the fleecy clouds, and the sky is no longer brilliant with the tints of heaven. It is not established. How can it be? A glorious show made up of transitory sun-beams and passing rain-drops, how can it abide? The graces of the Christian character must not resemble the rainbow in its transitory beauty, but, on the contrary, must be stablished, settled, abiding. Seek, O believer, that every good thing you have may be an abiding thing. May your character not be a writing upon the sand, but an inscription upon the rock! May your faith be no “baseless fabric of a vision,” but may it be builded of material able to endure that awful fire which shall consume the wood, hay, and stubble of the hypocrite. May you be rooted and grounded in love. May your convictions be deep, your love real, your desires earnest. May your whole life be so settled and established, that all the blasts of hell, and all the storms of earth shall never be able to remove you. But notice how this blessing of being “stablished in the faith” is gained. The apostle’s words point us to suffering as the means employed—“After that ye have suffered awhile.” It is of no use to hope that we shall be well rooted if no rough winds pass over us. Those old gnarlings on the root of the oak tree, and those strange twistings of the branches, all tell of the many storms that have swept over it, and they are also indicators of the depth into which the roots have forced their way. So the Christian is made strong, and firmly rooted by all the trials and storms of life. Shrink not then from the tempestuous winds of trial, but take comfort, believing that by their rough discipline God is fulfilling this benediction to you.
Evening - July 11
"Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation." --- Joel 1:3.
In this simple way, by God’s grace, a living testimony for truth is always to be kept alive in the land—the beloved of the Lord are to hand down their witness for the Gospel, and the covenant to their heirs, and these again to their next descendants. This is our first duty, we are to begin at the family hearth: he is a bad preacher who does not commence his ministry at home. The heathen are to be sought by all means, and the highways and hedges are to be searched, but home has a prior claim, and woe unto those who reverse the order of the Lord’s arrangements. To teach our children is a personal duty; we cannot delegate it to Sunday school teachers, or other friendly aids; these can assist us, but cannot deliver us from the sacred obligation; proxies and sponsors are wicked devices in this case: mothers and fathers must, like Abraham, command their households in the fear of God, and talk with their offspring concerning the wondrous works of the Most High. Parental teaching is a natural duty—who so fit to look to the child’s well-being as those who are the authors of his actual being? To neglect the instruction of our offspring is worse than brutish. Family religion is necessary for the nation, for the family itself, and for the church of God. By a thousand plots Popery is covertly advancing in our land, and one of the most effectual means for resisting its inroads is left almost neglected, namely, the instruction of children in the faith. Would that parents would awaken to a sense of the importance of this matter. It is a pleasant duty to talk of Jesus to our sons and daughters, and the more so because it has often proved to be an accepted work, for God has saved the children through the parents’ prayers and admonitions. May every house into which this volume shall come honour the Lord and receive his smile.
Morning and Evening
GOD WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU
Civilla D. Martin, 1869–1948
Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall. (Psalm 55:22)
Do we as Christians trust God for salvation and eternal life yet at times doubt that He will tenderly care for us in our daily life? We all seem to need reassurance of God’s concern for us in troublesome times. That’s why this hymn has brought comfort and encouragement to so many Christians—it reminds us that the Lord cares deeply for His children. We need not worry no matter how great the task, how difficult the test, how fierce the danger, or how great the need. We can just “lean upon His breast” and be covered by “His wings of love.”
Civilla Martin wrote this hymn when she herself needed to learn the lesson of resting in God’s care. Her husband, the Reverend W. Stillman Martin, was a well-known Baptist evangelist. One Sunday in 1904, Mrs. Martin became ill suddenly and was unable to accompany her husband to his preaching assignment some distance away. As Mr. Martin considered canceling his trip, their young son exclaimed, “Father, don’t you think that if God wants you to preach today, He will take care of Mother while you’re away?” Returning that Evening after seeing several people profess Christ as Savior, Mr. Martin found his wife greatly improved and busily writing this text, which had been suggested by her son’s words. That same Evening, Stillman Martin composed the music, providing God’s people with another endearing hymn that has ministered to hurting hearts.
Be not dismayed whate’er betide, God will take care of you; beneath His wings of love abide; God will take care of you.
Thru days of toil when heart doth fail, God will take care of you; when dangers fierce your path assail, God will take care of you.
All you may need He will provide; God will take care of you; nothing you ask will be denied; God will take care of you.
No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you; lean, weary one, upon His breast; God will take care of you.
Chorus: God will take care of you, thru ev’ry day, o’er all the way; He will take care of you; God will take care of you.
For Today: Job 23:10; Psalm 57:1; Isaiah 41:10; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Philippians 4:19; 1 Peter 5:7.
Share God’s love and concern with someone who is hurting. Encourage the troubled believer with this musical truth ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. LXXXII. — BUT let us now inquire into the reason why this trope was invented in this passage. — “It appears absurd (says the Diatribe) that God, who is not only just but also good, should be said to have hardened the heart of a man, in order that, by his iniquity, He might shew forth His own power. The same also occurred to Origen; who confesses, that the occasion of becoming hardened was given of God, but throws all the fault upon Pharaoh. He has, moreover, made a remark upon that which the Lord saith, “For this very purpose have I raised thee up.” He does not say, (he observes) For this very purpose have I made thee: otherwise, Pharaoh could not have been wicked, if God had made him such an one as he was, for God beheld all His works, and they were “very good” — thus the Diatribe.
It appears then, that one of the principal causes why the words of Moses and of Paul are not received, is their absurdity. But against what article of faith does that absurdity militate? Or, who is offended at it? It is human Reason that is offended; who, being blind, deaf, impious, and sacrilegious in all the words and works of God, is, in the case of this passage, introduced as a judge of the words and works of God. According to the same argument of absurdity, you will deny all the Articles of Faith: because, it is of all things the most absurd, and as Paul saith, foolishness to the Gentiles, and a stumbling-block to the Jews, that God should be man, the son of a virgin, crucified, and sitting at the right hand of His Father: it is, I say, absurd to believe such things. Therefore, let us invent some tropes with the Arians, and say, that Christ is not truly God. Let us invent some tropes with the Manichees, and say, that He is not truly man, but a phantom introduced by means of a virgin; or a reflection conveyed by glass, which fell, and was crucified. And in this way, we shall handle the Scriptures to excellent purpose indeed!
After all, then, the tropes amount to nothing; nor is the absurdity avoided. For it still remains absurd, (according to the judgment of reason,) that that God, who is just and good, should exact of “Free-will” impossibilities and that, when “Freewill” cannot will good and of necessity serves sin, that sin should yet be laid to its charge and that, moreover, when He does not give the Spirit, He should, nevertheless, act so severely and unmercifully, as to harden, or permit to become hardened: these things, Reason will still say, are not becoming a God good and merciful. Thus, they too far exceed her capacity; nor can she so bring herself into subjection as to believe, and judge, that the God who does such things, is good; but setting aside faith, she wants, to feel out, and see, and comprehend how He can be good, and not cruel. But she will comprehend that, when this shall be said of God: — He hardens no one, He damns no one; but He has mercy upon all, He saves all; and He has so utterly destroyed hell, that no future punishment need be dreaded. It is thus that Reason blusters and contends, in attempting to clear God, and to defend Him as just and good.
But faith and the Spirit judge otherwise; who believe, that God would be good, even though he should destroy all men. And to what profit is it, to weary ourselves with all these reasonings, in order that we might throw the fault of hardening upon “Free-will”! Let all the “Free-will” in the world, do all it can with all its powers, and yet, it never will give one proof, either that it can avoid being hardened where God gives not His Spirit, or merit mercy where it is left to its own powers. And what does it signify whether it be hardened, or deserve being hardened, if the hardening be of necessity, as long as it remains in that impotency, in which, according to the testimony of the Diatribe, it cannot will good? Since, therefore, the absurdity is not taken out of the way by these tropes; or, if it be taken out of the way, greater absurdities still are introduced in their stead, and all things are ascribed unto “Free-will”; away with such useless and seducing tropes, and let us cleave close to the pure and simple Word of God!
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library