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Joshua 22     Acts 2     Jeremiah 11     Matthew 25


Joshua 22

The Eastern Tribes Return Home

Joshua 22 1 At that time Joshua summoned the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, 2 and said to them, “You have kept all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you and have obeyed my voice in all that I have commanded you. 3 You have not forsaken your brothers these many days, down to this day, but have been careful to keep the charge of the Lord your God. 4 And now the Lord your God has given rest to your brothers, as he promised them. Therefore turn and go to your tents in the land where your possession lies, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side of the Jordan. 5 Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” 6 So Joshua blessed them and sent them away, and they went to their tents.

7 Now to the one half of the tribe of Manasseh Moses had given a possession in Bashan, but to the other half Joshua had given a possession beside their brothers in the land west of the Jordan. And when Joshua sent them away to their homes and blessed them, 8 he said to them, “Go back to your tents with much wealth and with very much livestock, with silver, gold, bronze, and iron, and with much clothing. Divide the spoil of your enemies with your brothers.” 9 So the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh returned home, parting from the people of Israel at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan, to go to the land of Gilead, their own land of which they had possessed themselves by command of the Lord through Moses.

The Eastern Tribes' Altar of Witness

10 And when they came to the region of the Jordan that is in the land of Canaan, the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh built there an altar by the Jordan, an altar of imposing size. 11 And the people of Israel heard it said, “Behold, the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have built the altar at the frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region about the Jordan, on the side that belongs to the people of Israel.” 12 And when the people of Israel heard of it, the whole assembly of the people of Israel gathered at Shiloh to make war against them.

13 Then the people of Israel sent to the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh, in the land of Gilead, Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, 14 and with him ten chiefs, one from each of the tribal families of Israel, every one of them the head of a family among the clans of Israel. 15 And they came to the people of Reuben, the people of Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, in the land of Gilead, and they said to them, 16 “Thus says the whole congregation of the Lord, ‘What is this breach of faith that you have committed against the God of Israel in turning away this day from following the Lord by building yourselves an altar this day in rebellion against the Lord? 17 Have we not had enough of the sin at Peor from which even yet we have not cleansed ourselves, and for which there came a plague upon the congregation of the Lord, 18 that you too must turn away this day from following the Lord? And if you too rebel against the Lord today then tomorrow he will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel. 19 But now, if the land of your possession is unclean, pass over into the Lord's land where the Lord's tabernacle stands, and take for yourselves a possession among us. Only do not rebel against the Lord or make us as rebels by building for yourselves an altar other than the altar of the Lord our God. 20 Did not Achan the son of Zerah break faith in the matter of the devoted things, and wrath fell upon all the congregation of Israel? And he did not perish alone for his iniquity.’”

21 Then the people of Reuben, the people of Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh said in answer to the heads of the families of Israel, 22 “The Mighty One, God, the Lord! The Mighty One, God, the Lord! He knows; and let Israel itself know! If it was in rebellion or in breach of faith against the Lord, do not spare us today 23 for building an altar to turn away from following the Lord. Or if we did so to offer burnt offerings or grain offerings or peace offerings on it, may the Lord himself take vengeance. 24 No, but we did it from fear that in time to come your children might say to our children, ‘What have you to do with the Lord, the God of Israel? 25 For the Lord has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you, you people of Reuben and people of Gad. You have no portion in the Lord.’ So your children might make our children cease to worship the Lord. 26 Therefore we said, ‘Let us now build an altar, not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice, 27 but to be a witness between us and you, and between our generations after us, that we do perform the service of the Lord in his presence with our burnt offerings and sacrifices and peace offerings, so your children will not say to our children in time to come, “You have no portion in the Lord.”’ 28 And we thought, ‘If this should be said to us or to our descendants in time to come, we should say, “Behold, the copy of the altar of the Lord, which our fathers made, not for burnt offerings, nor for sacrifice, but to be a witness between us and you.”’ 29 Far be it from us that we should rebel against the Lord and turn away this day from following the Lord by building an altar for burnt offering, grain offering, or sacrifice, other than the altar of the Lord our God that stands before his tabernacle!”

30 When Phinehas the priest and the chiefs of the congregation, the heads of the families of Israel who were with him, heard the words that the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the people of Manasseh spoke, it was good in their eyes. 31 And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest said to the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the people of Manasseh, “Today we know that the Lord is in our midst, because you have not committed this breach of faith against the Lord. Now you have delivered the people of Israel from the hand of the Lord.”

32 Then Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, and the chiefs, returned from the people of Reuben and the people of Gad in the land of Gilead to the land of Canaan, to the people of Israel, and brought back word to them. 33 And the report was good in the eyes of the people of Israel. And the people of Israel blessed God and spoke no more of making war against them to destroy the land where the people of Reuben and the people of Gad were settled. 34 The people of Reuben and the people of Gad called the altar Witness, “For,” they said, “it is a witness between us that the Lord is God.”


Acts 2

The Coming of the Holy Spirit

Acts 2 1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested[a] on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

Peter's Sermon at Pentecost

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.[b] 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.

21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,

“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
35 until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

The Fellowship of the Believers

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe[d] came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.


Jeremiah 11

The Broken Covenant

Jeremiah 11

1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Hear the words of this covenant, and speak to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 3 You shall say to them, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Cursed be the man who does not hear the words of this covenant 4 that I commanded your fathers when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Listen to my voice, and do all that I command you. So shall you be my people, and I will be your God, 5 that I may confirm the oath that I swore to your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as at this day.” Then I answered, “So be it, Lord.”

6 And the Lord said to me, “Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem: Hear the words of this covenant and do them. 7 For I solemnly warned your fathers when I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, warning them persistently, even to this day, saying, Obey my voice. 8 Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone walked in the stubbornness of his evil heart. Therefore I brought upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not.”

9 Again the Lord said to me, “A conspiracy exists among the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 10 They have turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, who refused to hear my words. They have gone after other gods to serve them. The house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant that I made with their fathers. 11 Therefore, thus says the Lord, Behold, I am bringing disaster upon them that they cannot escape. Though they cry to me, I will not listen to them. 12 Then the cities of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will go and cry to the gods to whom they make offerings, but they cannot save them in the time of their trouble. 13 For your gods have become as many as your cities, O Judah, and as many as the streets of Jerusalem are the altars you have set up to shame, altars to make offerings to Baal.

14 “Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble. 15 What right has my beloved in my house, when she has done many vile deeds? Can even sacrificial flesh avert your doom? Can you then exult? 16 The Lord once called you ‘a green olive tree, beautiful with good fruit.’ But with the roar of a great tempest he will set fire to it, and its branches will be consumed. 17 The Lord of hosts, who planted you, has decreed disaster against you, because of the evil that the house of Israel and the house of Judah have done, provoking me to anger by making offerings to Baal.”

18 The Lord made it known to me and I knew;
then you showed me their deeds.
19 But I was like a gentle lamb
led to the slaughter.
I did not know it was against me
they devised schemes, saying,
“Let us destroy the tree with its fruit,
let us cut him off from the land of the living,
that his name be remembered no more.”
20 But, O Lord of hosts, who judges righteously,
who tests the heart and the mind,
let me see your vengeance upon them,
for to you have I committed my cause.

21 Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the men of Anathoth, who seek your life, and say, “Do not prophesy in the name of the Lord, or you will die by our hand”— 22 therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: “Behold, I will punish them. The young men shall die by the sword, their sons and their daughters shall die by famine, 23 and none of them shall be left. For I will bring disaster upon the men of Anathoth, the year of their punishment.”


Matthew 25

The Parable of the Ten Virgins

Matthew 25 1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

The Parable of the Talents

14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

The Final Judgment

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

ESV Study Bible

What I'm Reading

Knowledge and World Peace

By Richard S. Adams 7/15/2015

     There are fewer and fewer obstacles in the way of a person seeking knowledge. It only takes a few minutes on the web to find the answer or opinion to almost any question.

     One of my favorite movies is still Groundhog Day (Special 15th Anniversary Edition). I get a kick out of Bill Murray. His first sexual conquest makes the reasons for his questions to Andie MacDowell obvious. “What shall we toast?” he coyly asks.

     “World peace?” she answers.

     Google has made knowledge and information readily available, but it has done nothing to bring us any closer to world peace. Likewise, social media has brought connect ability, but peace on earth and good will to all? Hardly. That idea sounds similar to, ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’

     Jesus said he came to testify to the truth, but the post-modern, much like Pilate 2,000 years ago, says there is no truth. Therefore, what happens to unalienable rights? If there is no Creator to endow us with equality, must we depend on our government? Good luck on that.

     If anyone is serious about world peace they need to start with themselves. Who brings more good, a knowledgeable person (thank you Google), or a peaceful person? A knowledgeable person can have a discontented spirit, they can be suspicious, and they can be easily upset. Even when they know better they can still say what should not be said and put off what they know they should do.

     So is it knowledge we should be seeking or a peaceable spirit?

     Maybe, just maybe, we should direct our zeal, therefore, first and last upon ourselves. We are all well versed in coloring our own actions with excuses which we would not accept from anyone else. Would we do better to accuse ourselves and excuse our brother? If we wish others to bear with us, we must bear with them. Unfortunately, most of us are far from true charity and humility which do not know how to be angry or indignant with anyone except themselves.

     Who doesn’t want to associate with good and gentle people? Don’t all of us want a peaceful life, preferring people of congenial habits? But to be able to live at peace with harsh and perverse people, or with undisciplined and unconscious people who irritate us with their thoughtlessness … now this is grace, a characteristic to be sought after more than knowledge.

     There are some who live at peace with themselves and with their fellow men, but others are never at peace with themselves nor do they bring it to anyone else. These people are a burden to everyone, but they are more of a burden to themselves.

     Peace in life is found in humbly enduring suffering rather than in being free from it. He who knows best how to suffer with inconsiderate people, disease, disability, financial lack, etc. will enjoy the greater peace, because he or she is the conqueror of himself or herself. Ultimately, no one does us more harm than ourselves.



     Luke 16:19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24 He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ 27 He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ 30 He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’

     Richard S. Adams | Lover of Christ, husband of Lily, father of four, grandfather of eleven, Masters in Divinity and Certificate in Spiritual Direction. On staff at George Fox 1/2009 to 7/2018.

Articles

The One-Two Punch

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 5/1/2010

     The one thing I want you to be certain to do is finish reading this column and brush your teeth every evening.

     I trust at least two things strike you about this opening sentence. First, it’s a rather odd way to begin. Second, why would I tell you there is one thing I want you to be certain to do and then ask for two things? Truth be told, I am following in the footsteps of Jesus, hoping to better understand our calling to follow in His footsteps. He said, Seek first that which is first, not first and second, but first, the kingdom of God. That would have made perfect sense, had He stopped there. But He didn’t. He said seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. That’s two things, or is it?

Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
  ESV

     The Devil over the past several centuries has been trying to pull us off both sides of the horse. He gave us pietism, which was a one-two punch to the church. Pietism first, and most clearly, is a view that sees the Christian faith as being merely about our own personal sanctification. It denies, implicitly, that Jesus has overcome the world, that His reign has implications in every sphere of reality. The second punch is slightly more subtle — pietism casts a shadow on piety. If we buy into pietism, we fail to press the crown rights of Jesus (we fail to seek His kingdom). If we reject pietism, on the other hand, we tend to reject piety as well. We become consumed with power politics and cease guarding our hearts. We want to change the world out there while all the while the world in here is in desperate straits. We fail to seek His righteousness.

     We will succeed in both realms only when we come to understand that there is only one realm. The world will not be changed until we are changed. The kingdom comes as His will is done on earth as it is in heaven. We must in turn come to realize that the world out there is changed precisely because of changes in here. Western civilization is not fleeing from its God-honoring roots because Christians are insufficiently politically active. No, we are losing the battle to make known the reign of Christ in the world because we will not have Him to rule over the church and its members.

     The kingdom and the righteousness are one because both are Christ. We are seeking the kingdom when we are seeking after Him. We are seeking His righteousness when we are seeking after Him. We miss this, I fear, because we miss what sanctification really is. We think of it first as a doctrine rather than a calling. We would rather talk about what it means than avail ourselves of its means. If, however, we escape this all too prevalent weakness, we usually fail in another way. We measure sanctification by how many sins we commit and how frequently. That is, we take the law of God, a righteous and compelling set of dos and don’ts, and see what we do and what we don’t do. Out pops our sanctification score. Sanctification, however, is far more about what we are than what we do. We don’t seek to stop sinning in order to be more like Jesus. Instead, we seek to be more like Jesus, and we end up sinning less.

     We are called, then, to seek Him, remembering His promise that when we see Him, we will be like Him (1 John 3:1–4). We are to look for Him in His Word, remembering again that they are one. Both our Bibles and Jesus Himself are wisely called the Word of God. We are to look for Him in His body, the church. There He who is invisible to us becomes visible, because it is His body. We are to look for Him at His table, where He meets with us, where He feeds us. We are to look for Him in prayer, remembering that He is about the business of interceding with the Father for us.

     In all of these places where we find Him we also find this — His grace. As we see Him in the Word, our sins are exposed. When we see Him in the church, there too our sins are exposed. When we see Him at His table, our sins are exposed. And in each case, our sins are covered. Sanctification, oddly, comes to pass as we become more — rather than less — aware of our sins. We find both His kingdom and His righteousness only as we confess that we have foolishly sought to rule in His stead, only as we confess that our own righteousness is as filthy rags. Our Father in heaven knows that we have need of these things. And even as He provides rain for the flowers and food for His beasts, so He has provided an alien kingdom and an alien righteousness, both in His only begotten Son.

     Though I do indeed hope that you finish this particular column, and though I do hope you practice good oral hygiene, my true desire for you and for me is this single goal: that we would seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Praise His name, He has promised that we will find whom we seek.

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     R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.

R.C. Sproul Jr. Books

It Can’t Get No Worse?

By Keith Mathison 5/1/2010

     In 1967, the Beatles released their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. One of the classic songs on that album is titled “Getting Better.” Many people are familiar with the catchy, upbeat chorus: “I’ve got to admit it’s getting better, a little better all the time.” It’s been used many times in television and radio advertisements. Those who have listened to the entire song know that there are also some dark undertones in parts of the song. John Lennon added the verse: “I used to be cruel to my woman. I beat her and kept her apart from the things she loved. Man I was mean, but I’m changing my scene, and I’m doing the best that I can.” In addition to the explicit references to physical abuse, there is a more subtle (and humorous) juxtaposition of attitudes in the chorus itself. After Paul McCartney sings the optimistic line, “I’ve got to admit it’s getting better, a little better all the time,” Lennon can be heard in the background singing, “It can’t get no worse.”

     I’m tempted to discuss the ways that conversation in the chorus between McCartney and Lennon reminds me of the debate between postmillennialists and amillennialists, but what I would like to focus on instead is the cynical comment, “It can’t get no worse.” Lennon seems to be saying: “I hope it’s getting better. Surely, it can’t get any worse.” Whether Lennon was talking about the cultural context of the late 1960s with Vietnam and the civil-rights movement or something more personal, is such an attitude one that we should take toward our circumstances? Could things be worse?

     Two weeks before Thanksgiving last year, my wife took a bad fall on a sidewalk. At the last second, she turned her face slightly, but still smashed her mouth and cheek on the concrete walkway. When she got up and looked at me, her mouth was bleeding so badly that I was convinced she had loosened or broken some teeth. After several visits to doctors, dentists, and an oral surgeon, and after a CT scan and several x-rays, it was determined that there were no broken bones, no broken teeth, and no concussion. Our dentist said he could not understand how she managed to get the injuries she did without also knocking out her front teeth and breaking her cheekbone, but she didn’t. The lack of serious injuries was likely due to the fact that she turned her face at the last second. In any case, it could have been much worse. The Lord was very gracious to us.

     One week after her fall and a week before Thanksgiving, a water pipe burst in the wall behind our kitchen sink. On most evenings, I go to bed early because I wake up very early. On the night the pipe burst, I stayed up later than normal to watch a documentary. Around 8 p.m., there was nothing evidently amiss. When I walked into the kitchen around 10:30 p.m., however, I could hear a “squishing” sound under the floor. I looked down and saw water come up between the pieces of wood. I heard the water spraying in the wall behind our kitchen sink, and shut off the valve to the house. So sometime between 8 and 10:30, the pipe behind the wall had burst. We discovered the next morning that in that short amount of time, the water had advanced about twelve feet into the dining room and living room, ruining the floors. But it could have been much, much worse. Had I gone to bed at my normal time, the broken pipe would have sprayed water for another six to eight hours, and in that amount of time, at the pace it was advancing under the floors, it probably would have flooded the entire house. Again, the Lord was very gracious to us.

     It can’t get no worse? Well, no. It could be worse. We are all sinners. We all, as Dr. Sproul aptly puts it, have committed “cosmic treason.” We all have rebelled against the living God. We all have betrayed our Lord. The graciousness that God displays in all of our lives every day is precisely that — grace. Undeserved mercy. As a sinner, I do not deserve to have my home spared complete flooding by a gracious act of God’s providence. As a sinner, my wife does not deserve to be spared more serious injuries by a gracious act of God’s providence. But in both of these relatively minor instances, we were spared the worst, and for that we thank our Lord.

     All of us who are Christians have also been spared the worst in the most important way. As sinners, not one of us deserves the redemption we have been granted. Yet in His great mercy, God sent His Son to bear the worst that we might be given the best. Lennon was wrong when he said “It can’t get no worse.” It can. We all could have been justly condemned to hell. But thanks be to God, Jesus bore our sins on the cross that we might have eternal life, that we might be freed from sin and death, that we might enjoy His presence forever. It can’t get no better.

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

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The Glory of Plodding

By Kevin DeYoung 5/1/2010

     It’s sexy among young people—my generation—to talk about ditching institutional religion and starting a revolution of real Christ-followers living in real community without the confines of church. Besides being unbiblical, such notions of churchless Christianity are unrealistic. It’s immaturity actually, like the newly engaged couple who think romance preserves the marriage, when the couple celebrating their golden anniversary know it’s the institution of marriage that preserves the romance. Without the God-given habit of corporate worship and the God-given mandate of corporate accountability, we will not prove faithful over the long haul.

     What we need are fewer revolutionaries and a few more plodding visionaries. That’s my dream for the church—a multitude of faithful, risktaking plodders.   I like this next sentence.  The best churches are full of gospel-saturated people holding tenaciously to a vision of godly obedience and God’s glory, and pursuing that godliness and glory with relentless, often unnoticed, plodding consistency.

     My generation in particular is prone to radicalism without followthrough. We have dreams of changing the world, and the world should take notice accordingly. But we’ve not proved faithful in much of anything yet. We haven’t held a steady job or raised godly kids or done our time in VBS or, in some cases, even moved off the parental dole. We want global change and expect a few more dollars to the ONE campaign or Habitat for Humanity chapter to just about wrap things up. What the church and the world needs, we imagine, is for us to be another Bono—Christian, but more spiritual than religious and more into social justice than the church. As great as it is that Bono is using his fame for some noble purpose, I just don’t believe that the happy future of the church, or the world for that matter, rests on our ability to raise up a million more Bonos (as at least one author suggests). With all due respect, what’s harder: to be an idolized rock star who travels around the world touting good causes and chiding governments for their lack of foreign aid, or to be a line worker at GM with four kids and a mortgage, who tithes to his church, sings in the choir every week, serves on the school board, and supports a Christian relief agency and a few missionaries from his disposable income?

     Until we are content with being one of the million nameless, faceless church members and not the next globe-trotting rock star, we aren’t ready to be a part of the church. In the grand scheme of things, most of us are going to be more of an Ampliatus (Rom. 16:8) or Phlegon (v. 14) than an apostle Paul. And maybe that’s why so many Christians are getting tired of the church. We haven’t learned how to be part of the crowd. We haven’t learned to be ordinary. Our jobs are often mundane. Our devotional times often seem like a waste. Church services are often forgettable. That’s life. We drive to the same places, go through the same routines with the kids, buy the same groceries at the store, and share a bed with the same person every night. Church is often the same too—same doctrines, same basic order of worship, same preacher, same people. But in all the smallness and sameness, God works—like the smallest seed in the garden growing to unbelievable heights, like beloved Tychicus, that faithful minister, delivering the mail and apostolic greetings (Eph. 6:21). Life is usually pretty ordinary, just like following Jesus most days. Daily discipleship is not a new revolution each morning or an agent of global transformation every evening; it’s a long obedience in the same direction.

     It’s possible the church needs to change. Certainly in some areas it does. But it’s also possible we’ve changed—and not for the better. It’s possible we no longer find joy in so great a salvation. It’s possible that our boredom has less to do with the church, its doctrines, or its poor leadership and more to do with our unwillingness to tolerate imperfection in others and our own coldness to the same old message about Christ’s death and resurrection. It’s possible we talk a lot about authentic community but we aren’t willing to live in it.

     The church is not an incidental part of God’s plan. Jesus didn’t invite people to join an anti-religion, anti-doctrine, anti-institutional bandwagon of love, harmony, and re-integration. He showed people how to live, to be sure. But He also called them to repent, called them to faith, called them out of the world, and called them into the church. The Lord “didn’t add them to the church without saving them, and he didn’t save them without adding them to the church” (John Stott).

     “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7). If we truly love the church, we will bear with her in her failings, endure her struggles, believe her to be the beloved bride of Christ, and hope for her final glorification. The church is the hope of the world—not because she gets it all right, but because she is a body with Christ for her Head.

     Don’t give up on the church. The New Testament knows nothing of churchless Christianity. The invisible church is for invisible Christians. The visible church is for you and me. Put away the Che Guevara t-shirts, stop the revolution, and join the rest of the plodders. Fifty years from now you’ll be glad you did.

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     Kevin DeYoung (MDiv, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) is senior pastor of Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina, board chairman The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester.

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Something Old, Something New

By Eric Watkins 6/1/2010

     How can confessional Reformed churches provide a safe haven for New Calvinists? A simple answer to this may fail to appreciate the diversity of each new Calvinist’s spiritual pilgrimage, and thus runs the danger of not ministering particular grace to particular people in their particular situations. But that does not mean that there are not certain ideas (even general ones) that may be helpful for confessional pastors and churches to consider as they seek to minister to these weathered pilgrims seeking spiritual haven.

     New Calvinists are likely to be attracted to confessional Reformed churches for a variety of reasons. It may be the beauty, reverence, and simplicity of Reformed worship, or perhaps they are attracted to the emphasis in Reformed piety on the outward and ordinary means of grace. It may even be that they are tired of getting lost in the mega-scene and are looking for ecclesiastical and pastoral connectedness. While theology may appear to lie at the heart of their quest, it should be remembered that there is something very old about new Calvinists: they are, in many respects, common Christians with common problems and needs. They, like all Christians, are wounded and weary sheep. They need to see that not only are our churches theologically faithful, but that they are servant-hearted hospitals from which a tender ministry of mercy is extended to the people of God. How can this be effected?

     I would like to suggest that while there is an important place for the dialogue about the differences between old and new Calvinism, these issues ought not to eclipse something that John Calvin believed was at the heart of the Reformation and essential to the Christian life. That “something” is the church’s life in Christ. Calvinism has a heightened sensitivity to the covenantal aspect of the gospel. It finds our fallen nature to be that which we inherited from our first father, Adam. Since then, all the world is pricked by the thorns and thistles of this present evil age. The cursed wages of sin (death) reign over all men without exception. But the story of the first Adam is not the end of the story. God gave a covenant promise to raise up a second Adam who would fulfill the covenant Adam broke, endure the curse on behalf of His people, and grant them righteousness and life in Himself.

     The link between the covenant and Calvinism is hard to miss; on the other hand, it is too easily taken for granted. Set against the backdrop of our sinfulness in Adam and our personal sins against God, the gospel is like a magnificent diamond. Its many facets capture our gaze. It is beautiful. New Calvinists, like all Christians, need to hear this gospel preached to them over and over. Too often the preaching of the gospel is reduced to that which unbelievers need. While unbelievers do need to hear it, we must remember that Christians need to hear the gospel as well. They need to be reminded Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day from what they have been saved and who it is that so graciously saved them. They need to hear that though this world bears the curse and shame of the first Adam, it shall be transformed by the resurrection glory of the last Adam. They need to be assured that the Christ who died for them is also at work in them, completing the good work that He has begun by the power of the Spirit, and that the completion of this work is as sure as Christ’s resurrection. They need to be reminded that being united to Christ implies being conformed to Christ’s image, and that the primary tool by which God molds us into the image of Christ is the cross. This is the pilgrim’s path, and there is no other.

     Romans 8 captures this so very well. Verse 28 is often used to comfort Christians, yet one of the ways in which it offers the most comfort is by showing us how all the difficult things that “work together for good” are working toward the particular goal of conforming us “to the image of his Son” (v. 29). God’s design for our lives is that we should be conformed by “all things” into the image of Christ until the day of glorification with Him. It is because of this that Paul could say, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18).

     New Calvinists, like all Christians, are pilgrims making their way toward the city of Zion. Their theological path has likely taken difficult turns over time. They may have paid the relational costs of being identified with Calvinists or moving from one church to another. They are wounded not only by the world but perhaps even by Christians. As they stumble into our churches, they do so as those who are seeking the Great Physician. They can be truly comforted by no other. Before we seek to engage the finer points of their theology, let us first seek to comfort their souls by reminding them of that which so truly comforts every Calvinist and indeed every Christian — life in Christ. Foundational to providing safe haven to new Calvinists is the preaching of the gospel; and that is nothing new.

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     Dr. Eric B. Watkins is pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in St. Augustine, Fla.

Joshua 22; Acts 2; Jeremiah 11; Matthew 25

By Don Carson 7/15/2018

     Acts 2 is sometimes called the birthday of the church. This can be misleading. There is a sense in which the old covenant community can rightly be designated church (Acts 7:38 — “assembly” in NIV). Nevertheless there is a new departure that begins on this day, a departure bound up with the universal gift of the Holy Spirit, in fulfillment of Scripture (Acts 2:17-18) and in consequence of Jesus’ exaltation “to the right hand of God” (2:33). The critical event that has brought this incalculable blessing about is the death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus Christ; this even was itself foreseen by earlier Scripture.

     One of the things that is striking about Peter’s address, quite apart from its comprehensiveness, courage, directness, and passionate fire, is the way the apostle, even at this early stage of his post-resurrection public ministry, handles what we call the Old Testament Scriptures. His use of Scripture in this Pentecost sermon is too rich and variegated to unpack in detail. But observe:

     (1) Once again there is a David-typology (Acts 2:25-28, citing Ps. 16:8-11). But here there is also a small sample of apostolic reasoning in this regard. Although it is possible to read Acts 2:27 (“you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay”) as David’s conviction that God will not, at that point, let him die, the language is so extravagant, and David’s typological role so common, that Peter insists the words point to something more: a greater than David will quite literally not be abandoned in the grave, and will not be permitted to experience decay. David, after all, was a prophet. Whether in this case, like Caiaphas (John 11:50-52), David spoke better than he knew, at least he knew that God had promised “on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne” (Acts 2:30).

     (2) The prophecy of Joel (Acts 2:17-21; see Joel 2:28-32) is more straightforward, in that it is a case of verbal prediction and does not resort to typology. The obvious meaning is that Peter detects in the events of Pentecost the fulfillment of these words: the “last days” (Acts 2:17) have arrived. “Whether the sun turning to darkness and the moon turning to blood were both events bound up with the dark hours when Jesus was on the cross, or an instance of Hebrew nature symbolism, need not detain us here.) This Old Testament passage is one of a handful of texts that predict the coming of the Spirit, or the writing of God’s law on our hearts, but in any case covenant-wide personal transformation in the last days (e.g., Jer. 31:31 ff.; Ezek. 36:25-27).

Acts 2:17-21 17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
  ESV


Joel 2:28-32 28 “And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit.

30 “And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 32 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.   ESV

Ezekiel 36:25-27 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.   ESV

Jeremiah 31:31 31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,  ESV

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

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Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 75

God Will Judge with Equity
75 To The Choirmaster: According to Do Not Destroy. A Psalm Of Asaph. A Song.

1 We give thanks to you, O God;
we give thanks, for your name is near.
We recount your wondrous deeds.

2 “At the set time that I appoint
I will judge with equity.
3 When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants,
it is I who keep steady its pillars. Selah
4 I say to the boastful, ‘Do not boast,’
and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horn;
5 do not lift up your horn on high,
or speak with haughty neck.’ ”

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     46. Most assuredly, the custom which prescribes communion once a-year is an invention of the devil, by what instrumentality soever it may have been introduced. They say that Zephyrinus was the author of the decree, though it is not possible to believe that it was the same as we now have it. It may be, that as times then were, he did not, by his ordinance, consult ill for the Church. For there cannot be a doubt that at that time the sacred Supper was dispensed to the faithful at every meeting; nor can it be doubted that a great part of them communicated. But as it scarcely ever happened that all could communicate at the same time, and it was necessary that those who were mingled with the profane and idolaters, should testify their faith by some external symbol, this holy man, with a view to order and government, had appointed that day, that on it the whole of Christendom might give a confession of their faith by partaking of the Lord's Supper. The ordinance of Zephyrinus, which was otherwise good, posterity perverted, when they made a fixed law of one communion in the year. The consequence is, that almost all, when they have once communicated, as if they were discharged as to all the rest of the year, sleep on secure. It ought to have been far otherwise. Each week, at least, the table of the Lord ought to have been spread for the company of Christians, and the promises declared on which we might then spiritually feed. No one, indeed, ought to be forced, but all ought to be exhorted and stimulated; the torpor of the sluggish, also, ought to be rebuked, that all, like persons famishing, should come to the feast. It was not without cause, therefore, I complained, at the outset, that this practice had been introduced by the wile of the devil; a practice which, in prescribing one day in the year, makes the whole year one of sloth. We see, indeed, that this perverse abuse had already crept in in the time of Chrysostom; but we, also, at the same time, see how much it displeased him. For he complains in bitter terms, in the passage which I lately quoted, that there is so great an inequality in this matter, that they did not approach often, at other times of the year, even when prepared, but only at Easter, though unprepared. Then he exclaims: "O custom! O presumption! In vain, then, is the daily oblation made: in vain do we stand at the altar. There is none who partakes along with us." So far is he from having approved the practice by interposing his authority to it.

47. From the same forge proceeded another constitution, which snatched or robbed a half of the Supper from the greater part of the people of God--namely, the symbol of blood, which, interdicted to laics and profane (such are the titles which they give to God's heritage), became the peculiar possession of a few shaven and anointed individuals. The edict of the eternal God is, that all are to drink. This an upstart dares to antiquate and abrogate by a new and contrary law, proclaiming that all are not to drink. And that such legislators may not seem to fight against their God without any ground, they make a pretext of the dangers which might happen if the sacred cup were given indiscriminately to all: as if these had not been observed and provided for by the eternal wisdom of God. Then they reason acutely, forsooth, that the one is sufficient for the two. For if the body is, as they say, the whole Christ, who cannot be separated from his body, then the blood includes the body by concomitance. Here we see how far our sense accords with God, when to any extent whatever it begins to rage and wanton with loosened reins. The Lord, pointing to the bread, says, "This is my body." Then pointing to the cup, he calls it his blood. The audacity of human reason objects and says, The bread is the blood, the wine is the body, as if the Lord had without reason distinguished his body from his blood, both by words and signs; and it had ever been heard that the body of Christ or the blood is called God and man. Certainly, if he had meant to designate himself wholly, he might have said, It is I, according to the Scriptural mode of expression, and not, "This is my body," "This is my blood." But wishing to succour the weakness of our faith, he placed the cup apart from the bread, to show that he suffices not less for drink than for food. Now, if one part be taken away, we can only find the half of the elements in what remains. Therefore, though it were true, as they pretend, that the blood is in the bread, and, on the other hand, the body in the cup, by concomitance, yet they deprive the pious of that confirmation of faith which Christ delivered as necessary. Bidding adieu, therefore, to their subtleties, let us retain the advantage which, by the ordinance of Christ, is obtained by a double pledge.

48. I am aware, indeed, how the ministers of Satan, whose usual practice is to hold the Scriptures in derision, here cavil. [651] First, they allege that from a simple fact we are not to draw a rule which is to be perpetually obligatory on the Church. But they state an untruth when they call it a simple fact. For Christ not only gave the cup, but appointed that the apostles should do so in future. For his words contain the command, "Drink ye all of it." And Paul relates, that it was so done, and recommends it as a fixed institution. Another subterfuge is, that the apostles alone were admitted by Christ to partake of this sacred Supper, because he had already selected and chosen them to the priesthood. I wish they would answer the five following questions, which they cannot evade, and which easily refute them and their lies. First, By what oracle was this solution so much at variance with the word of God revealed to them? Scripture mentions twelve who sat down with Jesus, but it does not so derogate from the dignity of Christ as to call them priests. Of this appellation we shall afterwards speak in its own place. Although he then gave to twelve, he commanded them to "do this;" in other words, to distribute thus among themselves. Secondly, Why during that purer age, from the days of the apostles downward for a thousand years, did all, without exception, partake of both symbols? Did the primitive Church not know who the guests were whom Christ would have admitted to his Supper? It were the most shameless impudence to carp and quibble here. We have extant ecclesiastical histories, we have the writings of the Fathers, which furnish clear proofs of this fact. "The flesh," says Tertullian, "feeds on the body and blood of Christ, that the soul may be satiated by God" (Tertull. de Resurr. Carnis.). "How," says Ambrose to Theodosius, "will you receive the sacred body of the Lord with such hands? how will you have the boldness to put the cup of precious blood to your lips?" Jerome speaks of "the priests who perform the Eucharist and distribute the Lord's blood to the people" (Hieron. in Malach. cap. 2). Chrysostom says, "Not as under the ancient law the priest ate a part and the people a part, but one body and one cup is set before all. All the things which belong to the Eucharist are common to the priest and the people" (Chrysost. in Cor. cap. 8, Hom. 18). The same thing is attested by Augustine in numerous passages.

49. But why dispute about a fact which is perfectly notorious? Look at all Greek and Latin writers. Passages of the same kind everywhere occur. Nor did this practice fall into desuetude so long as there was one particle of integrity in the Church. Gregory, whom you may with justice call the last Bishop of Rome, says that it was observed in his age. [652] "What the blood of the Lamb is you have learned, not by hearing, but by drinking it. His blood is poured into the mouths of the faithful." Nay, four hundred years after his death, when all things had degenerated, the practice still remained. Nor was it regarded as the custom merely, but as an inviolable law. Reverence for the divine institution was then maintained, and they had no doubt of its being sacrilege to separate what the Lord had joined. For Gelasius thus speaks: "We find that some taking only the portion of the sacred body, abstain from the cup. Undoubtedly let those persons, as they seem entangled by some strange superstition, either receive the whole sacrament, or be debarred from the whole. For the division of this mystery is not made without great sacrilege" (De Consec. Dist. 2). Reasons were given by Cyprian, which surely ought to weigh with Christian minds. "How," says he, "do we teach or incite them to shed their blood in confessing Christ, if we deny his blood to those who are to serve; or how do we make them fit for the cup of martyrdom, if we do not previously admit them by right of communion in the Church, to drink the cup of the Lord?" (Cyprian, Serm. 5, de Lapsis). The attempt of the Canonists to restrict the decree of Gelasius to priests is a cavil too puerile to deserve refutation.

50. Thirdly, Why did our Saviour say of the bread simply, "Take, eat," and of the cup, "drink ye all of it;" as if he had purposely intended to provide against the wile of Satan? Fourthly, If, as they will have it, the Lord honoured priests only with his Supper, what man would ever have dared to call strangers, whom the Lord had excluded, to partake of it, and to partake of a gift which he had not in his power, without any command from him who alone could give it? Nay, what presumption do they show in the present day in distributing the symbol of Christ's body to the common people, if they have no command or example from the Lord? Fifthly, Did Paul lie when he said to the Corinthians, "I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you?" (1 Cor. 11:23). The thing delivered, he afterwards declares to be, that all should communicate promiscuously in both symbols. But if Paul received of the Lord that all were to be admitted without distinction, let those who drive away almost the whole people of God see from whom they have received, since they cannot now pretend to have their authority from God, with whom there is not "yea and nay" (2 Cor. 1:19, 20). And yet these abominations they dare to cloak with the name of the Church, and defend under this pretence, as if those Antichrists were the Church who so licentiously trample under foot, waste, and abrogate the doctrine and institutions of Christ, or as if the Apostolic Church, in which religion flourished in full vigour, were not the Church.

__________________________________________________________________

[635] See August. Hom. in Joann. 31 et 40, &c., Chrysost. Hom. ad Popul. Antioch., 60, 61; et Hom. in Marc. 89.

[636] 131 D131 The degree to which Calvin's words concerning the Roman Catholic dogma of transubstantiation have become obsolete, during the 390 years following this definitive edition of the Institutes (Geneva, 1559), may be ascertained by comparing his discussion with the answers to questions 347-50 of the official Baltimore Catechism, No. 3, issued in 1449 under the auspices of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. We here quote both questions and answers verbatim: 347. What happened when our Lord said: "This is My body...This is My blood"? When Our Lord said, "This is My body," the entire substance of the bread was changed into His body; and when He said, "This is My blood," the entire substance of the wine changed into His blood. 348. Did anything of the bread and wine remain after their substance had been changed into Our Lord's body and blood? After the substance of the bread and wine had been changed into Our Lord's body and blood, there remained only the appearances of bread and wine. 349. What do we mean by the appearances of bread and wine? By the appearances of bread and wine we mean their color, taste, weight, shape, and whatever else appears to the senses. 350. What is the change of the entire substance of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ called? The change of the entire substance of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ is called Transubstantiation.

[637] Compare together Ambrose on those who are initiated in the sacraments (cap. 9) and Augustine, De Trinitate, Lib. 3 cap. 10, and it will be seen that both are opposed to transubstantiation.

[638] 132 D132 Calvin, though tactfully refraining from any mention of Luther (whom he held in high regard), obviously has reference to that view of the presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper historically associated with the Lutheran tradition--a view which has often been called (in contradistinction to transubstantiation) "consubstantiation." Whereas "transubstantiation" means a change of the substance of the bread and wine into the substance of Christ's body and blood, "consubstantiation" means that the substance of the bread and wine is accompanied by the substance of Christ's body and blood. Perhaps three references from Lutheran tradition will suffice to support the contention that this view has been held by that tradition. In his Large Catechism, Martin Luther asserted: The Sacrament of the Alter is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, in and under bread and wine, instituted and commanded by the Word of Christ to be eaten and drank by us Christians. In the negative division of Article 7 of the Formula of Concord (1584), two sections are particularly relevant: Section 5. (We reject and condemn the erroneous article) That the body of Christ in the Holy Supper is not received by the mouth together with the bread, but that only bread and wine are received by the mouth, while the body of Christ is taken only spiritually, to wit, by faith. Section 11. (We reject and condemn the erroneous article) That Christ's body is so confined in heaven that it can in no mode whatever be likewise at one and the same time in many places, or in all the places where the Lord's Supper is celebrated. Those theologians who followed in the Lutheran tradition (e.g., David Hollaz and Heinrich Schmid) frequently expressed this view in the following manner: In with, and under the bread and wine, Christ presents His true body and blood to be truly and substantially eaten and drank by us.

[639] Gen. 17:10; Exod. 12:11; 17:6; 1 Cor. 10:4.

[640] Exod. 3:2; Psalm 84:8; 42:3; Mt 3:16.

[641] French, "Certes si on ne veut abolir toute raison, on ne peut dire que ce qui est commun à tous sacremens n'appartienne aussi à la Cene."--Certainly if we would not abolish reason altogether, we cannot say that that which is common to all the sacraments belongs not also to the Supper.

[642] The French adds, "Je di si Jesus Christ est enclos sous chacun des deux signes."--I mean, if Jesus Christ is included under each of the two signs.

[643] The French adds, "En lisant nos ecrits, on verra incontinent combien ces calomnies sont vilaines et puantes."--In reading our writings, it will at once be seen how vile and foul these calumnies are.

[644] Thus Augustine, speaking of certain persons, says: "It is strange, when they are confined in their straits, over what precipices they plunge themselves, fearing the nets of truth" (Aug. Ep. 105).

[645] That the dogma of those who place the body of Christ in the bread is not aided by passages from Augustine, or the authority of Scripture, is proved here and sec. 29-31. There is no ambiguity in what he says, De Civit. Dei, 16, cap. 27. In Psal. 26 et 46. In Joann. Tract. 13, 102, 106, 107, &c.

[646] The French adds, "Car la figure seroit fausse, si ce qu'elle represente n'estoit vray."--For the figure would be false, if the thing which it represents were not real.

[647] The French adds, "veu qu'ils confessent que nous l'avons aussi bien sans la Cene;"--seeing they acknowledge that we have him as well without the Supper.

[648] French, "Il faisoit Jesus Christ homme en tant qu'il est Dieu, et Dieu en tant qu'il est homme."--He made Jesus Christ man, in so far as he is God, and God in so far as he is man.

[649] See Bernard in Cant. Serm. 74, 75; et Trad. de Gratia et Liber. Arbit.

[650] See August. Cont. Liter. Petiliani, Lib. 2 c. 47, et Tract. in Joann.

[651] See Calvin de Coena Domini. Item, Adv. Theol. Paris. Item, Vera Eceles. Reform. Ratio.

[652] 133 D133 The reference is to Gregory I (frequently referred to as Gregory the Great), bishop of Rome from 590 to 604.

__________________________________________________________________

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


  • 21 Jud Samson Levites Ruth
  • 22 1 Sam Eli
  • 23 1 Sam Conflict


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     4/1/2014    The Great Ordinary Commission

     When I teach on the Great Commission, I often begin by asking my students, “What is Jesus’ primary emphasis in the Great Commission?” Typically, most students reply, “evangelism.” I then ask them to read the Great Commission from Matthew 28:18–20, after which I ask my question a second time. The students quickly see that although the Great Commission includes a call to evangelism, it doesn’t actually contain the word evangelism. What the students observe through more careful study of the Great Commission is that Jesus’ primary emphasis is on making disciples.

     Making disciples certainly includes evangelism but is by no means limited to evangelism. The sort of disciple-making to which Jesus commissions the church involves much more, including baptizing and teaching. Simply put, if we have only evangelized a people or a nation, we have not been obedient to the fullness of the Great Commission. In addition to evangelism, Jesus provided us with specific instructions that we are to baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” and that we are to teach people “to observe all that I have commanded you.”

     Moreover, if we have only evangelized, baptized, and received a person into church membership, we have not been obedient to the fullness of the Great Commission. Both baptizing and teaching are the ministry of the local church around the world, and this is why the local church sends us forth to make disciples. As missionaries, preachers, and teachers, we go to all nations to plant, equip, and disciple the church of Jesus Christ. We are called not simply to evangelize and baptize and move on, but we are called to stay the course to do the hard work of teaching Jesus’ disciples to observe all that He commanded, including the command to “go and make disciples of all nations.”

     The Great Commission is a call to the church to be the church and to do the work of the church by making disciples of all nations. And we must remember that Jesus never called it “the Great Commission.” It is indeed a great commission, but it is a beautifully ordinary commission that we have the great privilege of fulfilling in part as we gather together with every tribe, tongue, and nation to worship with our families every Lord’s Day. Then we partake of and bear witness to the ordinary means of grace in the building up of the church in the preaching of the Word, growing as disciples and learning from the Scriptures to observe all that Jesus commanded. Then we enjoy the communion of the saints in communion with God in prayer, observe baptism in the name of our triune God, and partake regularly of the Supper that our Lord provides at His table. This is the extraordinarily great and greatly ordinary work of the church as we go, send, and make disciple-making disciples of all nations, just as we see the early church being faithful to the fullness of the Great Commission (Acts 2:42–47).

     click here for article source

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Robert Aitken, the publisher of The Pennsylvania Magazine, died this day, July 15, 1802. During the Colonial Era, the Bible most used in America was the King’s authorized version, printed on the King’s official presses in Britain. But since the Revolutionary War interrupted trade with England, and since the Bible was used commonly used in education, the Continental Congress, in 1782, responded to the shortage by approving and recommending that Robert Aitken of Philadelphia print the first Bibles in America. They were to be “A neat edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use of schools.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


“It cannot be that the people should grow in grace
unless they give themselves to reading.
A reading people will always be a knowing people.”
--- from a letter in the Works of John Wesley
The Life And Times Of The Rev. John Wesley, Founder Of The Methodists; Volume 3

     When I die and come before the heavenly court, if they ask me, ‘Zusha, why were you not Abraham?’ I’ll say that I didn’t have Abraham’s intellectual abilities. If they say, ‘Why were you not Moses?’ I’ll say I didn’t have Moses’ leadership abilities. For every such question, I’ll have an answer. But if they say, ‘Zusha, why were you not Zusha?’ for that, I’ll have no answer.
--- Rabbi Zusha
The Jewish Self

We will have all of eternity to celebrate the victories,
yet only a few hours before sunset in which to win them.
--- Amy Carmichael
Diamonds in the Dust: 365 Meditations on Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary (Daybreaks)
... from here, there and everywhere

The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
     CHAPTER 17 / The Torah, the Heart,
     and Education


     “And You Shall Write Them upon the Posts of Your House and upon Your Gates”

     We now come to the concluding passage of the first paragraph of the Shema, which deals with the second of the two “practical” or ceremonial mitzvot singled out for mention in the Shema. This verse refers to the parchment bearing the first two paragraphs of the Shema, which is wrapped in a small case and affixed to the right doorpost (as one enters the room). (In common parlance, this small scroll, and sometimes its casing as well, is referred to as the mezuzah. In the language of Scripture; however, it is the doorpost itself that is called the mezuzah; there is no special name for the scroll. Nevertheless, already in ancient times the name “mezuzah” was borrowed from the doorpost and applied to the scroll containing the Shema.)

     The principle behind the mitzvah of mezuzah is essentially the same as that for tefillin: it is a sign of our love for God. But whereas tefillin applies to the personal self, the individual qua individual, the mitzvah of mezuzah applies to our home—our family and, by extension, our community, city, and country. The belief in the absolute unity of God and the consequent command to love Him are incumbent upon the Jew in all the concentric circles that define his daily existence and endeavor. Not only must the mezuzah be affixed to “the posts of your house” but, equally, “upon your gates.” The latter term comprises all forms of domicile: “whether it be the gates of courtyards or the gates of alley-ways or the gates of towns and cities—all are required to have a mezuzah affixed to them,” writes Maimonides in his halakhic code. Regarding the purpose of the mitzvah, Maimonides continues: “whenever he comes in or goes out, he will encounter the unity of the Name of the Holy One, and he will recall his love for Him and bestir himself from his slumber and his idle thoughts about his temporal vanities; and he will know that nothing endures forever and ever, save the knowledge of the Rock of Ages. Thus, he will regain his senses and go in the way of the righteous.” (35) Here again, as in the case of tefillin, Maimonides emphasizes the love for God as a leitmotif of mezuzah.

(35)     Hilkhot Mezuzah, 6:13.

     It is interesting to note that in Maimonides’ halakhic magnum opus, divided into fourteen separate “books,” the second book, Sefer Ahavah, “The Book of Love,” begins with the Laws of the Shema. It then continues with the Laws of Prayer, Tefillin, Mezuzah, the Scroll of the Torah, the Tzitzit, the Blessings, and Circumcision. All of these, in one way or another, are intimately connected to the Grundprinzip of the love for God.

     Thus we find that the whole of the first paragraph of the Shema—from the proclamation of God’s unity through the commandment to love Him and, finally, to the mitzvot of tefillin and mezuzah—form one cohesive whole.

     It is fitting to conclude with the following passage from the Tzeror ha-Mor by R. Abraham Seba, words that assume even greater significance and pathos when one takes into account the unspeakable suffering and profound human tragedies that befell him when, with so many other Iberian Jews, he was forced into exile during the Expulsion from Portugal in 1492:

     The Torah considered the future—the suffering and the evil which would be decreed against Israel, forcing them to abandon their religion and to abstain from the study of Torah. This is what happened in the Expulsion from Portugal when it was forbidden to preach publicly and to teach children [Torah]. All books and synagogues were taken away, so that we would neither pray nor teach our children. As a result, Torah was all but forgotten by Jews—for how shall we teach our children without books or teachers?

     Nothing was left to us save to teach them the Shema—that the Lord is One, and that one ought to love Him and be prepared to die for Him in martyrdom.

     Therefore did God give Israel, for such times, this short passage of the Shema which contains (the essence of) the whole of Torah; and if they cannot know the entire passage (i.e., all three paragraphs) at least they will know the one verse Shema Yisrael which contains, in the main, the belief in the unity of God. Thus, they may teach this verse to their children so that they know that He is one and He is all-powerful. And if villains should come to coerce them to forsake their God, they should learn to offer their lives up for Him and die in martyrdom. This is what is meant [by the commandment] to love Him “with all your heart and all your soul and all your might.” (36)

(36)     Tzeror ha-Mor to Va-et’ḥanan, s.v. Ve’amar ve’hayu.


  The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 10.

     Caius Commands That His Statue Should Be Set Up In The Temple Itself; And What Petronius Did Thereupon.

     1. Now Caius Caesar did so grossly abuse the fortune he had arrived at, as to take himself to be a god, and to desire to be so called also, and to cut off those of the greatest nobility out of his country. He also extended his impiety as far as the Jews. Accordingly, he sent Petronius with an army to Jerusalem, to place his statues in the temple, 11 and commanded him that, in case the Jews would not admit of them, he should slay those that opposed it, and carry all the rest of the nation into captivity: but God concerned himself with these his commands. However, Petronius marched out of Antioch into Judea, with three legions, and many Syrian auxiliaries. Now as to the Jews, some of them could not believe the stories that spake of a war; but those that did believe them were in the utmost distress how to defend themselves, and the terror diffused itself presently through them all; for the army was already come to Ptolemais.

     2. This Ptolemais is a maritime city of Galilee, built in the great plain. It is encompassed with mountains: that on the east side, sixty furlongs off, belongs to Galilee; but that on the south belongs to Carmel, which is distant from it a hundred and twenty furlongs; and that on the north is the highest of them all, and is called by the people of the country, The Ladder of the Tyrians, which is at the distance of a hundred furlongs. The very small river Belus 12 runs by it, at the distance of two furlongs; near which there is Menmon's monument, 13 and hath near it a place no larger than a hundred cubits, which deserves admiration; for the place is round and hollow, and affords such sand as glass is made of; which place, when it hath been emptied by the many ships there loaded, it is filled again by the winds, which bring into it, as it were on purpose, that sand which lay remote, and was no more than bare common sand, while this mine presently turns it into glassy sand. And what is to me still more wonderful, that glassy sand which is superfluous, and is once removed out of the place, becomes bare common sand again. And this is the nature of the place we are speaking of.

     3. But now the Jews got together in great numbers with their wives and children into that plain that was by Ptolemais, and made supplication to Petronius, first for their laws, and, in the next place, for themselves. So he was prevailed upon by the multitude of the supplicants, and by their supplications, and left his army and the statues at Ptolemais, and then went forward into Galilee, and called together the multitude and all the men of note to Tiberias, and showed them the power of the Romans, and the threatenings of Caesar; and, besides this, proved that their petition was unreasonable, because while all the nations in subjection to them had placed the images of Caesar in their several cities, among the rest of their gods, for them alone to oppose it, was almost like the behavior of revolters, and was injurious to Caesar.

     4. And when they insisted on their law, and the custom of their country, and how it was not only not permitted them to make either an image of God, or indeed of a man, and to put it in any despicable part of their country, much less in the temple itself, Petronius replied, "And am not I also," said he, "bound to keep the law of my own lord? For if I transgress it, and spare you, it is but just that I perish; while he that sent me, and not I, will commence a war against you; for I am under command as well as you." Hereupon the whole multitude cried out that they were ready to suffer for their law. Petronius then quieted them, and said to them, "Will you then make war against Caesar?" The Jews said, "We offer sacrifices twice every day for Caesar, and for the Roman people;" but that if he would place the images among them, he must first sacrifice the whole Jewish nation; and that they were ready to expose themselves, together with their children and wives, to be slain. At this Petronius was astonished, and pitied them, on account of the inexpressible sense of religion the men were under, and that courage of theirs which made them ready to die for it; so they were dismissed without success.

     5. But on the following days he got together the men of power privately, and the multitude publicly, and sometimes he used persuasions to them, and sometimes he gave them his advice; but he chiefly made use of threatenings to them, and insisted upon the power of the Romans, and the anger of Caius; and besides, upon the necessity he was himself under [to do as he was enjoined]. But as they could be no way prevailed upon, and he saw that the country was in danger of lying without tillage; [for it was about seed time that the multitude continued for fifty days together idle;] so he at last got them together, and told them that it was best for him to run some hazard himself; "for either, by the Divine assistance, I shall prevail with Caesar, and shall myself escape the danger as well as you, which will be matter of joy to us both; or, in case Caesar continue in his rage, I will be ready to expose my own life for such a great number as you are." Whereupon he dismissed the multitude, who prayed greatly for his prosperity; and he took the army out of Ptolemais, and returned to Antioch; from whence he presently sent an epistle to Caesar, and informed him of the irruption he had made into Judea, and of the supplications of the nation; and that unless he had a mind to lose both the country and the men in it, he must permit them to keep their law, and must countermand his former injunction. Caius answered that epistle in a violent-way, and threatened to have Petronius put to death for his being so tardy in the execution of what he had commanded. But it happened that those who brought Caius's epistle were tossed by a storm, and were detained on the sea for three months, while others that brought the news of Caius's death had a good voyage. Accordingly, Petronins received the epistle concerning Caius seven and twenty days before he received that which was against himself.

          The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston

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

Proverbs 21:9-10
     by D.H. Stern

9     It is better to live on a corner of the roof
than to share the house with a nagging wife.

10     The wicked is set on evil;
he doesn’t pity even his neighbor.


Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                The point of spiritual honour

     I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the barbarians. --- Romans 1:14.

     Paul was overwhelmed with the sense of his indebtedness to Jesus Christ, and he spent himself to express it. The great inspiration in Paul’s life was his view of Jesus Christ as his spiritual creditor. Do I feel that sense of indebtedness to Christ in regard to every unsaved soul? The spiritual honour of my life as a saint is to fulfil my debt to Christ in relation to them. Every bit of my life that is of value I owe to the Redemption of Jesus Christ; am I doing anything to enable Him to bring His Redemption into actual manifestation in other lives? I can only do it as the Spirit of God works in me this sense of indebtedness. I am not to be a superior person amongst men, but a bondslave of the Lord Jesus. “Ye are not your own.” Paul sold himself to Jesus Christ. He says—‘I am a debtor to everyone on the face of the earth because of the Gospel of Jesus; I am free to be an absolute slave only.’ That is the characteristic of the life when once this point of spiritual honour is realized. Quit praying about yourself and be spent for others as the bondslave of Jesus. That is the meaning of being made broken bread and poured-out wine in reality.

My Utmost for His Highest

Servant
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


                Servant

You served me well, Prytherch.
  From all my questionings and doubts;
  From brief acceptance of the times'
  Deities; from ache of the mind
  Or body's tyranny, I turned,
  Often after a whole year,
  Often twice in the same day,
  Like the slash of a knife on his face.

There was Llew Puw, and he was no good.
  Every Evening after the ploughing
  With the big tractor he would sit in his chair,
  And stare into the tangled fire garden,
  Opening his slow lips like a snail.

There was Huw Puw, too. What shall I say?
  I have heard him whistling in the hedges
  On and on, as though winter
  Would never again leave those fields,
  And all the trees were deformed.

And lastly there was the girl:
  Beauty under some spell of the beast.
  Her pale face was the lantern
  By which they read in life's dark book
  The shrill sentence: God is love.


Selected poems, 1946-1968

Malachi 1:6–2:9
     Dishonoring God’s Name
     W. W. Wiersbe


     Now Malachi directs his message especially to the priests (1:6; 2:1, 7–8), who, instead of living exemplary lives, were guilty of breaking the very Law they were supposed to obey and teach. The way they were serving the Lord was a disgrace to His name.

     Eight times in this section you find the phrase “My name” (
1:6, 11, 14; 2:2, 5; see also 3:16 and 4:2), referring, of course, to God’s character and reputation. The priests who were supposed to honor God’s name were disgracing it before the people and the Lord. The priests were supposed to be God’s children, yet they weren’t honoring their Father; they were called to be God’s servants, yet they showed no respect for their Master. When Malachi confronted them, the priests arrogantly asked, “In what way have we despised Your name?” (1:6, NKJV), so he told them.

     To begin with, they were offering defiled sacrifices on the altar (
vv. 6–14). The word “bread” means “food” and refers to the sacrifices provided in the Law of Moses (Lev. 1–7). These animals had to be perfect; nothing imperfect could be brought to the altar of God and accepted (Deut. 15:19–23; Lev. 22:17–33). After all, these sacrifices pointed to the Lamb of God who would one day die for the sins of the world (John 1:29; Heb. 10:1–14), and if they were imperfect, how could they typify the Perfect Sacrifice, the Son of God?

     In short, the priests were permitting the people to bring God less than their best. If they had offered these defective beasts to their governor, he would have rejected them, but the animals were good enough for the Lord. These priests had forgotten what was written in their own Law: “Do not bring anything with a defect, because it will not be accepted on your behalf” (
Lev. 22:20, NIV). What does this say to professed Christians who spend hundreds of dollars annually, perhaps thousands, on gifts for themselves, their family, and their friends, but give God a dollar a week when the offering plate is passed?

     Our offerings to God are an indication of what’s in our hearts, for “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (
Matt. 6:21). People who claim to love the Lord and His work can easily prove it with their checkbooks! Giving is a grace (2 Cor. 8:1, 6–9), and if we’ve experienced the grace of God, we’ll have no problem giving generously to the Lord who has given so much to us. How can we ask God to be gracious to us and answer prayer (Mal. 1:9) if we’ve not practiced “grace giving” ourselves?

     Malachi told these disobedient priests that it would be better to close the doors of the temple and stop the sacrifices altogether than to continue practicing such hypocrisy. Better there were no religion at all than a religion that fails to give God the very best. If our concept of God is so low that we think He’s pleased with cheap halfhearted worship, then we don’t know the God of the Bible. In fact, a God who encourages us to do less than our best is a God who isn’t worthy of worship.

     The day will come when the Gentiles will worship God and magnify His great name (
v. 11). Malachi looked ahead to the time when the message of salvation would be taken to all nations, and beyond that, he saw the establishing of the kingdom on earth when the Gentiles would “flow into it” (Isa. 2:2; see also 11:3–4, 9; 45:22–25; 49:5–7). God’s call to Abraham involved the Jews becoming a blessing to the whole earth (Gen. 12:1–3), just as His call to the church involves taking the Gospel to all nations (Mark 16:15).

     The priests even allowed the people to cheat on their vows (
Mal. 1:13–14). If a man promised God a sacrifice but brought an animal that was sick or blemished, the priest would accept it, even though the man had a perfect animal back home. In the Mosaic Law, vows were purely voluntary, but once they were made, they were binding (Lev. 27; Num. 30; Deut. 23:21–23). If the governor wouldn’t accept cheap offerings (Mal. 1:8), would a great king accept cheap substitutes? (v. 14) God is a great King and He deserves the best we can bring Him. What we promise, we must perform.

     Why did the priests deliberately disobey their own law, pollute the altar of the Lord, and encourage the people to worship God in a cheap, careless manner? For one thing, the priests themselves weren’t giving God their best, so why make greater demands on the people? “Like people, like priests” (
Hosea 4:9; Jer. 5:30–31), for no ministry rises any higher than its leaders.

     But there was another reason why blemished sacrifices were acceptable: the priests and their families were fed from the meat off the altar, and the priests wanted to be sure they had food on the table. After all, the economy was bad, taxes were high, and money was scarce, and only the most devoted Israelite would bring a perfect animal to the Lord. So the priests settled for less than the best and encouraged the people to bring whatever was available. A sick animal would die anyway, and crippled animals were useless, so the people might as well give them to the Lord! They forgot that “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (
1 Sam. 15:22; Ps. 51:16–17; Micah 6:6–8; Mark 12:28–34).

     The priests dishonored God’s name in another way: they despised the very privilege of being priests (
Mal. 2:1–5). They were taking for granted the high calling God had given them and treating the temple ministry with contempt. Serving at the altar was a job, not a ministry, and they did it to please themselves, not to please and glorify the Lord. Unfortunately, that same attitude is in the church today.

     God warned them that He would “curse their [Israel’s] blessings” if they didn’t start “doing the will of God from the heart” (
Eph. 6:6) and giving Him their best. In fact, their crops had already been ruined by devouring insects (Mal. 3:11; see Hag. 1:3–11), but things could get worse. God warned that He could curse the very seed that was planted so that it would never germinate and produce a harvest. Since the Law gave the priests and Levites a tithe of the produce, ruined crops would mean empty tables.

     It’s possible that the word “seed” in
Malachi 2:3 may refer to their children. It was important that the Jews have children in order to perpetuate the nation, but God could prevent even the human seed from being productive. Another way of looking at it is that God would turn their children, who should be a blessing (Ps. 127), into a burden and a curse. It would be painful not to have children, but it would also be painful to have children who daily broke your heart and created grief in the home.

     The refuse from the sacrifices was taken outside the camp and burned (
Ex. 29:14), but God would humiliate the priests and “wipe their noses” in the dung of the sacrifices! This would make the priests unclean so that they would have to leave the camp. In short, God was saying, “You’re treating Me with disrespect, so I’ll treat you like garbage! You don’t value the priestly ministry, so why should you be in office?”

     The priests took their privileges for granted and forgot the gracious covenant God had made with them through Aaron (
Mal. 2:4; Ex. 29) and Aaron’s grandson Phinehas (Num. 25:1–13). It was a great privilege to be a priest, to serve at the altar, to minister in the temple, and to teach the Law to the people. But the priests had no fear of God; they treated the sacred things as if they were common things because their hearts weren’t right with God (Ezek. 44:23). The Scottish novelist George Macdonald said, “Nothing is so deadening to the divine as an habitual dealing with the outside of spiritual things.” What the priests were doing wasn’t ministry; it was only ritual, empty religious formality that disgusted the Lord.

     There was a third sin: they turned away from God’s Law (
Mal. 2:6–9). Verses 6–7 describe the perfect servants of God: truth on their lips, obedience in their walk, fellowship with God, a burden to bring others to the Lord, and a passion to share God’s Word with those who need to hear it. But the priests weren’t following this pattern; they were following their own ways. “They shall teach Jacob Your judgments, and Israel Your Law” (Deut. 33:10), but the priests weren’t even obeying the Law themselves. “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own power; and My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?” (Jer. 5:31, NKJV)

     It was bad enough that the priests were disobeying the Law, but they were causing others to stumble as well (
Mal. 2:8). Like the Pharisees Jesus described, the priests were “toxic” and defiled everything and everybody they touched (Matt. 23:15; 25–28). A false minister is an awful weapon in the hands of Satan. “One sinner destroys much good” (Eccl. 9:18, NIV). Because they showed partiality in the way they applied God’s truth (Mal. 2:9), they disobeyed God and harmed His people. (See Lev. 19:15; Deut. 24:17; 1 Tim. 5:21.)

     Over the years, I’ve participated in many ordination examinations, and I’ve looked for four characteristics in each candidate: a personal experience of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ; a sense of calling from the Lord; a love for and knowledge of the Word of God; and a high respect for the work of the ministry. Whenever we’ve examined a candidate who was flippant about ministry, who saw it as a job and not a divine calling, he didn’t get my vote. Whether as a pastor, missionary, teacher, choir member, or usher, being a servant of God is a serious thing, and it deserves the very best that we can give.

     God caused these hypocritical priests to be “despised and humiliated before all the people” (
Matt. 2:9, NIV). The priests wanted to be popular, and even twisted the Law to gain friends, but the people had no respect for them. Leaders with integrity and character will have their enemies, but they will still gain the respect of the people. The recent religious television scandals in America have proved that unsaved people expect church leaders to practice what they preach.

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

Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     D’RASH


     An angel represents contact with the divine, and we, today, may think that God has contact only with the greatest, most inspiring, most intellectual of people. Only if you’re a rabbi, or if you know all of the Bible, the Talmud, and the siddur, only then can you have an experience of God. What the Rabbis are saying is quite the contrary: If Hagar and Eliezer the servant—not the most central of biblical characters—can have contact with God, then anyone can. Unlike the anonymous first teacher, who holds that these were human messengers, the Rabbis see in these biblical figures actual angels. And Rabbi Ḥama bar Ḥanina expands upon this idea: Angels of God appeared even to Hagar, Sarah’s servant-girl.

     Though these Rabbis were the elite teachers of their day, they understood religion in nonelitist terms. They saw the universal human desire for interaction with the divine. Every one of us wants to feel that we are the focus of God’s concern. We want to know that God cares not only about the world as a whole but also about each of us as individuals. The Rabbis knew how easy it could be for us to avoid prayer and study—those activities that would traditionally bring the individual Jew spiritually in touch with God. It’s easy for us to say, “Hey, I’m not a genius. I don’t know that much Hebrew. How can I pray to God?” Or, “What do I look like—a Bible scholar? What inspiration can I get from the Bible?”

     The Rabbis’ reading of these biblical texts not only foils this line of reasoning, but also challenges us: We can’t stand behind the “common-man excuse,” for Eliezer the servant was a common man, and God spoke to him. We can’t retreat to an elitist view of spirituality, since even Hagar the servant woman had a relationship with God. The most common folk of the Bible had a personal relationship with God. Why, then, not each of us?

     ANOTHER D’RASH

     While we have translated the Hebrew term זַרְזִירִים/zarzirim as “fighting birds,” it is identified by some as a specific bird, the starling. The starling (Sturnus vulgaris) is a black songbird approximately eight inches long, with a long bill and a short tail. Farmers view it with mixed feelings: While it eats many harmful insects, it also feeds on berries, cherries, and other fruit. Starlings are quite aggressive, often stealing the nests of other birds. They tend to congregate in large flocks. It is recorded that between 300,000 and 400,000 starlings once nested in an area of less than five acres near Champaign, Illinois. The weight of the birds caused the limbs of trees to break.

     What was it about this species of bird that led Rabbi Yehoshua to remark “two fighting birds/starlings can’t rest on one perch”? Was it their aggressive nature, each bird staking out and protecting its territory from any other bird that would come too close? Or was it the fact that they live in large flocks, and since they often nest in hollow trees, their numbers can be too great for a branch to bear?

     In actuality, Rabbi Yehoshua was probably less interested in the nature of birds than he was in human nature. But the question raised by the proverb still holds: Is his point about the dangers of overcrowding—conflict occurs when people don’t have enough “space”? Or is it about the natural aggression that makes us human beings (Homo sapiens)—conflict occurs whenever people come into contact?

     Suppose we are correct in our speculation that this Midrash is actually about the Jews and Romans struggling to coexist in Israel in the first, second, and third centuries C.E. Then the message may well be that it doesn’t matter if the conflict arises out of lack of space or out of an abundance of testosterone. There will always be trouble when two flocks try to perch on one ledge.

     That leads us to a critical contemporary question about peace in the Middle East. Some idealists, both Jew and Arab, envision a time when these two peoples can share one small parcel of land and live together in harmony and cooperation. Others—are they the realists or the rejectionists?—say that the only hope for peace in the foreseeable future is in separation. The two peoples must be kept apart, each to live in its own territory. Close proximity of Israelis and Palestinians will only lead to conflict, and war.

     We often invoke the image of doves when we discuss peace in the Middle East. Perhaps, like Rabbi Yehoshua, we need to think more about starlings.


Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Take Heart
     July 15

     “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me.” --- John 4:34.

     When we turn to the word of Jesus Christ we discover that neither thought nor feeling is laid as the foundation of religion. (Wings of the Morning, The (The Morrison Classic Sermon Series) ) Christ had no quarrel with the human intellect. He recognized its wonder and its power. His own intellectual life was far too rich for him to be a traitor to the brain. Nor was Christ the enemy of human feeling. He never made light of the most tender emotion. He who wept beside the grave of Lazarus could never be the antagonist of tears. But in the teaching of Christ it is not thought nor feeling that is the wellspring of personal religion. The wellspring is in the region of the will. It is there that one must pass from death to life. It is there the path of piety begins. The first thing is the dedication of the will, the response of a free individual to a great God, the yielding of self to that imperious claim made by the loving Father in the heavens: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.”

     With Christ there was no compulsion of the will except the compulsion of overmastering love. Do not wait then, I beg of you, as if a day were coming when you must be good. Do not think that the hour will ever strike when you will be swept irresistibly into the kingdom. At the last it is a matter of decision.

     Think of the relationship of will to fellowship—our spiritual fellowship with our Redeemer. That friendship is not based on mutual feeling; it is based, according to Christ, on mutual will. “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” It is not a question, then, of what you know, if you are to be a brother or sister of the Lord. The one that does the will—though it is often sore, though the way is dark, and though the wind is chill—whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother. That means that on dedication of th will depends all communion with Jesus Christ. And if communion with him is true religion—the truest and purest the world has ever known—you see how it does not rest on thought or feeling but has its wellspring in the surrendered will. Religion founded on feeling is unstable. A religion of intellect is cold and hard. Total surrender is what Christ demands, and in it lies the secret of all peace.
--- George H. Morrison


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

On This Day
     The First Crusade  July 15


     In 1095 Pope Urban II preached an electrifying sermon before a great multitude. He described the plight of the Eastern Church, inundated by Turkish Muslims. Infidels controlled the Holy Land, Urban thundered, and Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the holiest spot in Christendom, lay in Islamic hands.

     All Europe set out to liberate Jerusalem. Colorful hordes of militant lords and ladies, knights and peasants marched 2,000 miles across Europe.

     Their numbers were soon depleted, however, by the realities of war. By the time the Crusaders reached Jerusalem only about 20,000 remained. Meanwhile the Islamic governor of Jerusalem readied for siege. Wells outside city walls were poisoned. Flocks were driven into the city, and Christian inhabitants expelled. Jerusalem’s ancient towers were reinforced.

     A lunar eclipse on June 5 seemed to augur success for the pilgrims, and on the Evening of June 7, the main army reached the Holy City. On June 12 a hermit on the Mount of Olives promised, “If you will attack the city tomorrow, the Lord will deliver it into your hands.”

     When the sun rose over the city the next day, trumpets blared and the armies melted into attacking hoards assailing the walls. Ladders were thrown up, and knights scaled the ramparts only to be repelled by sticks, stones, and boiling oil. The assault failed. Thirst set in. Temperatures reached 100 degrees, and the wind blew hot. Rotting corpses of horses sullied the air. Quarrels broke out. Rumors of advancing Muslim forces frightened the troops.

     On Wednesday, July 13, another assault was mounted. The city finally fell on Friday, July 15, 1099, at three o’clock—the day and hour of the Savior’s death, it was noted. Crusaders slaughtered the inhabitants until streets were choked with the dead. None were spared. Jews perished in burning synagogues, and the blood of Muslims flowed up to the ankles. Jubilant Crusaders sang hymns as they waded through a sea of bodies to the holiest spot in Christendom.

     Jerusalem, we pray that you will have peace, And that all will go well for those who love you. May there be peace inside your city walls And in your palaces. Let’s pray for peace in Israel!
--- Psalm 122:6,7;128:6b.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - July 15

     “The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out.” --- Leviticus 6:13.

     Keep the altar of private prayer burning. This is the very life of all piety. The sanctuary and family altars borrow their fires here, therefore let this burn well. Secret devotion is the very essence, evidence, and barometer, of vital and experimental religion.

     Burn here the fat of your sacrifices. Let your closet seasons be, if possible, regular, frequent, and undisturbed. Effectual prayer availeth much. Have you nothing to pray for? Let us suggest the Church, the ministry, your own soul, your children, your relations, your neighbours, your country, and the cause of God and truth throughout the world. Let us examine ourselves on this important matter. Do we engage with lukewarmness in private devotion? Is the fire of devotion burning dimly in our hearts? Do the chariot wheels drag heavily? If so, let us be alarmed at this sign of decay. Let us go with weeping, and ask for the Spirit of grace and of supplications. Let us set apart special seasons for extraordinary prayer. For if this fire should be smothered beneath the ashes of a worldly conformity, it will dim the fire on the family altar, and lessen our influence both in the Church and in the world.

     The text will also apply to the altar of the heart. This is a golden altar indeed. God loves to see the hearts of his people glowing towards himself. Let us give to God our hearts, all blazing with love, and seek his grace, that the fire may never be quenched; for it will not burn if the Lord does not keep it burning. Many foes will attempt to extinguish it; but if the unseen hand behind the wall pour thereon the sacred oil, it will blaze higher and higher. Let us use texts of Scripture as fuel for our heart’s fire, they are live coals; let us attend RS Thomas, but above all, let us be much alone with Jesus.


          Evening - July 15

     "He appeared first to Mary Magdalene." --- Mark 16:9.

     Jesus “appeared first to Mary Magdalene,” probably not only on account of her great love and persevering seeking, but because, as the context intimates,she had been a special trophy of Christ’s delivering power. Learn from this, that the greatness of our sin before conversion should not make us imagine that we may not be specially favoured with the very highest grade of fellowship. She was one who had left all to become a constant attendant on the Saviour. He was her first, her chief object. Many who were on Christ’s side did not take up Christ’s cross; she did. She spent her substance in relieving his wants. If we would see much of Christ, let us serve him. Tell me who they are that sit oftenest under the banner of his love, and drink deepest draughts from the cup of communion, and I am sure they will be those who give most, who serve best, and who abide closest to the bleeding heart of their dear Lord. But notice how Christ revealed himself to this sorrowing one—by a word, “Mary.” It needed but one word in his voice, and at once she knew him, and her heart owned allegiance by another word, her heart was too full to say more. That one word would naturally be the most fitting for the occasion. It implies obedience. She said, “Master.” There is no state of mind in which this confession of allegiance will be too cold. No, when your spirit glows most with the heavenly fire, then you will say, “I am thy servant, thou hast loosed my bonds.” If you can say, “Master,” if you feel that his will is your will, then you stand in a happy, holy place. He must have said, “Mary,” or else you could not have said, “Rabboni.” See, then, from all this, how Christ honours those who honour him, how love draws our Beloved, how it needs but one word of his to turn our weeping to rejoicing, how his presence makes the heart’s sunshine.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     July 15

          HE HIDETH MY SOUL

     Fanny J. Crosby, 1820–1915

     I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand. (Exodus 33:22)

     The beloved blind American poet Fanny Jane Crosby did not begin writing Gospel texts until her mid-forties. But from then on, inspiring words seemed to flow constantly from her heart, and she became “the happiest creature in all the land.” Friends stopped in frequently to see her with requests for new texts for special occasions.

     One day Fanny was visited by William Kirkpatrick, a talented Gospel musician who had just composed a new melody that he felt needed suitable words to become a singable hymn. As William sat at the piano and played the tune for Fanny, her face lit up. She knelt in prayer, as was always her custom, and soon the lines to this lovely hymn began to flow freely from her heart:

     A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord, a wonderful Savior to me; He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock, where rivers of pleasure I see.

     A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord—He taketh my burden away; He holdeth me up and I shall not be moved; He giveth me strength as my day.

     With numberless blessings each moment He crowns, and, filled with His fullness divine, I sing in my rapture, “O Glory to God for such a Redeemer as mine!”

     When clothed in His brightness transported I rise to meet Him in clouds of the sky; His perfect salvation, His wonderful love, I’ll shout with the millions on high.

     Chorus: He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock that shadows a dry, thirsty land; He hideth my life in the depths of His love, and covers me there with His hand, and covers me there with His hand.


     The life of Fanny Crosby can be as uplifting to us as her wonderful hymns. When she wrote “rivers of pleasure I see,” “with numberless blessings each moment He crowns,” and “I sing in my rapture,” she revealed the triumph God gave her over a life of blindness. At least 8,000 Gospel texts were written by this godly woman. She lived to be 95 years of age and traveled extensively in her later years as a speaker throughout the country. She said it was her continual prayer that God would allow her to lead to Christ every person she contacted. Only eternity will reveal the host of lives that have been directed to God through the life and hymns of Fanny Crosby.

     For Today: Psalm 27:5; 49:15; Isaiah 51:16; 1 Corinthians 15:57.

     Do not look at your own strengths and faith but trust the One on whom your faith depends to keep you and make you useful in His service. Sing with confidence as you go ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

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


     Sect. LXXXVI. — LET no one think, therefore, that God, where He is said to harden, or to work evil in us (for to harden is to do evil), so does the evil as though He created evil in us anew, in the same way as a malignant liquor-seller, being himself bad, would pour poison into, or mix it up in, a vessel that was not bad, where the vessel itself did nothing but receive, or passively accomplish the purpose of the malignity of the poison-mixer. For when people hear it said by us, that God works in us both good and evil, and that we from mere necessity passively submit to the working of God, they seem to imagine, that a man who is good, or not evil himself, is passive while God works evil in him: not rightly considering that God, is far from being inactive in all His creatures, and never suffers any one of them to keep holiday.

     But whoever wishes to understand these things let him think thus: — that God works evil in us, that is, by us, not from the fault of God, but from the fault of evil in us: — that is, as we are evil by nature, God, who is truly good, carrying us along by His own action, according to the nature of His Omnipotence, cannot do otherwise than do evil by us, as instruments, though He Himself be good; though by His wisdom, He overrules that evil well, to His own glory and to our salvation.

     Thus God, finding the will of Satan evil, not creating it so, but leaving it while Satan sinningly commits the evil, carries it along by His working, and moves it which way He will; though that will ceases not to be evil by this motion of God.

     In this same way also David spoke concerning Shimei. “Let him curse, for God hath bidden him to curse David.” (2 Samuel xvi. 10). How could God bid to curse, an action so evil and virulent! There was no where an external precept to that effect. David, therefore, looks to this: — the Omnipotent God saith and it is done: that is, He does all things by His external word. Wherefore, here, the divine action and omnipotence, the good God Himself, carries along the will of Shimei, already evil together with all his members, and before incensed against David, and, while David is thus opportunely situated and deserving such blasphemy, commands the blasphemy, (that is, by his word which is his act, that is, the motion of his action), by this evil and blaspheming instrument.


The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library


7 | OT Gen 3 Fall Cain/Abel
Dr. Ted Hildebrandt






8 | OT Sons of God
Dr. Ted Hildebrandt





9 | OT Abraham: Sodom, Akedah, Jacob
Dr. Ted Hildebrandt






10 | OT Jacob and Joseph
Dr. Ted Hildebrandt





11 | OT Exodus Intro
Dr. Ted Hildebrandt






12 | OT Exodus Plagues to Tabernacle
Dr. Ted Hildebrandt





13 | OT Case Laws, Leviticus
Dr. Ted Hildebrandt






14 | OT Lev Sacrifices, Feasts, Numbers
Dr. Ted Hildebrandt





15 | OT Theology of Numbers
Dr. Ted Hildebrandt






16 | OT Balaam; Deut: Covenant and Land
Dr. Ted Hildebrandt





17 | OT Deut: Institutions, Law
Dr. Ted Hildebrandt






18 | OT Tough Laws, Joshua to Jericho
Dr. Ted Hildebrandt





19 | OT Joshua: Jericho, Ai, Gibeon, War
Dr. Ted Hildebrandt






20 | OT War; Judges: Ehud, Deborah, Gideon
Dr. Ted Hildebrandt





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Acts 2:4-47 - Jon Courson
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