The Continuing Conquest of CanaanJudges 1 After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel inquired of the Lord, “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?” 2 The Lord said, “Judah shall go up; behold, I have given the land into his hand.” 3 And Judah said to Simeon his brother, “Come up with me into the territory allotted to me, that we may fight against the Canaanites. And I likewise will go with you into the territory allotted to you.” So Simeon went with him. 4 Then Judah went up and the Lord gave the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand, and they defeated 10,000 of them at Bezek. 5 They found Adoni-bezek at Bezek and fought against him and defeated the Canaanites and the Perizzites. 6 Adoni-bezek fled, but they pursued him and caught him and cut off his thumbs and his big toes. 7 And Adoni-bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and their big toes cut off used to pick up scraps under my table. As I have done, so God has repaid me.” And they brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.
8 And the men of Judah fought against Jerusalem and captured it and struck it with the edge of the sword and set the city on fire. 9 And afterward the men of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites who lived in the hill country, in the Negeb, and in the lowland. 10 And Judah went against the Canaanites who lived in Hebron (now the name of Hebron was formerly Kiriath-arba), and they defeated Sheshai and Ahiman and Talmai.
11 From there they went against the inhabitants of Debir. The name of Debir was formerly Kiriath-sepher. 12 And Caleb said, “He who attacks Kiriath-sepher and captures it, I will give him Achsah my daughter for a wife.” 13 And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, captured it. And he gave him Achsah his daughter for a wife. 14 When she came to him, she urged him to ask her father for a field. And she dismounted from her donkey, and Caleb said to her, “What do you want?” 15 She said to him, “Give me a blessing. Since you have set me in the land of the Negeb, give me also springs of water.” And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.
16 And the descendants of the Kenite, Moses' father-in-law, went up with the people of Judah from the city of palms into the wilderness of Judah, which lies in the Negeb near Arad, and they went and settled with the people. 17 And Judah went with Simeon his brother, and they defeated the Canaanites who inhabited Zephath and devoted it to destruction. So the name of the city was called Hormah.[a] 18 Judah also captured Gaza with its territory, and Ashkelon with its territory, and Ekron with its territory. 19 And the Lord was with Judah, and he took possession of the hill country, but he could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain because they had chariots of iron. 20 And Hebron was given to Caleb, as Moses had said. And he drove out from it the three sons of Anak. 21 But the people of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem, so the Jebusites have lived with the people of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day.
22 The house of Joseph also went up against Bethel, and the Lord was with them. 23 And the house of Joseph scouted out Bethel. (Now the name of the city was formerly Luz.) 24 And the spies saw a man coming out of the city, and they said to him, “Please show us the way into the city, and we will deal kindly with you.” 25 And he showed them the way into the city. And they struck the city with the edge of the sword, but they let the man and all his family go. 26 And the man went to the land of the Hittites and built a city and called its name Luz. That is its name to this day.
Failure to Complete the Conquest27 Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shean and its villages, or Taanach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of Ibleam and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages, for the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land. 28 When Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not drive them out completely.
29 And Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites lived in Gezer among them.
30 Zebulun did not drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, or the inhabitants of Nahalol, so the Canaanites lived among them, but became subject to forced labor.
31 Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Acco, or the inhabitants of Sidon or of Ahlab or of Achzib or of Helbah or of Aphik or of Rehob, 32 so the Asherites lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land, for they did not drive them out.
33 Naphtali did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh, or the inhabitants of Beth-anath, so they lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land. Nevertheless, the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh and of Beth-anath became subject to forced labor for them.
34 The Amorites pressed the people of Dan back into the hill country, for they did not allow them to come down to the plain. 35 The Amorites persisted in dwelling in Mount Heres, in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim, but the hand of the house of Joseph rested heavily on them, and they became subject to forced labor. 36 And the border of the Amorites ran from the ascent of Akrabbim, from Sela and upward.
Ananias and SapphiraActs 5 1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.
7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you[a] sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” 9 But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.
Many Signs and Wonders Done12 Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon's Portico. 13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
The Apostles Arrested and Freed17 But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy 18 they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” 21 And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.
Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22 But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, 23 “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside.” 24 Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. 25 And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” 26 Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. 34 But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, 40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.
Famine, Sword, and PestilenceJeremiah 14 1 The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah concerning the drought:
2 “Judah mourns,
and her gates languish;
her people lament on the ground,
and the cry of Jerusalem goes up.
3 Her nobles send their servants for water;
they come to the cisterns;
they find no water;
they return with their vessels empty;
they are ashamed and confounded
and cover their heads.
4 Because of the ground that is dismayed,
since there is no rain on the land,
the farmers are ashamed;
they cover their heads.
5 Even the doe in the field forsakes her newborn fawn
because there is no grass.
6 The wild donkeys stand on the bare heights;
they pant for air like jackals;
their eyes fail
because there is no vegetation.
7 “Though our iniquities testify against us,
act, O Lord, for your name's sake;
for our backslidings are many;
we have sinned against you.
8 O you hope of Israel,
its savior in time of trouble,
why should you be like a stranger in the land,
like a traveler who turns aside to tarry for a night?
9 Why should you be like a man confused,
like a mighty warrior who cannot save?
Yet you, O Lord, are in the midst of us,
and we are called by your name;
do not leave us.”
10 Thus says the Lord concerning this people:
“They have loved to wander thus;
they have not restrained their feet;
therefore the Lord does not accept them;
now he will remember their iniquity
and punish their sins.”
Lying Prophets13 Then I said: “Ah, Lord God, behold, the prophets say to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.’” 14 And the Lord said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds. 15 Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who prophesy in my name although I did not send them, and who say, ‘Sword and famine shall not come upon this land’: By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed. 16 And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem, victims of famine and sword, with none to bury them—them, their wives, their sons, and their daughters. For I will pour out their evil upon them.
17 “You shall say to them this word:
‘Let my eyes run down with tears night and day,
and let them not cease,
for the virgin daughter of my people is shattered with a great wound,
with a very grievous blow.
18 If I go out into the field,
behold, those pierced by the sword!
And if I enter the city,
behold, the diseases of famine!
For both prophet and priest ply their trade through the land
and have no knowledge.’”
19 Have you utterly rejected Judah?
Does your soul loathe Zion?
Why have you struck us down
so that there is no healing for us?
We looked for peace, but no good came;
for a time of healing, but behold, terror.
20 We acknowledge our wickedness, O Lord,
and the iniquity of our fathers,
for we have sinned against you.
21 Do not spurn us, for your name's sake;
do not dishonor your glorious throne;
remember and do not break your covenant with us.
22 Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain?
Or can the heavens give showers?
Are you not he, O Lord our God?
We set our hope on you,
for you do all these things.
The ResurrectionMatthew 28 1 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
The Report of the Guard11 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.
The Great Commission16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
By R.C. Sproul 6/1/2010
I’m always puzzled when I see church billboards announcing a coming revival. They give the times and the dates when the church will be engaged in revival. But I wonder, how can anybody possibly schedule a revival? True revivals are provoked by the sovereign work of God through the stirring of His Holy Spirit in the hearts of people. They happen when the Holy Spirit comes into the valley of dry bones (Ezek. 37) and exerts His power to bring new life, a revivification of the spiritual life of the people of God.
This kind of thing cannot be manipulated by any human program. Historically, no one scheduled the Protestant Reformation. The Welsh revival was not on anyone’s agenda, nor was the American Great Awakening penciled into someone’s date book. These epic events in church history resulted from the sovereign work of God, who brought His power to bear on churches that had become virtually moribund.
But we have to understand the difference between revival and reformation. Revival, as the word suggests, means a renewing of life. When evangelism is a priority in the church, such outreach will often bring about revival. However, these revivals of spiritual life do not always result in reformation. Reformation indicates changing forms of church and society. Revivals grow into reformations when the impact of the gospel begins to change the structures of the culture. Revival can produce a multitude of new Christians, but these new Christians have to grow into maturity before they begin to make a significant impact on the surrounding culture.
Reformation can involve a change for the better. We must not be so naïve as to think that all change is necessarily good. Sometimes when we feel that we are in the doldrums or that progress has been stultified, we cry out for change, forgetting for the moment that change may be regressive rather than progressive. If I drink a vial of poison, it will change me, but not for the better. Nevertheless, change is often good.
In our day, we have seen the rise of what has been called the “New Calvinism,” which tends to focus primarily on the so-called five points of Calvinism. This movement within the church has attracted a great deal of attention, even in the secular media.
Yet it would be wise to not identify Calvinism exhaustively with those five points. Rather, the five points function as a pathway or a bridge to the entire structure of Reformed theology. Charles Spurgeon himself argued that Calvinism is merely a nickname for biblical theology. He and many other titans of the past understood that the essence of Reformed theology cannot be reduced to five particular points that arose centuries ago in Holland in response to controversy with the Arminians, who objected to five specific points of the system of doctrine found in historic Calvinism. For the purposes of this article, it might be helpful to look at both what Reformed theology is and is not.
Reformed theology is not a chaotic set of disconnected ideas. Rather, Reformed theology is systematic. The Bible, being the Word of God, reflects the coherence and unity of the God whose Word it is. To be sure, it would be a distortion to force a foreign system of thought upon Scripture, making Scripture conform to it as if it were some kind of procrustean bed. That is not the goal of sound systematic theology. Rather, true systematic theology seeks to understand the system of theology that is contained within the whole scope of sacred Scripture. It does not impose ideas upon the Bible; it listens to the ideas that are proclaimed by the Bible and understands them in a coherent way.
Reformed theology is not anthropocentric. That is to say, Reformed theology is not centered on human beings. The central focal point of Reformed theology is God, and the doctrine of God permeates the whole of Reformed thought. Thus, Reformed theology, by way of affirmation, can be called theocentric. Indeed, its understanding of the character of God is primary and determinant with respect to its understanding of all other doctrines. That is to say, its understanding of salvation has as its control factor — its heart — a particular understanding of God’s sovereign character.
Reformed theology is not anticatholic. This may seem strange since Reformed theology grew directly out of the Protestant movement against the teaching and activity of Roman Catholicism. But the term catholic refers to catholic Christianity, the essence of which may be found in the ecumenical creeds of the first thousand years of church history, particularly those of the early church councils, such as the Council of Nicea in the fourth century and the Council of Chalcedon in the fifth century. That is to say, those creeds contain common articles of faith shared by all denominations that embrace orthodox Christianity, doctrines such as the Trinity and the atonement of Christ. The doctrines affirmed by all Christians are at the heart and core of Calvinism. Calvinism does not depart on a search for a new theology and reject the common base of theology that the whole church shares.
Reformed theology is not Roman Catholic in its understanding of justification. This is simply to say that Reformed theology is evangelical in the historical sense of the word. In this regard, Reformed theology stands strongly and firmly with Martin Luther and the magisterial Reformers in their articulation of the doctrine of justification by faith alone, as well as the doctrine of sola Scriptura. Neither of these doctrines is explicitly declared in the five points of Calvinism; yet, in a sense, they become part of the foundation for the other characteristics of Reformed theology.
All this is to say that Reformed theology so far transcends the mere five points of Calvinism that it is an entire worldview. It is covenantal. It is sacramental. It is committed to transforming culture. It is subordinate to the operation of God the Holy Spirit, and it has a rich framework for understanding the entirety of the counsel of God revealed in the Bible.
So it should go without saying that the most important development that will bring about reformation is not simply the revival of Calvinism. What has to happen is the renewal of the understanding of the gospel itself. It is when the gospel is clearly proclaimed in all of its fullness that God exercises His redeeming power to bring about renewal in the church and in the world. It is in the gospel and nowhere else that God has given His power unto salvation.
If we want reformation, we have to start with ourselves. We have to start bringing the gospel itself out of darkness, so that the motto of every reformation becomes post tenebras lux — “after darkness, light.” Luther declared that every generation must declare freshly the gospel of the New Testament. He also said that anytime the gospel is clearly and boldly proclaimed, it will bring about conflict, and those of us who are inherently adverse to conflict will find it tempting to submerge the gospel, dilute the gospel, or obscure the gospel in order to avoid conflict. We, of course, are able to add offense to the gospel by our own ill-mannered attempts to proclaim it. But there is no way to remove the offense that is inherent to the gospel message, because it is a stumbling block, a scandal to a fallen world. It will inevitably bring conflict. If we want reformation, we must be prepared to endure such conflict to the glory of God.
- 1 The Consequences of Ideas: Understanding the Concepts that Shaped Our World
- 2 The Holiness of God
- 3 Chosen by God
- 4 Essential Truths of the Christian Faith
- 5 What Is Reformed Theology?: Understanding the Basics
- 6 Knowing Scripture
- 7 The Donkey Who Carried a King
- 8 Defending Your Faith: An Introduction to Apologetics
- 9 Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God's Purpose and Provision in Suffering
- 10 Romans
- 11 Everyone's A Theologian
- 12 John (St. Andrew's Expositional Commentary)
- 13 Classic Teachings on the Nature of God: The Holiness of God; Chosen by God; Pleasing God—Three Books in One
- 14 The Priest with Dirty Clothes
- 15 Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism
- 16 The Work of Christ: What the Events of Jesus' Life Mean for You
- 17 The Barber Who Wanted to Pray
- 18 God's Love: How the Infinite God Cares for His Children (Classic Theology)
- 19 The Prince's Poison Cup
- 20 Mark: St. Andrews Expositional Commentary
- 21 The Mystery of the Holy Spirit
- 22 Does Prayer Change Things? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 23 The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version Hardcover w/Maps
- 24 Now, That's a Good Question!
- 25 The Intimate Marriage: A Practical Guide to Building a Great Marriage (R. C. Sproul Library)
- 26 O Love That Will Not Let Me Go: Facing Death with Courageous Confidence in God
- 27 The Prayer of the Lord
- 28 After Darkness, Light: Distinctives of Reformed Theology: Essays in Honor of R. C. Sproul
- 29 The Last Days according to Jesus: When Did Jesus Say He Would Return?
- 30 The Lightlings
- 31 Who Is the Holy Spirit? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 32 Classical Apologetics
- 33 Surprised by Suffering: The Role of Pain and Death in The Christian Life
- 34 Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification
- 35 What is the Trinity? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 36 The King Without a Shadow
- 37 Reason to Believe: A Response to Common Objections to Christianity
- 38 Unseen Realities: Heaven, Hell, Angels and Demons
- 39 Ultimate Issues (R. C. Sproul Library)
- 40 Can I Be Sure I'm Saved? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 41 How Should I Think about Money? (Crucial Questions)
- 42 What is Repentance? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 43 Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas
- 44 Does God Control Everything? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 45 Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching
- 46 Can I Know God's Will? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 47 Getting the Gospel Right: The Tie That Binds Evangelicals Together
- 48 Who Is Jesus? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 49 Can I Trust the Bible? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 50 Holy Bible: New Geneva Study Bible, New King James Version
- 51 Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible
- 52 What is Baptism? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 53 A Walk With God: Luke
- 54 Cómo defender su fe (Una Introduccion a La Apologetica) (Spanish Edition)
- 55 Saved from What?
- 56 What Is Faith? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 57 Lifeviews
- 58 What Does It Mean to Be Born Again? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 59 Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology
- 60 The Invisible Hand: Do All Things Really Work for Good? (R. C. Sproul Library)
- 61 Can I Have Joy in My Life? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 62 By R. C. Sproul - Knowing Scripture (First) (1/26/09)
Who Is Using Whom?
By Tim Challies 6/1/2010
There must have been a day, many thousands of years ago, when a particularly enterprising individual invented the wheel. It is such a simple thing but one that completely revolutionized the world. It is an invention none of us would wish to be without. But transport yourself back to the moment the wheel was unveiled and you will no doubt see that some Luddite nearby was shaking his head, clucking his tongue, and mumbling, “There goes the neighborhood.”
Some people tend to regard any new technology as inherently good; others, the cautious types, may lean toward viewing any new technology as inherently bad. The fact is, though, that technology itself is amoral, neither good nor bad. The ultrasound machine, used to save unborn babies by diagnosing problems in utero and used during the destruction of unborn babies through abortion, is neither good nor bad; it just is. It is not technology itself that is moral or immoral but our use of that technology, our application of it, our dedication to it. Technology is but an amoral tool in the hands of moral beings.
While a technology may not carry the weight of morality with it, we would not want to downplay its significance. When a significant new technology is introduced to the world, we do not have the old world plus the new technology; we have a whole new world. The world today is not just the old world plus new digital technologies; it is a completely different world. What is true here generally is true of the church — even the local church. Local churches have been permanently changed by digital technologies; there is no going back. The question we face, then, as Christians and as defenders of the local church is how we will respond and adapt to these new realities.
Any technology brings with it both risk and opportunity, though perhaps not in equal measure. There is opportunity to use new technologies to do things we could only dream of before or to do things so much better, so much faster, so much more completely than we were able to in the past. But there is risk that in the rush to adopt what is new we will be too quick to let go of what is old, tried, and true, or that we will inadvertently introduce problems far greater than the ones we seek to solve.
There must be a law that dictates that every article dealing with technology must quote at least one of the gurus of media and technology: Marshall McLuhan, Neil Postman, or Jacques Ellul. Not one to break such rules, let me turn here to McLuhan and his most famous phrase — one you may know well: “The medium is the message.” The years have seen a great deal of debate about the meaning and the extent of this phrase, but at the very least it points us to an important conclusion: there is more to technology than may at first appear. The wise will look carefully to any media to ascertain how it is likely to play out its hand, to seek to understand what risk and what opportunity it will bring. But somehow when we anticipate a new technology, most of us are prone to become breathless with anticipation for the new opportunities while expending little effort in thinking about the risks. Because the new technologies always claim to make our lives better and easier, we tend to see them as friends rather than enemies.
A church may transition from using hymn books to using a PowerPoint projector. It seems quite a small matter, and thousands of churches have already done so. What difference does it make if the words are printed on paper in our hands or if the words are flashed onto a screen high above? But if the medium is the message, if the medium is more than a simple conduit for the message but actually intercepts and even overshadows the message, what do we stand to gain or lose? What risks are there in putting aside our hymn books and what opportunities are there in embracing this new technology? Maybe we will find that we risk unfamiliarity with the songs as families no longer have copies of the book at home to sing during times of family worship. Maybe we find that we are quick to add new songs to the repertoire at the expense of the classic hymns of days gone by. Where there is the opportunity to experience greater convenience, there remains great risk.
Or consider a church that encourages its members to join a social media platform such as Facebook. The opportunity is that fellowship and communication will be enhanced using this new medium. But the risk is that fellowship and communication may actually be hindered. Consider the church member who logs on to Facebook only to be met with photographs of people having fun at an event to which he was not invited. What we hope to use to bind the church together can also pull the church apart.
We are left with difficult realities. The world is changing, and it is senseless for us to wish that the old world could return. It will not; it is gone forever. What remains for us is to carefully examine new technologies, seeking to understand both the risks and opportunities they bring. What remains for us is to be diligent, to be discerning, to be wise, to examine how we will use the new technologies we encounter, and how they may just use us.
Tim Challies is founding blogger of Challies.com and a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter @Challies. He began his web site in 2002 and has been writing there daily since 2003. It is his place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things he discovers in his online travels.
Tim Challies Books:
- 1 Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity
- 2 Visual Theology: Seeing and Understanding the Truth About God
- 3 Sexual Detox: A Guide for Guys Who Are Sick of Porn
- 4 The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment
- 5 The Next Story: Faith, Friends, Family, and the Digital World
- 6 The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion
- 7 The Shack: Unauthorized Theological Critique
Beauty & the Gospel
By Terry Yount 7/1/2010
In the modern era, beauty is unavoidably tied to the simplistic concept of “prettiness,” like that found in greeting card poems or velvet paintings of lighthouses. In truth, beauty is far more. Beauty reveals the gamut of human experience. True beauty is an ally of the gospel in that it parallels the human dilemma. In reality, a rose is beautiful, but it also has thorns.
When we investigate further, beauty reveals itself somewhere between the opposing forces of darkness and light, major and minor, protagonist and antagonist. Beauty can be appreciated often when seen in contrast with its counterpart — depravity. The honest painter, musician, or writer, gripped by the contrast between good and evil, is unafraid to portray both. In fact, the struggle between darkness and light is often the place artists do their finest work. For example, in Bach’s cantata Christ Lay in Death’s Strong Bonds, the choir sings about crucifixion and resurrection in several movements. Christ is portrayed as a suffering servant, walking the pathway to Golgotha until, at last, the chorus literally laughs its “alleluias” of triumph over death. If biblical Christians are careful in their doctrine to name sin, then in their art, music, and literature should they not do the same?
Indeed, as the church seeks a role in the arts, it must reclaim a more mature concept of beauty. As we recognize and embrace the heartlonging in many works of art, we may make a convincing proclamation of the whole gospel message.
Finding a way to the full expression of beauty, however, is a challenge. The danger is beauty’s menacing half-sister, sentimentality. How does sentimentality work against beauty? And further, how does sentimentality work against the gospel?
Sentiment is sincere emotional expression. Sentimentality is a device. For the artist, the greatest delight — and temptation — is touching the emotions. But by pushing aside darkness for light, he may distort reality and detract from the full impact of the beauty. However, when an artist combines darkness and light in a single work, there is emotional balance and clarity that resonates with reality. For example, Rembrandt’s The Adoration of the Shepherds combines darkness and light, foreshadowing tragedy in the wonder of the incarnation. Similarly, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion recounts the passion and death of Christ while summarizing the major themes of the atonement. Sentimentality does not point to the need for redemption — it generates a truncated gospel. Sentimentality does not go the distance toward the mature expression of beauty. It confuses the heart by substituting a false reality with actual fact. Sentimentalists have difficulty dealing with the harder facts of the Christian gospel because they form too harsh a reality.
According to theologian and musician Jeremy Begbie, the sentimentalist distorts reality by being emotionally self-indulgent (“Beauty, Sentimentality, and the Arts”). Sentimentalists must embellish reality according to their own feelings or experiences. (A classic example of sentimentality in music is the hymn “In the Garden” using this language: “He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own”). Is it possible our churches have embraced a distorted attitude toward the arts? Distortion may work against us. We may miss a marvelous opportunity for gospel proclamation.
Beyond sentimentality, the church may again flourish in its support of the arts, if we understand the true nature of beauty. C.S. Lewis, in The Weight of Glory, notes that beauty comes to us through ordinary things like books or music, but in fact beauty “was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing.” This longing is the church’s greatest point of solidarity with artists, and as well with the larger world that appreciates the fine arts. What advantage, if any, is this concept of “longing” in our presentation of the gospel?
Lewis goes on to say that observers of beautiful things long “to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.” Torn by pain, humiliated, or disillusioned, repentant sinners may come to the quintessential Beauty — the Christ — of redemption.
Reclaiming the arts, whether in worship or the larger community, will plainly clarify the church’s proclamation of the gospel. If the gospel requires hearts to contemplate the sinful human condition, so will our rendering of it in poetry, music, painting, and more. The longing we experience when listening to a great hymn, or any other expression of beauty in the Christian community, is not a superficial longing we may experience briefly at the moment. It is, in fact, a paradigm for the intense longing for beauty all sinners exhibit. The release from this longing will never be truly complete until we have found it in the love of God for His tragically sinful people. Our glorious God, who comes graciously to His church, intends that we “walk” up the road to Golgotha before we sing our alleluias.
By C.S. Lewis
If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you had asked almost any of the great Christians of old, he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative idea of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
We must not be troubled by unbelievers when they say that this promise of reward makes the Christian life a mercenary affair. There are different kinds of rewards. There is the reward which has no natural connection with the things you do to earn it and is quite foreign to the desires that ought to accompany those things. Money is not the natural reward of love; that is why we call a man mercenary if he marries a woman for the sake of her money. But marriage is the proper reward for a real lover, and he is not mercenary for desiring it. A general who fights well in order to get a peerage is mercenary; a general who fights for victory is not, victory being the proper reward of battle as marriage is the proper reward of love. The proper rewards are not simply tacked on to the activity for which they are given, but are the activity itself in consummation. There is also a third case, which is more complicated. An enjoyment of Greek poetry is certainly a proper, and not a mercenary, reward for learning Greek; but only those who have reached the stage of enjoying Greek poetry can tell from their own experience that this is so. The schoolboy beginning Greek grammar cannot look forward to his adult enjoyment of Sophocles as a lover looks forward to marriage or a general to victory. He has to begin by working for marks, or to escape punishment, or to please his parents, or, at best, in the hope of a future good which he cannot at present imagine or desire. His position, therefore, bears a certain resemblance to that of the mercenary; the reward he is going to get will, in actual fact, be a natural or proper reward, but he will not know that till he has got it. Of course, he gets it gradually; enjoyment creeps in upon the mere drudgery, and nobody could point to a day or an hour when the one ceased and the other began. But it is just insofar as he approaches the reward that he becomes able to desire it for its own sake; indeed, the power of so desiring it is itself a preliminary reward.
The Christian, in relation to heaven, is in much the same position as this schoolboy. Those who have attained everlasting life in the vision of God doubtless know very well that it is no mere bribe, but the very consummation of their earthly discipleship; but we who have not yet attained it cannot know this in the same way, and cannot even begin to know it at all except by continuing to obey and finding the first reward of our obedience in our increasing power to desire the ultimate reward. Just in proportion as the desire grows, our fear lest it should be a mercenary desire will die away and finally be recognised as an absurdity. But probably this will not, for most of us, happen in a day; poetry replaces grammar, gospel replaces law, longing transforms obedience, as gradually as the tide lifts a grounded ship.
But there is one other important similarity between the schoolboy and ourselves. If he is an imaginative boy, he will, quite probably, be revelling in the English poets and romancers suitable to his age some time before he begins to suspect that Greek grammar is going to lead him to more and more enjoyments of this same sort. He may even be neglecting his Greek to read Shelley and Swinburne in secret. In other words, the desire which Greek is really going to gratify already exists in him and is attached to objects which seem to him quite unconnected with Xenophon and the verbs in μι. Now, if we are made for heaven, the desire for our proper place will be already in us, but not yet attached to the true object, and will even appear as the rival of that object. And this, I think, is just what we find. No doubt there is one point in which my analogy of the schoolboy breaks down. The English poetry which he reads when he ought to be doing Greek exercises may be just as good as the Greek poetry to which the exercises are leading him, so that in fixing on Milton instead of journeying on to Aeschylus his desire is not embracing a false object. But our case is very different. If a transtemporal, transfinite good is our real destiny, then any other good on which our desire fixes must be in some degree fallacious, must bear at best only a symbolical relation to what will truly satisfy.
In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited. Do you think I am trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am; but remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them. And you and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has been laid upon us for nearly a hundred years. Almost our whole education has been directed to silencing this shy, persistent, inner voice; almost all our modern philosophies have been devised to convince us that the good of man is to be found on this earth. And yet it is a remarkable thing that such philosophies of Progress or Creative Evolution themselves bear reluctant witness to the truth that our real goal is elsewhere. When they want to convince you that earth is your home, notice how they set about it. They begin by trying to persuade you that earth can be made into heaven, thus giving a sop to your sense of exile in earth as it is. Next, they tell you that this fortunate event is still a good way off in the future, thus giving a sop to your knowledge that the fatherland is not here and now. Finally, lest your longing for the transtemporal should awake and spoil the whole affair, they use any rhetoric that comes to hand to keep out of your mind the recollection that even if all the happiness they promised could come to man on earth, yet still each generation would lose it by death, including the last generation of all, and the whole story would be nothing, not even a story, for ever and ever. Hence all the nonsense that Mr. Shaw puts into the final speech of Lilith, and Bergson’s remark that the élan vital is capable of surmounting all obstacles, perhaps even death—as if we could believe that any social or biological development on this planet will delay the senility of the sun or reverse the second law of thermodynamics.
Do what they will, then, we remain conscious of a desire which no natural happiness will satisfy. But is there any reason to suppose that reality offers any satisfaction to it? “Nor does the being hungry prove that we have bread.” But I think it may be urged that this misses the point. A man’s physical hunger does not prove that man will get any bread; he may die of starvation on a raft in the Atlantic. But surely a man’s hunger does prove that he comes of a race which repairs its body by eating and inhabits a world where eatable substances exist. In the same way, though I do not believe (I wish I did) that my desire for Paradise proves that I shall enjoy it, I think it a pretty good indication that such a thing exists and that some men will. A man may love a woman and not win her; but it would be very odd if the phenomenon called “falling in love” occurred in a sexless world.
Here, then, is the desire, still wandering and uncertain of its object and still largely unable to see that object in the direction where it really lies. Our sacred books give us some account of the object. It is, of course, a symbolical account. Heaven is, by definition, outside our experience, but all intelligible descriptions must be of things within our experience. The scriptural picture of heaven is therefore just as symbolical as the picture which our desire, unaided, invents for itself; heaven is not really full of jewellery any more than it is really the beauty of Nature, or a fine piece of music. The difference is that the scriptural imagery has authority. It comes to us from writers who were closer to God than we, and it has stood the test of Christian experience down the centuries. The natural appeal of this authoritative imagery is to me, at first, very small. At first sight it chills, rather than awakes, my desire. And that is just what I ought to expect. If Christianity could tell me no more of the far-off land than my own temperament led me to surmise already, then Christianity would be no higher than myself. If it has more to give me, I expect it to be less immediately attractive than “my own stuff.” Sophocles at first seems dull and cold to the boy who has only reached Shelley. If our religion is something objective, then we must never avert our eyes from those elements in it which seem puzzling or repellent; for it will be precisely the puzzling or the repellent which conceals what we do not yet know and need to know.
The promises of Scripture may very roughly be reduced to five heads. It is promised (1) that we shall be with Christ; (2) that we shall be like Him; (3) with an enormous wealth of imagery, that we shall have “glory”; (4) that we shall, in some sense, be fed or feasted or entertained; and (5) that we shall have some sort of official position in the universe—ruling cities, judging angels, being pillars of God’s temple. The first question I ask about these promises is “Why any one of them except the first?” Can anything be added to the conception of being with Christ? For it must be true, as an old writer says, that he who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only. I think the answer turns again on the nature of symbols. For though it may escape our notice at first glance, yet it is true that any conception of being with Christ which most of us can now form will be not very much less symbolical than the other promises; for it will smuggle in ideas of proximity in space and loving conversation as we now understand conversation, and it will probably concentrate on the humanity of Christ to the exclusion of His deity. And, in fact, we find that those Christians who attend solely to this first promise always do fill it up with very earthly imagery indeed—in fact, with hymeneal or erotic imagery. I am not for a moment condemning such imagery. I heartily wish I could enter into it more deeply than I do, and pray that I yet shall. But my point is that this also is only a symbol, like the reality in some respects, but unlike it in others, and therefore needs correction from the different symbols in the other promises. The variation of the promises does not mean that anything other than God will be our ultimate bliss; but because God is more than a Person, and lest we should imagine the joy of His presence too exclusively in terms of our present poor experience of personal love, with all its narrowness and strain and monotony, a dozen changing images, correcting and relieving each other, are supplied.
I turn next to the idea of glory. There is no getting away from the fact that this idea is very prominent in the New Testament and in early Christian writings. Salvation is constantly associated with palms, crowns, white robes, thrones, and splendour like the sun and stars. All this makes no immediate appeal to me at all, and in that respect I fancy I am a typical modern. Glory suggests two ideas to me, of which one seems wicked and the other ridiculous. Either glory means to me fame, or it means luminosity. As for the first, since to be famous means to be better known than other people, the desire for fame appears to me as a competitive passion and therefore of hell rather than heaven. As for the second, who wishes to become a kind of living electric light bulb?
When I began to look into this matter I was shocked to find such different Christians as Milton, Johnson, and Thomas Aquinas taking heavenly glory quite frankly in the sense of fame or good report. But not fame conferred by our fellow creatures—fame with God, approval or (I might say) “appreciation” by God. And then, when I had thought it over, I saw that this view was scriptural; nothing can eliminate from the parable the divine accolade, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” With that, a good deal of what I had been thinking all my life fell down like a house of cards. I suddenly remembered that no one can enter heaven except as a child; and nothing is so obvious in a child—not in a conceited child, but in a good child—as its great and undisguised pleasure in being praised. Not only in a child, either, but even in a dog or a horse. Apparently what I had mistaken for humility had, all these years, prevented me from understanding what is in fact the humblest, the most childlike, the most creaturely of pleasures—nay, the specific pleasure of the inferior: the pleasure of a beast before men, a child before its father, a pupil before his teacher, a creature before its Creator. I am not forgetting how horribly this most innocent desire is parodied in our human ambitions, or how very quickly, in my own experience, the lawful pleasure of praise from those whom it was my duty to please turns into the deadly poison of self-admiration. But I thought I could detect a moment—a very, very short moment—before this happened, during which the satisfaction of having pleased those whom I rightly loved and rightly feared was pure. And that is enough to raise our thoughts to what may happen when the redeemed soul, beyond all hope and nearly beyond belief, learns at last that she has pleased Him whom she was created to please. There will be no room for vanity then. She will be free from the miserable illusion that it is her doing. With no taint of what we should now call self-approval she will most innocently rejoice in the thing that God has made her to be, and the moment which heals her old inferiority complex forever will also drown her pride deeper than Prospero’s book. Perfect humility dispenses with modesty. If God is satisfied with the work, the work may be satisfied with itself; “it is not for her to bandy compliments with her Sovereign.” I can imagine someone saying that he dislikes my idea of heaven as a place where we are patted on the back. But proud misunderstanding is behind that dislike. In the end that Face which is the delight or the terror of the universe must be turned upon each of us either with one expression or with the other, either conferring glory inexpressible or inflicting shame that can never be cured or disguised. I read in a periodical the other day that the fundamental thing is how we think of God. By God Himself, it is not! How God thinks of us is not only more important, but infinitely more important. Indeed, how we think of Him is of no importance except insofar as it is related to how He thinks of us. It is written that we shall “stand before” Him, shall appear, shall be inspected. The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination, shall find approval, shall please God. To please God … to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness … to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.
And now notice what is happening. If I had rejected the authoritative and scriptural image of glory and stuck obstinately to the vague desire which was, at the outset, my only pointer to heaven, I could have seen no connection at all between that desire and the Christian promise. But now, having followed up what seemed puzzling and repellent in the sacred books, I find, to my great surprise, looking back, that the connection is perfectly clear. Glory, as Christianity teaches me to hope for it, turns out to satisfy my original desire and indeed to reveal an element in that desire which I had not noticed. By ceasing for a moment to consider my own wants I have begun to learn better what I really wanted. When I attempted, a few minutes ago, to describe our spiritual longings, I was omitting one of their most curious characteristics. We usually notice it just as the moment of vision dies away, as the music ends, or as the landscape loses the celestial light. What we feel then has been well described by Keats as “the journey homeward to habitual self.” You know what I mean. For a few minutes we have had the illusion of belonging to that world. Now we wake to find that it is no such thing. We have been mere spectators. Beauty has smiled, but not to welcome us; her face was turned in our direction, but not to see us. We have not been accepted, welcomed, or taken into the dance. We may go when we please, we may stay if we can: “Nobody marks us.” A scientist may reply that since most of the things we call beautiful are inanimate, it is not very surprising that they take no notice of us. That, of course, is true. It is not the physical objects that I am speaking of, but that indescribable something of which they become for a moment the messengers. And part of the bitterness which mixes with the sweetness of that message is due to the fact that it so seldom seems to be a message intended for us, but rather something we have overheard. By bitterness I mean pain, not resentment. We should hardly dare to ask that any notice be taken of ourselves. But we pine. The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret. And surely, from this point of view, the promise of glory, in the sense described, becomes highly relevant to our deep desire. For glory means good report with God, acceptance by God, response, acknowledgement, and welcome into the heart of things. The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last.
Perhaps it seems rather crude to describe glory as the fact of being “noticed” by God. But this is almost the language of the New Testament. St. Paul promises to those who love God not, as we should expect, that they will know Him, but that they will be known by Him (1 Cor. 8:3). It is a strange promise. Does not God know all things at all times? But it is dreadfully reechoed in another passage of the New Testament. There we are warned that it may happen to anyone of us to appear at last before the face of God and hear only the appalling words, “I never knew you. Depart from Me.” In some sense, as dark to the intellect as it is unendurable to the feelings, we can be both banished from the presence of Him who is present everywhere and erased from the knowledge of Him who knows all. We can be left utterly and absolutely outside—repelled, exiled, estranged, finally and unspeakably ignored. On the other hand, we can be called in, welcomed, received, acknowledged. We walk every day on the razor edge between these two incredible possibilities. Apparently, then, our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honour beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache.
And this brings me to the other sense of glory—glory as brightness, splendour, luminosity. We are to shine as the sun, we are to be given the Morning Star. I think I begin to see what it means. In one way, of course, God has given us the Morning Star already: you can go and enjoy the gift on many fine mornings if you get up early enough. What more, you may ask, do we want? Ah, but we want so much more—something the books on aesthetics take little notice of. But the poets and the mythologies know all about it. We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. That is why we have peopled air and earth and water with gods and goddesses and nymphs and elves—that, though we cannot, yet these projections can enjoy in themselves that beauty, grace, and power of which Nature is the image. That is why the poets tell us such lovely falsehoods. They talk as if the west wind could really sweep into a human soul; but it can’t. They tell us that “beauty born of murmuring sound” will pass into a human face; but it won’t. Or not yet. For if we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendour of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy. At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in. When human souls have become as perfect in voluntary obedience as the inanimate creation is in its lifeless obedience, then they will put on its glory, or rather that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch. For you must not think that I am putting forward any heathen fancy of being absorbed into Nature. Nature is mortal; we shall outlive her. When all the suns and nebulae have passed away, each one of you will still be alive. Nature is only the image, the symbol; but it is the symbol Scripture invites me to use. We are summoned to pass in through Nature, beyond her, into that splendour which she fitfully reflects.
And in there, in beyond Nature, we shall eat of the tree of life. At present, if we are reborn in Christ, the spirit in us lives directly on God; but the mind and, still more, the body receives life from Him at a thousand removes—through our ancestors, through our food, through the elements. The faint, far-off results of those energies which God’s creative rapture implanted in matter when He made the worlds are what we now call physical pleasures; and even thus filtered, they are too much for our present management. What would it be to taste at the fountainhead that stream of which even these lower reaches prove so intoxicating? Yet that, I believe, is what lies before us. The whole man is to drink joy from the fountain of joy. As St. Augustine said, the rapture of the saved soul will “flow over” into the glorified body. In the light of our present specialised and depraved appetites, we cannot imagine this torrens voluptatis, and I warn everyone most seriously not to try. But it must be mentioned, to drive out thoughts even more misleading—thoughts that what is saved is a mere ghost, or that the risen body lives in numb insensibility. The body was made for the Lord, and these dismal fancies are wide of the mark.
Meanwhile the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow is a Monday morning. A cleft has opened in the pitiless walls of the world, and we are invited to follow our great Captain inside. The following Him is, of course, the essential point. That being so, it may be asked what practical use there is in the speculations which I have been indulging. I can think of at least one such use. It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.
Give Without Pay
By Jon Bloom 7/1/2010
When it comes to the mixing of gospel ministry and money, we who are leaders of churches or their ancillary ministries must have the fear of God struck into us. Heaven and hell are at stake in how we raise, spend, and reserve money — because the way we handle money either adorns or obscures the gospel.
The love of money really takes it on the chin in the New Testament. Jesus and the apostles have mostly negative things to say about wealth, unless it’s being given away. In the Gospels, Jesus is relentlessly hard on wealth in both His teachings and His discipleship calls. In Acts and the Epistles, we are repeatedly warned against, and given sad examples of, the love of money, which “is a root of all kinds of evils” (1 Tim. 6:10).
There’s very good reason for this. Money can be a rival with God for our affections. Jesus put it bluntly: “You cannot serve God and money” (Matt. 6:24). Both make promises to us and both lay claims on us. We will love one and hate the other. We can have only one true love. Lips can lie. But affections never do. Our heart is always with our treasure.
This is why when Jesus called people to follow Him, it often included sacrificing their financial security. It was a call to give God the place wealth had occupied in their hearts. Jesus was not glorifying poverty. He was offering a far more superior, satisfying treasure: God Himself and all of the mind-blowing joy and pleasures of His presence (Ps. 16:11).
It’s also why when Jesus first sent out His disciples to proclaim the gospel, He instructed them not to charge money to either preach or mediate kingdom power. “You received without paying; give without pay” (Matt. 10:8). His purpose was not only to train the disciples to live by faith in God’s provision, but that their presentation of the gospel might be a reflection of the gospel to the people to whom they preached.
The gospel that Jesus’ disciples were to proclaim was the offer of the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, and eternal life, all through faith in Jesus Christ apart from works of the law or any other kind of payment to God (Rom. 3:28). It was all designed to magnify the glory of God’s free grace. Therefore, payment of any kind to hear the gospel or receive kingdom benefits would completely distort the gospel. It would shortly turn the church into a den of thieves. It was crucial that the medium also be the message.
This is precisely why Paul worked so hard to make the presentation of the gospel free to his hearers. He had to fight the gospel distorters, the “peddlers of God’s word” (2 Cor. 2:17) who had figured out how to make godliness a means of great gain (1 Tim. 6:5). He even decided to forgo legitimate ways of making a living from the gospel (1 Cor. 9:14) in order to prevent any misconstruing of his motives. He resolved to “endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ” (1 Cor. 9:12).
If peddling God’s gospel was a problem in Paul’s day, it is an epidemic in ours, especially in the affluent church of the West. We are a multi-billion dollar market. There is serious money to be made. And that is dangerous to the gospel.
And that is why those of us who lead evangelical churches and ministries must give much prayerful reflection to and take extraordinary care in all the ways we talk about, manage, and personally use money. So much more is at stake than what is merely lawful or ethical. It’s the gospel that’s at stake.
So for the sake of the gospel, let us join the Lord Jesus and the apostles in the following resolutions:
Let us resolve to show by our lifestyles that God is our treasure and not money. The medium as message begins with us. There is no formula for this. It looks different in every organization and life. We will not judge one another (Rom. 14:4). But let our lives themselves demonstrate that we seek the kingdom first.
Let us resolve to be ruthlessly transparent in our financial dealings. Let there be no hint that we may be concealing anything.
Let us resolve to endure anything in order to remove obstacles to the gospel. And since the love of money has shown itself in the New Testament and throughout the church age to be a deadly obstacle, let us seek as much as possible to make the gospel free to the world. Let us not ask: “What is our right?” or “What is lawful?” But let us say with Paul: “What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:18).
... free to the world, and yet, well, looking at the copyright rules for Desiring God, if you are going to distribute freely their material you can only use excerpts. Ligonier and Gospel Coalition (Don Carson via email) only ask that you link back to the original source.
It is a wonderful work of the Spirit in our day that the message of the gospel is being clarified again and loved and defended. It is another glorious reforming of the church. And as this happens, let us pray and vigorously work to make sure that the role money plays in our presentations of this priceless message also points to the glorious free grace of God.
Jon Bloom serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He and his wife live in the Twin Cities with their five children.
Jon Bloom Books:
Judges 1; Acts 5; Jeremiah 14; Matthew 28
By Don Carson 7/18/2018
The account of Ananias and Sapphira, whose names are recorded in the earliest Christian records because of their deceit (Acts 5:1-11), is disturbing on several grounds. Certainly the early church thought so (Acts 5:5, 11). Four observations focus the issues:
First, revival does not guarantee the absence of sin in a community. When many people are converted and genuinely transformed, when many are renewed and truly learn to hate sin, others find it more attractive to be thought holy than to be holy. Revival offers many temptations to hypocrisy that would be less potent when the temper of the age is secularistic or pagan.
Second, the issue is not so much the disposition of the money that Ananias and Sapphira obtained when they sold a piece of property as the lie they told. Apparently there were some members who were selling properties and donating all of the proceeds to the church to help in its varied ministries, not least the relief of the needs of brothers and sisters in Christ. Indeed, the man called Barnabas was exemplary in this respect (Acts 4:36-37), and serves as a foil to Ananias and Sapphira. But these two sold their property, kept some of the proceeds for themselves, and pretended that they were giving everything.
It was this claim to sanctity and self-denial, this pretense of generosity and piety, that was so offensive. Left unchecked, it might well multiply. It would certainly place into positions of honor people whose conduct did not deserve it. But worse, it was a blatant lie against the Holy Spirit — as if the Spirit of God could not know the truth, or would not care. In this sense it was a supremely presumptuous act, betraying a stance so removed from the God-centeredness of genuine faith that it was idolatrous.
Third, another element of the issue was conspiracy. It was not enough that Ananias pulled this wicked stunt himself. He acted “with his wife’s full knowledge” (Acts 5:2); indeed, her lying was not only passive but active (Acts 5:8), betraying a shared commitment to deceive believers and defy God.
Fourth, in times of genuine revival, judgment may be more immediate than in times of decay. When God walks away from the church and lets the multiplying sin take its course, that is the worst judgment of all; it will inevitably end in irretrievable disaster. But when God responds to sin with prompt severity, lessons are learned, and the church is spared a worse drift. In this case, great fear fell not only on the church but also on all who heard of these events (Acts 5:5, 11).
It is written: “He whose walk is upright fears the LORD; but he in whose ways are devious despises him” (Prov. 14:2).
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).
Don Carson Books:
- 1 An Introduction to the New Testament
- 2 The Gospel according to John Pillar NT Commentary
- 3 The Gospel according to John Pillar NT Commentary
- 4 NIV Zondervan Study Bible, Hardcover: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message
- 5 Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation
- 6 Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament
- 7 Exegetical Fallacies
- 8 For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word, Volume 1
- 9 Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God's Purpose and Provision in Suffering
- 10 Matthew (The Expositor's Bible Commentary)
- 11 The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God's Story
- 12 The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God
- 13 How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil
- 14 New Testament Commentary Survey
- 15 For the Love of God, Volume 2: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word
- 16 9: Matthew and Mark (The Expositor's Bible Commentary)
- 17 Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians, 12-14
- 18 The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians
- 19 The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures
- 20 The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: John 14-17
- 21 Introducing NT: A Short Guide to Its History and Message
- 22 Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson
- 23 Preach the Word: Essays on Expository Preaching: In Honor of R. Kent Hughes
- 24 Jesus' Sermon on the Mount: An Exposition of Matthew 5-10
- 25 The Intolerance of Tolerance
- 26 From Sabbath to Lord's Day: A Biblical, Historical and Theological Investigation
- 27 Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians
- 28 Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspective in Tension
- 29 The Expositor's Bible commentary : Matthew, Mark, Luke Vol. 8
- 30 Christ and Culture Revisited
- 31 NIV Zondervan Study Bible: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message
- 32 The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism
- 33 Don't Call It a Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day
- 34 Gagging of God, The
- 35 The Gospel as Center: Renewing Our Faith and Reforming Our Ministry Practices
- 36 The God Who Is There Leader's Guide: Finding Your Place in God's Story
- 37 What Is the Gospel?
- 38 His Mission: Jesus in the Gospel of Luke
- 39 The Scriptures Testify about Me: Jesus and the Gospel in the OT
- 40 Love in Hard Places
- 41 Coming Home: Essays on the New Heaven and New Earth
- 42 God's Love Compels Us: Taking the Gospel to the World
- 43 Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus
- 44 Telling the Truth
- 45 God's Word, Our Story: Learning from the Book of Nehemiah
- 46 Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications
- 47 The Sermon on the Mount: An Evangelical Exposition of Matthew 5-7
- 48 Sunsets: Reflections for Life's Final Journey
- 49 God with Us: Themes from Matthew
- 50 A Model of Christian Maturity: An Exposition of 2 Corinthians 10-13
- 51 NIV Zondervan Study Bible, Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message
- 52 The Pastor as Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Ministry
- 53 Teach Us to Pray: Prayer in the Bible and the World
- 54 Matthew, Vol.2 (Ch. 13-28), The Expositor's Bible Commentary
- 55 A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers
- 56 The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God's Story
- 57 Entrusted with the Gospel: Pastoral Expositions of 2 Timothy
- 58 Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspectives in Tension
- 59 The Holy Spirit
- 60 The Plan
- 61 Collected Writings on Scripture
- 62 The Inclusive-Language Debate: A Plea for Realism
- 63 Matthew, Vol.1 (Ch. 1-12), The Expositor's Bible Commentary
- 64 Essential Evangelicalism: The Enduring Influence of Carl F. H. Henry
- 65 The Restoration of All Things
- 66 Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodation in Postmodern Times
- 67 Christ's Redemption
- 68 Exegetical Fallacies
- 69 Justification
- 70 Greek Accents: A Student's Manual
- 71 Gospel-Centered Ministry
- 72 The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians
- 77 The Cross & Christian Ministry: An Exposition of Passages from 1 Corinthians
- 78 The Cross & Christian Ministry: An Exposition of Passages from 1 Corinthians
- 79 [(Christ and Culture Revisited)]
- 80 When Jesus Confronts the World: An Exposition of Matthew 8-10
- 81 The Church: God's New People
- 82 Letters Along the Way: A Novel of the Christian Life
- 83 Love in Hard Places
- 84 The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place In God'S Story
- 85 NT Commentary Survey
- 86 The Inclusive Language Debate
- 87 Exegetical Fallacies
- 88 The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: An Exposition of John 14-17
- 89 NT Commentary Survey
- 90 How long, O Lord? (2nd edition): Reflections on Suffering and Evil
- 91 Holy Sonnets of the Twentieth Century
- 92 Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians
- 93 By D. A. Carson - Gagging of God
- 94 Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed
- 95 The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God
- 96 A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers
- 97 A Call to Spiritual Reformation
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 76Who Can Stand Before You?
76 To The Choirmaster: With Stringed Instruments. A Psalm Of Asaph. A Song.
7 But you, you are to be feared!
Who can stand before you
when once your anger is roused?
8 From the heavens you uttered judgment;
the earth feared and was still,
9 when God arose to establish judgment,
to save all the humble of the earth. Selah
10 Surely the wrath of man shall praise you;
the remnant of wrath you will put on like a belt.
11 Make your vows to the LORD your God and perform them;
let all around him bring gifts
to him who is to be feared,
12 who cuts off the spirit of princes,
who is to be feared by the kings of the earth.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
17. And why do I enumerate? This form of expression is constantly
occurring in Scripture. Nay, even while the people of God were kept
under the external tutelage of the law, the prophets clearly expressed
that under these carnal sacrifices there was a reality which is common
both to the Jewish people and the Christian Church. For this reason
David prayed, "Let my prayer ascend forth before thee as incense" (Ps.
141:2). And Hosea gives the name of "calves of the lips" (Hos. 14:3) to
thanksgivings, which David elsewhere calls "sacrifices of praise;" the
apostle, imitating him, speaks of offering "the sacrifice of praise,"
which he explains to mean, "the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his
name" (Heb. 13:15). This kind of sacrifice is indispensable in the
Lord's Supper, in which, while we show forth his death, and give him
thanks, we offer nothing but the sacrifice of praise. From this office
of sacrificing, all Christians are called "a royal priesthood," because
by Christ we offer that sacrifice of praise of which the apostle
speaks, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name (l Pet. 2:9;
Heb. 13:15). We do not appear with our gifts in the presence of God
without an intercessor. Christ is our Mediator, by whose intervention
we offer ourselves and our all to the Father; he is our High Priest,
who, having entered into the upper sanctuary, opens up an access for
us; he is the altar on which we lay our gifts, that whatever we do
attempt, we may attempt in him; he it is, I say, who "hath made us
kings and priests unto God and his Father" (Rev. 1:6).
18. What remains but for the blind to see, the deaf to hear, children even to perceive this abomination of the mass, which, held forth in a golden cup,  has so intoxicated all the kings and nations of the earth, from the highest to the lowest; so struck them with stupor and giddiness, that, duller than the lower animals, they have placed the vessel of their salvation in this fatal vortex. Certainly Satan never employed a more powerful engine to assail and storm the kingdom of Christ. This is the Helen for whom the enemies of the truth in the present day fight with so much rage, fury, and atrocity; and truly the Helen with whom they commit spiritual whoredom, the most execrable of all. I am not here laying my little finger on those gross abuses by which they might pretend that the purity of their sacred mass is profaned; on the base traffic which they ply; the sordid gain which they make; the rapacity with which they satiate their avarice. I only indicate, and that in few and simple terms, how very sacred the sanctity of the mass is, how well it has for several ages deserved to be admired and held in veneration! It were a greater work to illustrate these great mysteries as they deserve, and I am unwilling to meddle with their obscene impurities, which are daily before the eyes and faces of all, that it may be understood that the mass, taken in the most choice form in which it can be exhibited, without any appendages, teems from head to foot with all kinds of impiety, blasphemy, idolatry, and sacrilege.
19. My readers have here a compendious view of all that I have thought it of importance to know concerning these two sacraments, which have been delivered to the Christian Church, to be used from the beginning of the new dispensation to the end of the world, Baptism being a kind of entrance into the Church, an initiation into the faith, and the Lord's Supper the constant aliment by which Christ spiritually feeds his family of believers. Wherefore, as there is but one God, one faith, one Christ, one Church, which is his body, so Baptism is one, and is not repeated. But the Supper is ever and anon dispensed, to intimate, that those who are once allured into the Church are constantly fed by Christ. Besides these two, no other has been instituted by God, and no other ought to be recognised by the assembly of the faithful. That sacraments are not to be instituted and set up by the will of men, is easily understood by him who remembers what has been above with sufficient plainness expounded --viz. that the sacraments have been appointed by God to instruct us in his promise, and testify his goodwill towards us; and who, moreover, considers, that the Lord has no counsellor (Isa. 40:13; Rom. 11:34); who can give us any certainty as to his will, or assure us how he is disposed towards us, what he is disposed to give, and what to deny? From this it follows, that no one can set forth a sign which is to be a testimonial of his will, and of some promise. He alone can give the sign, and bear witness to himself. I will express it more briefly, perhaps in homelier, but also in clearer terms,--There never can be a sacrament without a promise of salvation. All men collected into one cannot, of themselves, give us any promise of salvation, and, therefore, they cannot, of themselves, give out and set up a sacrament.
20. With these two, therefore, let the Christian Church be contented, and not only not admit or acknowledge any third at present, but not even desire or expect it even until the end of the world. For though to the Jews were given, besides his ordinary sacraments, others differing somewhat according to the nature of the times (as the manna, the water gushing from the rock, the brazen serpent, and the like),  by this variety they were reminded not to stop short at such figures, the state of which could not be durable, but to expect from God something better, to endure without decay and without end. Our case is very different. To us Christ has been revealed. In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3), in such richness and abundance, that to ask or hope for any new addition to these treasures is truly to offend God and provoke him against us. It behoves us to hunger after Christ only, to seek him, look to him, learn of him, and learn again, until the arrival of the great day on which the Lord will fully manifest the glory of his kingdom, and exhibit himself as he is to our admiring eye (1 John 3:2). And, for this reason, this age of ours is designated in Scripture  by the last hour, the last days, the last times, that no one may deceive himself with the vain expectation of some new doctrine or revelation. Our heavenly Father, who "at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us" by his beloved Son, who alone can manifest, and, in fact, has fully manifested, the Father, in so far as is of importance to us, while we now see him through a mirror. Now, since men have been denied the power of making new sacraments in the Church of God, it were to be wished, that in those which are of God, there should be the least possible admixture of human invention. For just as when water is infused, the wine is diluted, and when leaven is put in, the whole mass is leavened, so the purity of the ordinances of God is impaired, whenever man makes any addition of his own. And yet we see how far the sacraments as at present used have degenerated from their genuine purity. There is everywhere more than enough of pomp, ceremony, and gesticulation, while no account is taken, or mention made, of the word of God, without which, even the sacraments themselves are not sacraments. Nay, in such a crowd, the very ceremonies ordained by God cannot raise their head, but lie as it were oppressed. In Baptism, as we have elsewhere justly complained, how little is seen of that which alone ought to shine and be conspicuous there, I mean Baptism itself? The Supper was altogether buried when it was turned into the Mass. The utmost is, that it is seen once a year, but in a garbled, mutilated, and lacerated form. 
 Vid. Calv. Ep. de Fugiend. Illic. Sacris. Item, De Sacerdotiis Eccles. Papal. Item, De Necessitate Reform. Eccles. Item, Epist. ad Sadoletum
 The French adds, "qui ont parlé un petit plus passablement que leur successeurs qui sont venus depuis;"--who have spoken somewhat more tolerably than their successors who have come since.
 Heb. 5:5-10; 7:17; 21; 9:11; 10:21; Ps. 110:4; Gen. 14:18.
 Heb. 9:11, 12, 26; 10:10, 14, 16.
 The French of this sentence is, "Car combien que ceux qui sont les plus effrontées entre les Papistes fassent un bouclier des anciens docteurs, abusant faussement de leurs tesmoignages, toutesfois c'est une chose claire comme le soleil en plein midi, que ce qu'ils font est tout contraire a l'usage ancien: et que c'est un abus qui est venu en avant du temps que tout etoit depravé et corrompu en l'Eglise."--For although those who have the most effrontery among the Papists make a shield of the ancient doctors, falsely abusing their testimony, it is clear as the sun at noon-day, that what they do is quite contrary to ancient practice, and that is an abuse which immediately preceded the time when everything was depraved and corrupted in the Church.
 This last sentence forms, in the French, the first of sec. 11.
 French, "n'ancun authorite humaine, ne longeur de temps, ne toutes autres apparences;"--no human authority, no length of time, nor any other appearances.
 The French explains, "c'est à dire, sous le nom de la parole de Dieu;"--that is to say, under the name of the word of God.
 Exod. 16:13-15; 17:6; Num. 20:8., 21:9; 1 Cor. 10:4; John 3:14.
 1 John 2:18; 1 Pet. 1:20; Luke 10:22, Heb. 1:1; 1 Cor. 13:12.
 French, "deschiree, decouppee, departie, brisee, divisee, et toute difformee."
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
7/1/2014 Forerunner of the Reformation
John Wycliffe was the morning star of the Reformation. He was a protestant and a reformer more than a century before Martin Luther ignited the Protestant Reformation in 1517. Through Wycliffe, God planted the seeds of the Reformation, He watered the seeds through John Hus, and He brought the ﬂower of the Reformation to bloom through Martin Luther. The seed of the ﬂower of the German Augustinian monk Luther’s 95 theses was planted by the English scholar and churchman John Wycliffe.
Wycliffe died on New Year’s Eve, 1384. Three decades later, he was condemned as a heretic. In 1415, the Council of Constance condemned the Bohemian reformer John Hus (c. 1370-1415) and burned him at the stake, and it condemned Wycliffe on 260 counts of heresy. The council ordered that Wycliffe’s bones be exhumed, removed from the honored burial grounds of the church, and burned, and his ashes scattered. More than a decade later, the Roman Catholic Church sought to counteract the spreading heresies of Wycliffe and his followers, the Lollards, by establishing Lincoln College, Oxford, under the leadership of Bishop Richard Fleming. Although the pope could condemn Wycliffe’s teachings and scatter his bones, he was unable to stamp out his inﬂuence. Wycliffe’s ashes were scattered into the River Swift in England’s Midlands, and as one journalist later observed: “They burnt his bones to ashes and cast them into the Swift, a neighboring brook running hard by. Thus the brook hath conveyed his ashes into Avon; Avon into Severn; Severn into the narrow seas; and they into the main ocean. And thus the ashes of Wycliffe are the emblem of his doctrine which now is dispersed the world over.”
Wycliffe was committed to the authority and inspiration of Holy Scripture, declaring, “Holy Scripture is the highest authority for every believer, the standard of faith and the foundation for reform in religious, political and social life … in itself it is perfectly sufficient for salvation, without the addition of customs or traditions.” As such, Wycliffe oversaw the translation of the Bible from Latin into the English vernacular. This was a radical undertaking, and it was against the express mandate of the papacy. His understanding of Scripture naturally led to his understanding of justiﬁcation by faith alone, as he declared, “Trust wholly in Christ. Rely altogether on his sufferings. Beware of seeking to be justiﬁed in any other way than by his righteousness. Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ is sufficient for salvation.”
In the fourteenth century, at the dawn of the Reformation, Wycliffe shone as a burning and shining light of gospel truth, and his doctrine mirrored his life as one who lived by God’s grace and before God’s face, coram Deo, and for God’s glory. Soli Deo gloria.
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)
by Bill Federer
British troops were marching toward Fort Duquesne when they were ambushed by the French and Indians. Not accustomed to fighting unless in an open field, they were being annihilated. Colonel George Washington rode back and forth across the battle delivering orders. General Braddock was mortally wounded and every officer on horseback was shot down, except Washington. Writing to his brother, this day, July 18, 1755, Washington stated: “By the All-Powerful Dispensations of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability … for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me.”
Compilation by Richard S. Adams
Rarely is God the author
of the status quo
we often defend.
--- M. Robert Mulholland Jr.
Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation
Infinite striving to be the best is man's duty;
it is its own reward.
Everything else is in God's hands.
--- Mohandas Gandhi
Our duty, privilege, and security are in believing, not in knowing; in trusting God, and not our own understanding. They are to be pitied who have no more trustworthy teacher than themselves.
--- Charles Hodge
... from here, there and everywhere
Recitation and Belief
From a purely formal halakhic point of view, how many separate mitzvot or biblical commandments does one fulfill when reciting that first verse of the Shema with full kavvanah?
It appears that there are three such distinct mitzvot that are performed in the process of reciting the Shema. The first, which is interesting but need not concern us here, is that of talmud torah, the study of Torah; “You shall teach them diligently to your children” implies both the study and the teaching of Torah. Reciting the verse Shema Yisrael is certainly no less an act of the study of Torah than the reading of any other scriptural verse.
The two other mitzvot that are of more immediate concern to us are the mitzvah of keriah, reading or reciting of the Shema, and the mitzvah of yiḥud Hashem, affirming the unity of God. Evidence of the essentially distinct nature of these two may be adduced from the classification adopted by Rambam. In his great halakhic code, the Mishneh Torah, he codifies the laws of keriah in his Hilkhot Keriat Shema, the “Laws of the Reading of the Shema”; but the commandment to believe or affirm divine unity is treated by him in Hilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah, “Laws of the Foundations of the Torah.” Moreover, in his earlier work on the 613 commandments, he identifies the affirmation of divine unity as the second positive commandment and the Reading of the Shema as the tenth. Hence, the mitzvah of yiḥud Hashem is not dependent upon that of keriat Shema. The Rabbis, however, identified the reading of this verse as the opportune moment to fulfill as well the commandment to affirm faith in the unity of God. Hence, the act of reading the Shema with proper kavvanah entails the performance of two commandments, that of keriah and that of yiḥud Hashem (in addition, as mentioned above, to that of talmud torah).
The differences between the two are clear and practical. The commandment to affirm divine unity is unlimited; it applies to all times and places and obligates men and women equally. The mitzvah to read the Shema is limited to twice a day (“when you lie down and when you rise up”) and, because it is confined to specific times, obligates only men and not women; the latter are required to observe only positive commandments that are not time-bound in addition to (almost) all negative (“You shall not”) commandments. (9) Moreover, the Reading of the Shema is a physical, externalized act and therefore requires a preceding benediction. (10) The mitzvah of yiḥud Hashem, however, is non-physical. It is an internal thought process and therefore requires no initial blessing.
(9) Interestingly, the Shulḥan Arukh (Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 70:1) decides that women are exempt from the obligation to recite the Shema, but “it is proper to teach them to accept upon themselves the yoke of Heaven,” upon which R. Moshe Isserles (Rema) adds the gloss, “they must read at least the first verse.” The Shulḥan Arukh is obviously speaking of the mitzvah of yiḥud Hashem (thus his use of kabbalat’ol malkhut shamayim, “accepting the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven”) when he affirms the desirability of women reciting the Shema, whereas the Rema adds the obligation of keriah, that of reading the Shema as well. But, asks R. Mordecai Yaffe, author of Levush (No. 70), is not the reading of the Shema a time-bound mitzvah and should not, therefore, women be exempt? His answer is that Rema intended the mitzvah of yiḥud Hashem, which certainly does obligate women, and it is the recitation of the Shema that gives them a defined opportunity to fulfill that mitzvah, even though the mitzvah of recitation per se does not apply to them.
(10) The second of the two benedictions preceding the Shema in both the Morning and Evening service is considered a birkhat ha-mitz-vah—a blessing over the performance of a commandment, the commandment in this case being that of the Reading of the Shema. Indeed, if one failed to recite this prior blessing, which is a fixed part of the daily liturgy, R. Amram Gaon (cited by Rosh, beginning of Berakhot) requires the recitation of a special benediction, “Blessed are You … who has commanded us concerning the reading of the Shema.”
There is yet a third difference, and that entails a significant insight into the nature of the kavvanah required for reading the Shema. This revolves around the question: How does this kavvanah relate to the kavvanah prescribed for all other positive commandments of the Torah, such as the eating of matzah on Passover or laying the tefillin every weekday?
Ramban declares that there is no substantial difference between them. In all cases, including that of the Shema, one must intend minimally only the readiness to perform a mitzvah. When the Talmud speaks of mitzvot tzerikhot kavvanah, that the act of the mitzvah must be accompanied by kavvanah, it refers exclusively to the awareness that we thereby fulfill an obligation placed upon us by our Creator. Nothing more detailed, specific, or sophisticated is necessary—and that holds true for the Shema as it does for all other commandments of the Torah.
Rashba, however, disagrees and maintains that, unlike other commandments that relate to purely physical acts, the mitzvah of recitation lies somewhere between a mere physical act and one of thinking or mentation. Hence, the kavvanah required for the Shema is that of understanding the meaning of the words one speaks. Intending only to perform an obligatory mitzvah is inadequate in such a case and does not therefore qualify as the minimum kavvanah for the Shema. (Rambam, according to most later authorities, agrees with Rashba, although this interpretation of Rambam is not unanimous.)
Now, according to Ramban, the kavvanah to fulfill an obligation combines with the physical act of articulation; together, the mitzvah has been properly performed. This, however, is confined to the mitzvah of reading the Shema. Not so with regard to the mitzvah of yiḥud Hashem: this is a totally abstract experience, essentially unconnected with any physical act, even that of articulation. (Its relation to the Reading of the Shema is accidental, not essential, as mentioned above.) Hence, there must be kavvanah of the full content of the mitzvah, i.e., the personal and unconditional affirmation of divine unity. Without this particular kavvanah, nothing has been accomplished; there is no physical act involved, and if there is no intention to affirm divine unity, there is nothing at all to qualify as a separate and distinct act. The full kavvanah or meditation of yiḥud Hashem is the equivalent of the act of merely eating the matzah in that Passover-related commandment. Hence, the less demanding kavvanah to fulfill an obligation is utterly insufficient in the case of the mitzvah of yiḥud Hashem—which requires meditation rather than simple intention to perform a mitzvah.
Here then is yet another difference between the commandment to read the Shema and that of the affirmation of divine unity. The former requires no kavvanah as to the content of what is being recited, only the awareness that by this recitation one fulfills a mitzvah. Indeed, the talmudic ruling that be’di’avad, post factum, one has achieved the mitzvah even without kavvanah, means that if we had no intention at all, but simply read the Shema as a matter of habit, we need not repeat the recitation if and when we later realize that we were merely mumbling words without meaning. The case of yiḥud Hashem, however, is totally different. Here neither a generalized intention to fulfill a technical commandment nor an appreciation of the simple meaning of the words recited is adequate. In the absence of a specific awareness of the content of the mitzvah, without a fully conscious affirmation of the unity of God, we have done nothing at all and must repeat the mitzvah in order to perform it properly. (11)
(11) For a more detailed exposition of this theme, see my Halakhot ve’Halikhot, chapter 3.
The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
Thanks to Meir Yona
Nero Adds Four Cities To Agrippas Kingdom; But The Other Parts Of Judea Were Under Felix. The Disturbances Which Were Raised By The Sicarii The Magicians And An Egyptian False Prophet. The Jews And Syrians Have A Contest At Cesarea.
1. Now as to the many things in which Nero acted like a madman, out of the extravagant degree of the felicity and riches which he enjoyed, and by that means used his good fortune to the injury of others; and after what manner he slew his brother, and wife, and mother, from whom his barbarity spread itself to others that were most nearly related to him; and how, at last, he was so distracted that he became an actor in the scenes, and upon the theater,—I omit to say any more about them, because there are writers enough upon those subjects every where; but I shall turn myself to those actions of his time in which the Jews were concerned.
2. Nero therefore bestowed the kingdom of the Lesser Armenia upon Aristobulus, Herod's son, 17 and he added to Agrippa's kingdom four cities, with the toparchies to them belonging; I mean Abila, and that Julias which is in Perea, Tarichea also, and Tiberias of Galilee; but over the rest of Judea he made Felix procurator. This Felix took Eleazar the arch-robber, and many that were with him, alive, when they had ravaged the country for twenty years together, and sent them to Rome; but as to the number of the robbers whom he caused to be crucified, and of those who were caught among them, and whom he brought to punishment, they were a multitude not to be enumerated.
3. When the country was purged of these, there sprang up another sort of robbers in Jerusalem, which were called Sicarii, who slew men in the day time, and in the midst of the city; this they did chiefly at the festivals, when they mingled themselves among the multitude, and concealed daggers under their garments, with which they stabbed those that were their enemies; and when any fell down dead, the murderers became a part of those that had indignation against them; by which means they appeared persons of such reputation, that they could by no means be discovered. The first man who was slain by them was Jonathan the high priest, after whose death many were slain every day, while the fear men were in of being so served was more afflicting than the calamity itself; and while every body expected death every hour, as men do in war, so men were obliged to look before them, and to take notice of their enemies at a great distance; nor, if their friends were coming to them, durst they trust them any longer; but, in the midst of their suspicions and guarding of themselves, they were slain. Such was the celerity of the plotters against them, and so cunning was their contrivance.
4. There was also another body of wicked men gotten together, not so impure in their actions, but more wicked in their intentions, which laid waste the happy state of the city no less than did these murderers. These were such men as deceived and deluded the people under pretense of Divine inspiration, but were for procuring innovations and changes of the government; and these prevailed with the multitude to act like madmen, and went before them into the wilderness, as pretending that God would there show them the signals of liberty. But Felix thought this procedure was to be the beginning of a revolt; so he sent some horsemen and footmen both armed, who destroyed a great number of them.
5. But there was an Egyptian false prophet that did the Jews more mischief than the former; for he was a cheat, and pretended to be a prophet also, and got together thirty thousand men that were deluded by him; these he led round about from the wilderness to the mount which was called the Mount of Olives, and was ready to break into Jerusalem by force from that place; and if he could but once conquer the Roman garrison and the people, he intended to domineer over them by the assistance of those guards of his that were to break into the city with him. But Felix prevented his attempt, and met him with his Roman soldiers, while all the people assisted him in his attack upon them, insomuch that when it came to a battle, the Egyptian ran away, with a few others, while the greatest part of those that were with him were either destroyed or taken alive; but the rest of the multitude were dispersed every one to their own homes, and there concealed themselves.
6. Now when these were quieted, it happened, as it does in a diseased body, that another part was subject to an inflammation; for a company of deceivers and robbers got together, and persuaded the Jews to revolt, and exhorted them to assert their liberty, inflicting death on those that continued in obedience to the Roman government, and saying, that such as willingly chose slavery ought to be forced from such their desired inclinations; for they parted themselves into different bodies, and lay in wait up and down the country, and plundered the houses of the great men, and slew the men themselves, and set the villages on fire; and this till all Judea was filled with the effects of their madness. And thus the flame was every day more and more blown up, till it came to a direct war.
7. There was also another disturbance at Cesarea,—those Jews who were mixed with the Syrians that lived there rising a tumult against them. The Jews pretended that the city was theirs, and said that he who built it was a Jew, meaning king Herod. The Syrians confessed also that its builder was a Jew; but they still said, however, that the city was a Grecian city; for that he who set up statues and temples in it could not design it for Jews. On which account both parties had a contest with one another; and this contest increased so much, that it came at last to arms, and the bolder sort of them marched out to fight; for the elders of the Jews were not able to put a stop to their own people that were disposed to be tumultuous, and the Greeks thought it a shame for them to be overcome by the Jews. Now these Jews exceeded the others in riches and strength of body; but the Grecian part had the advantage of assistance from the soldiery; for the greatest part of the Roman garrison was raised out of Syria; and being thus related to the Syrian part, they were ready to assist it. However, the governors of the city were concerned to keep all quiet, and whenever they caught those that were most for fighting on either side, they punished them with stripes and bands. Yet did not the sufferings of those that were caught affright the remainder, or make them desist; but they were still more and more exasperated, and deeper engaged in the sedition. And as Felix came once into the market-place, and commanded the Jews, when they had beaten the Syrians, to go their ways, and threatened them if they would not, and they would not obey him, he sent his soldiers out upon them, and slew a great many of them, upon which it fell out that what they had was plundered. And as the sedition still continued, he chose out the most eminent men on both sides as ambassadors to Nero, to argue about their several privileges.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
but it terrifies evildoers.
16 The person who strays from the way of common sense
will come to rest in the company of the dead.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The mystery of believing
And he said, Who art Thou, Lord? --- Acts 9:5.
By the miracle of Redemption Saul of Tarsus was turned in one second from a strong-willed, intense Pharisee into a humble, devoted slave of the Lord Jesus.
There is nothing miraculous about the things we can explain. We command what we are able to explain, consequently it is natural to seek to explain. It is not natural to obey; nor is it necessarily sinful to disobey. There is no moral virtue in obedience unless there is a recognition of a higher authority in the one who dictates. It is possibly an emancipation to the other person if he does not obey. If one man says to another—‘You must,’ and ‘You shall,’ he breaks the human spirit and unfits it for God. A man is a slave for obeying unless behind his obedience there is a recognition of a holy God. Many a soul begins to come to God when he flings off being religious, because there is only one Master of the human heart, and that is not religion but Jesus Christ. But woe be to me if when I see Him I say—‘I will not.’ He will never insist that I do, but I have begun to sign the death-warrant of the Son of God in my soul. When I stand face to face with Jesus Christ and say—‘I will not,’ He will never insist; but I am backing away from the re-creating power of His Redemption. It is a matter of indifference to God’s grace how abominable I am if I come to the light; but woe be to me if I refuse the light.
(see John 3:19–21).
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Out of the Hills
Dreams clustering thick on his sallow skull.
Dark as curls, he comes, ambling with his cattle
From the starved pastures. He has shaken from
off his shoulders
The weight of the sky, and the lash of the wind's
Is healing already under the medicinal sun.
Clouds of cattle breath, making the air heady.
Remember the summer's sweetness, the wet road
Blue as a river before him: the legendary town
Dreams of his coming : under the half-closed lids
Of the indolent shops sleep dawdles, emptying the
Tankards of darkness, before the officious light
Bundles it up the chimney out of sight.
The shadow of the mountain dwindles: his scaly
Sloughs its cold care and glitters. The day is his
To dabble a finger in, and, merry as crickets.
A chorus of coins sings in his tattered pockets.
Shall we follow him down, witness his swift
In the indifferent streets : the sudden
Of his soul's hardness, traditional discipline
Of flint and frost thawing in ludicrous showers
Of maudlin laughter : the limpid runnels of speech
Sullied and slurred, as the beer-glass chimes the
No, wait for him here. At midnight he will return.
Threading the tunnel that contains the dawn
Of all his fears. Be then his fingerpost
Homeward. The earth is patient : he is not lost.
Selected poems, 1946-1968
BIBLE TEXT / Genesis 39:7–10 / After a time, his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” But he refused. He said to his master’s wife, “Look, with me here, my master gives no thought to anything in this house, and all that he owns he has placed in my hands. He wields no more authority in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except yourself, since you are his wife. How then could I do this most wicked thing, and sin before God?” And much as she coaxed Joseph day after day, he did not yield to her request to lie beside her, to be with her.
MIDRASH TEXT / Genesis Rabbah 87, 5 / Look … my master. He said to her, “I am afraid. The first man [Adam] violated a minor commandment, which he was commanded, and he was banished from the Garden of Eden; the one [sin] you want to violate is a major sin, sexual immorality, how much more so!” Look … my master. “I am afraid of my father in the land of Canaan. Reuben, about whom it is written ‘Reuben went and lay with Bilhah’ (Genesis 35:22), had his birthright taken away and given to me. If I listen to you my birthright will be given away!” Another interpretation: Look … my master. “I am afraid of my master.” She said to him, “I will kill him.” He said to her, “Isn’t it enough that I would be counted in the assembly of adulterers, that I should be in the assembly of murderers? If this is what you want, ‘Look, my master,’ here he is, go to him (that is, go to the one who is permitted to you, your husband).” Rabbi Yitzḥak said, “The milk of white goats and the milk of black goats are the same.”
CONTEXT / “When Joseph was taken down to Egypt, a certain Egyptian, Potiphar, a courtier of Pharaoh and his chief steward, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him there” (Genesis 39:1). Joseph gained Potiphar’s trust and was put in charge of his entire household. The verse preceding our Bible text tells us that “Joseph was well built and handsome.” This led Potiphar’s wife to desire Joseph, as we read in the Bible text. But what was it that kept Joseph from agreeing to Mrs. Potiphar’s advances? (She has no name in the Bible except “Potiphar’s wife.”) The Rabbis found answers in Joseph’s language. Joseph responds to her with the phrase הֵן אֲדֹנִי/hen adoni, translated as “Look, … my master”. Joseph’s use of the Hebrew word הֵן/hen brings to the Rabbis’ minds the very same word in God’s curse of Adam on exiling him from Eden: “And the Lord God said, ‘Now [הֵן/hen] that the man has become like one of us …’ ” (Genesis 3:22). Thus, the first interpretation imagines Joseph thinking: “The first man, Adam, violated a minor commandment, his disobedience in eating the fruit, which he was commanded, and he was banished from the Garden of Eden, quite a severe punishment. The one you, Potiphar’s wife, want to violate is a major sin, adultery. Just imagine the punishment for this transgression!” When Joseph says “Look, … my master,” the Rabbis imagine him talking not about Potiphar but about God. The image of God as “my Master” is aided by the fact that Adoni, my master, has the same Hebrew letters as Adonai, God’s name.
Another interpretation is given: Look … my master refers not to God but to his father Jacob in the land of Canaan. Reuben, the oldest of Jacob’s sons, “went and lay with Bilhah” and had his birthright taken away and given to Joseph:
While Israel [Jacob] stayed in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah, his father’s concubine; and Israel found out.” (Genesis 35:22)
The Genesis text never actually says that the birthright was taken away from Reuben. The Rabbis, however, know a verse from much later in the Bible:
He [Reuben] was the first-born; but when he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph son of Israel. (1 Chronicles 5:1)
Joseph fears the punishment his father will impose on him, the loss of the birthright, if he commits the sin with Potiphar’s wife.
The Rabbis then present another interpretation: Look … my master. “I am afraid of my master.” In this case, Joseph is afraid of Potiphar, who is literally his master. She, Potiphar’s wife, said, “I will kill him, my husband, Potiphar.” He, Joseph, said to her, “Isn’t it enough that I would be counted in the assembly of adulterers, that I should be in the assembly of murderers? If this is what you want, if you want sexual gratification, ‘Look, my master,’ here he is, go to him. You are permitted to Potiphar; sleep with him.” Some manuscripts add the words “that is, go to the one who is permitted to you, your husband.” It seems that Rabbi Yitzḥak understands Joseph’s suggestion in this way: “The milk of white goats, sexual relations with me, the ‘white’ Hebrew, and the milk of black, relations with your husband, the ‘black’ Egyptian, are the same.” In a very delicate way, the Rabbis touch on an explicitly sexual subject. They understand Joseph as saying, “You want sex, and it doesn’t matter who satisfies you. The milk of the black goat, that is, the semen of an Egyptian, is no different from the milk of a white goat, that is, that of a Hebrew.”
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
--- Matthew 11:28–30.
This familiar passage of Scripture contains one of the most precious among the many precious invitations of our compassionate Redeemer. (John A. Broadus, “Come unto Me,” downloaded from the Web site of Blessed Hope Ministries of Shiloh Church, Gainesville, Georgia, at members.aol.com/blesshope, accessed Aug. 21, 2001.)
The Savior invites to him all “who are weary and burdened.” In this he doubtless referred partly to the burden of ceremonies and observances that the scribes and Pharisees imposed on their followers. Such persons, then, borne down beneath the burden of the ceremonial law, are here invited to the Savior. But he refers likewise to all who are burdened with sin. All such are invited to him, with the promise that he will give them rest from their labor and relief from their load. They wear the galling yoke of sin and Satan, and he bids them take his yoke upon them.
Wearing the yoke of another is an expression often employed in Scripture to denote subjection to that other. The figure is taken, of course, from beasts of burden, being applied then to all who are the laboring servants of a master. Jesus is bidding those who have been the slaves of sin to be his servants; those who have been subject to Satan, to take him, instead, as their King.
He recommends himself not only as King and Master, but as teacher too. The Gospel is frequently and properly represented as something to be learned; people need to be taught the way of salvation. These lessons of salvation must be obtained from the great teacher, Jesus.
And when he says, “I am gentle and humble in heart,” the Savior means that he is fit to be a teacher. In order to win the hearts of pupils, the better to make them love to learn and love what they do learn, a teacher must unite to other qualities a certain gentleness and kindliness. And when our Savior bids people learn from him, he encourages the timid and fearful to come to him by telling them that he is gentle and humble in heart, mild and loving, that he will be kind to them, and they need not fear. He will not be rough and overbearing and arrogant. He is humble and affectionate and kind.
--- John A. Broadus
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Exquisite Cruelty July 18
The sickening crackle of flames attracted the attention of residents near the Circus Maximus in Rome July 18, 64. Trumpets sounded the alarm, but winds whipped the fire into an inferno that spread across the Eternal City, roaring unchecked for a week. Thousands died, and hundreds of thousands became homeless. Rumors circulated that the fire had been started by the emperor himself—26-year-old Nero.
Nero had become emperor ten years before, and almost from the beginning, the teenage emperor had gorged himself with eroticism. He arranged the murders of his mother, wives, rivals, and enemies. At the same time, he won praise for his artistic and athletic pursuits. He began thinking himself a god, though he was actually “a degenerate with swollen paunch, weak and slender limbs, fat face, blotched skin, curly yellow hair, and dull gray eyes.”
The arson rumors began because Nero had been wanting to raze and rebuild large portions of Rome, planning to rename the city for himself. A fire, people assumed, was just what the emperor had ordered. To divert blame, Nero pointed a finger at Christians. Tacitus wrote that the followers of Christ “were put to death with exquisite cruelty, and to their sufferings Nero added mockery and derision. Some were covered with skins of wild beasts, left to be devoured by dogs; others were nailed to crosses; numbers of them were burned alive; many, covered with inflammable matter, were set on fire to serve as torches during the night.” Peter and Paul, according to tradition, were among the martyrs.
But what of the young emperor himself? Four years later he died, too, trembling and terrified in a cold cellar four miles from Rome while hiding from his own army. Trying repeatedly to commit suicide, he faltered and failed until a friend helped him plunge a dagger into his throat.
But within a short time the church in Rome was stronger than ever, and St. Peter’s Cathedral stands today on the very spot where Christians were tortured in Nero’s Circus.
You have faith in God, whose power will protect you until the last day. Then he will save you, just as he has always planned to do. … Your faith will be like gold that has been tested in a fire.
--- 1 Peter 1:5,7a.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - July 18
“They shall go hindmost with their standards.” --- Numbers 2:31.
The camp of Dan brought up the rear when the armies of Israel were on the march. The Danites occupied the hindmost place, but what mattered the position, since they were as truly part of the host as were the foremost tribes; they followed the same fiery cloudy pillar, they ate of the same manna, drank of the same spiritual rock, and journeyed to the same inheritance. Come, my heart, cheer up, though last and least; it is thy privilege to be in the army, and to fare as they fare who lead the van. Some one must be hindmost in honour and esteem, some one must do menial work for Jesus, and why should not I? In a poor village, among an ignorant peasantry; or in a back street, among degraded sinners, I will work on, and “go hindmost with my standard.”
The Danites occupied a very useful place. Stragglers have to be picked up upon the march, and lost property has to be gathered from the field. Fiery spirits may dash forward over untrodden paths to learn fresh truth, and win more souls to Jesus; but some of a more conservative spirit may be well engaged in reminding the church of her ancient faith, and restoring her fainting sons. Every position has its duties, and the slowly moving children of God will find their peculiar state one in which they may be eminently a blessing to the whole host.
The rear guard is a place of danger. There are foes behind us as well as before us. Attacks may come from any quarter. We read that Amalek fell upon Israel, and slew some of the hindmost of them. The experienced Christian will find much work for his weapons in aiding those poor doubting, desponding, wavering, souls, who are hindmost in faith, knowledge, and joy. These must not be left unaided, and therefore be it the business of well-taught saints to bear their standards among the hindmost. My soul, do thou tenderly watch to help the hindmost this day.
Evening - July 18
"Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path." --- Joel 2:8.
Locusts always keep their rank, and although their number is legion, they do not crowd upon each other, so as to throw their columns into confusion. This remarkable fact in natural history shows how thoroughly the Lord has infused the spirit of order into his universe, since the smallest animate creatures are as much controlled by it as are the rolling spheres or the seraphic messengers. It would be wise for believers to be ruled by the same influence in all their spiritual life. In their Christian graces no one virtue should usurp the sphere of another, or eat out the vitals of the rest for its own support. Affection must not smother honesty, courage must not elbow weakness out of the field, modesty must not jostle energy, and patience must not slaughter resolution. So also with our duties, one must not interfere with another; public usefulness must not injure private piety; church work must not push family worship into a corner. It is ill to offer God one duty stained with the blood of another. Each thing is beautiful in its season, but not otherwise. It was to the Pharisee that Jesus said, “This ought ye to have done, and not to have left the other undone.” The same rule applies to our personal position, we must take care to know our place, take it, and keep to it. We must minister as the Spirit has given us ability, and not intrude upon our fellow servant’s domain. Our Lord Jesus taught us not to covet the high places, but to be willing to be the least among the brethren. Far from us be an envious, ambitious spirit, let us feel the force of the Master’s command, and do as he bids us, keeping rank with the rest of the host. To-night let us see whether we are keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace, and let our prayer be that, in all the churches of the Lord Jesus, peace and order may prevail.
Morning and Evening
ALL YOUR ANXIETY
Words and Music by Edward Henry Joy, 1871–1941
Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:14)
Upon the Lord your burden cast,
To Him bring all your care;
He will sustain and hold you fast,
And give thee strength to bear.
Worry, anxiety, and depression have been the subjects of many discourses. The reason, of course, is that these conditions are so common to everyone. Many descriptions of these times have been given:
Worry is nothing more than borrowed trouble.
Worry is unbelief in disguise.
Worry does not relieve tomorrow of its stress—it merely empties today of its strength.
The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.
--- George Mueller
Depression is the Devil’s tool in thwarting the joy of believers and in immobilizing them in the Lord’s service.
You cannot read the book of Psalms without sensing the deep cloud of emotional gloom experienced at times even by King David, this man after God’s own heart. “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” (Psalm 43:5). But David also knew the right answer for these dark times. First, he honestly admitted his feelings to God. Second, he re-established his confidence in God. Third, he determined to praise Him—“I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” This three-stage antidote for despair is still the cure for our emotional anxieties today.
Is there a heart o’er-bound by sorrow? Is there a life weighed down by care? Come to the cross—each burden bearing, all your anxiety—leave it there.
No other friend so keen to help you, no other friend so quick to hear; no other place to leave your burden, no other one to hear your prayer.
Come then at once—delay no longer! Heed His entreaty kind and sweet; you need not fear a disappointment—You shall find peace at the mercy seat.
Chorus: All your anxiety, all your care, bring to the mercy seat—leave it there; never a burden He cannot bear, never a friend like Jesus!
For Today: Psalm 27:5; 37:5; 55:22; 91:1; 138:7; Luke 21:34; 2 Corinthians 1:9, 10; Philippians 4:6.
When anxious moments come your way, remember to do what King David did. When we thank and praise God in everything, anxieties must cease.
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. LXXXIX. — BY these arguments, I presume, the trope-inventing Diatribe, together with its trope, are sufficiently confuted. Let us, however, come to the text itself, for the purpose of seeing, what agreement there is between the text and the trope. For it is the way with all those who elude arguments by means of tropes, to hold the text itself in sovereign contempt, and to aim only, at picking out a certain term, and twisting and crucifying it upon the cross of their own opinion, without paying any regard whatever, either to circumstance, to consequence, to precedence, or to the intention or object of the author. Thus the Diatribe, in this passage, utterly disregarding the intention of Moses and the scope of his words, tears out of the text this term, “I will harden,” and makes of it just what it will, according to its own lust: not at all considering, whether that can be again inserted so as to agree and square with the body of the text. And this is the reason why the Scripture was not sufficiently clear to those most received and most learned men of so many ages. And no wonder, for even the sun itself would not shine, if it should be assailed by such arts as these.
But (to say nothing about that, which I have already proved from the Scriptures, that Pharaoh cannot rightly be said to be hardened, ‘because, being borne with by the long-suffering of God, he was not immediately punished,’ seeing that, he was punished by so many plagues;) if hardening be ‘bearing with divine long-suffering and not immediately punishing;’ what need was there that God should so many times promise that He would then harden the heart of Pharaoh when the signs should be wrought, who now, before those signs were wrought, and before that hardening, was such, that, being inflated with his success, prosperity and wealth, and being borne with by the divine long-suffering and not punished, inflicted so many evils on the children of Israel? You see, therefore, that this trope of yours makes not at all to the purpose in this passage; seeing that, it applies generally unto all, as sinning because they are borne with by the divine long-suffering. And thus, we shall be compelled to say, that all are hardened, seeing that, there is no one who does not sin; and that, no one sins, but he who is borne with by the divine long-suffering. Wherefore, this hardening of Pharaoh, is another hardening, independent of that general hardening as produced by the long-suffering of the divine goodness.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library