Bless the LORD, O My SoulPsalm 103 Of David
1 Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
6 The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
8 The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.
15 As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
19 The LORD has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Bless the LORD, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the LORD, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the LORD, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD My God, You Are Very Great
Psalm 104 1 Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
2 covering yourself with light as with a garment,
stretching out the heavens like a tent.
3 He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters;
he makes the clouds his chariot;
he rides on the wings of the wind;
4 he makes his messengers winds,
his ministers a flaming fire.
5 He set the earth on its foundations,
so that it should never be moved.
6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
7 At your rebuke they fled;
at the sound of your thunder they took to flight.
8 The mountains rose, the valleys sank down
to the place that you appointed for them.
9 You set a boundary that they may not pass,
so that they might not again cover the earth.
10 You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
they flow between the hills;
11 they give drink to every beast of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell;
they sing among the branches.
13 From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
14 You cause the grass to grow for the livestock
and plants for man to cultivate,
that he may bring forth food from the earth
15 and wine to gladden the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine
and bread to strengthen man’s heart.
16 The trees of the LORD are watered abundantly,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
17 In them the birds build their nests;
the stork has her home in the fir trees.
18 The high mountains are for the wild goats;
the rocks are a refuge for the rock badgers.
19 He made the moon to mark the seasons;
the sun knows its time for setting.
20 You make darkness, and it is night,
when all the beasts of the forest creep about.
21 The young lions roar for their prey,
seeking their food from God.
22 When the sun rises, they steal away
and lie down in their dens.
23 Man goes out to his work
and to his labor until the evening.
24 O LORD, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom have you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
25 Here is the sea, great and wide,
which teems with creatures innumerable,
living things both small and great.
26 There go the ships,
and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.
27 These all look to you,
to give them their food in due season.
28 When you give it to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
2. Because every creature depends purely upon the will of God. They depend not upon themselves, but upon another for their being. As they received their being from the word of his mouth and the arm of his power, so by the same word they can be cancelled into nothing, and return into as little significancy as when they were nothing. He that created them by a word, can by a word destroy them: if God should “take away their breath, they die, and return mto their dust” (Psalm 104:29). As it was in the power of the Creator that things might be, before they actually were, so it is in the power of the Creator that things after they are may cease to be what they are; and they are, in their own nature, as reducible to nothing as they were producible by the power of God from nothing; for there needs no more than an act of God's will to null them, as there needed only an act of God’s will to make them. Creatures are all subject to a higher cause: they are all reputed as nothing. “He doth according to his will in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What dost thou?” (Dan. 4:35.) But God is unchangeable, because he is the highest good; none above him, all below him; all dependent on him; himself upon none. The Existence and Attributes of God
and return to their dust.
30 When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.
31 May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD rejoice in his works,
32 who looks on the earth and it trembles,
who touches the mountains and they smoke!
33 I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
for I rejoice in the LORD.
35 Let sinners be consumed from the earth,
and let the wicked be no more!
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
Praise the LORD!
Tell of All His Wondrous Works
Psalm 105 1 Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
2 Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
3 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!
4 Seek the LORD and his strength;
seek his presence continually!
5 Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,
6 O offspring of Abraham, his servant,
children of Jacob, his chosen ones!
7 He is the LORD our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.
8 He remembers his covenant forever,
the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
9 the covenant that he made with Abraham,
his sworn promise to Isaac,
10 which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant,
11 saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan
as your portion for an inheritance.”
12 When they were few in number,
of little account, and sojourners in it,
13 wandering from nation to nation,
from one kingdom to another people,
14 he allowed no one to oppress them;
he rebuked kings on their account,
15 saying, “Touch not my anointed ones,
do my prophets no harm!”
16 When he summoned a famine on the land
and broke all supply of bread,
17 he had sent a man ahead of them,
Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
18 His feet were hurt with fetters;
his neck was put in a collar of iron;
19 until what he had said came to pass,
the word of the LORD tested him.
20 The king sent and released him;
the ruler of the peoples set him free;
21 he made him lord of his house
and ruler of all his possessions,
22 to bind his princes at his pleasure
and to teach his elders wisdom.
23 Then Israel came to Egypt;
Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham.
24 And the LORD made his people very fruitful
and made them stronger than their foes.
25 He turned their hearts to hate his people,
to deal craftily with his servants.
26 He sent Moses, his servant,
and Aaron, whom he had chosen.
27 They performed his signs among them
and miracles in the land of Ham.
28 He sent darkness, and made the land dark;
they did not rebel against his words.
29 He turned their waters into blood
and caused their fish to die.
30 Their land swarmed with frogs,
even in the chambers of their kings.
31 He spoke, and there came swarms of flies,
and gnats throughout their country.
32 He gave them hail for rain,
and fiery lightning bolts through their land.
33 He struck down their vines and fig trees,
and shattered the trees of their country.
34 He spoke, and the locusts came,
young locusts without number,
35 which devoured all the vegetation in their land
and ate up the fruit of their ground.
36 He struck down all the firstborn in their land,
the firstfruits of all their strength.
37 Then he brought out Israel with silver and gold,
and there was none among his tribes who stumbled.
38 Egypt was glad when they departed,
for dread of them had fallen upon it.
39 He spread a cloud for a covering,
and fire to give light by night.
40 They asked, and he brought quail,
and gave them bread from heaven in abundance.
41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out;
it flowed through the desert like a river.
42 For he remembered his holy promise,
and Abraham, his servant.
43 So he brought his people out with joy,
his chosen ones with singing.
44 And he gave them the lands of the nations,
and they took possession of the fruit of the peoples’ toil,
45 that they might keep his statutes
and observe his laws.
Praise the LORD!
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
When to Stop, When to Go, When to Slow Down
By R.C. Sproul 7/1/2010
The college I attended was situated in a small western Pennsylvania town in an area heavily populated by one of the largest gatherings of Amish people found in the United States. The Amish are a delightful group totally committed to separation from this world. They go out of their way to avoid any social mixing with the non-Amish, or the “Gentiles,” who are present among them. They are easy to discern, as the clothing they wear is a clearly defined uniform, commonly consisting of blue denim. The men wear beards. Their clothes are never adorned with buttons but are gathered together with hooks and eyes.
The Amish make their way about the area in horse-drawn buggies. They studiously avoid the use of any modern devices and conveniences, such as cars, tractors, electricity, or running water. An Amish house can easily be identified by the presence of sheets hanging over the windows rather than the more ornate curtains that would indicate the home of somebody more worldly.
In any case, the entire system of Amish religion is dedicated to a kind of separatism that sees the use of modern conveniences such as electricity and gasoline operated engines as a descent into worldliness. The lifestyle of the Amish is driven in large measure by an ethical commitment that regards such separation as necessary for spiritual development.
The rest of the Christian community regards the use of buttons, electricity, and gasoline as a matter of moral or ethical indifference. That is, there is no inherent or intrinsic ethical content with respect to the use of the gasoline engine. To be sure, the use of the gasoline engine may be the occasion of sin if we use our cars in an ungodly manner, risking people’s lives and limbs by reckless speeding, for example. Yet the very existence of an automobile and its function in society has no intrinsic, ethical content. We regard automobiles, electricity, or telephones as matters that are adiaphora — things that are morally or ethically indifferent.
The concept of adiaphora was developed in the New Testament when the apostle Paul had to address emerging ethical concerns in the nascent Christian community. Christians coming out of a background of idolatry were particularly sensitive to issues such as whether it was appropriate to eat meat that had been offered to idols. After using such meat in their godless religious ceremonies, the pagans sold it in the market place. Some early Christians were convinced that such meat was tainted by its very use in pagan religion, so they went to great lengths to avoid it, thinking, according to their scruples for godliness, it was necessary to have no connection with such meat. Paul pointed out that the meat itself was not inherently good or evil, so the eating of meat offered to idols was a matter of ethical indifference. Yet at the same time, the apostle gave significant instructions as to how the Christian community is to relate to those people who develop scruples about certain behaviors that are not by nature ethically charged.
This problem that faced the early church persists in every Christian generation. Though we don’t struggle with the question of eating meat offered to idols today, we have other issues that touch upon the question of adiaphora. American fundamentalism, for example, has elevated adiaphora to a matter of major concern. In some areas of the church and of the Christian community, questions of watching television, going to movies, wearing makeup, dancing, and the like are considered matters of spiritual discernment. That is to say, people are instructed that true spirituality necessitates the avoidance of dancing and going to the movies, as well as other matters of this sort.
The problem with this particular approach to ethics is that these elements, on which the Bible is silent, become ethical matters of the highest consideration for some Christians. In a word, the adiaphora become elevated to the status of law, and people’s consciences become bound where God has left them free. Here a form of legalism emerges that is on a collision course with the biblical principal of Christian liberty. Even more important is that a substitute morality replaces the true ethical criteria that the Bible prescribes for godly people.
Although on the surface it seems rigid and severe to define spirituality as involving the avoidance of dancing, wearing makeup, and going to movies, in reality it vastly oversimplifies the call to godliness that the Bible gives to Christian people. It is much easier for someone to avoid going to movies, for example, than it is to manifest the fruit of the Spirit. True godliness concerns much weightier matters than superficial ways of distinguishing ourselves from our unbelieving neighbors.
At the same time, when these adiaphorous matters are elevated into the status of law, and people become convinced that God requires them to follow a certain path, the Bible gives instructions on how we are to be sensitive to them. It is not a matter of Christian liberty to bash or to ridicule those who have these scruples. We are called to be sensitive to them. We are not to offend unnecessarily those referred to in the Bible as weaker brothers. On the other hand, sensitivity to the weaker brother stops at the point where he elevates his sensitivity to become the law or defining rule of Christian behavior.
In every age and in every culture, discerning the difference between that which God requires and prohibits for His people, and that which is indifferent, requires a significant knowledge of sacred Scripture, as well as an earnest desire to be obedient to the Lord. There is enough in principle to keep us busily engaged in the pursuit of godliness and obedience without adding to it matters that are ethically indifferent.
How this issue applies to the big question of Christian worship is no small matter. But wrestle through it we must if we are to remain obedient to the living God and receive what He offers as the church worships Him — a taste of heaven.
- 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)
Right Now Counts Forever
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 7/1/2010
It was Augustine who argued that every sin is a failure to love ordinately. Sin is the result of either loving something more than we ought or the result of loving something less than we ought. We are to love, in order. Eve, for instance, found the fruit pleasing to the eye and desirable to make one wise. Nothing wrong there. She would have had to be blind to miss it. But she loved that fruit more than she should have, and she loved the law of God less than she should have. Our temptation, because we are the children of our parents who fell into sin, is often to defend our sin on the basis that it is grounded in love. That we steal our neighbor’s reputation because we “love truth” is one form of love justifying a multitude of sins. That we steal our neighbor’s wife because we “love her” is another attempt to defend sin. To love ordinately is to love as God loves, in due measure. It is to love what we love as we ought to love it.
This sin operates in both directions. All of us fail to love the Lord as we ought. We are commanded to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. We are commanded to have no other gods before Him. He is to be our singular holy passion, and every other passion ought only to serve this one passion. We fail, however, not only in loving too little, but in loving too much. The love of money, for instance, is the root of all kinds of evil. We should not be surprised to discover that these two kinds of failure to love ordinately, sins of omission and commission, are often tightly related. That is, we love one thing too lightly because we love the other thing too heavily, and vice versa.
Jesus makes much the same point when He commands us to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). He gives us this command right after encouraging us to cease from our worries over things of little import. He reminds us that we ought not to be anxious about what we will eat, what we will drink, or what we will wear. Then He commands that we focus our minds on that which truly matters.
This does not mean, of course, that food, drink, or clothing is sinful. Jesus is no gnostic, suggesting that salvation means escaping the dirty, grubby, earthly things for the ethereal, spiritual, heavenly things. In the same chapter, after all, He commanded that we should pray to our Father in heaven for the provision of our daily bread. Our food is, in itself, adiaphora. Our drink is adiaphora. This is why Paul later commands us not to judge one another on these matters (Rom. 14:13). We fall into sin, however, when our love for these things, which are in themselves adiaphora, becomes misguided.
Jesus’ wisdom here in the Sermon on the Mount, however, isn’t to unduly separate food or drink from the kingdom. Having told us not to worry about these things — having warned us against the folly of the Gentiles who lust after these things, as He prepares to give us a more kingdomminded perspective, calling us to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness — He reminds us that our Father knows that we need these things. And He promises in the end that as we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, all these things will be added unto us.
Our calling, then, is neither to obsess about these things nor to look down our noses at them. Instead, we are called to give thanks to our Father in heaven for every good gift. We must never allow our passion for the gift to obscure our view of the Giver. Instead, we should look through every good gift to see and to praise the Giver.
This is our Father’s world. While His law may give us liberty, we are never free not to give thanks. While God does not see vanilla ice cream as sin and strawberry as righteousness, He does require that we thank Him, that we remember with joy that He is our Father who gives us these things. Indeed, both the kingdom we are called to seek and the righteousness we are called to seek are built from our gratitude. Remember, again, that He rules over all things. His kingdom is not only forever, it is everywhere. What distinguishes us from the world isn’t that He reigns over us but not them. Instead, it is that we are grateful for His reign while they bristle under it.
The ordinary things of this world — the mundane — are not mere artifacts of culture. They are not merely the tools of the natural realm. They are instead precious gifts from our heavenly Father. They are given to us for His glory. And our gratitude will redound for eternity. Everything, adiaphora or not, connects with our Father above. Nothing is merely human. How we handle His gifts therefore matters. That is why we would be wise to remember that right now counts forever.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books
- 1 Biblical Economics: A Commonsense Guide to Our Daily Bread
- 2 When You Rise Up: A Covenantal Approach to Homeschooling
- 3 Almighty over All: Understanding the Sovereignty of God
- 4 Biblical Economics: A Complete Study Course
- 5 Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching
- 6 The Potter's Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation and the Rebuttal of Norman Geisler's Chosen But Free
- 7 The View from a Hearse
- 8 What's In the Bible: A Tour of Scripture from the Dust of Creation to the Glory of Revelation
- 9 Economics for Everybody Study Guide
- 10 The Call to Wonder: Loving God Like a Child
- 11 Believing God: Twelve Biblical Promises Christians Struggle to Accept
- 12 Biblical Economics: A Commonsense Guide to Our Daily Bread
- 13 Made For His Pleasure: Ten Benchmarks of a Vital Faith
- 14 Almighty over All: Understanding the Sovereignty of God by R. C. Sproul Jr. (1999-03-01)
- 15 One Holy Passion: The Consuming Thirst to Know God
- 16 Biblical Economics: A Commonsense Guide To Our Daily Bread
- 17 Made For His Pleasure: Ten Benchmarks of a Vital Faith
- 18 Almighty over All: Understanding the Sovereignty of God by R. C. Sproul Jr. (1999-03-01)
- 19 One Holy Passion: The Consuming Thirst to Know God
- 20 Biblical Economics: A Commonsense Guide To Our Daily Bread
- 21 The Inerrant Word: Biblical, Historical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspectives
- 22 Holy, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God
- 23 Tearing Down Strongholds: And Defending the Truth
- 24 Bound for Glory: A Practical Handbook For Raising a Victorious Family
- 25 After Darkness, Light: Distinctives of Reformed Theology: Essays in Honor of R. C. Sproul
- 26 Pulpit Aflame
- 27 Eternity in Our Hearts
- 28 Thinking. Loving. Doing.: A Call to Glorify God with Heart and Mind
- 29 Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas
- 30 Almighty over All: Understanding the Sovereignty of God
- 31 Believing God: Twelve Biblical Promises Christians Struggle to Accept by R.C. Sproul Jr. (2009-02-26)
- 32 Covered or Uncovered: How 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 Applies to Worship and Leadership in the Church
- 33 Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology
- 34 R.C. Sproul, Thabiti Anyabwile ,Alistair Begg , D.A. Carson,Sinclair B. Ferguson W. Robert Godfrey,Steven J. Lawson,R.C. Sproul Jr.,Derek W.H. Thomas'sHoly, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God [Hardcover](2010)
- 35 Biblical Economics Study Guide
Tevje Needed to Know
By Joel Belz 7/1/2010
An eery discomfort links the two famous questions.
Tevje, in Fiddler on the Roof, bluntly asks his wife: “Do you love me?”
How can it not remind you of Jesus, in John 21, using the very same words to put Peter on the spot: “Do you love me?”
It’s easy to identify with both Tevje’s wife Golde and with Peter. Golde memorably — and self-righteously — responds: “For twentyfive years I’ve washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house, given you children, milked the cow. After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?”
Peter also wants to dodge what seems to be an overly intrusive question. He stalls and bounces the ball back to Jesus. “Lord, you know I do,” he says, joining Golde in clever avoidance mode.
What links the two contexts is the call to go beyond the external structure of things and to probe deeply, getting intensely personal. Apart from all appearances, both Tevje and Jesus are asking, what’s going on in your heart? Jesus, we should note for the record, had considerably more standing to ask such a question than Tevje did.
All of us need to keep hearing Jesus asking His penetrating question. Especially those of us who have been blessed to grow up and spend most of our lives in a secure setting of sound theology, sound doctrine, sound preaching, sound teaching, and sound worldview need to hear Jesus asking us: “Apart from all that, do you love Me?”
I’ve spent my whole life in publishing and educational enterprises committed to developing and propagating the truth that, as Abraham Kuyper observed, every square inch of reality belongs to the Lord our God. For almost seventy years now, that has been a robust and invigorating basis for living life to the fullest.
But it also has the potential to prompt me to avoid Jesus’s great question. For I must report to you that it is altogether possible to be consumed with such “truthfulness” for a lifetime and still walk on the margins of that more personal love for Jesus that He intends His children to have. It is not just possible, but common, to have a God-centered worldview and still not be personally absorbed with the God who is at the focus of that view.
Too easily, we can substitute an idea for a person. Too easily, we can get more excited about a systematic theology than we do about the God at the core of that theology. Too easily, we can spend more time articulating the logic of our biblical worldview than we do talking to and adoring the person at the core of that worldview. Too easily, we can come to identify all those things — and they’re all very good things — with the essence of our relationship to our Lord. But it does not overstate the case to say that when we’re more consumed with ideas about God than we are with God Himself, we’ve headed down a dangerous path toward idolatry. We’ve started worshiping a false God.
This is precisely where the picture of marriage — and the hints from Fiddler — are so apt. Just as the answer for Golde wasn’t to quit milking the cows and doing the laundry, the answer for us is never in forfeiting the externals or in discarding all those true abstractions we’ve been blessed to know about our great God. The answer is not in becoming pietists who disdain God’s creation and know-nothings who scorn sound thinking.
The answer instead is the perpetual reminder that any successful relationship between a man and a woman depends on that mystical balance between romance on the one hand and mundane action on the other. The man is a dolt who supposes he need do nothing more than bring home a paycheck and faithfully take out the garbage on Wednesday mornings. And the woman who never kisses her husband unexpectedly behind the ear should fully expect that he is muttering under his breath, “Do you love me?”
All this is not a forced illustration. It was God Himself who invented the idea that marriage is a picture of His own relationship to us. And it’s a two-way picture; what we learn on either side helps us understand the other that much better.
Do you love me? Tevje needed to know. I have a hunch that Golde, after those twenty-five years, must have had the same question. Almost all of us can identify with both of them.
Jesus already knew the answer that was in Peter’s heart. But even Jesus wanted to hear Peter say it. And no matter how busy we’ve been in His kingdom, or how consumed we’ve been with knowing or teaching His truth, He wants to hear us say it as well.
By Keith Mathison 7/1/2010
One of the most interesting stories ever published was a novella called The Wreck of the Titan: Or, Futility, or Futility by Morgan Robertson. Robertson tells the story of the sinking of a large luxury liner named the Titan. The Titan in Robertson’s book was the largest ship in existence at the time: over eight hundred feet in length with a passenger and crew capacity of three thousand. It had numerous watertight bulkheads and was considered unsinkable. It carried the minimum number of lifeboats required by law, but far short of the number needed for three thousand people. While carrying many wealthy passengers across the North Atlantic on a cold April night, the Titan struck an iceberg at 24 knots just before midnight about ninety-five miles south of Greenland. The iceberg tore a gash in the ship’s starboard side, which flooded the watertight compartments. The unsinkable ship sank. Because the Titan did not have enough lifeboats, more than half of her passengers died in the icy waters.
We’ve all read books or watched films that claim to be “based on actual events.” Those who are familiar with the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912, would naturally assume that Robertson’s book was a fictional account based on these actual events. The numerous similarities are just too striking. The problem is that Robertson’s book was published in 1898, fourteen years before the “unsinkable” Titanic sank in the icy waters of the North Atlantic with too few lifeboats.
I’ve been interested in so-called coincidences since I was a child. In fact, my first research paper of any substance during high school was on the subject of coincidences. I recently ran across this old paper, which I wrote before I was a Christian. After giving examples of some of the more remarkable coincidences to be found in the annals of history and looking at some of the different theories that have been suggested as explanations for these phenomena, I concluded that perhaps coincidences were somebody’s way of trying to tell us something. I also added at the time that if this someone or something were trying to tell us something, there were probably better ways to do so. It wasn’t too long after writing those words that I read the Bible for the first time.
Some of the events that skeptics would attribute to chance or coincidence are examples of God answering our prayers. I have experienced these in my own life. As an example, the week I began seminary studies, I did not have enough money to take a full course load, which meant that my new wife and I could not stay in the seminary housing. The only person I had talked to about this was the housing director. I stayed up all night praying. The following day I went to buy a loaf of bread (I didn’t know what else to do, but I knew we had to eat). When I returned, the phone rang the very moment I opened the door. I picked it up and discovered that a fellow first-year seminary student was on the line, a student I did not even know. He had heard of my situation and had paid the remainder of my tuition, enabling my wife and me to stay in the student housing and begin seminary studies. A skeptic would say the timing of the phone call was a mere coincidence, pure chance, nothing more, nothing less. No, in reality, it was God’s dramatic answer to my prayer.
Even Tabletalk has been involved in “coincidences.” Our daily Bible study for September 11, 2001, covered the text of Judges 9:42–49. This text tells the story of the deaths of a thousand people who perished in the tower of Shechem when it was burned by Abimelech. The study was written months before the events of September 11, 2001, but it had particular resonance to those who read it on that tragic day. Such stories could be multiplied hundreds of times over. Most people can share similar stories of coincidence. Atheists and other skeptics relegate these kinds of events to pure chance, but Christians do not believe in chance. We believe in a sovereign God who providentially controls all things. So what’s going on?
Scripture explicitly teaches us that things we might attribute to mere chance are actually controlled by our sovereign God. The entire book of Esther is an example of God’s providence working through seeming coincidences. Proverbs informs us that “the lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (16:33). God, then, is in control even of things as simple as the “roll of the dice.” As the Westminster Confession explains: “God, the great Creator of all things, doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least” (5.1).
So-called coincidences appear to be striking glimpses of God’s providence in our day-to-day world. We know and confess that all of life is under God’s providential control, but we tend to forget this in the humdrum regularity of our lives. So-called coincidences are a splash of water in the face, as it were, to us and to others who can tend to forget that our world is not simply matter in motion. God is always trying to tell us something. We just don’t listen very well.
- 1 Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope
- 2 The Shape of Sola Scriptura
- 3 Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper
- 4 From Age to Age: The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology
- 5 Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God?
- 6 A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture
- 7 Not a Chance: God, Science, and the Revolt against Reason
- 8 When Shall These Things Be?: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism
The Fine Line
By Nicholas Batzig 7/1/2010
Every Christian is to have a conscience singularly informed by the Word of God, but it is utterly indispensable for the minister of the gospel. Ministers are called to take a stand for truth before those who oppose the Word of God in the world; but they also face the unique challenge of taking a stand for truth before those who oppose biblical teaching within the church. In a day of widespread individualism, heightened biblical illiteracy, and diminishing respect for gospel ministry, ministers are faced with the daunting task of taking a firm but loving stand in matters of faith and practice.
The fiercest opposition in the church frequently arises from those whose consciences have been least informed by the Word of God. Often well meaning in their sentiments, such individuals unintentionally cause much harm to the work of the church. Such opposition is amplified in an atmosphere where the Word of God is taught with authority and precision. While similar challenges surface in all genuine gospel ministries, they are more likely to arise in new or smaller churches. In a small church, there is more opportunity to express opinions. In a church plant, opinions are more regularly asked for and welcomed. Individuals who are hesitant to voice discontentment in larger and more established churches sometimes assume that their voices will be heard in smaller settings. What are ministers to do when confronted with such challenges? How are they to deal with complaints that stem from the weak consciences of parishioners in matters of faith and life? What steps can be taken to protect a new church from suffering the irreparable damage of being ruled by the consciences of weaker parishioners?
Ministers first must have their own consciences deeply informed by the Word of God. The word conscience means “with knowledge.” It is crucial for gospel ministers to know and be convinced of what the Scriptures teach. God has revealed in Scripture everything He wants the church to believe and practice. Ministers must search the Scriptures carefully to know what doctrines and practices are taught therein (see 2 Tim. 3:16).
Prayer is equally important when the doctrines and worship of the church are at stake. Being convinced of what God requires in His Word will enable the minister to pray more effectively (for example, see 2 Kings 19:14—19). The Lord has promised to hear His people and to answer them when they pray according to His will.
In addition to searching the Scriptures and bringing difficulties to God in prayer, ministers should be familiar with the doctrines and practices that have been taught throughout church history. Historic creeds and confessions are invaluable resources for discovering the formulations of any given doctrine. The old Reformed confessions are especially useful. They contain the fullest expression of doctrinal truths the Protestant churches have articulated. These resources, while not infallible, are nevertheless beneficial to the degree that they inform us of what our forefathers believed the Scriptures taught in matters of faith and worship.
One of the greatest privileges a minister has is to be part of a session. God has provided a plurality of elders for the oversight of the body of Christ. In this way, the Lord ensures that the pastor is not alone. When confronted with opposition to a particular doctrine or practice, the minister has the benefit of bringing the matter before the session of the church. The wisdom of Proverbs 11:14 is shown in the session: “In an abundance of counselors there is safety.” At times, a minister may need to seek counsel outside of the session. He will find that surrounding himself with wise and godly counsel is an enormous benefit for determining the right course of action.
Finally, officers of the church must carry out their oversight in love. It is far too easy for men to take a firm stand in an insensitive manner. Remember the words of the apostle Paul, “Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?” (1 Cor. 4:21). Paul dealt with every conceivable challenge a minister may face today; in fact, it is safe to say that he had them to a greater extent. While he was unmovable in his resolve and firm in his teaching, he was loving and gentle in his response. Every biblical teaching and practice must be firmly enforced, but it must be done in love for the wellbeing of the people of God.
There is a fine line between God-given authority and authoritarianism. The former is absolutely necessary for the growth and development of the people of God. The latter is destructive to the same. As is true of the husband’s role in marriage, ministers can abuse their God-given authority by lording it over those He has entrusted to their care.
There is no more pressing need for the church at present than for her ministers to take a firm but loving stand in matters of faith and worship. The Lord Jesus Christ will help His servants as they resolve to faithfully minister the whole counsel God.
Judges 2; Acts 6; Jeremiah 15; Mark 1
By Don Carson 7/19/2018
From a reading of Judges 1-2, it appears that after the initial Israelite victories, the pace of conquest varied considerably. In many cases tribes were responsible for bringing their own territories under control. With the passage of time, however, it seems to have become unstated policy, as the Israelites grew stronger, not to chase the Canaanites from the land, nor to exterminate them, but to subjugate them or even enslave them, to make them “drawers of water and hewers of wood,” to subject them to forced labor (Judg. 1:28).
The inevitable result is that a great deal of paganism remained in the land. Human nature being what it is, these false gods inevitably became a “snare” to the covenant community (Judg. 2:3). Angry with their refusal to break down the pagan altars, the angel of the Lord declares that if the people will not do what they are told, he will no longer provide them with the decisive help that would have enabled them to complete the task (had they been willing!). The people weep over the lost opportunity, but it is too late (Judg. 2:1-4). It is certainly not that they had never been warned.
This is the background to the rest of the book of Judges. Some of its main themes are then outlined for us in the rest of chapter 2. Much of the rest of the book is exemplification of the thinking laid out here.
The main thrust, shot through with tragedy, is the cyclical failure of the covenant community, and how God intervenes to rescue them again and again. Initially, the people remained faithful throughout Joshua’s lifetime and the lifetime of the elders who outlived him (Judg. 2:6). But by the time that an entirely new generation had grown up — one that had seen nothing of the wonders God had performed, whether at the Exodus, during the wilderness years, or at the time of the entrance into the Promised Land — fidelity to the Lord dwindled away. Syncretism and paganism abounded; the people forsook the God of their fathers and served the Baals, i.e., the various “lords” of the Canaanites (Judg. 2:10-12). The Lord responded in wrath; the people were subjected to raids, reversals, and military defeats at the hands of surrounding marauders. When the people cried to the Lord for help, he raised up a judge — a regional and often national leader — who freed the people from tyranny and led them in covenantal faithfulness. And then the cycle began again. And again. And again.
Here is a sober lesson. Even after times of spectacular revival, reformation, or covenantal renewal, the people of God are never more than a generation or two from infidelity, unbelief, massive idolatry, disobedience, and wrath. God help us.
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 77In the Day of Trouble I Seek the Lord
77 To The Choirmaster: According To Jeduthun. A Psalm Of Asaph.
1 I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, and he will hear me.
2 In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
3 When I remember God, I moan;
when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah
4 You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
5 I consider the days of old,
the years long ago.
6 I said, “Let me remember my song in the night;
let me meditate in my heart.”
Then my spirit made a diligent search:
7 “Will the Lord spurn forever,
and never again be favorable?
8 Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
OF THE FIVE SACRAMENTS, FALSELY SO CALLED. THEIR SPURIOUSNESS PROVED, AND THEIR TRUE CHARACTER EXPLAINED.
There are two divisions of this chapter,--I. A general discussion of these five sacraments, sec. 1-3. II. A special consideration of each. 1. Of Confirmation, sec. 4-13. 2. Of Penance, sec. 14-17. 3. Of Extreme Unction, sec. 18-21. 4. Of Order, in which the seven so-called sacraments have originated, sec. 22-23. 5. Of Marriage, sec. 34-37.
1. Connection of the present discussion with that concerning Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Impiety of the popish teachers in attributing more to human rites than to the ordinances of God.
2. Men cannot institute sacraments. Necessary to keep up a distinction between sacraments and other ceremonies.
3. Seven sacraments not to be found in ecclesiastical writers. Augustine, who may represent all the others, acknowledged two sacraments only.
4. Nature of confirmation in ancient times. The laying on of hands.
5. This kind of confirmation afterwards introduced. It is falsely called a sacrament.
6. Popish argument for confirmation answered.
7. Argument confirmed by the example of Christ. Absurdity and impiety of Papists in calling their oil the oil of salvation.
8. Papistical argument, that Baptism cannot be complete without Confirmation. Answered.
9. Argument, that without confirmation we cannot be fully Christians. Answer.
10. Argument, that the Unction in confirmation is more excellent than Baptism. Answer.
11. Answer continued. Argument, that confirmation has greater virtue.
12. Argument from the practice of antiquity. Augustine's view of confirmation.
13. The ancient confirmation very praiseworthy. Should be restored in churches in the present day.
14. Of Penitence. Confused and absurd language of the Popish doctors. Imposition of hands in ancient times. This made by the Papists a kind of foundation of the sacrament of Penance.
15. Disagreement among Papists themselves, as to the grounds on which penance is regarded as a sacrament.
16. More plausibility in calling the absolution of the priest, than in calling penance a sacrament.
17. Penance not truly a sacrament. Baptism the sacrament of penitence.
18. Extreme Unction described. No foundation for it in the words of James.
19. No better ground for making this unction a sacrament, than any of the other symbols mentioned in Scripture.
20. Insult offered by this unction to the Holy Spirit. It cannot be a sacrament, as it was not instituted by Christ, and has no promise annexed to it.
21. No correspondence between the unction enjoined by James and the anointing of the Papists.
22. Of ecclesiastical orders. Two points for discussion. Absurdities here introduced. Whether ecclesiastical order is a sacrament. Papists not agreed as to holy orders.
23. Insult to Christ in attempting to make him their colleague.
24. The greater part of these orders empty names implying no certain office. Popish exorcists.
25. Absurdity of the tonsure.
26. The Judaizing nature of the tonsure. Why Paul shaved his head in consequence of a vow.
27. Origin of this clerical tonsure as given by Augustine. Absurd ceremonies in consecrating Doorkeepers, Readers, Exorcists, and Acolytes.
28. Of the higher class of orders called Holy Orders. Insult offered to Christ when ministers are regarded as priests. Holy orders have nothing of the nature of a sacrament.
29. Absurd imitation of our Saviour in breathing on his apostles.
30. Absurdity of the anointing employed.
31. Imposition of hands. Absurdity of, in Papistical ordination.
32. Ordination of deacons. Absurd forms of Papists.
33. Of sub-deacons.
34. Marriage not a sacrament.
35. Nothing in Scripture to countenance the idea that marriage is a sacrament.
36. Origin of the notion that marriage is a sacrament.
37. Practical abuses from this erroneous idea of marriage. Conclusion.
1. The above discourse concerning the sacraments might have the effect, among the docile and sober-minded, of preventing them from indulging their curiosity, or from embracing, without authority from the word, any other sacraments than those two, which they know to have been instituted by the Lord. But since the idea of seven sacraments, almost common in the mouths of all, and circulated in all schools and sermons, by mere antiquity, has struck its roots. and is even now seated in the minds of men, I thought it might be worth while to give a separate and closer consideration of the other five, which are vulgarly classed with the true and genuine sacraments of the Lord, and, after wiping away every gloss, to hold them up to the view of the simple, that they may see what their true nature is, and how falsely they have hitherto been regarded as sacraments. Here, at the outset, I would declare to all the pious, that I engage not in this dispute about a word for love of wrangling, but am induced, by weighty causes, to impugn the abuse of it. I am not unaware that Christians are the masters of words, as they are of all things, and that, therefore, they may at pleasure adapt words to things, provided a pious meaning is retained, though there should be some impropriety in the mode of expression. All this I concede, though it were better to make words subordinate to things than things to words. But in the name of sacrament, the case is different. For those who set down seven sacraments, at the same time give this definition to all--viz. that they are visible forms of invisible grace; and at the same time, make them all vehicles of the Holy Spirit, instruments for conferring righteousness, causes of procuring grace. Accordingly, the Master of Sentences himself denies that the sacraments of the Mosaic Law are properly called by this name, because they exhibited not what they figured. Is it tolerable, I ask, that the symbols which the Lord has consecrated with his own lips, which he has distinguished by excellent promises, should be regarded as no sacraments, and that, meanwhile, this honour should be transferred to those rites which men have either devised of themselves, or at least observe without any express command from God? Therefore, let them either change the definition, or refrain from this use of the word, which may afterwards give rise to false and absurd opinions. Extreme unction, they say, is a figure and cause of invisible grace, because it is a sacrament. If we cannot possibly admit the inference, we must certainly meet them on the subject of the name, that we may not receive it on terms which may furnish occasion for such an error. On the other hand, when they prove it to be a sacrament, they add the reason, because it consists of the external sign and the word. If we find neither command nor promise, what else can we do than protest against it?
2. It now appears that we are not quarreling about a word, but raising a not unnecessary discussion as to the reality. Accordingly, we most strenuously maintain what we formerly confirmed by invincible argument, that the power of instituting a sacrament belongs to God alone, since a sacrament ought, by the sure promise of God, to raise up and comfort the consciences of believers, which could never receive this assurance from men. A sacrament ought to be a testimony of the good-will of God toward us. Of this no man or angel can be witness, since God has no counsellor (Isa. 40:13; Rom. 11:34). He himself alone, with legitimate authority, testifies of himself to us by his word. A sacrament is a seal of attestation or promise of God. Now, it could not be sealed by corporeal things, or the elements of this world, unless they were confirmed and set apart for this purpose by the will of God. Man, therefore, cannot institute a sacrament, because it is not in the power of man to make such divine mysteries lurk under things so abject. The word of God must precede to make a sacrament to be a sacrament, as Augustine most admirably shows (Hom. in Joann. 80). Moreover, it is useful to keep up some distinction between sacraments and other ceremonies, if we would not fall into many absurdities. The apostles prayed on their bended knees; therefore our knees may not be bent without a sacrament (Acts 9:20; 20:36). The disciples are said to have prayed toward the east; thus looking at the east is a sacrament. Paul would have men in every place to lift up pure hands (1 Tim. 2:8); and it is repeatedly stated that the saints prayed with uplifted hands, let the outstretching, therefore, of hands also become a sacrament; in short, let all the gestures of saints pass into sacraments, though I should not greatly object to this, provided it was not connected with those greater inconveniences.
3. If they would press us with the authority of the ancient Church, I say that they are using a gloss. This number seven is nowhere found in the ecclesiastical writers, nor is it well ascertained at what time it crept in. I confess, indeed, that they sometimes use freedom with the term sacrament, but what do they mean by it? all ceremonies, external writs, and exercises of piety. But when they speak of those signs which ought to be testimonies of the divine favour toward us, they are contented with those two, Baptism and the Eucharist. Lest any one suppose that this is falsely alleged by me, I will here give a few passages from Augustine. "First, I wish you to hold that the principle point in this discussion is, that our Lord Jesus Christ (as he himself says in the gospel) has placed us under a yoke which is easy, and a burden which is light. Hence he has knit together the society of his new people by sacraments, very few in number, most easy of observance, and most excellent in meaning; such is baptism consecrated by the name of the Trinity: such is the communion of the body and blood of the Lord, and any other, if recommended in the canonical Scriptures" (August. ad. Januar. Ep. 118). Again, "After the resurrection of our Lord, our Lord himself, and apostolic discipline, appointed, instead of many, a few signs, and these most easy of performance, most august in meaning, most chaste in practice; such is baptism and the celebration of the body and blood of the Lord" (August. De. Doct. Christ. Lib. 3 cap. 9). Why does he here make no mention of the sacred number, I mean seven? Is it probable that he would have omitted it if it had then been established in the Church, especially seeing he is otherwise more curious in observing numbers than might be necessary? Nay, when he makes mention of Baptism and the Supper, and is silent as to others,  does he not sufficiently intimate that these two ordinances excel in special dignity, and that other ceremonies sink down to an inferior place? Wherefore, I say, that those sacramentary doctors are not only unsupported by the word of God, but also by the consent of the early Church, however much they may plume themselves on the pretence that they have this consent. But let us now come to particulars.
OF CONFIRMATION. 
4. It was anciently customary for the children of Christians, after they had grown up, to appear before the bishop to fulfil that duty which was required of such adults as presented themselves for baptism. These sat among the catechumens until they were duly instructed in the mysteries of the faith, and could make a confession of it before bishop and people. The infants, therefore, who had been initiated by baptism, not having then given a confession of faith to the Church, were again, toward the end of their boyhood, or on adolescence, brought forward by their parents, and were examined by the bishop in terms of the Catechism which was then in common use. In order that this act, which otherwise justly required to be grave and holy, might have more reverence and dignity, the ceremony of laying on of hands was also used. Thus the boy, on his faith being approved, was dismissed with a solemn blessing. Ancient writers often make mention of this custom. Pope Leo says (Ep. 39), "If any one returns from heretics, let him not be baptised again, but let that which was there wanting to him--viz. the virtue of the Spirit, be conferred by the laying on of the hands of the bishop." Our opponents will here exclaim, that the name of sacrament is justly given to that by which the Holy Spirit is conferred. But Leo elsewhere explains what he means by these words (Ep. 77); "Let not him who was baptised by heretics be rebaptised, but be confirmed by the laying on of hands with the invocation of the Holy Spirit, because he received only the form of baptism without sanctification." Jerome also mentions it (Contra Luciferian). Now though I deny not that Jerome is somewhat under delusion when he says that the observance is apostolical, he is, however, very far from the follies of these men. And he softens the expression when he adds, that this benediction is given to bishops only, more in honour of the priesthood than from any necessity of law. This laying on of hands, which is done simply by way of benediction, I commend, and would like to see restored to its pure use in the present day.
5. A later age having almost obliterated the reality, introduced a kind of fictitious confirmation as a divine sacrament. They feigned that the virtue of confirmation consisted in conferring the Holy Spirit, for increase of grace, on him who had been prepared in baptism for righteousness, and in confirming for contest those who in baptism were regenerated to life. This confirmation is performed by unction, and the following form of words: "I sign thee with the sign of the holy cross, and confirm thee with the chrism of salvation, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." All fair and venerable. But where is the word of God which promises the presence of the Holy Spirit here? Not one iota can they allege. How will they assure us that their chrism is a vehicle of the Holy Spirit? We see oil, that is, a thick and greasy liquid, but nothing more. "Let the word be added to the element," says Augustine, "and it will become a sacrament." Let them, I say, produce this word if they would have us to see anything more in the oil than oil. But if they would show themselves to be ministers of the sacraments as they ought, there would be no room for further dispute. The first duty of a minister is not to do anything without a command. Come, then, and let them produce some command for this ministry, and I will not add a word. If they have no command they cannot excuse their sacrilegious audacity. For this reason our Saviour interogated the Pharisees as to the baptism of John, "Was it from heaven, or of men?" (Mt. 21:25). If they had answered, Of men, he held them confessed that it was frivolous and vain; if Of heaven, they were forced to acknowledge the doctrine of John. Accordingly, not to be too contumelious to John, they did not venture to say that it was of men. Therefore, if confirmation is of men, it is proved to be frivolous and vain; if they would persuade us that it is of heaven, let them prove it.
6. They indeed defend themselves by the example of the apostles, who, they presume, did nothing rashly. In this they are right, nor would they be blamed by us if they showed themselves to be imitators of the apostles. But what did the apostles do? Luke narrates (Acts 8:15, 17), that the apostles who were at Jerusalem, when they heard that Samaria had received the word of God, sent thither Peter and John, that Peter and John prayed for the Samaritans, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, who had not yet come upon any of them, they having only been baptised in the name of Jesus; that after prayer they laid their hands upon them, and that by this laying on of hands the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit. Luke repeatedly mentions this laying on of hands. I hear what the apostles did, that is, they faithfully executed their ministry. It pleased the Lord that those visible and admirable gifts of the Holy Spirit, which he then poured out upon his people, should be administered and distributed by his apostles by the laying on of hands. I think that there was no deeper mystery under this laying on of hands, but I interpret that this kind of ceremony was used by them to intimate, by the outward act, that they commended to God, and, as it were, offered him on whom they laid hands. Did this ministry, which the apostles then performed, still remain in the Church, it would also behove us to observe the laying on of hands: but since that gift has ceased to be conferred, to what end is the laying on of hands? Assuredly the Holy Spirit is still present with the people of God; without his guidance and direction the Church of God cannot subsist. For we have a promise of perpetual duration, by which Christ invites the thirsty to come to him, that they may drink living water (John 7:37). But those miraculous powers and manifest operations, which were distributed by the laying on of hands, have ceased. They were only for a time. For it was right that the new preaching of the gospel, the new kingdom of Christ, should be signalised and magnified by unwonted and unheard-of miracles. When the Lord ceased from these, he did not forthwith abandon his Church, but intimated that the magnificence of his kingdom, and the dignity of his word, had been sufficiently manifested. In what respect then can these stage-players say that they imitate the apostles? The object of the laying on of hands was, that the evident power of the Holy Spirit might be immediately exerted. This they effect not. Why then do they claim to themselves the laying on of hands, which is indeed said to have been used by the apostles, but altogether to a different end?
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
8/1/2014 Radically Ordinary
The ordinary Christian life is not the opposite of the radical Christian life. The ordinary Christian life is a radical life. The ordinary Christian life is a life of daily trusting Christ; daily repenting of our sins; daily abiding in Christ; daily loving Christ; daily dying to self; daily taking up our crosses and following Christ; daily loving God and neighbor; and daily proclaiming the gospel to ourselves, our families, our friends, and our communities. Every Christian is an ordinary Christian, and every ordinary Christian is a radical Christian. The ordinary Christian is not a complacent, passionless, nominal, or casual Christian. On the contrary, every ordinary Christian person—child, teenager, college student, father, mother, husband, wife, single man, single woman, retired man, and retired woman—every Christian is radical because every Christian is united to Christ by faith and will bear radical, life-giving fruit.
And what about the “radical” call to foreign missions? It’s true that not every Christian is a foreign missionary, but every Christian is on mission. We’re on mission not just when we drive out of our church parking lots every week but when we roll out of bed every morning. As followers of Christ, we are on mission when we go across the globe, when we go across the street, when we sit at the kitchen table with our family, when we enter our workplace or classroom, when we kneel to pray at the bedsides of our children, and when we discipline them and point them to our sinless Savior. Although not every Christian is called to serve God in a foreign country, every Christian is a foreigner in his own country—a citizen of heaven—and an ambassador of Jesus Christ. Every Christian is called out of darkness and into the light, and then called to go back into the darkness to shine—wherever God places him. And wherever He has placed us, we are called to be radically faithful, radically diligent, and radically shining as a light in our dark world. We are called to radically go wherever He calls us to go or radically stay right where we are, as we radically send and support those whom He has called to go. All of this we are to do with the same commitment and passion with which we radically serve alongside one another in the ordinary way Christ has ordained.
Throughout history, God has done extraordinary things through ordinary people. The ordinary Christian will always fight the status quo of lukewarm Christianity. The ordinary Christian will always fight nominal, passionless Christianity. Whatever we do, wherever we live, whatever our income, whatever our vocation, whatever our education, whatever we do in retirement, whatever we drive, whatever we eat or drink—we are called to do all for the glory of God as ordinary, radical followers and proclaimers of Jesus Christ on mission to make disciples of all nations, in whatever place God has called us to live and serve.
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 Prime Minister Winston Churchill launched his campaign against Hitler on this day, July 19, 1941, in a historic speech before the House of Commons: “I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization … The whole fury … of the enemy must very soon be turned on us.” Churchill concluded: “If we fail, then the whole world, including the United States … will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister … by the light of perverted science. Let us therefore … so bear ourselves that … men will … say, ‘This was their finest hour.’ ”
Compilation by Richard S. Adams
We do because of who we are,
not because of who we want to be.
--- Richard S. Adams
Most people are servants of their passions, but the truly free person is the one who can control his desires. When the sages taught “Only one involved in Torah is truly free” (Pirkei Avos 6:2), they meant to say that only Torah allows one to free himself from the shackles of desire and to truly exercise free choice. Without Torah, one is not free at all, he is a slave, controlled by a master foreign to his better instincts. While intellectually he might have correct ideas of how to live, ultimately his master - his passion - will force him to act otherwise.
--- Excerpt from: Torah Treasury
Upon God’s care I lay me down, as a child upon its mother’s breast;
No silken couch, nor softest bed could ever give me such deep rest.
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
Festus Succeeds Felix Who Is Succeeded By Albinus As He Is By Florus; Who By The Barbarity Of His Government Forces The Jews Into The War.
1. Now it was that Festus succeeded Felix as procurator, and made it his business to correct those that made disturbances in the country. So he caught the greatest part of the robbers, and destroyed a great many of them. But then Albinus, who succeeded Festus, did not execute his office as the other had done; nor was there any sort of wickedness that could be named but he had a hand in it. Accordingly, he did not only, in his political capacity, steal and plunder every one's substance, nor did he only burden the whole nation with taxes, but he permitted the relations of such as were in prison for robbery, and had been laid there, either by the senate of every city, or by the former procurators, to redeem them for money; and no body remained in the prisons as a malefactor but he who gave him nothing. At this time it was that the enterprises of the seditious at Jerusalem were very formidable; the principal men among them purchasing leave of Albinus to go on with their seditious practices; while that part of the people who delighted in disturbances joined themselves to such as had fellowship with Albinus; and every one of these wicked wretches were encompassed with his own band of robbers, while he himself, like an arch-robber, or a tyrant, made a figure among his company, and abused his authority over those about him, in order to plunder those that lived quietly. The effect of which was this, that those who lost their goods were forced to hold their peace, when they had reason to show great indignation at what they had suffered; but those who had escaped were forced to flatter him that deserved to be punished, out of the fear they were in of suffering equally with the others. Upon the Whole, nobody durst speak their minds, but tyranny was generally tolerated; and at this time were those seeds sown which brought the city to destruction.
2. And although such was the character of Albinus, yet did Gessius Florus 18 who succeeded him, demonstrate him to have been a most excellent person, upon the comparison; for the former did the greatest part of his rogueries in private, and with a sort of dissimulation; but Gessius did his unjust actions to the harm of the nation after a pompous manner; and as though he had been sent as an executioner to punish condemned malefactors, he omitted no sort of rapine, or of vexation; where the case was really pitiable, he was most barbarous, and in things of the greatest turpitude he was most impudent. Nor could any one outdo him in disguising the truth; nor could any one contrive more subtle ways of deceit than he did. He indeed thought it but a petty offense to get money out of single persons; so he spoiled whole cities, and ruined entire bodies of men at once, and did almost publicly proclaim it all the country over, that they had liberty given them to turn robbers, upon this condition, that he might go shares with them in the spoils they got. Accordingly, this his greediness of gain was the occasion that entire toparchies were brought to desolation, and a great many of the people left their own country, and fled into foreign provinces.
3. And truly, while Cestius Gallus was president of the province of Syria, nobody durst do so much as send an embassage to him against Florus; but when he was come to Jerusalem, upon the approach of the feast of unleavened bread, the people came about him not fewer in number than three millions 19 these besought him to commiserate the calamities of their nation, and cried out upon Florus as the bane of their country. But as he was present, and stood by Cestius, he laughed at their words. However, Cestius, when he had quieted the multitude, and had assured them that he would take care that Florus should hereafter treat them in a more gentle manner, returned to Antioch. Florus also conducted him as far as Cesarea, and deluded him, though he had at that very time the purpose of showing his anger at the nation, and procuring a war upon them, by which means alone it was that he supposed he might conceal his enormities; for he expected that if the peace continued, he should have the Jews for his accusers before Caesar; but that if he could procure them to make a revolt, he should divert their laying lesser crimes to his charge, by a misery that was so much greater; he therefore did every day augment their calamities, in order to induce them to a rebellion.
4. Now at this time it happened that the Grecians at Cesarea had been too hard for the Jews, and had obtained of Nero the government of the city, and had brought the judicial determination: at the same time began the war, in the twelfth year of the reign of Nero, and the seventeenth of the reign of Agrippa, in the month of Artemisius [Jyar.] Now the occasion of this war was by no means proportionable to those heavy calamities which it brought upon us. For the Jews that dwelt at Cesarea had a synagogue near the place, whose owner was a certain Cesarean Greek: the Jews had endeavored frequently to have purchased the possession of the place, and had offered many times its value for its price; but as the owner overlooked their offers, so did he raise other buildings upon the place, in way of affront to them, and made working-shops of them, and left them but a narrow passage, and such as was very troublesome for them to go along to their synagogue. Whereupon the warmer part of the Jewish youth went hastily to the workmen, and forbade them to build there; but as Florus would not permit them to use force, the great men of the Jews, with John the publican, being in the utmost distress what to do, persuaded Florus, with the offer of eight talents, to hinder the work. He then, being intent upon nothing but getting money, promised he would do for them all they desired of him, and then went away from Cesarea to Sebaste, and left the sedition to take its full course, as if he had sold a license to the Jews to fight it out.
5. Now on the next day, which was the seventh day of the week, when the Jews were crowding apace to their synagogue, a certain man of Cesarea, of a seditious temper, got an earthen vessel, and set it with the bottom upward, at the entrance of that synagogue, and sacrificed birds. This thing provoked the Jews to an incurable degree, because their laws were affronted, and the place was polluted. Whereupon the sober and moderate part of the Jews thought it proper to have recourse to their governors again, while the seditious part, and such as were in the fervor of their youth, were vehemently inflamed to fight. The seditions also among the Gentiles of Cesarea stood ready for the same purpose; for they had, by agreement, sent the man to sacrifice beforehand [as ready to support him;] so that it soon came to blows. Hereupon Jucundus, the master of the horse, who was ordered to prevent the fight, came thither, and took away the earthen vessel, and endeavored to put a stop to the sedition; but when 20 he was overcome by the violence of the people of Cesarea, the Jews caught up their books of the law, and retired to Narbata, which was a place to them belonging, distant from Cesarea sixty furlongs. But John, and twelve of the principal men with him, went to Florus, to Sebaste, and made a lamentable complaint of their case, and besought him to help them; and with all possible decency, put him in mind of the eight talents they had given him; but he had the men seized upon, and put in prison, and accused them for carrying the books of the law out of Cesarea.
6. Moreover, as to the citizens of Jerusalem, although they took this matter very ill, yet did they restrain their passion; but Florus acted herein as if he had been hired, and blew up the war into a flame, and sent some to take seventeen talents out of the sacred treasure, and pretended that Caesar wanted them. At this the people were in confusion immediately, and ran together to the temple, with prodigious clamors, and called upon Caesar by name, and besought him to free them from the tyranny of Florus. Some also of the seditious cried out upon Florus, and cast the greatest reproaches upon him, and carried a basket about, and begged some spills of money for him, as for one that was destitute of possessions, and in a miserable condition. Yet was not he made ashamed hereby of his love of money, but was more enraged, and provoked to get still more; and instead of coming to Cesarea, as he ought to have done, and quenching the flame of war, which was beginning thence, and so taking away the occasion of any disturbances, on which account it was that he had received a reward [of eight talents], he marched hastily with an army of horsemen and footmen against Jerusalem, that he might gain his will by the arms of the Romans, and might, by his terror, and by his threatenings, bring the city into subjection.
7. But the people were desirous of making Florus ashamed of his attempt, and met his soldiers with acclamations, and put themselves in order to receive him very submissively. But he sent Capito, a centurion, beforehand, with fifty soldiers, to bid them go back, and not now make a show of receiving him in an obliging manner, whom they had so foully reproached before; and said that it was incumbent on them, in case they had generous souls, and were free speakers, to jest upon him to his face, and appear to be lovers of liberty, not only in words, but with their weapons also. With this message was the multitude amazed; and upon the coming of Capito's horsemen into the midst of them, they were dispersed before they could salute Florus, or manifest their submissive behavior to him. Accordingly, they retired to their own houses, and spent that night in fear and confusion of face.
8. Now at this time Florus took up his quarters at the palace; and on the next day he had his tribunal set before it, and sat upon it, when the high priests, and the men of power, and those of the greatest eminence in the city, came all before that tribunal; upon which Florus commanded them to deliver up to him those that had reproached him, and told them that they should themselves partake of the vengeance to them belonging, if they did not produce the criminals; but these demonstrated that the people were peaceably disposed, and they begged forgiveness for those that had spoken amiss; for that it was no wonder at all that in so great a multitude there should be some more daring than they ought to be, and, by reason of their younger age, foolish also; and that it was impossible to distinguish those that offended from the rest, while every one was sorry for what he had done, and denied it out of fear of what would follow: that he ought, however, to provide for the peace of the nation, and to take such counsels as might preserve the city for the Romans, and rather for the sake of a great number of innocent people to forgive a few that were guilty, than for the sake of a few of the wicked to put so large and good a body of men into disorder.
9. Florus was more provoked at this, and called out aloud to the soldiers to plunder that which was called the Upper Market-place, and to slay such as they met with. So the soldiers, taking this exhortation of their commander in a sense agreeable to their desire of gain, did not only plunder the place they were sent to, but forcing themselves into every house, they slew its inhabitants; so the citizens fled along the narrow lanes, and the soldiers slew those that they caught, and no method of plunder was omitted; they also caught many of the quiet people, and brought them before Florus, whom he first chastised with stripes, and then crucified. Accordingly, the whole number of those that were destroyed that day, with their wives and children, [for they did not spare even the infants themselves,] was about three thousand and six hundred. And what made this calamity the heavier was this new method of Roman barbarity; for Florus ventured then to do what no one had done before, that is, to have men of the equestrian order whipped 21 and nailed to the cross before his tribunal; who, although they were by birth Jews, yet were they of Roman dignity notwithstanding.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
he who loves wine and oil won’t get rich.
18 The wicked serve as a ransom for the righteous,
and likewise the perfidious for the upright.
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Mastery over the believer
Ye call Me Master and Lord; and ye say well; for so I am.
--- John 13:13.
Our Lord never insists on having authority; He never says—‘Thou shalt.’ He leaves us perfectly free—so free that we can spit in His face, as men did; so free that we can put Him to death, as men did; and He will never say a word. But when His life has been created in me by His Redemption, I instantly recognize His right to absolute authority over me. It is a moral domination—“Thou art worthy …” It is only the unworthy in me that refuses to bow down to the worthy. If when I meet a man who is more holy than myself, I do not recognize his worthiness and obey what comes through him, it is a revelation of the unworthy in me. God educates us by means of people who are little better than we are, not intellectually, but ‘holily,’ until we get under the domination of the Lord Himself, and then the whole attitude of the life is one of obedience to Him.
If Our Lord insisted upon obedience He would become a taskmaster, and He would cease to have any authority. He never insists on obedience, but when we do see Him we obey Him instantly. He is easily Lord, and we live in adoration of Him from Morning till night. The revelation of my growth in grace is the way in which I look upon obedience. We have to rescue the word ‘obedience’ from the mire. Obedience is only possible between equals. It is the relationship between father and son, not between master and servant. “I and My Father are one.” “Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.” The Son’s obedience was as Redeemer, because He was Son, not in order to be Son.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Dropped without joy from the gaunt womb he lies,
Maturing in his place against his parents' ageing :
The slow scene unfolds before his luckless eyes
To the puckered window, where the cold storm's raging
Curtains the world, and the grey curlew cries.
Uttering a grief too sharp for the breast's assuaging.
So the days will drift into months
and the months to years,
Moulding his mouth to silence, his hand to the plough :
And the world will grow to a few lean acres of grass,
And an orchard of stars in the night's unscaleable boughs.
But see at the bare field's edge, where he'll surely pass.
An ash tree wantons with sensuous body and smooth.
Provocative limbs to play the whore to his youth,
Till hurled with hot haste into manhood he woos and weds
A wife half wild, half shy of the ancestral bed,
The crumbling house, and the whisperers on thestairs.
Selected poems, 1946-1968
What a fascinating proverb! Though it was uttered some seventeen centuries ago, one can easily imagine it being coined in twentieth-century America, most likely as a bit of folk wisdom offered by an enlightened farmer living in the south during the heyday of the Civil Rights movement. “Hey! Forget about skin color,” he would say. “Underneath, people are all the same!”
One might also conjure up an inspirational story that led to its coining: A member of the Ku Klux Klan, who hates African-Americans, is seriously injured. He requires a blood transfusion to save his life. The only available donor whose blood is a match is a black man. The donor gives, and the Klansman’s life is saved—and changed. The former racist comes to realize that if the blood of a black man can save a white man, then maybe deep down all men are equal.
However, the proverb isn’t contemporary in origin; it goes back to the third century. It is attributed to Rabbi Yitzḥak, not to a liberal farmer. And in context, it is not about race, it is about sex. Why a goat? Perhaps because the animal is a symbol of fertility and sexuality. Why milk? Perhaps because it is a euphemistic way of referring to semen: Both are white bodily fluids, one of which is responsible for the generation of a child and the other its nurturing. (The Rabbis often make a point of using delicate language rather than explicit words.)
There is one other interesting possibility that we should consider: that the author of the proverb is talking about himself. Rabbi Yitzḥak is also known as Yitzḥak Nappaḥa, Yitzḥak “the smith.” We cannot be certain if Yitzḥak had been a smith by trade or if his title was a family nickname, having been passed down from an ancestor. Perhaps it came to him by virtue of a physical attribute; maybe his skin was as dark as a blacksmith’s. One could imagine people making fun of his color and calling him “Nappaḥa.” As a young boy, maybe he had been tormented by the other kids. When he grew up and became a Rabbi, maybe one of the lessons that he wanted to teach was not to ridicule or judge someone by what you see on the outside; what really counts is to be found on the inside.
This Midrash gives three different reasons why Joseph refused the sexual advances of Potiphar’s wife. The first two are external—fear of punishment by God (“If Adam was thrown out of Eden for his minor sin, imagine what will happen to me for this major sin!”) and fear of his father’s disapproval (“Reuben lost his birthright for his sin!”). In the third explanation, Joseph responds by saying to Potiphar’s wife, in essence, “You’re a married woman. What you want me to do is wrong. And you have a husband. If you want a man, go to him. After all, he’s permitted to you.” The third understanding sees Joseph as finding the strength to avoid sin from within.
The behaviorist view of human nature, based on the writings of B. F. Skinner, agrees with the first two explanations of the Midrash. People avoid wrong to avoid punishment. Just like the pigeon who is shocked every time it tries to eat a piece of grain and therefore stops trying to eat the grain, a human will avoid wrong if the consequences are painful enough. The internal mechanism is entirely mechanical: Wrong leads to pain, which leads to avoidance of pain, which now equals avoidance of wrongdoing.
Others would say that this view of human nature leaves out the human thought process, and that conscience is superior to consequence. The Rabbis understood that the best form of good is that which is internalized. They knew that punishment, or at least the warning of it, may never materialize. Think of a youngster who wants to take cookies from the cookie jar. If Mommy is always standing there to say, “No, no, no, those are for after dinner,” then the first time Mommy becomes busy and is not paying attention, the child may actually take some cookies. But when the youngster has learned that taking cookies is itself not desirable, then that child will avoid the act whether or not the mother is there to warn him. We can replace the child and a cookie jar with the teller whose hand could go into the till, or the broker who handles thousands of dollars of clients’ funds. It’s much better for all involved, but especially for that individual, if the value of honesty is not imposed from without but is ingrained from within.
We should avoid transgression, whether larceny or adultery, in any way possible. However, we are better off if we resist temptation not because there is a stronger power outside ourselves, but rather because we have the strength and power inside ourselves.
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.
We may learn from these words the character of the lessons, as well as of the teacher. (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.) It is the knowledge of himself that Jesus will give, and as he is gentle and humble, so those who go to learn from him will be taught lessons of gentleness, lessons of humility. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me”; you need not fear to make me your teacher, “for I am gentle and humble in heart and you shall find rest for your souls.” He promises to free them from their grievous toils, to relieve them of their heavy burdens, to give them rest.
To appreciate fully the expressiveness of this figure, you must imagine yourself bearing a heavy burden, a weight you can hardly sustain, and after bearing it till you are almost crushed to the ground, you throw it off and rest. There are few things so delightful as this rest to one who has been heavily burdened. And suppose the burden is clinging to you, bound with cords you cannot sever, though you are bowed down under the load and vainly striving to throw it off. Then one offers, if you go to him, to loose the bonds and take away the burden and let you rest—how sweet would be the thought! How quickly, how joyfully, how thankfully, you would run to him!
It is impossible that people should be without subjection to some higher power; by our very nature we look up to some being that is above us. All who are not subject to God are the subjects of Satan, and those who wish to be delivered from the dominion of the Evil One must find such deliverance in having God himself for their King, as he intended they should when he made them. Accordingly, when the Savior offers to give rest, he bids them take his yoke upon them and learn from him. And then he concludes the invitation by encouraging them to believe that this exchange will be good and pleasant; they labor under the galling yoke of Satan and are burdened with the grievous weight of sin, but his yoke is easy. His burden is light.
--- John A. Broadus
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
A Tender Conscience July 19
Samuel Ward stuffed himself with plums one Evening. In his journal the next Morning, July 19, 1596, he confessed his sin—“my gluttony in eating plums and raisins and drinking so much after supper.” It was one of many such confessions.
Samuel was a Puritan, born in 1577, who attended St. John’s College, Cambridge, and was a fellow at Sidney College. In 1603 he became town preacher at St. Mary’s in Ipswich. He married Deborah Bolton, a widow from Cambridgeshire, the following year. When King James approved a new translation of the Bible, Samuel was selected as part of the New Testament translating team. Samuel, known as the youngest of the King James translators, is better known for his diary in which he daily confessed his sins:
May 13—My desire of preferment over much. Thy (he often addressed himself in the second person) wandering regard in the chapel at prayer time.
May 17—Thy gluttony the night before.
May 23—My sleeping without remembering my last thought, which should have been of God.
May 26—Thy dullness this day in hearing God’s word … thy by-thoughts at prayer time same Evening.
June 12—My too much drinking after supper.
June 14—My negligence … in sleeping immediately after dinner.
June 22—My immoderate diet of eating cheese.
June 27—My going to drink wine and that in the tavern, before I called upon God.
July 8—My immoderate laughter in the hall.
July 15—My incontinent thoughts at Hobsons.
July 23—For eating so many plums, although thou heard that many died of surfeits (intemperance).
August 13—My intemperate eating of damsons, also my intemperate eating of cheese after supper.
August 21—My long sleeping in the Morning.
Despite his vices (and perhaps because of his diligence in confessing them, being tender of conscience) he did a great work for Christ and helped translate the most beautiful version of the Bible in history.
Let’s come near God with pure hearts and a confidence that comes from having faith. Let’s keep our hearts pure, our consciences free from evil, and our bodies washed with clean water.
--- Hebrews 10:22.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - July 19
“The Lord our God hath shewed us his glory.” --- Deuteronomy 5:24.
God’s great design in all his works is the manifestation of his own glory. Any aim less than this were unworthy of himself. But how shall the glory of God be manifested to such fallen creatures as we are? Man’s eye is not single, he has ever a side glance towards his own honour, has too high an estimate of his own powers, and so is not qualified to behold the glory of the Lord. It is clear, then, that self must stand out of the way, that there may be room for God to be exalted; and this is the reason why he bringeth his people ofttimes into straits and difficulties, that, being made conscious of their own folly and weakness, they may be fitted to behold the majesty of God when he comes forth to work their deliverance. He whose life is one even and smooth path, will see but little of the glory of the Lord, for he has few occasions of self-emptying, and hence, but little fitness for being filled with the revelation of God. They who navigate little streams and shallow creeks, know but little of the God of tempests; but they who “do business in great waters,” these see his “wonders in the deep.” Among the huge Atlantic-waves of bereavement, poverty, temptation, and reproach, we learn the power of Jehovah, because we feel the littleness of man. Thank God, then, if you have been led by a rough road: it is this which has given you your experience of God’s greatness and lovingkindness. Your troubles have enriched you with a wealth of knowledge to be gained by no other means: your trials have been the cleft of the rock in which Jehovah has set you, as he did his servant Moses, that you might behold his glory as it passed by. Praise God that you have not been left to the darkness and ignorance which continued prosperity might have involved, but that in the great fight of affliction, you have been capacitated for the outshinings of his glory in his wonderful dealings with you.
Evening - July 19
“A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench.” --- Matthew 12:20.
What is weaker than the bruised reed or the smoking flax? A reed that groweth in the fen or marsh, let but the wild duck light upon it, and it snaps; let but the foot of man brush against it, and it is bruised and broken; every wind that flits across the river moves it to and fro. You can conceive of nothing more frail or brittle, or whose existence is more in jeopardy, than a bruised reed. Then look at the smoking flax—what is it? It has a spark within it, it is true, but it is almost smothered; an infant’s breath might blow it out; nothing has a more precarious existence than its flame. Weak things are here described, yet Jesus says of them, “The smoking flax I will not quench; the bruised reed I will not break.” Some of God’s children are made strong to do mighty works for him; God has his Samsons here and there who can pull up Gaza’s gates, and carry them to the top of the hill; he has a few mighties who are lion-like men, but the majority of his people are a timid, trembling race. They are like starlings, frightened at every passer by; a little fearful flock. If temptation comes, they are taken like birds in a snare; if trial threatens, they are ready to faint; their frail skiff is tossed up and down by every wave, they are drifted along like a sea bird on the crest of the billows—weak things, without strength, without wisdom, without foresight. Yet, weak as they are, and because they are so weak, they have this promise made specially to them. Herein is grace and graciousness! Herein is love and lovingkindness! How it opens to us the compassion of Jesus—so gentle, tender, considerate! We need never shrink back from his touch. We need never fear a harsh word from him; though he might well chide us for our weakness, he rebuketh not. Bruised reeds shall have no blows from him, and the smoking flax no damping frowns.
Morning and Evening
LEAVE IT THERE
Words and Music by Charles A. Tindley, 1851–1933
Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 42:5)
“Put all your troubles in a sack, take ’em to the Lord, and leave ’em there.” These good words of advice were given by Charles Tindley, the distinguished black Methodist pastor from Philadelphia, to one of his worried parishioners. It was the spark that prompted the pastor to develop this thought and pen the words and music of this familiar Gospel hymn in 1916.
Charles H. Spurgeon, the noted English Baptist pastor, once gave this similar advice: “If you tell your troubles to God, you put them into the grave. If you roll your burden anywhere else, it will roll back again.”
We will never be able to escape the troubles that life brings, but we can always turn to the Lord for strength and deliverance and then … “leave it there.” When we cannot calmly leave our burdens and affairs in God’s hands, we are often tempted to use wrong means to solve our problems, such as relying upon our human wisdom rather than God’s guidance. We need to seek relief for our problems by giving them to God.
If the world from you withhold of its silver and its gold, and you have to get along with meager fare, just remember, in His word, how He feeds the little bird—Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.
If your body suffers pain and your health you can’t regain, and your soul is almost sinking in despair; Jesus knows the pain you feel; He can save and He can heal—Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.
When your enemies assail and your heart begins to fail, don’t forget that God in heaven answers prayer; He will make a way for you and will lead you safely thru—Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.
When your youthful days are gone and old age is stealing on, and your body bends beneath the weight of care, He will never leave you then; He’ll go with you to the end—Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.
Chorus: Leave it there, leave it there; take your burden to the Lord and leave it there. If you trust and never doubt, He will surely bring you out—Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.
For Today: Job 13:15; Psalm 55:22; 62:8; Isaiah 26:3, 4; Philippians 4:6; 1 Peter 5:7.
Make a mental list of the problems and anxieties that are troubling you. Ask God to show you how to discard these from your mind’s preoccupation and simply to leave them with Him. Use this musical message to help ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. XC. — THE more immediate design of Moses then is, to announce, not so much the hardening of Pharaoh, as the veracity and mercy of God; that is, that the children of Israel might not distrust the promise of God, wherein He promised, that He would deliver them. (Ex. vi. 1). And since this was a matter of the greatest moment, He foretells them the difficulty, that they might not fall away from their faith; knowing, that all those things which were foretold must be accomplished in the order in which, He who had made the promise, had arranged them. As if He had said, I will deliver you, indeed, but you will with difficulty believe it; because, Pharaoh will so resist, and put off the deliverance. Nevertheless, believe ye; for the whole of his putting off shall, by My way of operation, only be the means of My working the more and greater miracles to your confirmation in faith, and to the display of My power; that henceforth, ye might the more steadily believe Me upon all other occasions.
In the same way does Christ also act, when, at the last supper, He promises His disciples a kingdom. He foretells them numberless difficulties, such as, His own death and their many tribulations; to the intent that, when it should come to pass, they might afterwards the more steadily believe.
And Moses by no means obscurely sets forth this meaning, where he saith, “But Pharaoh shall not send you away, that many wonders might be wrought in Egypt.” And again, “For this purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew in thee My power; that My name might be declared throughout all the earth.” (Ex. ix. 16; Rom. ix. 17). Here, you see that Pharaoh was for this purpose hardened, that he might resist God and put off the redemption; in order that, there might be an occasion given for the working of signs, and for the display of the power of God, that He might be declared and believed on throughout all the earth. And what is this but shewing, that all these things were said and done to confirm faith, and to comfort the weak, that they might afterwards freely believe in God as true, faithful, powerful, and merciful? Just as though He had spoken to them in the kindest manner, as to little children, and had said, Be not terrified at the hardness of Pharaoh, for I work that very hardness Myself; and I, who deliver you, have it in My own hand. I will only use it, that I may thereby work many signs, and declare My Majesty, for the furtherance of your faith.
And this is the reason why Moses generally after each plague repeats, “And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, so that he would not let the people go; as the Lord had spoken.” (Ex. vii. 13, 22; viii. 15, 32; ix. 12, etc.). What is the intent of this, “as the Lord had spoken,” but, that the Lord might appear true, who had foretold that he should be hardened? — Now, if there had been any vertibility or liberty of will in Pharaoh, which could turn either way, God could not with such certainty have foretold his hardening. But as He promised, who could neither be deceived nor lie, it of certainty and of necessity came to pass, that he was hardened: which could not have taken place, had not the hardening been totally apart from the power of man, and in the power of God alone, in the same manner as I said before; viz. from God being certain, that He should not omit the general operation of His Omnipotence in Pharaoh, or on Pharaoh’s account; nay, that He could not omit it.
Moreover, God was equally certain, that the will of Pharaoh; being naturally evil and averse, could not consent to the word and work of God, which was contrary to it, and that, therefore, while the impetus of willing was preserved in Pharaoh by the Omnipotence of God, and while the hated word and work was continually set before his eyes without, nothing else could take place in Pharaoh, but offence and the hardening of his heart. For if God had then omitted the action of His Omnipotence in Pharaoh, when He set before him the word of Moses which he hated, and the will of Pharaoh might be supposed to have acted alone by its own power, then, perhaps, there might have been room for a discussion, which way it had power to turn. But now, since it was led on and carried away by its own willing, no violence was done to its will, because it was not forced against its will, but was carried along, by the natural operation of God, to will naturally just as it was by nature, that is, evil; and therefore, it could not but run against the word, and thus become hardened. Hence we see, that this passage makes most forcibly against “Freewill”; and in this way — God who promised could not lie, and if He could not lie, then Pharaoh could not but be hardened.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library