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Judges 3     Acts 7     Jeremiah 16     Mark 2


Judges 3

Judges 3:1 Now these are the nations that the LORD left, to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had not experienced all the wars in Canaan. 2 It was only in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before. 3 These are the nations: the five lords of the Philistines and all the Canaanites and the Sidonians and the Hivites who lived on Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal-hermon as far as Lebo-hamath. 4 They were for the testing of Israel, to know whether Israel would obey the commandments of the LORD, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses. 5 So the people of Israel lived among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 6 And their daughters they took to themselves for wives, and their own daughters they gave to their sons, and they served their gods.

Othniel

7 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. They forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. 8 Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia. And the people of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years. 9 But when the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. 10 The Spirit of the LORD was upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the LORD gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand. And his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. 11 So the land had rest forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died.

Ehud

12 And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done what was evil in the sight of the LORD. 13 He gathered to himself the Ammonites and the Amalekites, and went and defeated Israel. And they took possession of the city of palms. 14 And the people of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.

15 Then the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, and the LORD raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud, the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man. The people of Israel sent tribute by him to Eglon the king of Moab. 16 And Ehud made for himself a sword with two edges, a cubit in length, and he bound it on his right thigh under his clothes. 17 And he presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab. Now Eglon was a very fat man. 18 And when Ehud had finished presenting the tribute, he sent away the people who carried the tribute. 19 But he himself turned back at the idols near Gilgal and said, “I have a secret message for you, O king.” And he commanded, “Silence.” And all his attendants went out from his presence. 20 And Ehud came to him as he was sitting alone in his cool roof chamber. And Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you.” And he arose from his seat. 21 And Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly. 22 And the hilt also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not pull the sword out of his belly; and the dung came out. 23 Then Ehud went out into the porch and closed the doors of the roof chamber behind him and locked them.

     1     literal translation of Eglon is fat calf
     2     swords were worn on the right side because most people were right handed disappearing sword?
     3     servants think their king is going to toilet, but intestine is pierced
     4     This story, like many stories from the Old Testament, belong to a style of writing called slave writing.
     In this case we have dark humor at the expense of an oppressive nation.


24 When he had gone, the servants came, and when they saw that the doors of the roof chamber were locked, they thought, “Surely he is relieving himself in the closet of the cool chamber.” 25 And they waited till they were embarrassed. But when he still did not open the doors of the roof chamber, they took the key and opened them, and there lay their lord dead on the floor.

26 Ehud escaped while they delayed, and he passed beyond the idols and escaped to Seirah. 27 When he arrived, he sounded the trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim. Then the people of Israel went down with him from the hill country, and he was their leader. 28 And he said to them, “Follow after me, for the LORD has given your enemies the Moabites into your hand.” So they went down after him and seized the fords of the Jordan against the Moabites and did not allow anyone to pass over. 29 And they killed at that time about 10,000 of the Moabites, all strong, able-bodied men; not a man escaped. 30 So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest for eighty years.

Shamgar

31 After him was Shamgar the son of Anath, who killed 600 of the Philistines with an oxgoad, and he also saved Israel.


Acts 7

Stephen’s Speech

Acts 7:1 And the high priest said, “Are these things so?” 2 And Stephen said:

“Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.’ 4 Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living. 5 Yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him as a possession and to his offspring after him, though he had no child. 6 And God spoke to this effect—that his offspring would be sojourners in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and afflict them four hundred years. 7 ‘But I will judge the nation that they serve,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.’ 8 And he gave him the covenant of circumcision. And so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day, and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs.

9 “And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him 10 and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household. 11 Now there came a famine throughout all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction, and our fathers could find no food. 12 But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent out our fathers on their first visit. 13 And on the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh. 14 And Joseph sent and summoned Jacob his father and all his kindred, seventy-five persons in all. 15 And Jacob went down into Egypt, and he died, he and our fathers, 16 and they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.

17 “But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt 18 until there arose over Egypt another king who did not know Joseph. 19 He dealt shrewdly with our race and forced our fathers to expose their infants, so that they would not be kept alive. 20 At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God’s sight. And he was brought up for three months in his father’s house, 21 and when he was exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. 22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.

23 “When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. 24 And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. 25 He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. 26 And on the following day he appeared to them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why do you wrong each other?’ 27 But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 At this retort Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons.

30 “Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight, and as he drew near to look, there came the voice of the Lord: 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.’ And Moses trembled and did not dare to look. 33 Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt.’

35 “This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’—this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years. 37 This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.’ 38 This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us. 39 Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. 42 But God turned away and gave them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets:

“ ‘Did you bring to me slain beasts and sacrifices,
during the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?
43  You took up the tent of Moloch
and the star of your god Rephan,
the images that you made to worship;
and I will send you into exile beyond Babylon.’

44 “Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wilderness, just as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it, according to the pattern that he had seen. 45 Our fathers in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our fathers. So it was until the days of David, 46 who found favor in the sight of God and asked to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him. 48 Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says,

49  “ ‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord,
or what is the place of my rest?
50  Did not my hand make all these things?’

51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

The Stoning of Stephen

54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.


Jeremiah 16

Famine, Sword, and Death

Jeremiah 16:1 1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “You shall not take a wife, nor shall you have sons or daughters in this place. 3 For thus says the LORD concerning the sons and daughters who are born in this place, and concerning the mothers who bore them and the fathers who fathered them in this land: 4 They shall die of deadly diseases. They shall not be lamented, nor shall they be buried. They shall be as dung on the surface of the ground. They shall perish by the sword and by famine, and their dead bodies shall be food for the birds of the air and for the beasts of the earth.

5 “For thus says the LORD: Do not enter the house of mourning, or go to lament or grieve for them, for I have taken away my peace from this people, my steadfast love and mercy, declares the LORD. 6 Both great and small shall die in this land. They shall not be buried, and no one shall lament for them or cut himself or make himself bald for them. 7 No one shall break bread for the mourner, to comfort him for the dead, nor shall anyone give him the cup of consolation to drink for his father or his mother. 8 You shall not go into the house of feasting to sit with them, to eat and drink. 9 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will silence in this place, before your eyes and in your days, the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride.

10 “And when you tell this people all these words, and they say to you, ‘Why has the LORD pronounced all this great evil against us? What is our iniquity? What is the sin that we have committed against the LORD our God?’ 11 then you shall say to them: ‘Because your fathers have forsaken me, declares the LORD, and have gone after other gods and have served and worshiped them, and have forsaken me and have not kept my law, 12 and because you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, every one of you follows his stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to me. 13 Therefore I will hurl you out of this land into a land that neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favor.’

The LORD Will Restore Israel

14 “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when it shall no longer be said, ‘As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ 15 but ‘As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ For I will bring them back to their own land that I gave to their fathers.

16 “Behold, I am sending for many fishers, declares the LORD, and they shall catch them. And afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the clefts of the rocks. 17 For my eyes are on all their ways. They are not hidden from me, nor is their iniquity concealed from my eyes. 18 But first I will doubly repay their iniquity and their sin, because they have polluted my land with the carcasses of their detestable idols, and have filled my inheritance with their abominations.”

19  O LORD, my strength and my stronghold,
my refuge in the day of trouble,
to you shall the nations come
from the ends of the earth and say:
“Our fathers have inherited nothing but lies,
worthless things in which there is no profit.
20  Can man make for himself gods?
Such are not gods!”

21 “Therefore, behold, I will make them know, this once I will make them know my power and my might, and they shall know that my name is the LORD.”


Mark 2

Jesus Heals a Paralytic

Mark 2:1 1 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts?Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Jesus Calls Levi

13 He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

A Question About Fasting

18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. 21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”

Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath

23 One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

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What I'm Reading

The Verse the Culture Misquotes Most Regularly in an Effort to Quiet Christians

By J. Warner Wallace 9/9/2016

     As a Christian, I’m often at odds with the culture around me. As our society embraces a growing number of unbiblical behaviors and attitudes, I find myself becoming more and more vocal in my opposition. I’m not alone; many other conservative Christians are also taking a stand for what the Bible teaches, particularly when it comes to moral behavior. Maybe that’s why I seem to hear Matthew 7:1 tossed around so frequently by those who want Christians to quiet down:

     “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.”

     Whenever we, as Christians, speak out against something in the culture, one of two labels is immediately employed in an effort to silence us: we are either branded “intolerant” or “judgmental”. To make matters worse, the second label is often attached to the teaching of Jesus Himself. Are we Christians defying the words of our Master when we speak against the behaviors, attitudes or worldviews affirmed by others? Did Jesus command us to be silently non-judgmental?

     This selective use of scripture by the opposition is perhaps the finest example of what we at Stand to Reason are addressing when we caution people to “never read a Bible verse.” Matthew 7:1, when read in isolation from the larger context of the Sermon on the Mount, may seem to command a form of silent acceptance and tolerance advocated by the culture, but a closer examination of the verse reveals Jesus’ true intent. If Jesus was advocating some form of quiet tolerance, how do we explain the following statements?

     “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (verse 6)

     “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (verses 13 and 14)

     “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (verse 15)

     “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (verses 21, 22 and 23)

     Wow, Jesus seems vocally judgmental in these passages. Some people are dogs and swine, unworthy of our efforts. Some people are wrong about the path they choose. Some people are false prophets. Some people are true disciples and some are not. Jesus sure seems comfortable making judgmental statements about people in these passages. How could Jesus say such things when he began this part of the sermon by saying, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged”? Maybe we should revisit the first verses of Matthew 7:

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J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of:

     

5 Reasons Our Culture Is Obsessed with Sex

By Sean McDowell 7/18/2017

     Western culture is obsessed with sex. Sex dominates our movies, music, television, advertising, conversations, social media and more. But the question many people fail to ask is: why?

     There are myriads of reasons for this. Some reasons are certainly more germane than others. And they undoubtedly overlap. Nevertheless, here are 5 reasons for western culture’s obsession with sex:

     Reason 1: Our culture has lost belief in God. Over a century ago Nietzsche proclaimed that God was dead and that we had killed him. He didn’t mean that humans actually killed God, of course, but that western civilization had abandoned the idea of God. Even though many people claim to believe in God today, our culture has become functionally secular, as Nietzsche predicted. And without God, life has no objective meaning. It has no purpose. As Bertrand Russell observed, we must build our lives upon "the firm foundation of unyielding despair.”[1] Since transcendence can no longer be found in God or religion, many people turn to sex for momentary pleasure and meaning.

     Reason #2: Our culture has lost belief in immortality. If there is no life after death, then the present becomes all-important. If death is imminent, and there’s no continuing life, then why not seize pleasure while you can? The Apostle Paul said that if there is no resurrection, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor. 15:32). In the 1980s, the music band Depeche Mode released a song called, Fly on the Windscreen. The verses of the song are about how human beings are waiting to die, like flies on a windscreen of a car, or lambs being lead to the slaughter. Death is imminent, the song proclaims. So what should we do? The chorus begins with (and repeats): “Come hear, touch me, kiss me, touch me now.”

     Reason #3: Our culture has lost belief in the sacredness of sex. Despite the common mantra, Christianity is pro-sex. The Bible is not against the proper use of sex, but is against its abuse. God designed sex, after all, and made it pleasurable for a reason (e.g., see Proverbs 5). Scripture holds up sex as a beautiful gift from God that involves a sacred union between two people of the opposite sex (Gen. 2:24), and as a way people can bring glory to God (1 Cor. 10:31). In contrast, the mantra of the sexual revolution is that sex is not a big deal. In fact, according to this narrative, sex is merely a physical activity (void of any spiritual dimension) that many people engage in purely for fun. If this is the case, then why limit a fun activity? Ironically, it is the biblical worldview that counteracts the extremes of sex-obsession or sex-denigration. Christianity offers sex as a beautiful gift from God that is meant to be experienced within certain boundaries.

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     Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, a part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

Books By Sean McDowell

Is God a Genocidal Maniac?

By Andrew Menkis 7/18/2017

     A few nights ago, in the midst of a spirited discussion about faith and morality, my friend made a powerful statement. He said emphatically, “I can’t worship a God who would command his people to go kill all the men, women, and children of another nation.” This is one of the more common objections I hear to Christianity, and I can genuinely sympathize with those who feel this way.

     However, the more I think about it, I believe the exact opposite. I don’t believe that I can worship a God who doesn’t command his people to commit genocide. That’s a provocative claim, so before you write me off as a someone who thinks there’s nothing wrong with ethnic cleansing (I don’t!), allow me to explain why I would make such a bold assertion.

     God and Genocide in the Bible

     God commands Israel’s first king, Saul: “Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey” (1 Samuel 15:3).

     My first response to this verse is utter repulsion. Not only are women and children to be killed, but the animals are to be brutally slaughtered as well. How can anyone praise and honor such a violent God? It seems to defy our reason and our sense of morality. It is no surprise that many people feel they can’t worship a God who commands these atrocities.

     I resonate deeply with this sentiment, and yet I think it rests on a shaky foundation. The objection to worshiping God is based on what we think God should be like. God should be good, loving, kind, merciful, and forgiving. Beneath this objection is the premise that God only deserves our worship and obedience if he possesses the characteristics that we approve of. When we bring this mentality to the Bible, we discover passages that don’t fit into that narrow picture of God. For my friend and for many, that incongruity leads to a rejection of God and the Bible.

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     Andrew Menkis holds a B.A. from the University of Maryland in Philosophy and Classics and an M.A. in Historical Theology from Westminster Seminary California. He and his wife, Alysha, are members of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, MD. Andrew is the head of the Theology Department at Washington Christian Academy where he teaches courses on Biblical Theology, Systematic Theology, Film, and the writing of his favorite uninspired author, C.S. Lewis.

22 Reasons All Scholars Agree Jesus Is Not A Copy Of Pagan Gods

By James Bishop 7/17/2017

     As Dan Brown in his book ‘The Da Vinci Code’ writes: “Nothing in Christianity is original.”

     But as you can imagine, there are some instances that are vageuly similar. But this does NOT mean that they were copied. Just because two things resemble one another doesn’t mean that one was the source of the other.

     It is in recent times that a great number of people are claiming that Jesus is simply a rehash of older pagan secretive religions, and of the religions of dying and rising gods. We see this masqueraded as truth in films such as Zeitgeist, The Da Vinci Code and Irreligious which, to the layperson, seem to be factual and convincing.

     But how factually based are these claims? Surely anyone can misconstrue evidence to suit their presuppositional biases, especially if they don’t want to believe something. The first step for anyone really seeking to understand these allegations would be to consult the scholars in the relevant and necessary fields of expertise. What do they have to say? Is such an issue even on the table of debate nowadays? If so, or if not, then why?

     In a nutshell this study will be focused on analyzing these comparisons, the educated opinions of the scholars, and trying to see if anything of these pagan parallels are seen in the Jesus of the New Testament.

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     James Bishop James is a graduate from Vega School of Brand Leadership specialising in Multimedia Design and Brand Communications. He is currently enrolled at Cornerstone Institute studying Theology and majoring in Psychology. His theological interests encompass comparative religion and the links between science and religion.

Does God promise to not give us more than we can handle?

By Got Questions.org

     Answer: First Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” This Scripture teaches us a wonderful principle. If we belong to Him, God will not allow any difficulty to come into our lives that we are not capable of bearing in the power of Christ. With every temptation and every testing that comes our way, God will remain faithful to us; He will provide a way to endure the test. We do not have to give in to sin. We can obey God in every circumstance.

     So, we have divine encouragement in our Christian walk. The prayer “Deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13) will be answered. However, these promises do not mean we will never face trouble; on the contrary, Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33a). The key is found in Jesus’ next words, “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b).

     Paul and his companions were sorely tried as they took the gospel into new areas. This is his testimony: “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death” (2 Corinthians 1:8–9). It sounds like Paul was tempted beyond what he could bear—“far beyond.” This fact leads us to another truth: our strength to endure testing and temptation does not come from ourselves; it comes from God. That’s exactly what Paul says next: “This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God” (2 Corinthians 1:9). Paul continues with praise to the Lord for His deliverance (verse 10) and an emphasis on the efficacy of the prayers of the church (verse 11).

     Anything that comes our way, anything that tempts us, any tragedy that befalls us, we are capable, in God’s power, of overcoming. In all things we can achieve spiritual victory, through Christ. Life is not easy. The fact is we often need a “way of escape.” Life is hard, but we can face it with confidence in God’s gracious promises.

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Are the Four Gospels Anonymous?

By Carey Bryant 8/12/2016

     If you open a Bible to the first page of the Gospel of Matthew, you will usually see the words “The Gospel According to Matthew.” Verse 1 of the gospel, however, begins with “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ.” Have you ever wondered why “The Gospel According to Matthew” isn’t part of the first verse?

     Most scholars think that the original gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John didn’t includ their names in them. In other words, when the Gospel of Matthew was originally written, the document didn’t say “The Gospel According to Matthew” like it does in our English Bibles. This would be different compared to most of the epistles in the New Testament, which contain the name of the author. So in this sense, the four gospels were probably anonymous when they were first written.

     With that said, there is no evidence that the four gospels ever circulated without their titles. But if the four gospels were originally anonymous, how and when did the names of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John become attached to their respective gospels? What do we make of this?

     New Testament | Before we look at how these names became attached to the gospels, what does the New Testament say about these four people? What can we learn about them?

     The first gospel refers to Matthew as “the tax collector” (Matt. 10:3). Levi, one of Jesus’ followers, was called from his role as a tax collector in Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27. All three synoptic gospels name Matthew as one of the apostles (Matt. 10:2-4; Mark 3:16; Luke 6:13-16). It is reasonable to think that Matthew and Levi are the same person: a tax collector and one of Jesus’ apostles.

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     My name is Carey Bryant. I was born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I married my beautiful wife, Brittany, on May 3, 2015. I graduated from Bryan College with a BA in Biblical Studies in 2012. I love playing the drums and listening to music. I also enjoy playing sports and being active (when I feel like it). I am an introvert who loves to read books, usually about topics that bore most people. I am extremely obsessed with all things related to Batman and I can actually be seen in the Dark Knight Rises (if you pause the movie at just the right moment and have a magnifying glass handy).

     I am a follower of Christ and I seek to live out God’s Word as revealed to us in the Bible. God has given me a passion to study His Word and this blog is an outcome of this passion.

Tertullian On Divine Anger

By Derek Rishmawy 7/17/2017

     I have been doing a little digging in Tertullian’s work The Five Books Against Marcion the last couple of days. The five books cover an astonishing amount of ground (creation, hermeneutics, prophecy, goodness, Christology, etc.), which makes sense once you consider what a convoluted mess Marcion’s theology actually was. They didn’t call him the “arch-heretic” for nothing.

     One important area is his treatment of divine anger.Obviously, the Marcionites thought attributing anger or wrath to God was unfitting, which partially motivated their rejection of large portions of the Old Testament and New.  Mark Sheridan has touched on the issue of the Fathers’ handling of Biblical anthropomorphism in Language for God in Patristic Tradition, and shown how the different strategies involved were concerned with making sure we were reading the Bible in a way that is “fitting” to God’s dignity and majesty.

     Tertullian engages one argument from fittingness he thinks utterly flawed. He says that some say that if God is angry, or jealous, etc. then that leads to the thought that he is changeable, therefore corruptible, and open to death. He responds thus:

     Superlative is their folly, who prejudge divine things from human; so that, because in man’s corrupt condition there are found passions of this description, therefore there must be deemed to exist in God also sensations of the same kind. Discriminate between the natures, and assign to them their respective senses, which are as diverse as their natures require, although they seem to have a community of designations. We read, indeed, of God’s right hand, and eyes, and feet: these must not, however, be compared with those of human beings, because they are associated in one and the same name. Now, as great as shall be the difference between the divine and the human body, although their members pass under identical names, so great will also be the diversity between the divine and the human soul, notwithstanding that their sensations are designated by the same names. These sensations in the human being are rendered just as corrupt by the corruptibility of man’s substance, as in God they are rendered incorruptible by the incorruption of the divine essence.

     Tertullian argues that it’s folly to pre-judge realities predicated of God based on the human reality named with the same word. He doesn’t use the term, but he’s essentially arguing for a form of the doctrine of analogy. We must “discriminate between the natures” and realize that God’s “hands” and “feet” couldn’t possibly mean God has the same sorts of hand we do, only bigger.

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     Derek Rishmawy | Orange, CA | I’m a Ph.D. student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School attempting to study Systematic Theology. Adopted by the Triune God. Husband of McKenna. Former college pastor. Beyond that, I am an admitted cliche: books, beer, beard, and a blog that takes too much of my time. I'm a regular contributor to sites like The Gospel Coalition, Christ and Pop Culture, The Local Church, Mere Orthodoxy, and Christianity Today. I also co-host a podcast called Mere Fidelity.

Judges 3; Acts 7; Jeremiah 16; Mark 2

By Don Carson 7/20/2018

     The Old Testament historical Psalms offer plenty of examples in which writers review the shared history of the Israelites for some special theological or ethical purpose. Something similar occurs when 1 and 2 Chronicles retell 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings, so as to focus on the southern kingdom and on certain theological perspectives. This form of address continues in certain New Testament sermons. Paul in Pisidian Antioch begins the historical recital with the Exodus, and aligns his storytelling priorities to show that Jesus really is the promised Messiah (Acts 13:16ff). Here in Acts 7, Stephen, the first Christian martyr, begins with Abraham.

     What are the advantages of this approach? And what does Stephen, in particular, set out to prove?

     One of the advantages is that historical recital gains the attention of the audience — and in this case the audience was overtly hostile and needed calming. Their personal identity was bound up with their national history; initially, at least, this recital was bound to be soothing, to establish common ground, to show that Stephen was within the pale.

     A second advantage lay in the fact that the shift that Stephen was trying to establish in the minds of his Jewish audience was big enough that it could only be adopted within the framework of a changed world-view. In other words, not only Jesus’ identity, but even more, his death and resurrection, could not finally be accepted by thoughtful Jews unless they perceived that this is what Scripture teaches — and this point could not easily be established unless it was anchored in the very fabric of the Old Testament storyline. So the story had to be told and retold so as to highlight the most important points.

     One of the points that Stephen makes as he retells the story emerges slowly at first, then faster and faster, and then explosively. That point is the repeated sin of the people. When Stephen begins the story, at first there is no mention of Israel’s evil. Then the wickedness of Joseph’s brothers is briefly mentioned (Acts 7:9). Corporate wickedness re-surfaces in Moses’ day (Acts 7:25-27, 35). Now the pace quickens. The people refused to obey Moses “and in their hearts turned back to Egypt” (Acts 7:39). The golden calf episode is brought up, and likened to idolatry in the time of Amos (Acts 7:42-43). We skip ahead to David and Solomon, and the insistence that God cannot be domesticated by a building. Finally there is the explosive condemnation not only of past generations of Israelites who rejected God and his revelation, but also of all their contemporary Spirit-resisting descendants (Acts 7:51-53).

     What bearing does this point have on the lessons we should draw from the biblical history?

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

Don Carson Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 77

In the Day of Trouble I Seek the Lord
77 To The Choirmaster: According To Jeduthun. A Psalm Of Asaph.

10 Then I said, “I will appeal to this,
to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
12 I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
13 Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
14 You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
15 You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah

16 When the waters saw you, O God,
when the waters saw you, they were afraid;
indeed, the deep trembled.
17 The clouds poured out water;
the skies gave forth thunder;
your arrows flashed on every side.
18 The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
your lightnings lighted up the world;
the earth trembled and shook.
19 Your way was through the sea,
your path through the great waters;
yet your footprints were unseen.
20 You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     7. The same account is to be given were any one to insist that the breathing of our Lord upon his disciples (John 20:22) is a sacrament by which the Holy Spirit is conferred. But the Lord did this once for all, and did not also wish us to do it. In the same way, also, the apostles laid their hands, agreeably to that time at which it pleased the Lord that the visible gifts of the Spirit should be dispensed in answer to their prayers; not that posterity might, as those apes do, mimic the empty and useless sign without the reality. But if they prove that they imitate the apostles in the laying on of hands (though in this they have no resemblance to the apostles, except it be in manifesting some absurd false zeal), [666] where did they get their oil which they call the oil of salvation? Who taught them to seek salvation in oil? Who taught them to attribute to it the power of strengthening? Was it Paul, who draws us far away from the elements of this world, and condemns nothing more than clinging to such observances? This I boldly declare, not of myself, but from the Lord: Those who call oil the oil of salvation abjure the salvation which is in Christ, deny Christ, and have no part in the kingdom of God. Oil for the belly, and the belly for oil, but the Lord will destroy both. For all these weak elements, which perish even in the using, have nothing to do with the kingdom of God, which is spiritual, and will never perish. What, then, some one will say, do you apply the same rule to the water by which we are baptised, and the bread and wine under which the Lord's Supper is exhibited? I answer, that in the sacraments of divine appointment, two things are to be considered: the substance of the corporeal thing which is set before us, and the form which has been impressed upon it by the word of God, and in which its whole force lies. In as far, then, as the bread, wine, and water, which are presented to our view in the sacraments, retain their substance, Paul's declaration applies, "meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them" (l Cor. 6:13). For they pass and vanish away with the fashion of this world. But in as far as they are sanctified by the word of God to be sacraments, they do not confine us to the flesh, but teach truly and spiritually.

8. But let us make a still closer inspection, and see how many monsters this greasy oil fosters and nourishes. Those anointers say that the Holy Spirit is given in baptism for righteousness, and in confirmation, for increase of grace, that in baptism we are regenerated for life, and in confirmation, equipped for contest. And, accordingly, they are not ashamed to deny that baptism can be duly completed without confirmation. How nefarious! Are we not, then, buried with Christ by baptism, and made partakers of his death, that we may also be partners of his resurrection? This fellowship with the life and death of Christ, Paul interprets to mean the mortification of our flesh, and the quickening of the Spirit, our old man being crucified in order that we may walk in newness of life (Rom 6:6). What is it to be equipped for contest, if this is not? But if they deemed it as nothing to trample on the word of God, why did they not at least reverence the Church, to which they would be thought to be in everything so obedient? What heavier charge can be brought against their doctrine than the decree of the Council of Melita? [667] "Let him who says that baptism is given for the remission of sins only, and not in aid of future grace, be anathema." When Luke, in the passage which we have quoted, says, that the Samaritans were only "baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 8:16), but had not received the Holy Spirit, he does not say absolutely that those who believed in Christ with the heart, and confessed him with the mouth, were not endued with any gift of the Spirit. He means that receiving of the Spirit by which miraculous power and visible graces were received. Thus the apostles are said to have received the Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4), whereas Christ had long before said to them, "It is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you" (Mt. 10:20). Ye who are of God see the malignant and pestiferous wile of Satan. What was truly given in baptism, is falsely said to be given in the confirmation of it, that he may stealthily lead away the unwary from baptism. Who can now doubt that this doctrine, which dissevers the proper promises of baptism from baptism, and transfers them elsewhere, is a doctrine of Satan? We have discovered on what foundation this famous unction rests. The word of God says, that as many as have been baptised into Christ, have put on Christ with his gifts (Gal. 3:27). The word of the anointers says that they received no promise in baptism to equip them for contest (De Consecr. Dist. 5, cap. Spir. Sanct). The former is the word of truth, the latter must be the word of falsehood. I can define this baptism more truly than they themselves have hitherto defined it-- viz. that it is a noted insult to baptism, the use of which it obscures--nay, abolishes: that it is a false suggestion of the devil, which draws us away from the truth of God; or, if you prefer it, that it is oil polluted with a lie of the devil, deceiving the minds of the simple by shrouding them, as it were, in darkness.

9. They add, moreover, that all believers ought, after baptism, to receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands, that they may become complete Christians, inasmuch as there never can be a Christian who has not been chrismed by episcopal confirmation. These are their exact words. [668] I thought that everything pertaining to Christianity was prescribed and contained in Scripture. Now I see that the true form of religion must be sought and learned elsewhere than in Scripture. Divine wisdom, heavenly truth, the whole doctrine of Christ, only begins the Christian; it is the oil that perfects him. By this sentence are condemned all the apostles and the many martyrs who, it is absolutely certain, were never chrismed, the oil not yet being made, besmeared with which, they might fulfil all the parts of Christianity, or rather become Christians, which, as yet, they were not. Though I were silent, they abundantly refute themselves. How small the proportion of the people whom they anoint after baptism! Why, then, do they allow among their flock so many half Christians, whose imperfection they might easily remedy? Why, with such supine negligence, do they allow them to omit what cannot be omitted without grave offence? Why do they not more rigidly insist on a matter so necessary, that, without it, salvation cannot be obtained unless, perhaps, when the act has been anticipated by sudden death? When they allow it to be thus licentiously despised, they tacitly confess that it is not of the importance which they pretend.

10. Lastly, they conclude that this sacred unction is to be held in greater veneration than baptism, because the former is specially administered by the higher order of priests, whereas the latter is dispensed in common by all priests whatever (Distinct. 5, De his vero). What can you here say, but that they are plainly mad in thus pluming themselves on their own inventions, while, in comparison with these, they carelessly contemn the sacred ordinances of God? Sacrilegious mouth! dare you oppose oil merely polluted with your fetid breath, and charmed by your muttered words, to the sacrament of Christ, and compare it with water sanctified by the word of God? But even this was not enough for your improbity: you must also prefer it. Such are the responses of the holy see, such the oracles of the apostolic tripod. But some of them have begun to moderate this madness, which, even in their own opinion, was carried too far (Lombard. Sent. Lib. 4 Dist. 7, c. 2). It is to be held in greater veneration, they say, not perhaps because of the greater virtue and utility which it confers, but because it is given by more dignified persons, and in a more dignified part of the body, the forehead; or because it gives a greater increase of virtue, though baptism is more effectual for forgiveness. But do they not, by their first reason, prove themselves to be Donatists, who estimate the value of the sacrament by the dignity of the minister? Grant, however, that confirmation may be called more dignified from the dignity of the bishop's hand, still should any one ask how this great perrogative was conferred on the bishops, what reason can they give but their own caprice? The right was used only by the apostles, who alone dispensed the Holy Spirit. Are bishops alone apostles? Are they apostles at all? However, let us grant this also; why do they not, on the same grounds, maintain that the sacrament of blood in the Lord's Supper is to be touched only by bishops? Their reason for refusing it to laics is, that it was given by our Lord to the apostles only. If to the apostles only, why not infer then to bishops only? But in that place, they make the apostles simple Presbyters, whereas here another vertigo seizes them, and they suddenly elect them bishops. Lastly, Ananias was not an apostle, and yet Paul was sent to him to receive his sight, to be baptised and filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17). I will add, though cumulatively, if, by divine right, this office was peculiar to bishops, why have they dared to transfer it to plebeian Presbyters, as we read in one of the Epistles of Gregory? (Dist. 95, cap. Pervenis)

11. How frivolous, inept, and stolid the other reason, that their confirmation is worthier than the baptism of God, because in confirmation it is the forehead that is besmeared with oil, and in baptism the cranium. As if baptism were performed with oil, and not with water! I take all the pious to witness, whether it be not the one aim of these miscreants to adulterate the purity of the sacraments by their leaven. I have said elsewhere, that what is of God in the sacraments, can scarcely be got a glimpse of among the crowd of human inventions. If any did not then give me credit for the fact, let them now give it to their own teachers. Here, passing over water, and making it of no estimation, they set a great value on oil alone in baptism. We maintain, against them, that in baptism also the forehead is sprinkled with water, in comparison with which, we do not value your oil one straw, whether in baptism or in confirmation. But if any one alleges that oil is sold for more, I answer, that by this accession of value any good which might otherwise be in it is vitiated, so far is it from being lawful fraudulently to vend this most vile imposture. They betray their impiety by the third reason, when they pretend that a greater increase of virtue is conferred in confirmation than in baptism. By the laying on of hands the apostles dispensed the visible gifts of the Spirit. In what respect does the oil of these men prove its fecundity? But have done with these guides, who cover one sacrilege with many acts of sacrilege. It is a Gordian knot, which it is better to cut than to lose so much labour in untying.

12. When they see that the word of God, and everything like plausible argument, fail them, they pretend, as usual, that the observance is of the highest antiquity, and is confirmed by the consent of many ages. Even were this true, they gain nothing by it. A sacrament is not of earth, but of heaven; not of men, but of God only. They must prove God to be the author of their confirmation, if they would have it to be regarded as a sacrament. But why obtrude antiquity, seeing that ancient writers, whenever they would speak precisely, nowhere mention more than two sacraments? Were the bulwark of our faith to be sought from men, we have an impregnable citadel in this, that the fictitious sacraments of these men were never recognised as sacraments by ancient writers. They speak of the laying on of hands, but do they call it a sacrament? Augustine distinctly affirms that it is nothing but prayer (De Bapt. cont. Donat. Lib. 3 cap. 16). Let them not here yelp out one of their vile distinctions, that the laying on of hands to which Augustine referred was not the confirmatory, but the curative or reconciliatory. His book is extant and in men's hands; if I wrest it to any meaning different from that which Augustine himself wrote it, they are welcome not only to load me with reproaches after their wonted manner, but to spit upon me. He is speaking of those who returned from schism to the unity of the Church. He says that they have no need of a repetition of baptism, for the laying on of hands is sufficient, that the Lord may bestow the Holy Spirit upon them by the bond of peace. But as it might seem absurd to repeat laying on of hands more than baptism, he shows the difference: "What," he asks, "is the laying on of hands but prayer over the man?" That this is his meaning is apparent from another passage, where he says, "Because of the bond of charity, which is the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit, without which all the other holy qualities which a man may possess are ineffectual for salvation, the hand is laid on reformed heretics" (Lib. 5 cap. 23).

13. I wish we could retain the custom, which, as I have observed, existed in the early Church, before this abortive mask of a sacrament appeared. It would not be such a confirmation as they pretend, one which cannot even be named without injury to baptism, but catechising by which those in boyhood, or immediately beyond it, would give an account of their faith in the face of the Church. And the best method of catechising would be, if a form were drawn up for this purpose, containing, and briefly explaining, the substance of almost all the heads of our religion, in which the whole body of the faithful ought to concur without controversy. A boy of ten years of age would present himself to the Church, to make a profession of faith, would be questioned on each head, and give answers to each. If he was ignorant of any point, or did not well understand it, he would be taught. Thus, while the whole Church looked on and witnessed, he would profess the one true sincere faith with which the body of the faithful, with one accord, worship one God. Were this discipline in force in the present day, it would undoubtedly whet the sluggishness of certain parents, who carelessly neglect the instruction of their children, as if it did not at all belong to them, but who could not then omit it without public disgrace; there would be greater agreement in faith among the Christian people, and not so much ignorance and rudeness; some persons would not be so readily carried away by new and strange dogmas; in fine, it would furnish all with a methodical arrangement of Christian doctrine.

OF PENITENCE.

14. The next place they give to Penitence, of which they discourse so confusedly and unmethodically, that consciences cannot derive anything certain or solid from their doctrine. In another place (Book 3 chap. 3 and 4), we have explained at length, first, what the Scriptures teach concerning repentance, and, secondly, what these men teach concerning it. All we have now to advert to is the grounds of that opinion of it as a sacrament which has long prevailed in schools and churches. First, however, I will speak briefly of the rite of the early Church, which those men have used as a pretext for establishing their fiction. By the order observed in public repentance, those who had performed the satisfactions imposed upon them were reconciled by the formal laying on of hands. This was the symbol of absolution by which the sinner himself regained his confidence of pardon before God, and the Church was admonished to lay aside the remembrance of the offence, and kindly receive him into favour. This Cyprian often terms to give peace. In order that the act might have more weight and estimation with the people, it was appointed that the authority of the bishop should always be interposed. Hence the decree of the second Council of Carthage, "No presbyter may publicly at mass reconcile a penitent;" and another, of the Council of Arausica, "Let those who are departing this life, at the time of penitence, be admitted to communion without the reconciliatory laying on of hands; if they recover from the disease, let them stand in the order of penitents, and after they have fulfilled their time, receive the reconciliatory laying on of hands from the bishop." Again, in the third Council of Carthage, "A presbyter may not reconcile a penitent without the authority of the bishop." The object of all these enactments was to prevent the strictness, which they wished to be observed in that matter, from being lost by excessive laxity. Accordingly, they wished cognisance to be taken by the bishop, who, it was probable, would be more circumspect in examining. Although Cyprian somewhere says that not the bishop only laid hands, but also the whole clergy. For he thus speaks, "They do penitence for a proper time; next they come to communion, and receive the right of communion by the laying on of the hands of the bishop and clergy" (Lib. 3 Ep 14). Afterwards, in process of time, the matter came to this, that they used the ceremony in private absolutions also without public penitence. Hence the distinction in Gratian (Decret. 26, Quæst. 6) between public and private reconciliation. I consider that ancient observance of which Cyprian speaks to have been holy and salutary to the Church, and I could wish it restored in the present day. The more modern form, though I dare not disapprove, or at least strongly condemn, I deem to be less necessary. Be this as it may, we see that the laying on of hands in penitence was a ceremony ordained by men, not by God, and is to be ranked among indifferent things, and external exercises, which indeed are not to be despised, but occupy an inferior place to those which have been recommended to us by the word of the Lord.

15. The Romanists and Schoolmen, whose wont it is to corrupt all things by erroneous interpretation, anxiously labour to find a sacrament here, and it cannot seem wonderful, for they seek a thing where it is not. At best, they leave the matter involved, undecided, uncertain, confused, and confounded by the variety of opinions. Accordingly, they say (Sent. Lib. 4 Dist. 22, cap. 3), either that external penitence is a sacrament, and, if so, ought to be regarded as a sign of internal penitence; i. e., contrition of heart, which will be the matter of the sacrament, or that both together make a sacrament, not two, but one complete; but that the external is the sacrament merely, the internal, the matter, and the sacrament, whereas the forgiveness of sins is the matter only, and not the sacrament. Let those who remember the definition of a sacrament, which we have given above, test by it that which they say is a sacrament, and it will be found that it is not an external ceremony appointed by God for the confirmation of our faith. But if they allege that my definition is not a law which they are necessarily bound to obey, let them hear Augustine, whom they pretend to regard as a saint. [669] "Visible sacraments were instituted for the sake of carnal men, that by the ladder of sacraments they may be conveyed from those things which are seen by the eye, to those which are perceived by the understanding" (August. Quæst. Vet. Test. Lib. 3). Do they themselves see, or can they show to others, anything like this in that which they call the sacrament of penance? In another passage, he says, "It is called a sacrament, because in it one thing is seen, another thing is understood. What is seen has bodily appearance, what is understood has spiritual fruit" (Serm. de Bapt. Infant). These things in no way apply to the sacrament of penance, as they feign it; there, there is no bodily form to represent spiritual fruit.

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


  • 15 Redaction Criticism
  • 1 1 & 2 Samuel
  • 2 1 & 2 Samuel


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     9/1/2014    Biblically Faithful

     I sensed God’s call to pastoral ministry when I was fifteen years old. Having recently been converted to Christ, it was the only thing I believed I could do and should do as I strived to follow Christ obediently and be a good steward of the gifts that the pastors of the church confirmed were in me. Upon my conversion, the church became my home. As a newborn infant in the faith, the church became to me a mother, father, brother, sister, and friend. Through my parents’ divorce, my father’s death, and my nomadic childhood — I had moved around the country at least sixteen times by the age of sixteen — the church was to me a cradle, a home, a community, a schoolhouse, a shelter, a hospital, and a rescue mission.

     I was converted through the faithful preaching of the gospel by a local church deacon who came to my house and asked me two penetrating questions about what I believed regarding my salvation. He then went on to explain the gospel simply and clearly. I later discovered he had been trained by a parachurch evangelism ministry, and he was using a resource that ministry had developed. After my conversion, I regularly attended youth conferences that God used profoundly in my life — all conducted by parachurch ministries. Within two years of my conversion, my faithful pastor had us view several video series by a theologian I had never heard of named R.C. Sproul. Within three years of my conversion, a couple in our church brought me to a conference hosted by a parachurch organization called Ligonier Ministries. And four years after my conversion, a friend gave me a gift subscription to the best magazine I had ever read, called Tabletalk.

     From my work with Youth for Christ, to my service on foreign missions, to the Christian college I attended, to the pastoral and theological books I read, to the seminary from which I graduated, to the thousands of sermons I listened to on the radio—God has used parachurch ministries in my life in a profound way, as has been the case for nearly every Christian on the face of the earth. Every Christian has been affected, in some measure, by a parachurch ministry, whether directly or indirectly. Still, many questions remain about the relationship between the church and the parachurch: Are parachurch ministries biblical? Should we support them? What is their appropriate role in serving the church? What kind of work should parachurch ministries undertake?

     Parachurch ministries exist to come alongside and serve the local church, but if they ever try to replace the church, they should close their doors. The ordinary-means-of-grace ministry of the local church is the primary means of growth, and parachurch ministries exist to remind us of this and point us back to the church. As such, every parachurch ministry should have as its long term goal to work itself out of existence—all the while knowing that until Christ returns, we need to continue to use every biblically faithful means possible to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus Christ in making disciples of all nations for the glory of God alone.

     click here for article source

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” were the words uttered this day, July 20, 1969, by Neil Armstrong, as he became the first man to walk on the moon. He, along with Colonel Aldrin, had landed their lunar module, the “Eagle,” and spent a total of 21 hours and 37 minutes on the moon’s surface, before redocking with the command ship “Columbia.” Before a joint session of Congress Commander Neil Armstrong stated: “To those of you who have advocated looking high we owe our sincere gratitude, for you have granted us the opportunity to see some of the grandest views of the Creator.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compilation by Richard S. Adams


Let us be a nation
Ruled by conscience,
Not consequence.
--- Richard S. Adams

To consider persons and events and situations
only in the light of their effect upon myself
is to live on the doorstep of hell.
--- Thomas Merton
No Man Is an Island

Yes, life is like the Emmaus road,
and we tread it not alone
For beside us walks the Son of God,
to uphold and keep His own.
And our hearts within us thrill with joy
at His words of love and grace,
And the glorious hope
that when day is done
we shall see His blessed face.
--- Avis Christiansen
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 15.

     Concerning Bernice's Petition To Florus, To Spare The Jews, But In Vain; As Also How, After The Seditious Flame Was Quenched, It Was Kindled Again By Florus.

     1. About this very time king Agrippa was going to Alexandria, to congratulate Alexander upon his having obtained the government of Egypt from Nero; but as his sister Bernice was come to Jerusalem, and saw the wicked practices of the soldiers, she was sorely affected at it, and frequently sent the masters of her horse and her guards to Florus, and begged of him to leave off these slaughters; but he would not comply with her request, nor have any regard either to the multitude of those already slain, or to the nobility of her that interceded, but only to the advantage he should make by this plundering; nay, this violence of the soldiers brake out to such a degree of madness, that it spent itself on the queen herself; for they did not only torment and destroy those whom they had caught under her very eyes, but indeed had killed herself also, unless she had prevented them by flying to the palace, and had staid there all night with her guards, which she had about her for fear of an insult from the soldiers. Now she dwelt then at Jerusalem, in order to perform a vow 22 which she had made to God; for it is usual with those that had been either afflicted with a distemper, or with any other distresses, to make vows; and for thirty days before they are to offer their sacrifices, to abstain from wine, and to shave the hair of their head. Which things Bernice was now performing, and stood barefoot before Florus's tribunal, and besought him [to spare the Jews]. Yet could she neither have any reverence paid to her, nor could she escape without some danger of being slain herself.

     2. This happened upon the sixteenth day of the month Artemisius [Jyar]. Now, on the next day, the multitude, who were in a great agony, ran together to the Upper Market-place, and made the loudest lamentations for those that had perished; and the greatest part of the cries were such as reflected on Florus; at which the men of power were affrighted, together with the high priests, and rent their garments, and fell down before each of them, and besought them to leave off, and not to provoke Florus to some incurable procedure, besides what they had already suffered. Accordingly, the multitude complied immediately, out of reverence to those that had desired it of them, and out of the hope they had that Florus would do them no more injuries.

     3. So Florus was troubled that the disturbances were over, and endeavored to kindle that flame again, and sent for the high priests, with the other eminent persons, and said the only demonstration that the people would not make any other innovations should be this, that they must go out and meet the soldiers that were ascending from Cesarea, whence two cohorts were coming; and while these men were exhorting the multitude so to do, he sent beforehand, and gave directions to the centurions of the cohorts, that they should give notice to those that were under them not to return the Jews' salutations; and that if they made any reply to his disadvantage, they should make use of their weapons. Now the high priests assembled the multitude in the temple, and desired them to go and meet the Romans, and to salute the cohorts very civilly, before their miserable case should become incurable. Now the seditious part would not comply with these persuasions; but the consideration of those that had been destroyed made them incline to those that were the boldest for action.

     4. At this time it was that every priest, and every servant of God, brought out the holy vessels, and the ornamental garments wherein they used to minister in sacred things. The harpers also, and the singers of hymns, came out with their instruments of music, and fell down before the multitude, and begged of them that they would preserve those holy ornaments to them, and not provoke the Romans to carry off those sacred treasures. You might also see then the high priests themselves, with dust sprinkled in great plenty upon their heads, with bosoms deprived of any covering but what was rent; these besought every one of the eminent men by name, and the multitude in common, that they would not for a small offense betray their country to those that were desirous to have it laid waste; saying, "What benefit will it bring to the soldiers to have a salutation from the Jews? or what amendment of your affairs will it bring you, if you do not now go out to meet them? and that if they saluted them civilly, all handle would be cut off from Florus to begin a war; that they should thereby gain their country, and freedom from all further sufferings; and that, besides, it would be a sign of great want of command of themselves, if they should yield to a few seditious persons, while it was fitter for them who were so great a people to force the others to act soberly."

     5. By these persuasions, which they used to the multitude and to the seditious, they restrained some by threatenings, and others by the reverence that was paid them. After this they led them out, and they met the soldiers quietly, and after a composed manner, and when they were come up with them, they saluted them; but when they made no answer, the seditious exclaimed against Florus, which was the signal given for falling upon them. The soldiers therefore encompassed them presently, and struck them with their clubs; and as they fled away, the horsemen trampled them down, so that a great many fell down dead by the strokes of the Romans, and more by their own violence in crushing one another. Now there was a terrible crowding about the gates, and while every body was making haste to get before another, the flight of them all was retarded, and a terrible destruction there was among those that fell down, for they were suffocated, and broken to pieces by the multitude of those that were uppermost; nor could any of them be distinguished by his relations in order to the care of his funeral; the soldiers also who beat them, fell upon those whom they overtook, without showing them any mercy, and thrust the multitude through the place called Bezetha, 23 as they forced their way, in order to get in and seize upon the temple, and the tower Antonia. Florus also being desirous to get those places into his possession, brought such as were with him out of the king's palace, and would have compelled them to get as far as the citadel [Antonia;] but his attempt failed, for the people immediately turned back upon him, and stopped the violence of his attempt; and as they stood upon the tops of their houses, they threw their darts at the Romans, who, as they were sorely galled thereby, because those weapons came from above, and they were not able to make a passage through the multitude, which stopped up the narrow passages, they retired to the camp which was at the palace.

     6. But for the seditious, they were afraid lest Florus should come again, and get possession of the temple, through Antonia; so they got immediately upon those cloisters of the temple that joined to Antonia, and cut them down. This cooled the avarice of Florus; for whereas he was eager to obtain the treasures of God [in the temple], and on that account was desirous of getting into Antonia, as soon as the cloisters were broken down, he left off his attempt; he then sent for the high priests and the sanhedrim, and told them that he was indeed himself going out of the city, but that he would leave them as large a garrison as they should desire. Hereupon they promised that they would make no innovations, in case he would leave them one band; but not that which had fought with the Jews, because the multitude bore ill-will against that band on account of what they had suffered from it; so he changed the band as they desired, and, with the rest of his forces, returned to Cesarea.

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

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

Proverbs 21:19-20
     by D.H. Stern

19     It is better to live in the desert
than with a nagging, irritable wife.

20     In the home of the wise are fine treasures and oil,
but a fool quickly devours it.


Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Dependent on God’s presence

     They that wait upon the Lord … shall walk and not faint.
--- Isaiah 40:31.

     There is no thrill in walking; it is the test of all the stable qualities. To “walk and not faint” is the highest reach possible for strength. The word “walk” is used in the Bible to express the character—“John looking on Jesus as He walked, said, Behold the Lamb of God!” There is never anything abstract in the Bible, it is always vivid and real. God does not say—‘Be spiritual,’ but—“Walk before Me.”

     When we are in an unhealthy state physically or emotionally, we always want thrills. In the physical domain this will lead to counterfeiting the Holy Ghost; in the emotional life it leads to inordinate affection and the destruction of morality; and in the spiritual domain if we insist on getting thrills, on mounting up with wings, it will end in the destruction of spirituality.

     The reality of God’s presence is not dependent on any place, but only dependent upon the determination to set the Lord always before us. Our problems come when we refuse to bank on the reality of His presence. The experience the Psalmist speaks of—“Therefore will we not fear, though …”—will be ours when once we are based on Reality; not the consciousness of God’s presence but the reality of it—‘Why, He has been here all the time.’

     At critical moments it is necessary to ask guidance, but it ought to be unnecessary to be saying always—‘Oh Lord, direct me here, and there.’ Of course He will! If our commonsense decisions are not God’s order, He will press through them and check; then we must be quiet and wait for the direction of His presence.


My Utmost for His Highest

Affinity
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


                Affinity

Consider this man in the field beneath,
  Gaitered with mud, lost in his own breath,
  Without joy, without sorrow,
  Without children, without wife,
  Stumbling insensitively from furrow to furrow,
  A vague somnambulist; but hold your tears,
  For his name also is written in the Book of Life.

  Ransack your brainbox, pull out the drawers
  That rot in your heart's dust, and what have you to give
  To enrich his spirit or the way he lives?
  From the standpoint of education or caste or creed
  Is there anything to show that your essential need
  Is less than his, who has the world for church,
  And stands bare-headed in the woods' wide porch
  Morning and Evening to hear God's choir
  Scatter their praises? Don't be taken in
  By stinking garments or an aimless grin;
  He also is human, and the same small star,
  That lights you homeward, has inflamed his mind
  With the old hunger, born of his kind.


Selected poems, 1946-1968

Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     Exodus 3:13–16


     Whoever takes advice from elders will not stumble.

     BIBLE TEXT /
Exodus 3:13–16 / Moses said to God, “When I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I tell them?” And God said to Moses, “Ehyeh-Asher-Ekyeh.” He continued, “Thus shall you say to the Israelites, ‘Ehyeh sent me to you.’ ” And God said further to Moses, “Thus shall you speak to the Israelites: The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you:

          This shall be My name forever,
          This My appellation for all eternity.

     Go and assemble the elders of Israel and say to them: the Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, has appeared to me and said, ‘I have taken note of you and of what is being done to you in Egypt.…’ ”

     MIDRASH TEXT / Exodus Rabbah 3, 8 / Go and assemble the elders of Israel. Elders always help Israel stand, and so it says, “All Israel—stranger and citizen alike—with their elders, officials, and magistrates, stood on either side of the Ark” (Joshua 8:33). When does Israel stand? When they have elders. How? When the Temple existed, they consulted the elders, as it says, “Ask your father, he will inform you, your elders, they will tell you”
(Deuteronomy 32:7). For whoever takes advice from elders will not stumble.

     CONTEXT / Early in the Book of Exodus, God “hears” the cries of the Israelites under Egyptian slavery. God instructs Moses to go to Pharaoh and free the Israelites. At the same time, God tells Moses to speak to the Israelites saying, in essence, “Don’t worry. I have seen your oppression. I will save you.” Moses is concerned that the Israelites will ask, “What is the name of this God?” God’s answer is: “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh,” often translated as “I Am That I Am,” or “I Am Who I Am.” Whatever the meaning of this cryptic name (and there are many explanations, in the Talmud and the Midrash as well as among modern scholarly works), Moses is to tell the Israelites that “Ehyeh” sent him.

     Until this point in the biblical text, Moses and God have been discussing the reaction of the Israelites. “When I come to the Israelites …” (3:13). “Thus you shall say to the Israelites …” (3:14). Suddenly, the object switches: Go and assemble the elders of Israel. The Rabbis are puzzled by this abrupt change, and the opening of this Midrash asks the question, without ever saying the words, “Why this change in language from Israelites (the people) to the elders?” The Rabbis note this change to teach a lesson: Elders always help Israel, the people, to stand, to survive and endure, and so it says, “All Israel—stranger and citizen alike—with their elders, officials, and magistrates, stood on either side of the Ark” (Joshua 8:33). The Rabbis quote this verse because it uses the three key words together—“Israel,” “elders,” and “stood.” The context of this verse is the ceremony that Joshua conducted at Mounts Ebal and Gerizim at which blessings and curses were recited. At such a critical moment, the help of the elders will be decisive. The Rabbis make the point: When does Israel stand, survive, endure, as they “stood” in Joshua’s time, at a crossroad? When they have elders. How? That is, how do we know this? Where is an example to prove this point? When the Temple stood, they consulted the elders, as it says, “Ask your father, he will inform you, your elders, they will tell you”
Deuteronomy 32:7). This verse from Deuteronomy is part of Moses’ farewell address. To the Rabbis, the verse contained a message on Jewish survival. This leads to the axiom Whoever takes advice from elders will not falter. This maxim summarizes the Rabbis’ view: God does not send the message directly to the people but instead convenes the elders. To avoid trouble, take counsel from the elders.


Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Take Heart
     July 20

     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.

     All that labor with whatever toil, all that are heavy laden with whatever burden may take this invitation as addressed to them. (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.) You call burdened souls to you, and such, O Lord, am I.” Whatever it is that bears you down—the consciousness of sin, the terror of judgment, distressing doubts, or many and diverse temptations—whatever else may torment your soul and weigh down your spirit, this invitation is for you. If you are burdened with affliction or sorrow or fearful apprehension, if you bear any burden, you are invited to Jesus. “Come to me.”

     It would be natural enough to inquire, “What is meant by going to Jesus? Suppose I feel myself to be burdened and want to seek relief, how shall I go to Jesus for rest?”

     Go to him as people [did] when he was on earth. It is true that the case is somewhat different now. We cannot now go to Jesus as a man living somewhere among us. But it is only a change from sight to faith—from a moving of the body to a moving of the thoughts and affections. It may be thought a great privation that we cannot go somewhere, as they did then, and find him. But isn’t it, on the other hand, a great privilege that we need not now go anywhere, we may always find him here? He is everywhere and as much in one place as another. People have often forgotten this great and consoling and gladdening truth. Many a weary pilgrimage has been made in centuries past to the Holy Land in the hope that forgiveness of sin and peace of conscience, which could not be found at home, might be found there. It is pleasant and may do the heart good to stand where Jesus stood, to weep where he wept on Olivet, to pray where he prayed in Gethsemane, but he is here now as well as there. Wherever you seek him, there he may be found “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Wherever there is a tear of penitence or a sigh of godly sorrow, wherever there is earnest prayer to him or the desire to pray felt in the heart, Jesus is there to see and to hear and to answer.
--- John A. Broadus


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

On This Day
     The East-West Schism  July 20

     During the first millennium of Christianity, two centers of gravity emerged—Rome and Constantinople. As the centuries passed, differences in theology developed and a rivalry emerged between the pope in Rome and the patriarch in Constantinople. The two camps differed on issues such as whether priests could marry, the makeup of Eucharistic bread, days of fasting, and whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, or just from the Father.

     In 1043 a rigid, ambitious churchman named Michael Cerularius was named patriarch of Constantinople, and five years later in Rome a French bishop rose to the papacy under the name Leo IX. During those days, Norman armies overran southern Italy and replaced Eastern (Orthodox) bishops from Constantinople with Western (Catholic) bishops from Rome. The new bishops started changing forms of worship, and when Michael Cerularius heard it, he retaliated by closing Roman churches in the Eastern regions.

     Leo sent three men to Constantinople to deal with the problem. They were led by Humbert, a pompous, tactless man, who arrived in the imperial city denouncing, decrying, berating, and condemning the Orthodox leaders. The legates were housed in the imperial palace, but the patriarch ignored them, refusing even to see them. On July 16, 1054, as afternoon prayers were about to begin at Constantinople’s Hagia Sophia, Humbert marched through the cathedral and deposited on the high altar a parchment reading Videat Deus et Judicet excommunicating Michael Cerularius. Humbert then tromped out, shook the dust off his feet, and left the city. Four days later, on July 20, 1054, at the same place, Cerularius responded in kind and excommunicated the pope and his followers. He was supported by the patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.

     The Great Schism had finally occurred. From that point, each side typically looked at the other not as brothers but as enemies or as heathen who needed to be converted. Today the Western Church is represented largely by the Catholic and Protestant bodies, and the Eastern Church by the Greek and Russian Orthodox faiths.

     Whether we live or die, it must be for the Lord. Alive or dead, we still belong to the Lord. This is because Christ died and rose to life, so that he would be the Lord of the dead and of the living. Why do you criticize other followers of the Lord? Why do you look down on them? The day is coming when God will judge all of us.
--- Romans 14:8-10.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - July 20

     “The earnest of our inheritance.” --- Ephesians 1:14.

     Oh! what enlightenment, what joys, what consolation, what delight of heart is experienced by that man who has learned to feed on Jesus, and on Jesus alone. Yet the realization which we have of Christ’s preciousness is, in this life, imperfect at the best. As an old writer says, “’Tis but a taste!” We have tasted “that the Lord is gracious,” but we do not yet know how good and gracious he is, although what we know of his sweetness makes us long for more. We have enjoyed the firstfruits of the Spirit, and they have set us hungering and thirsting for the fulness of the heavenly vintage. We groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption. Here we are like Israel in the wilderness, who had but one cluster from Eshcol, there we shall be in the vineyard. Here we see the manna falling small, like coriander seed, but there shall we eat the bread of heaven and the old corn of the kingdom. We are but beginners now in spiritual education; for although we have learned the first letters of the alphabet, we cannot read words yet, much less can we put sentences together; but as one says, “He that has been in heaven but five minutes, knows more than the general assembly of divines on earth.” We have many ungratified desires at present, but soon every wish shall be satisfied; and all our powers shall find the sweetest employment in that eternal world of joy. O Christian, antedate heaven for a few years. Within a very little time thou shalt be rid of all thy trials and thy troubles. Thine eyes now suffused with tears shall weep no longer. Thou shalt gaze in ineffable rapture upon the splendour of him who sits upon the throne. Nay, more, upon his throne shalt thou sit. The triumph of his glory shall be shared by thee; his crown, his joy, his paradise, these shall be thine, and thou shalt be co-heir with him who is the heir of all things.


          Evening - July 20

     “And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor?” --- Jeremiah 2:18.

     By sundry miracles, by divers mercies, by strange deliverances Jehovah had proved himself to be worthy of Israel’s trust. Yet they broke down the hedges with which God had enclosed them as a sacred garden; they forsook their own true and living God, and followed after false gods. Constantly did the Lord reprove them for this infatuation, and our text contains one instance of God’s expostulating with them, “What hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of the muddy river?”—for so it may be translated. “Why dost thou wander afar and leave thine own cool stream from Lebanon? Why dost thou forsake Jerusalem to turn aside to Noph and to Tahapanes? Why art thou so strangely set on mischief, that thou canst not be content with the good and healthful, but wouldst follow after that which is evil and deceitful?” Is there not here a word of expostulation and warning to the Christian? O true believer, called by grace and washed in the precious blood of Jesus, thou hast tasted of better drink than the muddy river of this world’s pleasure can give thee; thou hast had fellowship with Christ; thou hast obtained the joy of seeing Jesus, and leaning thine head upon his bosom. Do the trifles, the songs, the honours, the merriment of this earth content thee after that? Hast thou eaten the bread of angels, and canst thou live on husks? Good Rutherford once said, “I have tasted of Christ’s own manna, and it hath put my mouth out of taste for the brown bread of this world’s joys.” Methinks it should be so with thee. If thou art wandering after the waters of Egypt, O return quickly to the one living fountain: the waters of Sihor may be sweet to the Egyptians, but they will prove only bitterness to thee. What hast thou to do with them? Jesus asks thee this question this Evening—what wilt thou answer him?

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     July 20

          SWEETLY RESTING

     Mary D. James, 1810–1883

     For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. (Psalm 27:5)

     Once my hands were always trying,
     Trying hard to do my best;
     Now my heart is sweetly trusting,
     And my soul is all at rest.

--- A. B. Simpson

     Evangelist D. L. Moody once observed that there are three kinds of faith a Christian can have: a struggling faith, a clinging faith, or a resting faith. A resting faith is not some mystical feeling that we might experience at times in a church service or during a spiritually high moment. It is simply the daily repose of a life that has learned to relax and be comfortable in God’s providential care. Such an attitude is the result of ceasing to live for self and starting to live solely for God’s glory.

     Medical people have long realized the relationship that exists between a happy, calm spirit and a healthy body. Doctors have often stated that many of our physical problems are caused by undue stress. How important it is, then, even for our own well-being, to relax and rest in God, to trust Him implicitly regardless of the circumstances. Since we were created in His image, we are able to find fulfillment and true contentment only as we learn to enjoy His daily fellowship. That’s the “resting faith” Moody was talking about.

     In the rifted Rock I’m resting, safely sheltered I abide, all secure in this blest refuge, heeding not the fiercest blast.

     Long pursued by sin and Satan—weary, sad, I longed for rest; then I found the heavenly shelter opened in my Savior’s breast.

     Peace which passeth understanding, joy the world can never give, now in Jesus I am finding; in His smiles of love I live.

     In the rifted Rock I’ll hide me ’till the storms of life are past, all secure in this blest refuge, heeding not the fiercest blast.

     Chorus: Now I’m resting, sweetly resting in the cleft once made for me; Jesus, blessed Rock of Ages, I will hide myself in Thee.


     For Today: Deuteronomy 33:27; Joshua 1:9; Psalm 38:4; 46:1; 57:1; 62:7; Proverbs 17:22; Hebrews 4:11.

     If your faith in God is something other than a “resting faith,” ask Him to help you move up into this higher spiritual realm. Thank Him for His willingness to help. Carry this musical statement as you go ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

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


     Sect. XCI. — BUT let us also look into Paul, who takes up this passage of Moses, Rom. ix. How miserably is the Diatribe tortured with that part of the Scripture! Lest it should lose its hold of “Freewill,” it puts on every shape. At one time it says, ‘that there is a necessity of the consequence, but not a necessity of the thing consequent.’ At another, ‘that there is an ordinary will, or will of the sign, which may be resisted; and a will of decree, which cannot be resisted.’ At another, ‘that those passages adduced from Paul do not contend for, do not speak about, the salvation of man.’ In one place it says ‘that the prescience of God does impose necessity:’ in another, ‘that it does not impose necessity.’ Again, in another place it asserts, ‘that grace prevents the will that it might will, and then attends it as it proceeds and brings it to a happy issue.’ Here it states, ‘that the first cause does all things itself:’ and directly afterwards, ‘that it acts by second causes, remaining itself inactive.’

     By these and the like sportings with words, it does nothing but fill up its time, and at the same time obscure the subject point from our sight, drawing us aside to something else. So stupid and doltish does it imagine us to be, that it thinks we feel no more interested in the cause than it feels itself. Or, as little children, when fearing the rod or at play, cover their eyes with their hands, and think, that as they see nobody themselves, nobody sees them; so the Diatribe, not being able to endure the brightness, nay the lightning of the most clear Scriptures, pretending by every kind of maneuver that it does not see, (which is in truth the case) wishes to persuade us that our eyes are also so covered that we cannot see. But all these maneuvers, are but evidences of a convicted mind rashly struggling against invincible truth.

     That figment about ‘the necessity of the consequence, but not the necessity of the thing consequent,’ has been before refuted. Let then Erasmus invent and invent again, cavil and cavil again, as much as he will — if God foreknew that Judas would be a traitor, Judas became a traitor of necessity; nor was it in the power of Judas nor of any other creature to alter it, or to change that will; though he did what he did willingly, not by compulsion; for that willing of his was his own work; which God, by the motion of His Omnipotence, moved on into action, as He does everything else. — God does not lie, nor is He deceived. This is a truth evident and invincible. There are no obscure or ambiguous words here, even though all the most learned men of all ages should be so blinded as to think and say to the contrary. How much soever, therefore, you may turn your back upon it, yet, the convicted conscience of yourself and all men is compelled to confess, that, IF GOD BE NOT DECEIVED IN THAT WHICH HE FOREKNOWS, THAT WHICH HE FOREKNOWS MUST, OF NECESSITY, TAKE PLACE. If it were not so, who could believe His promises, who would fear His threatenings, if what He promised or threatened did not of necessity take place! Or, how could He promise or threaten, if His prescience could be deceived or hindered by our mutability! This all-clear light of certain truth manifestly stops the mouths of all, puts an end to all questions, and forever settles the victory over all evasive subtleties.

     We know, indeed, that the prescience of man is fallible. We know that an eclipse does not therefore take place, because it is foreknown; but, that it is therefore foreknown, because it is to take place. But what have we to do with this prescience? We are disputing about the prescience of God! And if you do not ascribe to this, the necessity of the consequent foreknown, you take away faith and the fear of God, you destroy the force of all the divine promises and threatenings, and thus deny divinity itself. But, however, the Diatribe itself, after having held out for a long time and tried all things, and being pressed hard by the force of truth, at last confesses my sentiment: saying —

     Sect. XCII. — “THE question concerning the will and predestination of God, is somewhat difficult. For God wills those same things which He foreknows. And this is the substance of what Paul subjoins, “Who hath resisted His will,” if He have mercy on whom He will, and harden whom He will? For if there were a king who could effect whatever he chose, and no one could resist him, he would be said to do whatsoever he willed. So the will of God, as it is the principal cause of all things which take place, seems to impose a necessity on our will.” — Thus the Diatribe.

     At last then I give thanks to God for a sound sentence in the Diatribe! Where now then is “Free-will”? — But again this slippery eel is twisted aside in a moment, saying,

     — “But Paul does not explain this point, he only rebukes the disputer; “Who art thou, O man, that repliest against God!” (Rom. ix. 20.) —

     O notable evasion! Is this the way to handle the Holy Scriptures, thus to make a declaration upon ones own authority, and out of ones own brain, without a Scripture, without a miracle, nay, to corrupt the most clear words of God? What! does not Paul explain that point? What does he then? ‘He only rebukes the disputer,’ says the Diatribe. And is not that rebuke the most complete explanation? For what was inquired into by that question concerning the will of God? Was it not this — whether or not it imposed a necessity on our will? Paul, then, answers that it is thus: — “He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth. It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” (Rom. ix. 15-16, 18.). Moreover, not content with this explanation, he introduces those who murmur against this explanation in their defence of “Free-will,” and prate that there is no merit allowed, that we are damned when the fault is not our own, and the like, and stops their murmuring and indignation: saying, “Thou wilt say then, Why doth He yet find fault? for who hath resisted His will?” (Rom. ix. 19.).

     Do you not see that this is addressed to those, who, hearing that the will of God imposes necessity on us, say, “Why doth He yet find fault?” That is, Why does God thus insist, thus urge, thus exact, thus find fault? Why does He accuse, why does He reprove, as though we men could do what He requires if we would? He has no just cause for thus finding fault; let Him rather accuse His own will; let Him find fault with that; let Him press His requirement upon that; “For who hath resisted His will?” Who can obtain mercy if He wills not? Who can become softened if He wills to harden? It is not in our power to change His will, much less to resist it, where He wills us to be hardened; by that will, therefore, we are compelled to be hardened, whether we will or no.

     If Paul had not explained this question, and had not stated to a certainty, that necessity is imposed on us by the prescience of God, what need was there for his introducing the murmurers and complainers saying, That His will cannot be resisted? For who would have murmured or been indignant, if he had not found necessity to be stated? Paul’s words are not ambiguous where he speaks of resisting the will of God. Is there any thing ambiguous in what resisting is, or what His will is? Is it at all ambiguous concerning what he is speaking, when he speaks concerning the will of God? Let the myriads of the most approved doctors be blind; let them pretend, if they will, that the Scriptures are not quite clear, and that they tremble at a difficult question; we have words the most clear which plainly speak thus: “He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth:” and also, “Thou wilt say to me then, Why doth He yet complain, for who hath resisted His will?”

     The question, therefore, is not difficult; nay, nothing can be more plain to common sense, than that this conclusion is certain, stable, and true: — if it be pre-established from the Scriptures, that God neither errs nor is deceived; then, whatever God foreknows, must, of necessity, take place. It would be a difficult question indeed, nay, an impossibility, I confess, if you should attempt to establish, both the prescience of God, and the “Free-Will” of man. For what could be more difficult, nay a greater impossibility, than to attempt to prove, that contradictions do not clash; or that a number may, at the same time, be both nine and ten? There is no difficulty on our side of the question, but it is sought for and introduced, just as ambiguity and obscurity are sought for and violently introduced into the Scriptures.

     The apostle, therefore, restrains the impious who are offended at these most clear words, by letting them know, that the divine will is accomplished, by necessity in us; and by letting them know also, that it is defined to a certainty, that they have nothing of liberty or “Free-will” left, but that all things depend upon the will of God alone. But he restrains them in this way: — by commanding them to be silent, and to revere the majesty of the divine power and will, over which we have no control, but which has over us a full control to do whatever it will. And yet it does us no injury, seeing that it is not indebted to us, it never received any thing from us, it never promised us any thing but what itself pleased and willed.


The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library


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